What is the best Bible translation to read?

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The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD — Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay City

World Bible Sunday / 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As novices we were required an hour of spiritual reading each day: 15 minutes for the New Testament, another 15 minutes for The Imitation of Christ, and half an hour from a spiritual classic.  Although my classmates read the Douay-Rheims Catholic edition, I sometimes used the Latin NT to help me concentrate, since the English text had become so familiar you often just ran through it.  In theology, the Jerusalem Bible became my favorite because its commentaries helped me appreciate many pericopes better.  In Paraguay, the simplified Christian Community Bible was highly useful in my countryside missions.  Back home, the Good News Bible became my pocket companion on the road. 

For reasons of orthodoxy, bishops have often advised Bible-study groups to limit themselves to texts like the Revised Standard Version or the New American Bible.  So, when friends inquire if I would recommend yet another version, my response has always been as follows. It depends on accuracy, on readability, on your interests.  Or background; one retiree confessed that he found the Bible for Children more engaging since his education in public schools limited his contact with Scriptures to the readings at Mass. 

The question of versions calls to mind past debates on COVID vaccine brands.  Many with absolutely no background in pharmacology, the mRNA novelty, clinical trials, statistical probabilities, and so on, suddenly became experts on what worked or did not, which brand was better, what adverse effects were associated with co-morbidities, and so on.  Often information came mainly from social media or sound bites from TV or government propaganda designed to disguise its incompetence.  Objectors advocated for principled resistance because vaccines were developed using fetal tissue, a moral objection the Vatican assured was inapplicable to the present case.  Given the shortage of vaccines in the first place, and given the statistics on morbidity and mortality, the prudent decision became to take whatever was available. No point in making the best the enemy of the good; before certain crises the practical trumps the ideal.   

Maybe so with Bible versions too.  While debates about orthodoxy are important, ultimately what matters is not a particular edition; the best version is whatever you actually open, read and guide your life by; what lifts up your spirit and stirs your soul as God’s word. Doctrinal matters are best left to scholars and the magisterium.  For ordinary hearers of the Word in search of spiritual nourishment, all that matters is whether the text truly helps you hear Jesus the Living Word, making encounter with him possible, allowing him to become incarnate in your daily life.  

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