I’ve been reflecting on the variety of Bible editions available for Catholics, and how it has changed over the ten years since Timothy began the Catholic Bibles Blog. We’re living in an exciting time for Catholic Bible study! Just in the past few years, we’ve witnessed two new catholic editions of the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Also, at long last, Cambridge University Press issued a truly premium leather edition of the NRSV reference bible with Apocrypha. I think Timothy’s patient perseverance in pushing for premium leather Catholic bibles played a significant role in galvanizing the support and enthusiasm which eventually convinced Cambridge to give it a try.

The text layout of the Cambridge Reference NRSV with Apocrypha in goatskin leather

Even so, Bible publishers often stick to traditional formats. Most new bibles are double-column, and many of them still use glued bindings that do not hold up with time. It puzzles me that Catholic publishers have not experimented more broadly with single-column page formats after the Jerusalem Bible (JB) and New Jerusalem Bible (NJB). The upcoming Dynamic Catholic RSV-CE promises to be a bold new experiment in this tradition.

The NJB’s single-column format truly shines in the psalms.

Some Protestant publishers have taken single-column format to the next level and produced reader’s bibles with no notes, no verse numbers, and sometimes much thicker paper. The six-volume ESV reader’s bible and the crowd-funded Bibliotheca project come to mind as examples.

What Catholic Bible editions would you most like to see in the future? A premium leather NABRE? Or perhaps a single-column NABRE? (Or both!) What about a journaling or note taking bible, or a multi-volume reader’s bible? Are there any current translations you’d like to see in an approved Catholic edition?


25 thoughts on “What Bible Edition Would You Most Like to See?”

  1. I’d adore a single column NABRE along the lines of the old New English Bible page settings from the 70s.

    Lacking that, I’d just love Oxford to bring back their “Readers’ Bible” for the NABRE. It seems used copies for both the ’91-’10 era NAB and the RSV-CE go for quite a bit of money. There is at least some of a market ready to pounce upon this if it were to go back into print.

    1. I’d also love to see a single-column NABRE. I hope publishers will give it a try, at least after the New Testament revision is complete!

  2. Not to be very specific in regard to translation, as this will always be a “bone of contention” for the reader and translator(s). As Msgr. Ronald Knox wrote, “If you translate the Bible, you are liable to be cross-examined by anybody; because everybody thinks he knows already what the Bible means.” My hope/desire is for a high quality Catholic Bible edition.
    No bonded leather, no leatherette (which will, in a relatively brief length of time begin to peel away); no edition which has print to the edge of the page, etc. Quality, I mean in regard to binding, as well as text block.
    I’ve read the ESV Reader’s edition, and the Bibliotheca edition. Wonderfully created text block, both are. To wander off thoughtfully, imagine a multi-volume, quality leather edition of the Jerusalem Bible. Or, a high quality multi-volume quality leather edition of the Navarre RSV-CE Bible?
    In brief (albeit, I’ve typed more than intended), a high quality, honest-to-goodness leather edition (not hardcover, covered in leather or leather-like, e.g.) Catholic Bible, with a high quality text format and block.
    Hmmm, it seems our brothers and sisters who read Protestant Bibles have many such options available. Yet, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, has very few in actuality to consider.

    1. I like the idea of a multi-volume JB or Navarre reader’s bible. The JB would lend itself especially well to it, since it’s well-regarded as a literary achievement by a broad range of people. I wonder if it makes better business sense to produce high quality editions like that from well-established, traditional translations. With new translations, publishers always run the risk that they will not be accepted, and that they will be swamped by criticism over new translation choices.

      1. In the early 1960s, there was a three volume edition of the Jerusalem Bible printed (nothing abridged). OT, Psalms, NT. For a manageable edition, the OT would need to be divided into two volumes. I’ve contacted Scepter (which sells the Navarre Bible), and was informed that no additional bindings are forthcoming (i.e., no leather editions). The reason was the lack of an audience for to substantiate the “risk” of publishing such an edition.
        With hope, we never thought we’d have an ESV-CE. So, there is always hope.
        On the personal note side, I’d love to find a leather JB NT. There was such an edition published: Leather, zippered, and thumb-indexed). It was a Reader’s edition.

  3. I thought I read somewhere that Scepter was working on a new edition of the RSV-CE. If it is anything like their NT published recently, I would be pleased.

    I still like the original RSV-CE, it had a great font and self-pronouncing text. Not many Bibles have this feature. It would be a better with more generous margins and a premium book block. Also I would like to see the art pages that were common in the more ornate Bibles from the 1950’s. And of course the more features the better- maps, cross references, etc… and if I could have all that in a medium size book, that would be great!

  4. Hi! I’d like to see a compact/pocket sized or a thinline paperback edition of the following:
    – the Knox bible! If Baronius was able to make it for the Douay-Rheims, why can’t they do it for Knox?
    – The Message Catholic/Ecumenical edition: The original MSG appears in different editions, surely they could do it for this one.
    – the RSV 2CE…(’nuff said)
    – the Confraternity bible: one of the more latter editions, just don’t make it too bulky like the one made here in the Philippines by Sinag Tala.

    I hope they would also do a reprint of:
    – the CEV with deuterocanonicals.
    – the REB with deuterocanonicals.

  5. Good ideas, Jeff. Portable, pocket-sized, thinline, or similar editions can be really useful. We have relatively few options in that area for Catholics. There are pocket-sized editions of the RSV-CE and the NABRE. Darton, Longman, and Todd also publishes a small edition of the NJB. It’d be nice to see more options, though.

    I think there’s something to be said for a Bible that a person can carry everywhere and not worry about wear and tear. I like small, hardcover bibles for that purpose. The old, hardcover REB with Apocrypha published by Cambridge is a nice size for me if I want to carry a Bible to church or while traveling.

  6. I would want a NABRE Bible (Cambridge quality) which could go nicely with a Hand Missal, such as the ones from Midwest Theological Forum. You could say it would be like a pocket sized edition but premium (Genuine leather, French Moroccan or Goatskin maybe? Smythe sewn, high quality paper). Even though one would rarely carry a hand missal with a Bible at the same time, it would be nice to have the translation used at Mass in a fitting and elegant edition.

  7. Would love to see two in particular… a single column format NABRE in genuine leather, as well as a pocket KNOX NT in genuine leather… Both of those would be fantastic 🙂

  8. I have more of a list of loose thoughts than a single edition that come to mind:

    Font size 9 min
    No in text maps or graphics to reduce ghosting
    A little thicker paper than normal
    Real leather or something just as strong like kevlar
    Normal 8×6 or 9×7 footprint
    2″ thick or less
    Not a study bible, I have come to think that study bibles get so thick that hardback is OK
    NO thumb tabs

    For translation I like RSV-2CE, NRSV, and NAB (have 2 NABRE on order)
    My ideal translation would be a dream of a RSV-3CE. basically a thorough revision using the most up-to-date text sources. If I win the lottery y’all will know as this is the first thing I’ll fund.

    For me a premium leather bible will be an infrequent purchase, so I need to choose the type I’ll use the most. This will be a text version with a few notes.


    1. Kevlar! That’s an interesting thought. Maybe that’d be better than the rubbery imitation leather some publishers have been using.

  9. Another couple of decisions I need to make regarding a premium bible purchase:

    Wait for the next revision of the NRSV or jump on that Cambridge reference edition now.

    Speaking of Cambridge, the French Moroccan leather cover is half the price of the goatskin. I’m mainly interested in durability and how the open bible handles while reading. Right now I’m leaning toward the French Moroccan, but having never handled the two I may not have a good appreciation of the difference.


    1. In terms of durability, I suspect that either French Morocco or goatskin would hold up well. Both are full-skin leather rather than bonded leather which tends to fall apart with extended use. From reading comments on other sites, I understand that the quality of Cambridge’s French Morocco has varied from one printing to the next.

      I have an REB with Apocrypha in French Morocco which has a publisher’s mark from 1996, and the leather is quite stiff. I’ve grown to like it, because the bible holds its shape well when I’m holding it in one hand. Goatskin leather is usually very soft and supple, which feels great to the touch, but it provides no structure. If you like a soft, bendable leather cover, goatskin is a great choice. If you prefer a stiffer cover, the French Morocco is a good choice.

  10. I’d love a COMPLETE Ignatius Study Bible in genuine leather with at least three quality ribbons. Single column. I know I’m asking for too much but we can dream, right.

    1. I was going to say that I wanted all the Catholic editions to be offered in a waterproof format. But now that you bring up the ICSB. I would also like it complete…..AND waterproof !

    2. Amen Amen,

      I have the New Testament ICSB, I’d be happy with an Old Testament but there are many OT books left to publish.


    1. Thanks, Erap10! This looks like an exciting resource! I’ll do a post on it so everyone can take a look!

  11. I’d like to see an updated NABRE or something like NSRV-2CE, i.e., a translation of the OT updated given recent scholarship, but also approved for liturgical use.

    In addition, either with notes for catechism, language and historical points, or both.

  12. I too would love to have a single column NABRE “reading bible”.
    Sometimes, I just want to read the scriptures. (already have a study bible and a great bible for all kinds of reference)
    I prefer bibles with red print for the words of Jesus.
    A soft cover or imitation leather would be ideal for ease of holding.
    (I cannot sit and look down to a desk or table to read for more than 1 – 5 minutes, so I need something light enough to hold.
    I have a Zondervan NIV leather look soft cover single column bible with the words of Jesus in red type. I love it and use it everyday. When I showed it to my pastor he did not like that it was NIV, and gave me a huge paperback NABRE study bible with really small print. I cannot use it. I do have ADD and reading can be a real chore, that could be why the single column bible is actually a pleasure for me to read. So until i can find a NABRE bible that suit my needs, I’ll keep using my (wrong version) NIV bible.

    1. 2 year late response. I love the NIV. I use it often. When the Study Notes conflict with Catholic doctrine, I just ignore them. The Study Bible is really very good, and at a decent price. I’d probably use the Ignatius RSV Study Bible, but I’m just plain tired of waiting for the OT.

  13. Does the REB have Catholic approval by any Bishops’ conference? What is the REB in relation to the NAB-RE and RSV-CE in terms of the dyanmic-formal equivalence spectrum? Like which of those two mentioned does REB stand closer too? Based on literary quality and linguistic precision, does a more dynamic translation like REB excel better in actuality since it brings out the intended effect of the human authors? Or does the REB stand closer to an “easy read” Bible like the (partially) Catholic approved Contemporary English Version by American Bible Society. Judging all of these translations I wonder which strikes the best balance of being true to the philology and linguistics and clear to the receptor language. I would guess it goes:

    1. The REB was officially sponsored by the Catholic bishops of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. It does not contain an imprimatur, but it is approved for Catholic use under the standards set forth in the Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible. That document says the following: “In some circumstances, it may be wise to consider a preface including a joint recommendation by ecclesiastical authorities instead of a formal nihil obstat and imprimatur.” The REB’s preface contains a joint recommendation by all the churches who sponsored the translation, including the Catholic churches in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

      I’ve written a good deal about the REB on this blog and the Catholic Bibles Blog. Here are the links to a two-part in-depth post I did on this blog in 2018:


      I also did weekly comparisons between the REB and NABRE translations for one of the Sunday Mass readings. If you use the search function on this blog for “REB” you’ll find a bunch of those.

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