Catholic Bible Translations

The language used in today’s Catholic Bibles are translations from the original languages of the biblical authors. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic while the New Testament was written in Greek.

The first significant translation of Sacred Scripture was the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek in 280 BC. This translation was used by Jesus, the Apostles, and the Jewish rabbis of their time.

In 381 AD, St. Jerome was commissioned to translate both the Old and New Testaments into Latin. This translation become known as the Vulgate and was the gold standard of the Catholic Church for over 1000 years.

Although Bible translations into the English and other languages began in the late 1300s, Sacred Scripture outside of Mass was still inaccessable to many people because of illiteracy and the inability to print and mass produce the Bible.

Partly in response to poor Protestant translations, the Latin Vulgate was translated into English in the 17th century. This Douay-Rheims Bible is the translation on which most English Catholic Bibles are based even today.

The New American Bible translation is currently used in the Catholic Mass in the United States, as approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Literal translations which accurately maintain grammar and word-for-word text are best used for studying the Bible while dynamic translations that are more loosely translated but still preserve the meaning of the text can be easier to read.

While Protestant Bibles may use similar translations, they exclude 7 books from the Old Testament, unless they are listed as a “Catholic Edition.”

The translated word of God:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17

Read as many translations as you can:

A spectrum of language styles:

Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful. That is why the Church from the very beginning accepted as her own that very ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament which is called the Septuagint; and she has always given a place of honor to other Eastern translations and Latin ones especially the Latin translation known as the Vulgate. But since the word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. And should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them.

Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum, 18 November 1965

Translated from the original languages:

Two principles of translation:

Every translation has problems:

In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 110

The challenges of figures of speech:

Choosing the right words:

Additional resources are helpful:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

No one is left alone:

Share this page with friends and family to start a conversation about your faith.

Don’t miss a post. Learn more about the Catholic Church and strengthen your Catholic faith.

Find more Fiercely Catholic video issues here.

Subscribe here.

Book a Fiercely Catholic program at your next conference, retreat, or other Catholic event.