Choosing a Bible

Choosing a Bible

What is the difference between a Catholic Bible and a Protestant Bible?

The difference is in the number of books which make up the bible, the bible being a collection of Books, Gospels and Letters.  i.e.  The Book of Genesis, The Gospel of Matthew, The Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.

The Catholic Bible has a total of 73 books and the Protestant Bible has a total of 66 books. The 66 books are to be found in both bibles, the Catholic Bible has 7 more.  These 7 books are; Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch.  They are called the Deuterocanonical books (second canon) and Protestants sometimes refer to them as the Apocrypha. They are in the Old Testament.  At the reformation the Protestant reformers decided to leave out these books on the basis that they weren’t present in Hebrew manuscripts, only in Greek.  The New Testament books in both bibles are the same.  So the difference between the two bibles is actually quite small.

Protestant Bibles with Apocrypha are available and would then have the 7 books included.

In order for a Catholic to have a bible which follows the lectionary it is important to have a bible containing all 73 books.


What translation should I have?

The simple answer would be the one you are most comfortable with and is the easiest for you to read and understand.

You may have an old Douay-Rheims Catholic bible or a King James in your home.  These are both good translations but they date back to the 17th century and the language can be a bit awkward, even if it sounds beautiful.  A translation in Modern English is much more accessible.

Catholic Bibles in modern English include;

The Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem bible – these include the word Yahweh as God’s revealed name in the Old Testament.  As this name is regarded by the Jews as too holy to be spoken, the Catholic Church now asks us not to say it but to substitute Lord.  The CTS Bible uses the Jerusalem translation but with Lord substituted.

There are other translations such as the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible available all in a Catholic edition.

Many of these translations are available in study bible form with footnotes and cross-references which are a great aid to personal study.  The Didache Bible is a Catholic bible using the Revised Standard Version with a commentary which refers to the Catechism.

To give an idea how the different translations read a comparison is included below.

Comparison of Matthew 6: 34 in different translations– arranged so the reading gets easier as you go down the list.

Word for word or thought for thought translations

Douay Rheims –  Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

King James – Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Revised Standard Version – Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

English Standard Version – Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

New International Version – Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

New Revised Standard Version – So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Jerusalem Bible (and New Jerusalem) – So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

New Living Translation – So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


Paraphrase – Goes for the gist of the meaning in modern English

Good News Bible – So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own.  There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.

The Living Bible – So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too.  Live one day at a time.

The Message – Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.


Word for word translations are better for study than a paraphrase, but the paraphrases can shed particular light on a passage as well as making you smile.


Summary – What bible should I get?  Options

  • A Basic Catholic Bible in Modern English (cheapest option).
  • A Catholic Study Bible in Modern English.
  • Have more than one translation; a Catholic Study Bible in Modern English, a Protestant Bible in a different translation, and a Paraphrase.

If you are looking for a bible on Amazon, check out the market place options for secondhand books.  You may strike it lucky and get a bible for as little as a penny plus the postage.

You can also get the Bible for Kindle or your phone.

eSWORD – Free bible study software is also very useful.

Bible Hub – is a good on-line resource for comparing different translations.

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