Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - Updated: 4:38 pm
QUESTION: During Christmas vacation, we visited friends who are no longer Catholic. Our children began to read from the Bible found in our friend’s home. I told them not to read it because it was not a Catholic Bible. My Catholic husband questioned me and said, “What harm could come from reading a Bible?” Any thoughts?
ANSWER: There are a wide variety of Bibles available today. Essentially each Bible in English is a translation usually from ancient texts in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The best translations use those ancient sources as a starting point. Some begin with texts already translated into a modern language and adapt them. This can weaken the meaning of the texts since they have gone through more than one language translation.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a translation from the ancient texts. This translation is titled the New American Bible, Revised Edition. It is the only text (translation) that is to be read in the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments in this country. Thus, that text is one that is the most familiar to most of us who attend Mass regularly. For this reason, it seems best to use that text of the Bible for personal study and reading as well.
For personal reading or study of the Bible, Catholics may also choose from other approved translations such as the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. The notion of “approved” takes into consideration a very important factor. The Catholic Church holds to a “list” of 27 books in the New Testament and 46 in the Old Testament. Thus, Protestant and Catholic Bibles have the same 27 books of the New Testament, but Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Old Testament.
The seven additional books included in Catholic Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel that are not found in Protestant Bibles. The differences arise from a complicated history of each community, for various reasons, choosing either the Alexandrian/Greek (Catholic) or the Palestinian/Hebrew (Protestant) list. Parts of these books and numbering of the Psalms also may differ.
Significant differences in Bibles are found in the introductions and the footnotes. Some footnotes tend to contain more instruction than translation notes. It is there that such things as structures of authority, sacramental symbolism, community values and personal morality would be interpreted rather differently depending on the denomination sponsoring the publication of the scriptural text. The Catholic Church places emphasis not only on the Bible read, but the Bible as handed on by the church throughout the ages. The teaching authority of the church is the custodian of that historical teaching.
Incidental reading of a Bible found in a non-Catholic home would likely do little harm. For serious study or consistent reading, however, the choice of Bible is an important one, and for Catholics this should include an approved version with appropriate introductions and footnotes.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.