Friday, June 21, 2013

Best Editions 2013

What do you think are the best editions available for the main Catholic Bible translations in English?  (I think I did a post similar to this a few years back, so why not do another one now.)  When considering your selections, understand that this can include page format, binding, cover quality, study tools, devotional material, margin space, or pretty much anything you think makes a particular Bible great.  There are, of course, some wonderful ecumenical Bibles out there that include the Catholic Deuterocanonicals, however, I am including only Catholic editions here.

Here are mine:

HarperOne NABRE
*Brilliant page layout, exceptional maps section, and perfect size. Would likely be the next Bible I would get rebound by Leonard's.  (That's not happening any time soon however.)

Ignatius Press
*Not many options to choose from here.

CSSI RSV Bible (Saint Benedict Press)
*Even though it is missing cross-references, this edition has some great apologetics materials included, as well as being a joy to read due to it's large print.

Knox Bible:
Baronius Press
*I have talked enough about this Bible I think.

Baronius Press and/or Saint Benedict Press
*All depends on whether you want a classic or more modern looking Bible.

New Revised Standard Version
HarperOne NRSV Standard Catholic Edition
* Although this doesn't come with a lot of extras, the page formatting is a very readable, one-column setting.

New Jerusalem Bible
Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd (1994)
* This one is not easy to get a hold of on this side of the Atlantic, but I was able to get one when I was in Rome a few years back.  It has all the NJB notes as well as some additional study materials in the appendix. It is also very compact.   (Take note Ignatius Press.)  However, I think it only comes in paperback.  


Jonny said...

I have several classes that utilize the RSV-CE, and to these I take my blue, hardcover Ignatius Press edition. I appreciate the self-pronouncing text (the only Catholic Bible available with this option, that I know of) and the many cross-references, especially in the New Testament.

This past Lent I did a daily particular prayer/devotion + lectio divina that utilized the lectionary readings. For this I ordered an RSV-CE by Oxford from Christianbook. It has large print and thumb tabs to find passages easier. It also has the weekday and Sunday lectionary readings in back, and the Oxford maps. It is available in hardcover (no thumb tabs or ribbon), bonded leather, or a brown synthetic cover. The synthetic cover is soft and very nice to hold.

I think the two editions mentioned above are tied for #1, and I would like to combine them both into one Bible. I would put the SBP study Bible second after that.

Theophrastus said...

I was going to say that the Longman, Darton, & Todd New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition is out of print; but the publisher claims it is available in 10 days.

I think the best Douay-Rheims-Challoner available is the multi-volume Harvard University Press Vulgate.

I think your restriction against ecumenical editions of the RSV and NRSV was too strong; as there really some excellent entries there. In particular, the CSSI RSV is wildly overpriced and also fits many of the worst stereotypes about Catholic Bibles. I recommend instead that readers look for the New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV - Expanded Ecumenical Edition.

I also think you should expand the list to include Good News Translations (there are several nice Catholic editions) and the Jerusalem Bible (what's wrong with the CTS Bible?).

I would also suggest supplementing the list to include the impressive Catholic Comparative New Testament which I think should have gotten more attention from the Catholic Bible community than it did as "best parallel New Testament."

Other New Testaments deserving honorary mention include the Navarre New Testament - Expanded Edition and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - New Testament

Ben said...

Timothy, what's your opinion on the ghosting in the HarperOne editions? I've heard bad things, about the NRSV and NABRE versions especially.

I'm in the market for an RSV, and am debating between the non-CSSI St Benedict Press edition (the layout looks great) and an older ecumenical version. My understanding is that the printing for SBP is done by HarperOne, and the photos I can see on-line aren't assuaging my fears about poor paper quality. The glued binding is also a negative.

Timothy said...


The ghosting on the NRSV edition is worse than the NABRE. Both, fortunately, come in sewn binding.

If you are ok with having the expanded deuterocanonicals and desire a better binding, I'd go that route. The Oxford Annotated RSV is an all around fantastic Bible, with helpful annotations and the binding, being from Oxford, is superior. Plus its a genuine leather cover.

Timothy said...

I like the Catholic Comparative as well, but unfortunately my edition literally fell apart. The pages weren't sewn in properly, so I have sort of ignored it. Plus it's out of print.

The NJB I mentioned is obtainable from overseas booksellers.

Theophrastus said...

Tim -- both and list the Longman, Darton, & Todd New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition as unavailable. I believe it is at least out-of-stock at the big distributors, if not out-of-print.

Sorry to hear you had bad experience with your Catholic Comparative New Testament. I suspect your case was an anomaly -- the copy I have has stood up well. You are right that it is out of print, but it is still available from some resellers.


Ben, I agree with Tim's remarks about the New Oxford Annotated Bible Expanded Ecumenical RSV edition.

Here are the ISBNs if you want to look it up at or Amazon ( has better prices):

Leather edition: 019528335X ($60)
Hardcover: 0195283481 ($35)

Timothy said...


Slightly off topic, perhaps worth a post of its own, but the history of the NJB is just very strange. It just never really caught on, although it is superior to the original in almost every way. It seems it received less support from its publisher than a few titles I have mentioned before on this blog but will remain nameless.

Theophrastus said...

Yes, I think that the NJB was unlucky.

Conservatives had complaints about the NJB's relationship with the ill-fated Traduction œcuménique de la Bible (in particular the NJB decision to use an ecumenical translation team like the TOB); the NJB's use of inclusive language; and even personally against the editor, Henry Wansbrough.

Academics tended to prefer the more literal NRSV and RSV.

So, the NJB did not have many champions.

Darton, Longman & Todd has been a poor steward, and has not engaged in effective marketing. In the US, the NJB was poorly timed -- the very next year Doubleday was sold to Bertelsmann. Under Bertelsmann, Doubleday began its long decline, and its Catholic imprint, Image Books, particularly suffered. (A decade later, Doubleday was absorbed into Random House).

DLT and Doubleday did not even attempt to make a third English edition, even after the the 3rd French edition of the Bible de Jérusalem.

Biblical Catholic said...

The third English edition of the Jerusalem Bible is currently in production....

Timothy said...

You talking about this:

Theophrastus said...

Michael, the third edition of the Bible de Jérusalem appeared in 1998. I believe that Henry Wansbrough has confirmed that there are no plans to translate that edition.

My understanding is that the super-ambitious French version you are thinking of, Bible en ses Traditions, is likely to be 20 years out at best (at worst, it will never be completed!) The founders have a vision, but have not even been able to recruit a full set of translators (from Hebrew and Greek) yet. Because of the extensive annotation envisioned, translation will be quite difficult.

Note that the Bible en ses Traditions has been going since 1999, but so far, only a tiny fraction of scripture (less than 3%) has been translated to date.

Once the work is completed (which will be multiple volumes, since the notes are so extensive).

I did, however, enjoy the preface to the "demonstration volume," particular this quote by Julien Green (the first non-French national elected to the Académie Française) based on a discussion with André Gide (who won the Nobel Prize for literature) on French usage of Scripture:

"In France, the Bible was never the literary monument that it is in England and Germany. There is this serious point: it cannot be quoted. When an English person quotes a verse of Scripture, he reproduces words and the order of words with scrupulous respect, a translation of genius. In France, the text that comes to mind is a more or less precise recollection of ... [Augustin] Crampon." (Crampon's translation is not usually considered to be elegant.)

Amfortas said...

The NJB never caught on in academic circles in part because there is still the underlying suspicion that the text relies too much on the French version. The old JB divides opinion in the UK. The 'happy' as opposed to the 'blessed' beatitudes still grates with many. The representation of the JB by an American publishers as a 'non-inclusive language' translation is incredible nonsense. It's a product of its time.

ThisVivian said...

Jerusalem Bible, DL&T, London, 1966. The Blue Hardcover edition. The American (Doubleday) edition has horrible (worse than a photocopied DRC) printing, and poor fit and finish. If the NJB is in there, how much more so should the marginally more traditional, Catholic, orthodox Jerusalem Bible be? (Not to mention it has one of the best layouts of any Bible ever printed. Damned Genevan Calvinists ruined the Bible for everyone!)

KJV/NKJV/NASB - Clarion (OUP, 2011-2012)

ESV - several nice editions, I think it comes in a single-column text-only (like the Clarion), but the nicest I've seen is the Schuyler ESV (the only Bible published under that imprint, from EvangelicalBible). I've never had an Allan ESV.

ESV w/ Apocrypha: Lutheran Study Bible (CPH 2009) and the Lutheran Annotated Apocrypha (CPH ?), 2 vol. is put together well, and is probably the best (mostly) single-volume study Bible that I have ever used. Setting is semi-traditional, like the RSV-2CE, but it's better than the only other ESV w/ Apocrypha (the cardinal red Cambridge hardcover).

DRC: Haydock is still the best, even if too large, layout and apparatus-wise. Large print in the body, too, with excellent traditional Catholic commentary. Secondarily, I find little difference between modern DRCs (they're all formatted in the same fashion, with identical contents), so I'd buy a nicely-bound one from whoever has it cheap.

Biblical Catholic said...

"The NJB never caught on in academic circles in part because there is still the underlying suspicion that the text relies too much on the French version."

The original 1966 Jerusalem Bible was, in many parts, a translation from the French rather than the original languages. With the NJB, they didn't consult the French at all, but translated everything anew from the original languages, the only part of the NJB which has anything to do with the French is the notes, which are straight up translated directly from the French.

Jason Engel said...

Ghosting in the HarperOne -compact- thin line NRSVs is not bad at all. I have many good NRSVs, but I love that little compact.

Biblical Catholic said...

Anyway, let's be honest for a moment and admit something: the main reason that the 1966 Jerusalem Bible was successful is because in 1966 Catholics had no choices, you had the Douay Rheims, which was becoming increasingly difficult to understand, you had the Knox Bible, which was written in archaic English and even then was starting to fade and fall out of print, and you have the RSV CE, which was a nice Bible, but only an adaptation of a Protestant translation. The Jerusalem Bible was the only Catholic Bible translated by Catholics in modern English that was available. And the niche occupied by the Jerusalem Bible was soon taken over by the NAB, at least in the US, which is why the NJB never made any headway.

Theophrastus said...

I would like to commend to you all this article by Dom Henry Wansbrough on how he edited the New Jerusalem Bible.

There is plenty of interesting stuff in there, including

* how Wansbrough was named the head of the English project (overriding Tim Darton and John Todd of Darton, Longman & Todd), and

* how the NJB influenced the inclusive language decisions in the NRSV, leading to Bruce Metzger formally thanking Wansbrough.

But some of the most interesting comments are about

* how the JB and NJB translations were only "underlay" for the important part, the notes and introductions: Alexander Jones had conceived the [JB] translation primarily as an underlay to the introduction and notes, that is, as a study Bible. But whereas in 1966 there was no modern translation of the whole Bible into English by 1985 several were available. The study aspect [of the NJB] had therefore become all the more important.

* how Wansbrough sought to make the NJB less Catholic: he wished to remove elements which were narrowly Roman Catholic, such as references in the notes to passages used in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

There is also a funny anecdote about how Wansbrough offended the French head of the project with a Waterloo joke:

The guidelines for me were, when in doubt, to accept the interpretation given in the French edition. The introductions and notes needed considerable adjustment to account for the advances in scholarship since the French edition. For any change over the French I was obliged (till 1982, when the restriction was removed) to seek the approval of [Pierre] Benoit [who was the director of the Ecole Biblique and thus in charge of the whole Bible de Jérusalem project]. Each month I would send him a list of proposed changes. About these he was usually helpful and generous. Only one list was unsuccessful, when I consulted him about whether to use a metric or the imperial system of weights, measures, etc. In that letter I was incautious enough to remind Benoit light-heartedly that it is a well-known phenomenon in archaeology that the victors adopt the culture of the vanquished, and it might therefore be reasonable for the English edition to adopt the Napoleonic system. One does not joke about Waterloo to a Frenchman, and the answers to that list were uniformly negative. There were occasionally other difficulties: for one detail I was obliged to ask Raymond Brown in the United States and Francis Maloney in Australia for supporting letters, confirming that the French version would be simply unacceptable in the English-speaking world. From 1982, when my dear friend Benoit was no longer so young, the Council of the Ecole Biblique instructed him to give me a free hand.

Amfortas said...

Biblical Catholic, I know the NJB was not a translation from the French but the suspicion or misperception remains. I remain a highly qualified biblical scholar saying this. She simply wouldn't believe the truth.

Jonny said...

I think the best NABRE's available are the ones from Catholic Book Publishing Co. The medium-sized editions are just the right size if you don't need giant print. Like all of the other books I have gotten from them, they have sewn bindings and have proven to be sturdy and well made.

The St. Joseph edition has the best format, in my opinion, and although it is a little bit thicker than the popular "thinline" Bibles, there is almost no ghosting if at all. There is a variety of editions available, including textbook-style hardcovers, but I would recommend getting a bonded leather edition with the color inserts, gold edges and ribbon bookmark. I like the two column format, I think it is easier to read and locate passages, and the St. Joseph edition balances the text and notes on each page very well.

Also through CBPC, one can order the World Catholic Press edition of the NABRE. This one is a slimline, and has a little ghosting, although not enough to make it a deal breaker for me. I really like the slimline format and the cut-out thumb tabs. I don't mind the bonded leather either, as the CBPC bonded leather looks a lot nicer than either the SBP or the Oxford bonded leather. This is actually the edition of the NABRE that I own, and I am quite content with it.

The other good thing about CBPC NABREs is there is a variety of colors and styles to choose from in bonded leather, imitation leather, or hardcover, whichever you prefer. There are even some with zippered covers!

Amfortas said...

I meant to say 'I remember a highly qualified biblical scholar'. I cannot claim this accolade!

ThisVivian said...

Me neither. It doesn't stop me.

rolf said...

I would like to add a nice version of the Jerusalem Bible that I came across two days ago at the Amazon market place. It is a compact leather Jerusalem Bible. I am not normally a fan of compact Bibles, but this one is really nice! Instead of a two column print with a cramped size 6 font, this Bible has a well spaced size 7 font (which is much easier to read ) in single column format. The Bible is about 7 1/2 x 5 inches. The leather cover is very nice! I thought it was genuine leather, but when I checked the ISBN number it came back available in black sheepskin leather. It is published by Doubleday, but it looks more like a Cambridge Bible (nice Bible paper). It is a readers edition. The size is very convient. It came in a like new condition but looks like it is brand new (most pages still sticking together). It was $38.00 plus shipping.

Timothy said...


If you can, send along some photos. I'd love to see it.

rolf said...

Photos sent to your e-mail!

ThisVivian said...

Is it the black Jerusalem Bible with a blind-imprinted cover and a zipper?

That one is incredibly rare today.

rolf said...

CJA Mayo, it is black with a blind-imprinted cover, but it does not have a zipper (I wish it did). I wrote up a guest Bible review with photos and have sent it to Timothy.

Timothy said...

Yes, it'll be up with a couple photos on Wednesday.

Judy S. said...

Can you help me locate a diglot and Catholic version New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. I want to recommend to an American Host Catholic family assisting a relocated African Catholic family. They might know a little more French to be able to read and locate some things. I used this technique with a non-English speaking migrant family. We both knew our Gospels and Psalms very well from Mass readings. It was a great common ground and a great way to start building a base vocabulary together. Thanks for your help. Blessings!