Understanding the Bible

Understand the Bible

Approved translations of the Bible


The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We have Good Samaritan (Luke 10) laws, welcome home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)," "Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15), and "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:39).

Today's Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the bible.

Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.

  1. Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
  2. Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
  3. Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church's complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
  4. The Bible isn't a book. It's a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers' accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
  5. Know what the Bible is – and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
  6. The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
  7. The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God's plan for human beings.
  8. You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
  9. What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
  10. Reading isn't enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be "living and effective."(Hebrews 4:12).

By Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Questions about the Bible
  • Questions about the Lectionary
  • Questions about this Site
  • Questions about Daily Readings e-mail subscription

Questions about the Bible

How many versions of the New American Bible are there?

The original version of the New American Bible (NAB) was published in 1970. The translation of the New Testament was revised and published in 1986. The translation of the Book of Psalms (the Psalter) was revised in 1991. A revision of the translation of the Old Testament, including the Psalter, was published in March 2011. This version is called the New American Bible Revised Edition ("NABRE").

Besides the various editions of the translation, many different publishers have produced editions of the NAB. Each publisher has added material, such as photographs, maps, devotions and prayers, and reference matter to the biblical text.

In what formats is the New American Bible available?

The New American Bible is available in the following formats: print, audio, electronic (including e-books), and digital.

What's the difference between a "Catholic Bible" and a "Protestant Bible"?

Catholic and Protestant Bibles both include 27 books in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Old Testament, however, while Catholic Bibles have 46. The seven 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 which are not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are called the deuterocanonical books. The Catholic Church believes these books to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Do we read from the Bible at Mass?

Readings from Scripture are part of every Mass. At least two readings (3 on Sundays and solemnities), one always from the Gospels, make up the Liturgy of the Word. In addition, a psalm or canticle is sung.

For ease, these readings are typically read from a Lectionary, which includes the sections of the Bible to be read on a given day.

What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?

A Lectionary provides the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Individual readings in the Lectionary are called pericopes, from a Greek word meaning a "section" or "cutting." Because the Mass readings are only portions of a book or chapter, introductory phrases, called incipits, are often added to begin the Lectionary reading, for example, "In those days," "Jesus said to his disciples," etc.

How can anyone own the copyright on the Bible? Isn't it free to everyone?

No one owns the copyright on the Bible itself. Rather, the copyright is held on particular translations or editions of the Bible. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) owns the copyright on the New American Bible translation. Some versions of the Bible, such as the King James Version (not the New King James Version) are in the public domain due to age.

The copyright allows the owner to protect the integrity of the text so that individuals may not introduce changes without permission. Royalty fees earned by licensing the text to companies who publish and sell Bibles help to provide funds for Scripture scholarship and other educational needs.

Questions about the Lectionary

What's the difference between a Bible and a Lectionary?

A Lectionary provides the readings and the responsorial psalm assigned for each Mass of the year (Sundays, weekdays, and special occasions). The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Introductions and conclusions have been added to each reading. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Individual readings in the Lectionary are called pericopes, from a Greek word meaning a "section" or "cutting." Because the Mass readings are only portions of a book or chapter, introductory phrases, called incipits, are often added to begin the Lectionary reading, for example, "In those days," "Jesus said to his disciples," etc.

How is the Lectionary arranged?

The Lectionary is arranged in two cycles, one for Sundays and one for weekdays.

The Sunday cycle is divided into three years, labeled A, B, and C. 2017 is Year A. 2018 is Year B, 2019 is Year C, etc. In Year A, we read mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. In Year B, we read the Gospel of Mark and chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. In Year C, we read the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of John is read during Lent and the Easter season in all three years. The first reading, usually from the Old Testament, reflects important themes from the Gospel reading. The second reading is usually from one of the epistles, a letter written to an early church community. These letters are read semi-continuously. Each Sunday, we pick up close to where we left off the Sunday before, though some passages are never read.

The weekday cycle is divided into two years, Year I and Year II. Year I is read in odd-numbered years (2017, 2019, etc.) and Year II is used in even-numbered years (2018, 2020, etc.) The Gospels for both years are the same. During the year, the Gospels are read semi-continuously, beginning with Mark, then moving on to Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of John is read during Christmas, Lent, and the Easter season. For Advent, Christmas, and Lent, readings are chosen that are appropriate to the season. The first reading on weekdays may be taken from the Old or the New Testament. Typically, a single book is read semi-continuously (though some passages are not read) until it is finished and then a new book is started.

The year of the cycle does not change on January 1st, but on the 1st Sunday of Advent (usually late November/early December) which is the beginning of the liturgical year. The liturgical year 2018 will begin on December 3, 2017 and end on December 1, 2018.

In addition to the Sunday and weekday cycles, the Lectionary provides readings for feasts of the saints, for common celebrations such as Marian feasts, for ritual Masses (weddings, baptisms, etc.), for votive Masses, and for various needs. These readings have been selected to reflect the themes of these celebrations.

Is the New American Bible the only translation of Scriptures we can read from at Mass?

Since May 19, 2002, the revised Lectionary, based on the New American Bible is the only English-language Lectionary that may be used at Mass in the dioceses of the United States.

The 1970 edition of the New American Bible is used in the Scripture readings and canticles of the Liturgy of the Hours (except the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc dimittis.)

Questions about this Site

Where can I find the daily readings in Spanish?

The daily readings in Spanish can be found at our Lecturas del Día page.

Are audio podcasts of the Spanish daily readings available?

We currently await final approval of a U.S. Leccionario by the Holy See. When approval is given, we intend to prepare podcasts of the Spanish readings.

Is a Spanish Bible available on the website?

Not at this time. We are working to secure copyright permissions for a Spanish Bible, so that we can offer this resource in the future.

Is there an audio version of the NABRE on the website?

The NABRE is available in text format only.

Where can I find an explanation of a particular Bible passage or verse?

A good place to start is to view the footnotes in the NABRE, which are found at the end of each chapter. They are linked at the asterisks (*) found in the NABRE text. For more in-depth explanations and discussions of Biblical texts, you might wish to consult an approved Bible commentary.

The priest at my parish read a different reading than the one posted. Did he read the wrong reading?

This site posts only the reading listed in the official Liturgical Calendar for the United States. However, the priest celebrating a Mass may have many other choices for readings, including the readings for a saint's feast day, a Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin, or a votive Mass.

Do you have readings posted for memorials of saints?

We do not currently have the readings for memorials of saints posted but we hope to introduce them on the readings page as staffing allows.

Can you provide the entrance and communion antiphons on the Daily Readings page?

Due to the wide variety of options provided in the Roman Missal, and also due to copyright restrictions, we do not provide the antiphons of the Mass on the daily readings page.

I really loved one of the readings from three months ago. How do I find out what it was? OR I need to know the readings for a month after what you have posted, how do I find it?

The citations for the readings Liturgical Calendar for the United States. You can use the citations to look up the text in a Bible, missal, or Lectionary. The calendar for the upcoming year is usually posted in the autumn.

Are there lectio divina meditations for Ordinary Time?

We currently offer lectio divina meditations for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. We will be introducing meditations for Ordinary Time in 2018.

How do I get permission to make copies of sections of the material on this site or to link to this site?

Please see our permissions policy .

Questions about Daily Readings e-mail subscription

How do I sign up to receive the Daily Readings by e-mail?

On our Daily Readings page, please enter your e-mail address in the dialog box ("Get daily readings sent to your email every morning") found at the bottom of the page. If you wish to sign up for the readings in Spanish, please enter your e-mail address in the box ("Subscribase en nuestra lista de correo") at the bottom of our Lecturas del día page.

What time are the Daily Readings e-mails sent?

The e-mails are sent each day at 6 a.m. Eastern Time in the U.S. At present, the e-mail service does not allow readings to be sent out earlier or later according to the recipient's time zone.

What if I signed up but I am not receiving Daily Readings e-mails?

Please check your Junk/Spam/Promotions e-mail folder or folders to see if the readings e-mails are there instead of in your regular inbox. If they are not, please contact us at dailyreadings@usccb.org with questions or concerns about your daily readings e-mail subscription.

How do I change my e-mail address for the Daily Readings e-mail?

At the bottom of your daily readings e-mail message you will find a link entitled "update subscription preferences." Please select the link and follow the instructions on the page that opens.

How do I unsubscribe from the Daily Readings e-mails?

At the bottom of your daily readings e-mail message you will find a link entitled "unsubscribe from this list." Please select the link and follow the instructions on the page that opens.

Revised Edition Information


Released on March 9, 2011, the New American Bible , Revised Edition (NABRE) is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work by a group of nearly 100 scholars and theologians, including bishops, revisers and editors. The NABRE includes a newly revised translation of the entire Old Testament (including the Book of Psalms) along with the 1986 edition of the New Testament.

The NABRE is a formal equivalent translation of Sacred Scripture, sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, using the best manuscripts available. Work on most books of the Old Testament by forty revisers and a board of eight editors began in 1994 and was completed in 2001. The 1991 revision of the Psalter, the work of thirty revisers and six editors, was further revised by seven revisers and two editors between 2009 and 2010. Work on the New Testament, begun in 1978 and completed in 1986, was the work of thirteen revisers and five editors.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not sell Bibles. The publishers listed below are licensed to publish the NABRE.  Various editions will be available soon in Catholic bookstores and from online book retailers.

NABRE Licensed Publishers

Releasing in March 2011:
Catholic Book Publishing: gift editions
Saint Benedict's Press: ultra-soft and paperback
Fireside:  Fireside Catholic Youth Bible NEXT
Our Sunday Visitor:  Prove It! Catholic Bible and New Catholic Answer Bible
Oxford University Press: Compact editions and Large Print editions

Later releases:
Soul-Centered enterprises: flash-drive computer version
American Bible Society: soft cover (July 2011)
Liturgical Press: Little Rock Study Bible (June 2011)
Autom: soft cover (June 2011)
Royal:  handheld electronic Bible (May 2011)
Saint Mary's Press (2012)
Our Sunday Visitor:  My Daily Catholic Bible (date TBA)
Fireside Bible Publishing: Kindle and e-book editions and family editions (date TBA)
Catholic Book Publishing: additional editions (throughout 2011)
JustWord: iApp (May 2011)

Articles

The  New American Bible , revised edition (NABRE), the first major update to the New American Bible(NAB) translation in 20 years, has been approved for publication. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the canonical rescript approving publication on September 30, 2010. The following articles reflect on different aspects of how the Bible enriches life in the Church.

List of Articles

A Spiritual Feast for Your Home: How Catholics Can Use the Old Testament in the Family

Bible at Core of Catholic Beliefs

Changes in Catholic Attitudes Toward Bible Readings

Do Translations Matter?

How to Use the Old Testament in Daily Prayer

Old Testament Speaks to Young People

Quiz on the New American Bible

Rationale for Catholics Reading the Old Testament

Roots of Catholic Social Teaching Found in the Old Testament Prophets

The Old Testament in the Liturgical Life of the Church