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Craig wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Which Catholic Bibles are approved by the Vatican?


  { Which Catholic Bibles are approved by the Vatican? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Craig —

Thanks for your patience in receiving an answer to your original question.

When addressing your original question:

  • Which Catholic Bibles have been approved by the Vatican?

We have to keep in mind that the Holy Scriptures have been translated into countless languages around the world and, for each language [like English], there may be various translations.

I have received assorted replies to your question from my colleagues as well as an Associate Director at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  Below are the replies I received.

Mary Elizabeth Sperry from the USCCB replied to your question as follows:

Dear Mr. Humphrey:

Any Bible which bears an imprimatur may be used by Catholics for personal study and devotion. While the 1983 Code of Canon Law does include a provision for the Holy See to grant the imprimatur for translations of Scripture, I am unaware of any instance in which it has done so.

In addition to the Holy See, the 1983 Code allows conferences of bishops to grant the imprimatur to Scripture translations, a change from previous practice wherein the bishop of the place where the translation was made or published could grant the imprimatur.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments confirms Scripture translations for liturgical use. Currently, the Lectionary for Mass approved for use in the United States is based on the 1986 edition of the New American Bible. In addition, the original edition of the Grail Psalms and the 1970 edition of the New American Bible are approved for use in the Liturgy of the Hours.


Mary Elizabeth Sperry
Associate Director

I hope this answers your question.


Eric replied:

There are two questions she addressed, covering both possibilities for the somewhat ambiguous question we proposed:

  1. Which bibles are approved for personal study and devotion?
  2. Which bibles are approved for liturgical use?

Her answer on (# 1.) is any Bible with an Imprimatur, and this makes sense.
It's the answer I'd expect.

Her answer on (# 2.) was very specific even though it contradicted our suppositions. Thinking about it, I do recall that the (RSV-CE) Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition may not have blanket permission to be used for liturgical purposes.

It's entirely possible the others don't have such authorization anymore either. According to her, the 1986 edition of the (NAB) New American Bible is approved insofar as it is the basis for the Mass lectionary. (Actually, I think she's wrong; the current lectionary isn't based on any available translation.) The 1970 NAB and the original Grail psalms are approved for the Liturgy of the Hours.

Anything else, it seems, is not approved.


John replied:

Mike —

As far as I know. It's the long standing tradition of the Church, to allow imprimaturs
(In Latin: (let it be printed!) and Nihil obstats (In Latin: nothing hinders) to be done by local ordinaries. Often, local synods and Bishop's conferences will play a role.

The Vatican only approves translations of Lectionaries or biblical texts that will be read during the Liturgy.

For instance, the (NAB) is approved for use in America for Liturgical purposes, but the Vatican doesn't approve translations that are used for personal use.


Mary Ann replied:

Catholics may read any Bible.

  • For the liturgy, certain translations of the texts have to be approved in Rome.
  • To be a Catholic Bible, I believe it only has to include the entire canon.
  • For Catholic translations, I think all you need is a nihil obstat and imprimatur.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Finally Craig,

Here are a couple of other sources you may find helpful.

  • Liturgiam authenticam
    On The Use Of Vernacular Languages In The Publication Of The Books Of The Roman Liturgy

Here are the main topics talked about in this document:

Choice of Vernacular Languages
The Translation of Liturgical Texts
Using Other Texts as Aids
The Translation of a Text
Scriptural Translations
Other Liturgical Texts
Particular Types of Texts
The Organization of Translation Work and Commissions
New Compositions

Here is a posting that refers to the group's recommended Bible translations for personal reading:

As a side note: here is some Interesting information from the 2008 Holy See Press Office.

At the top, it stated: This Bulletin is only a working instrument for the press. Also, keep in mind this draft was done in 2008 so the numbers, by now, are probably sizeably more.

Figures and statistics

We have to remember, as pointed out in the statistics, more than 50% of the world's Catholics are to be found in the American continent. With four major languages and about 200 minor languages, we are faced with a very variable panorama of Biblical translations.

Spanish is certainly one of most spoken languages by Catholics throughout the world. It is therefore very important to have texts adapted for many millions of people. Currently in America there are 26 versions or translations approved by the Catholic Church that can be found in different bookshops.

Portuguese is one of the most popular languages in America and currently has 12 translations of the Bible.

English is spoken in the United States, Canada and in a large part of the Caribbean and Central America. There are 5 translations of the New Testament, 1 Book of Proverbs, 6 of the Book of Psalms and 2 complete Bibles.

French is spoken officially in Canada and in various Caribbean countries. A total of 8 versions of the Bible in French are in circulation.

The united Biblical societies have 29 Bibles without the Deuterocanonical books, 17 with them and 29 New Testaments. Different institutions have translated the New Testament into 216 native languages in America, which has been a great cultural battle.

Many of these translations are also used by the Catholic Church.

Hope this helps,


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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