Wisdom Overflowing

Scripture Study Resources for Catholics

Basics: Bibles & Intros
What Is a Catholic Bible?
Bible Translations
Editions of the Bible
Basic Intros to Bible
Beginning Bible Study
Advancing in Bible Study
Deepen Your Experience
Bible Study Programs
Bible Connections
About the Resources
About Carol Kloss
If you've looked now and then at the Bible sections of bookstores, you may have noticed that publishers produce new Bibles all the time. For a beginner, such multiplicity can make the question of which Bible to buy seem even more confusing than it already is.
Here's a useful thing to know: There's a difference between an edition of the Bible and a translation of the Bible. If you understand that difference, it will be easier to find the right Bible for you.
Editions and Translations
Publishers produce editions of the Bible for different reasons. An edition of the Bible may add material to an already published (and usually widely used) Bible translation. The amount and nature of the added material depends on the purpose of the edition.
An edition of the Bible designed for adult prayer, for example, will supplement the chosen Bible translation with articles, notes, and perhaps illustrations helpful for adult prayer. An edition of the Bible designed for children will supplement a Bible translation suitable for children with articles and illustrations that facilitate a child's encounter with Scripture. A "study" edition adds material that helps Catholics learn how to read the Bible and understand the Bible's background and themes. A "study" edition may also help a reader understand how Scripture applies to daily life.
Sometimes, the edition designates how the Bible's text is bound and presented. A "family" edition of the bible could be large, have a decorated padded cover, and include family record pages. A "large print" edition increases the size of the printed text. A "compact" or "pocket" edition fits in purse, pocket, or backpack (and reduces the size of the printed text!)
One of my Bibles is the "Saint Joseph Fine Art Edition" of the New American Bible (NAB) translation. It supplements the NAB text with color illustrations of Bible stories and photographs of biblical areas. I also own the Rembrandt Edition of a combined Confraternity and Douay Rheims translation. The editors chose some of Rembrandt's many paintings, drawings, and graphical works on the Bible to illustrate the Confraternity and Douay texts.
A Bible translation is simply that: a translation of the Bible from one language into another. The focus is on the Bible's texts, not on additional material or presentation of the text.
Producing a new translation of the Bible can take ten years of more. New editions of the Bible appear more often, as publishers and authors respond to the needs of different groups of Bible readers. Part of the reason there seem to be so many different Bibles is because there are many editions of the Bible.
What Edition Is Right for You?
Whatever edition of the Bible you buy, check the translation first.
  • Does the translation includes all the books of the Cathlic Bible? (Any edition of the New International Version (NIV) translation, for example, will not include all the Catholic books because the Deuterocanonical books/Apocrypha have not been included in the NIV translation.)
  • Is it a translation you want to use?

Then, evaluate what the edition offers. An evaluation will be easy if you're just looking for a large print edition of the Revised Standard Version translation, for example. You'll have to be more careful if you're considering an edition with lots of additional material.

  • Read some of the added material. Does it seem to agree with how Catholics read Scripture? Or does it seem "off" in some way? (The Archaeological Study Bible, for example, adds good information but assumes the early stories of Genesis are factual in a way Catholics do not. Unless you're very certain of the Catholic approach, it will be easy to get confused.) Some editions produced primarily for Protestants work just as well for Catholics; some do not.
  • If the edition is not in your preferred translation, does the focus, extra material, or presentation of the edition make it worthwhile anyway? Remember, it's good to have more than one translation of the Bible!

RESOURCES: Editions of the Bible Useful for Catholics
Here's a selection of Bible editions serving a variety of purposes. The resources also give you a sense of the different publishers of Catholic Bibles, as well as how little, or how much, can be added to make a different edition. I've also included an example of a study Bible produced primarily for Protestants that's a fine Bible for Catholics.
Bibles for Prayer

The Catholic Women's Devotional Bible

Zondervan (2000)

A Bible designed help Catholic women develop their spiritual lives through Scripture. Includes 260 daily meditations drawn from the women's writing, such as Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Joyce Rupp, and Macrina Wiederkehr. Also includes 52 weekend meditations in which you meet the women of the Bible. The Bible has a reading plan tied to the lectionary and many articles connecting Scripture with aspects of Catholic faith and tradition. Uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

A very nice Bible for Catholic women who want to make the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Be careful not to confuse it with the Women's Devotional Bible by the same publisher, which uses the New International Version (NIV) translation. The NIV does not include all the Catholic books of the Bible.

The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition

Paulist Press (2010)

A resource for Catholics who would like to pray the Bible using the ancient tradition of lectio divina, holy reading—even if you have no idea what lectio divina is! Fr. Lawrence Boadt, who was president of Paulist Press and a leading Catholic biblical scholar dedicated to teaching the “average Catholic” about Scripture, offers a simple introduction to this reflective way of prayer as well as advice on how to use this method for Old Testament books, the gospels, and Paul's letters. Then, for every chapter of every book of the Bible, you receive a suggested reflection following the four steps of lectio divina. As you pray your way through individual books following the reflections, you'll come to a deeper sense of your life with God and God’s Word and, at the same time, you’ll more fully understand each biblical book. Uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

A unique and excellent new resource for individuals as well as groups. When used with a basic introduction to the Bible, this Bible edition could become the basis of a Bible study group.

Bibles for Families and Youth

The Catholic Faith & Family Bible
Harper Collins (2010)
A great new Bible that really helps Catholic parents bring the Bible into a family's life. Articles such as "Reading the Bible as a Catholic Family" and "Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the Bible," provide parents guidance they may need to feel secure with the Bible. Excellent sidebars present family-oriented ideas for prayer, reflection, and action. Short articles make connections to many aspects of Catholic faith and practice useful for the whole family. Uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation. (For younger children, you may want to substitute the Good News Translation of the biblical text.)
The best Bible for Catholic families available today. In the hardcover edition, it makes an excellent family gift.

Saint Joseph New American Bible: Family Edition

Catholic Book Publishing Corporation

A formal, distinctively bound edition of the Bible that includes pages for recording family and sacramental events and many illustrations of the Bible's stories, as well as maps and the three-year cycle of Sunday readings. Also includes explanations of several aspects of Catholic faith and tradition, such as the Mass, the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross. Uses the New American Bible (NAB) translation. (This publisher produces several editions of the NAB.)

One example of a Bible that would make a nice family gift.

The Catholic Gift & Study Bible

The Liturgical Press

This Bible combines features of a typical Catholic "family" Bible (formal binding, pages for family records, Sunday readings, list of the popes) with some simple study material. Articles on the purpose of the Bible, the Bible and history, how the Bible came about, and how to study the Bible, as well as short introductions for each biblical book and maps of the biblical world, help the family learn about the Bible. Uses the New American Bible (NAB) translation.

Another example of a nice family gift Bible, with more helps for reading the Bible than found in the Saint Joseph family edition.

The Catholic Youth Bible: 2010 edition

Saint Mary's Press (2010)

Includes accurate, easy-to-read, and interesting articles and notes. These additions help teens understand biblical books and difficult passages with guidance following Catholic approach to Scripture. Excellent short features help teens pray Scripture, apply texts to real-life situations, and make connections to Catholic doctrine and practices. Includes maps, a Bible timeline, and a concordance. Attractive, illustrated, and colorful. Available in both the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation and the New American Bible (NAB) translation (the translation used at Mass).

An excellent Bible for teens. Highly recommended for teen Bible study groups and for teen personal use.

Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics

Saint Mary's Press (2006)

For youth fifth grade and older. Uses a simplified but good translation of the Bible, the Good News Translation (also known as Today's English Version). Includes accurate and easy-to-read notes and explanations about biblical books and texts based on the Catholic approach to Scripture. Guides the young readers to understanding how to read the Bible as a modern Catholic. Excellent short features such as "Bible People Interviews," "Live It," and "Pray It," help younger readers experience the Bible in a meaningful way.

A Bible that can really help youth fifth-grade and older connect with Scripture in a meaningful way.

Bibles and Bible Stories for Children:

Both Pauline Books & Media and Our Sunday Visitor have a good selection of Bible resources for younger children.

Study Bibles (see more study Bibles here)
The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition

(Second Edition)

Oxford University Press (2007) Editor: Jean Marie Hiesberger

An edition of the New American Bible (NAB) translation that's perfect for Catholics who want to begin systematic study of the Bible. Includes easy to understand essays on essential topics such as the Bible in Catholic life, Catholics and fundamentalism, how to read the Bible, and the background of the biblical texts. Reading guides for each book and notes within the text offer great introductions and explanations. Also includes useful study tools such as maps, a concordance, and a glossary, as well as extensive and varied discussion questions. A simpler version of the Catholic Study Bible on which it is partly based.

An excellent Bible for many parish adult faith formation situations, as well as for individual study and reflection. Highly recommended for Catholics who want to get a solid yet not overwhelming introduction to what Catholic Bible study is all about.

The Four Gospels: Catholic Personal Study Edition
Editors: Catherine Upchurch and Ronald D. Witherup, S.S.
Little Rock Scripture Study (2009)

Using the New American Bible (NAB) translation of the four gospels, this edition offers introductions to each gospel, notes, historical and cultural background of the gospels, lectionary and Catholic faith connections, maps, pictures, and prayer helps in a well designed and inviting format. Well written and accurate sidebars in the text provide information and address common questions. (This gospel edition is an extract from the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible, not yet published.)

An excellent and up-to-date gospel resource for any Bible study group or individual who wants to focus on the gospels. Informative yet not overwhelming. Also a good resource for catechists and any parish ministers who regularly work with the Sunday gospels.

The Discipleship Study Bible

Westminster John Knox Press (2008)

A unique study Bible from a Presbyterian publisher aimed at all Christians using the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation with Apocrypha. Top-notch Protestant biblical scholars have contributed extensive introductions and notes for every book of the Bible, with a two-part goal: to offer readers what they need to understand the text itself (one reason for a study Bible), and to provide connections to living as a Christian disciple today, as an individual and in the communities of church and society (another use of a study Bible).

An excellent "hybrid" study Bible, with informative, contemporary, and thought-provoking notes. Would be a great resource for ecumenical Bible study groups or for any Catholic who wants this "hybrid" type of study Bible.

The New Jerusalem Bible: Standard Edition

Doubleday Religion Publishing Group (1985)

An edition of the Bible translation used in the Roman Catholic liturgy in England. Although not described by the publisher as a study Bible, that's exactly what this Bible is. It includes extensive introductions to the sections of the Bible and to each biblical book. The real treasure of this edition, however, are the comprehensive notes. They often focus on major theological concepts and themes as they're developed across the entire Bible or in sections of the Bible. The notes educate the reader on how different texts of the Bible connect with each other and what the texts say theologically, which together can lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding of a theme or text. Includes several color maps and indexes of biblical themes and the major footnotes.

For any Catholic with a serious interest in Scripture, this edition of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) translation is worth owning as your second Bible, both for the fine and often enlightening translation itself and for the supplemental material.

Basic Editions of the Bible

Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version:
Catholic Edition

HarperCollins Publishers

A basic Catholic edition of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation. Includes a short introduction for each biblical book, a timeline of Catholic Church and world history, and several pages of maps of the biblical world.

An example of a basic Catholic edition of a translation other than the NAB (which is the translation used in the liturgy in the U.S.)

The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader's Edition

Doubleday Religion Publishing Group (1990)

An edition of the Bible translation used in the Roman Catholic liturgy in the United Kingdom, the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) translation. Includes shorter versions of the extensive introductions and notes found in the standard edition of this translation, described above. Also includes maps and a very good 200-word theological glossary.

An edition of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) for people who are mainly interested in the NJB translation and not the supplemental material. Doubleday also publishes a Bible-text only edition.

The New American Bible for Catholics:

Giant Print Edition

Our Sunday Visitor Publishing

An edition of the New American Bible (NAB) translation in large text. Edition also includes aspects of Catholic faith, such as the Ten Commandments, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the precepts of the Church, as well as the daily and Sunday lectionary and the full text of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). (This publisher produces several editions of the NAB.)

An example of a large print edition of a Catholic Bible that includes summaries of Catholic teachings. (Other publishers also produce large print editions.)

Ignatius Bible (Second Edition)

Ignatius Press

A basic Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV)translation. Includes nine color maps of the biblical world.

Another example of a basic Catholic edition of a translation other than the NAB.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Bible:
Compact Edition

Oxford University Press

A basic Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV)translation. This Bible fits in purse, pocket, or backpack. Includes the full text of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation

(Dei Verbum) and a section of Catholic prayers and devotions.

Another example of a basic Catholic edition of a translation other than the NAB. This edition is useful for people who carry a Bible with them when traveling.

Good News Bible with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha

American Bible Society

A basic Catholic edition of the Good News Translation (GNT). Includes short introductions and outlines of each biblical book, maps, a simple chronology, suggestions for reading the Bible devotionally, and a reading plan.

Another example of a basic Catholic edition of a translation other than the NAB.

A Unique Edition of the Bible

The Saint John's Bible (seven volumes)

The Liturgical Press

Described by the publisher as "one of the first handwritten and illuminated Bibles since the invention of the printing press," this edition of the Bible in one sense goes back in time, before the small print and thin paper of the Bibles we know today.

Welsh calligrapher Donald Jackson had long dreamed of producing a Bible by hand, as medieval monks in scriptoriums had done. In 1998, Saint John's Abbey and University decided to commission such a project. Jackson and a team of artists have been writing and illuminating (producing art for) the Bible ever since. Six hand-produced volumes, measuring two feet tall by three feet wide when open, have been published. The project will be complete in 2011.

In another sense, the Saint John's Bible is quite a modern project. The Bible team used computers for page layout and design. A team of theologians, artists, biblicals scholars, and other experts prepared the background material and plans artists would use to guide each illumination. The illuminations incorporate modern approaches to art and design and modern symbols.

The Bible's art is described as "illumination" rather than "illustration" because each piece of art is meant to present a spiritual meditation on a text rather than a picture illustrating one of the Bible's stories. If you've seen some of the pages of this Bible, you'll probably agree the goal has been achieved.

One reason I describe the Saint John's Bible here because it's an excellent way to understand the difference between a translation of the Bible and an edition.

The translation used in this Bible is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation, Catholic Edition (chosen by the advisory committee for the NRSV's wide acceptance among Christian churches). However, you certainly would NOT buy this Bible just for the translation! (As a reproduction, each of the seven volumes costs $60 or more.) The value is of course in how the edition presents the translation.

Another reason I describe the Saint John's Bible here is because it's a beautiful and profound visual interpretation of God's Holy Word.

You can see selections of the original manuscript pages as well as prints of the pages at various exhibitions around the United States. See the Saint John's Bible web site for information on the exhibitions and on how the Bible was produced.


1. An edition adds material to a published translation, or marks a way of binding or presenting a Bible's text.

There are many editions of the Bible.

2. Translations focus

on the Bible's text: translating from one language into another.

Translating the Bible takes more time. New translations of the Bible appear less frequently than new editions.

3. We see so many Bibles because different editions combine with different translations!

4. Your task is to know which translations you want to use, and then look for editions of the Bible that suit you.


Go to a bookstore and look at the Bibles. Any Catholic, Christian, or general bookstore will carry Bibles.

What editions do you find? How are the editions different? What translations are used in the different editions?

Do the same thing for your parish library!


Look at the descriptions of the material added to the "Catholic Edition" Bibles as listed in the resources on this page.

What do you see that you'd like to have in your Bible? What seems less important?