Studying the Study Bible

Question: Do you have a favorite study Bible, or is there one you recommend?

Answer: Any study edition with "Imprimatur" on the copyright page or somewhere in the front matter of the book immediately assures you that a Roman Catholic Bishop or Archbishop has found the study notes, commentaries, footnotes, and other additions in harmony with Church teaching. Bible study courses or workbooks often recommend specific translations and editions, too. If so, you'll usually find that information toward the front of the book in a foreword or greeting to Bible students.

Although I have some study editions I use more than others, I value different aspects of each one. For instance, The HarperCollins Study Bible offers thorough footnotes with information for helping readers better understand the surrounding situation, culture, or times. It does not have an Imprimatur on the copyright page, but it does have unbiased notes and contains all of the books found in a Catholic Old Testament. At the back of the book, you'll find such resources as "Quotations Of The Jewish Scriptures In The New Testament" and color maps. However, this particular edition only comes in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) produced by the National Council of Churches. That translation modernized the more popular RSV by making the text gender inclusive, which means that "man" becomes "human kind" or "mortals." For example, I Corinthians 13:1 reads, "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." In RSV, the same verse says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." As a poet, I prefer the latter, whereas the newer version seems to thud. Although the NRSV is the more accurate translation, I appreciate the poetic flow of RSV and like that particular translation in The New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha Expanded Edition.

 If you prefer the New American Bible (NAB) translation that's most often used in the Mass, I highly recommend The Saint Joseph Edition and The Catholic Study Bible, the latter of which includes the same footnotes but also has a wealth of articles and reading guides in the front of the book. In the back of The Catholic Study Bible, you'll find reference articles on the lectionary as well as information about biblical archaeology and the geography of Bible lands. For yet another translation and edition that received Church approval, The New Jerusalem Bible includes thorough footnotes throughout the pages with supplements of maps and a "Chronological Table" of events located at the back.

I keep all of the above within easy reach for comparative study with other translations and study editions, but, no, I don't have a special favorite. However, Bible Talk readers apparently do. In responding to an earlier article, some of you expressed a preference for The Navarre Bible, while others mentioned The New Catholic Answer Bible, which includes excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and lists commonly asked questions then refers you to the pages where you'll find scriptural answers or references. Both of those editions sound good and I want them all. If you would like to expand your own Bible collection, check out what is available at the Catholic Exchange online store.

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