Saint Isidore said, “Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. If a man wants to always be in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.” And Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Have you ever wondered how God talks to us? He does this in a couple of ways, the first of which is prayer. If we also listen when we pray, we can hear Him in our hearts. He also speaks to us when we read Sacred Scripture. If we are going through a rough time in our life or need words of encouragement, it’s in those times we need God the most and reading Sacred Scripture will definitely help. The Sacred Scriptures are also a great way to help us change those areas in our lives that need changing, if we are willing. So where do we begin? How do I find a Bible that’s right for me?

First, a little background on the Bible. The Catholic Bible consists of two parts, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Old Testament deals with events that happened prior to the birth of Jesus and the New Testament deals with events after the birth of Jesus. Now in the Old Testament we have the historical books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel 1 and 2, Kings 1 and 2, Chronicles 1 and 2, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and Maccabees 1 and 

2. The doctrinal books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, and Wisdom. And the prophetical books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonas, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The New Testament consists of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The historical book, Acts. And the doctrinal books or epistles: Romans, Corinthians 1 and 2, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians 1 and 2, Timothy 1 and 2, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James 1 and 2, Peter 1 and 2, John 1, 2, 3 and Jude. Revelation is a prophetical book. The above-mentioned books are included in all Catholic Bibles.

The languages in which the books of the Bible were originally written are Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Hebrew comes from Noah’s sons and is the language spoken by those living in Canaan. Aramaic was spoken in Babylonia, Mesopotamia, and Syria. Aramaic was also the language Jesus spoke. Hebrew was gradually replaced by Aramaic. The Greek language of the Bible is not the same as what is taught in schools, but a Greek dialect. After Alexander the Great, it spread all over the civilized world. Nearly all books in the Old Testament were written in Hebrew including some portions of Daniel, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Esther, all of Tobit, Judith, and the Gospel of Saint Matthew. The Book of Wisdom, Maccabees 2, and all the New Testament – with the exception of Matthew – were written in Greek. This is a little (and I mean a little) background on the Bible. You should research and read as much as possible on the history of the Bible. It’s important to understand where the Bible comes from, its translations, and its characteristics in order to gain an in-depth look at the books of both the Old and New Testaments. This background will help you once you begin reading the Bible.

So, where do I go from here? There are so many versions, which one should I choose? How do I know which one is right for me? There are several really good versions and some I wouldn’t spend money on. You must decide for yourself by doing some research on the Bibles you feel drawn to.

Here are a few things I hope will be helpful in choosing the Bible that is right for you.

  • Choose a Catholic Bible. The Protestant Bible does not include all the books a Catholic Bible does and those books are important. The Catholic Church made the decision hundreds of years ago to include all these books found for a reason.
  • Choose your translation. Once you have found a complete Catholic Bible with all the books from the Old and New Testaments, you can then think about the style of translation you would like. There are two types of translation styles: formal equivalent and dynamic equivalent. Formal equivalent is more of a word-for-word type of Bible. These kinds of Bibles read as close as possible to the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek). This translation is extremely accurate, but can be more difficult to read. A dynamic translation gives the reader an overall meaning of the original, but is easier to read. A couple of Bibles use a combination of the two types. This is called optimal equivalence.
  • Look for extras. There are also Bibles that have notes, maps, timelines, and dictionaries to help the reader. I like maps that show a region as it was and how it is now, they are most helpful. I also favor notes and annotations which help the reader understand some of the language used, particularly when reading a formal version.

The following is a partial list of Bibles approved by the Catholic Church for consideration:

  • New American Bible: Revised Edition (NABRE): Published in 2011 – Optimal Equivalence, controversial Book of Psalms in this version.
  • Ignatius Study Bible (ICSB): Published in 2006 – Formal Equivalence, easy to read and has lots of notes but only includes the New Testament.
  • Good News Bible: Catholic Version (GNB): Published in 1992 – Dynamic Equivalence, easy to understand but poetry is lost in favor of clarity.
  • Revised Standard Version: Catholic Version (RSV-CE): Published in 1966 – Formal Equivalence, considered the first ecumenical Bible.
  • New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE): Published in 1989 – Formal Equivalence, a revised version of the RSV-CE.
  • Jerusalem Bible (JB): Published in 1966 – Dynamic Equivalence, this is a more thought-for-thought than a word-for-word translation.
  • New Jerusalem Bible (NJB): Published in 1990 – Dynamic Equivalence, most widely used Bible outside of the US, uses inclusive language, avoiding a preference for the masculine.
  • Douay-Rheims Bible (DRB): Published in 1582 – Formal Equivalence, upholds Catholic Tradition and is the best Bible in my opinion.

There is one more thing you should look at when choosing a Bible: “Books of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the Conference of Bishops has approved them,” Code of Canon Law 825§1. To be considered a Catholic Bible, there must be two things: the nihil obstat, which is Latin for “nothing hinders” or “nothing stands in the way”. This is the Church telling us that a book contains nothing damaging to the faith or morals. The second thing is the , meaning “to imprint” or “to impress”. This tells us that the Church has given approval or license to publish. When choosing any book about the faith to read, I always look for one or both and that way I know for certain there are no moral or doctrinal objections from the Catholic Church.

Remember, no matter which Bible you choose, it will not help you if it sits on the shelf. It is meant to be read. Reading fifteen minutes per day is a good start. Find some quiet space where you can be alone and ask the Holy Ghost to be with you as you read. Once you are finished with reading, meditate on what you have read. Stay quiet and open your heart and mind to the words. God will speak to your heart. If there is something you do not understand – well that is why we have priests. A priest can help you interpret Holy Scripture. The Holy Bible will help us get to know God, learn to love God, and because of that love, serve God.

If you are looking to deepen your faith, strengthen your relationship with God, and increase your love for the Almighty, the Bible is a great place to start.