New American Bible

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The New American Bible (NAB) is the modern Catholic translation of the Bible for Americans. It was first published in 1970 and quickly replaced the Confraternity Bible as the most widely used by Catholic parishes. It is one of two specifically Catholic translations in modern English which are in wide use today, the other being the New Jerusalem Bible. Some of the phrasing in the New American Bible is extraordinarily good, such as its rendition of Luke 9:62 ("No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God").[1] This version is also one of the very few that wisely disparages the use of hearsay in translating Isaiah 11:3.[2] Its use of the modern term "cruel sport" in 2 Maccabees 7:10 is spot on.[3] Its translation of Matthew 6:34 is better than most, by using the word "evil" rather than "trouble": "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil." But some other phrasing in the New American Bible is awkward or outdated.

It is based on the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Confraternity Bible but with more modern language, and some changes to the wording making it more "inclusive". The New American Bible was initially controversial and ultimately rejected by the Vatican because this translation replaced male-gendered human language with "gender-neutral" terms. This translation was subsequently revised as the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) in part to restore fidelity to the original ancient texts.[4] The 1991 changes, in particular, are controversial because they replaced male-gendered human language with "gender-neutral" terms. Some traditional Catholics reject the New American Bible as a liberal translation and favor the use of the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Bibles.

The NAB inconsistently translates the Holy Spirit as the gender-neutral "it" in one place (see Acts 8:16[5]), and "he" in another. The NAB also downplays the existence of "hell", instead using substitutes unfamiliar to most people:

  • In Mark 9:43-48, the three references to Hell are replaced by "Gehenna". Both the NIV and HCSB use "hell".

The NAB is also authorized by the Episcopal Church in the United States for worship and private devotion.

Outdated or Awkward Translations

The New American Bible has a high percentage of outdated or awkward translations in key passages, including the following examples below. Note that many of these are important passages:

verse comment
Exodus 16:14 The translation uses the bizarre term "hoarfrost" to describe the manna from heaven:

"and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground."

Leviticus 13:45 The translation says the following:

The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!'

Compare the lack of clarity of that to the ESV translation: "The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean.'"

Jonah 3:10 The translation uses an archaic meaning (also used in the King James Version) of "change one's mind" for the word "repent" to refer to God's own decision:

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

Jeremiah 33:15 The translation uses an extremely unfamiliar meaning of the word ("shoot"), which other versions translate as "Branch" as in a branch of descendants (or offshoot):

In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot ...

Matthew 13:46 Its translation is "When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."[6] But "price" should obviously be translated as "value", or else he would gain no benefit from the transaction.
Mark 6:4 an awkward compound negative is used that obscures the meaning:

Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.

The NIV and New Jerusalem Bible remove the compound negative and say it directly, as in the NIV version:

Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own home is a prophet without honor.

Mark 9:3 The translation of the transfiguration of Jesus uses the word "fuller", an Old English word dating prior to 1100 which meant someone who cleans or bleaches clothes:
"... and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."
Mark 9:3 Also in the passage about the transfiguration of Jesus, this translation uses the archaic phrase "he charged them," rather than "He asked them" or "He told them":

"As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead."[7]

Mark 16:6 The translation of the angel's first communication to the holy women at the empty tomb of Jesus after the Resurrection is "do not be amazed," rather than "do not be alarmed" as translated by the Revised English Bible and New Revised Standard Version:

[The angel] said to them, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they had laid him."

Luke 2:1-5 Its translation of the census at the time of the birth of Jesus uses the word "enrollment" instead of "census", and uses the word "enrolled" in instead of "registered"; these terms are unfamiliar to most young people who think that enrollment refers to school and do not connect the terms with a census:[8]
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. c And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Luke 14:26 Its translation urges the incorrect "hate" with respect to other family members, rather than the truer meaning of wrongly putting someone else's interests above God's.
John 6:10 The misleading term "recline" is used to describe the sitting down of the large crowd before the multiplication of the loaves, and virtually every other translation uses "sit down":
Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. (New American Bible)
Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was plenty of grass there, so the men sat down, about five thousand of them. (Revised English Bible)
John 12:24 The translation describes a grain of wheat as bearing "fruit", which strikes the average listener as a mistake (the Revised English Bible translates the "produces much fruit" phrase as "bears a rich harvest" and the NIV is clearer still by translating it as "produces many seeds"):
"Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."
Acts 13:43 "converts to Judaism"? Compare the NAB translation "Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas" with the NASB translation: "many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas"
Ephesians 4:17 The translation mentions the "futility of their minds," when it should be "futility of their thinking."
  • The translation of Hebrews 5:7 uses the obscure word "supplication", which most young people have never heard before (the term is translated as "petitions" in the Revised English Bible and NIV):
"... [Christ] offered prayers and supplications ...."
  • The translation of Acts 9:31, which explains the growth of early Christianity after the acceptance of Saul (Paul), says that the church was built up "with the consolation of the holy Spirit," when most other translations use the clearer term "encouraged" by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Acts 2:11, which describes the Pentecost, in which the Apostles spoke in away that enabled listeners having different tongues or languages to understand. The commonly understood term is "language", and the word "tongue" is now arcane. Yet many translations, including the New American Bible and the NIV, still use "tongue" even where "language" would be clearer:
"... both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."
The New Jerusalem Bible, the New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible all use the more modern term of "languages" in that verse rather than "tongues".


  2. "and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide" (NAB).
  4. Overall, the NAB was revised in 1986, 1991, and 2000.