Book Review

New American Bible (NAB)

reviewed by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version






The New American Bible (World Catholic Press, 1987) is an excellent word-for-word English translation of the Bible. The NAB has most likely the best combination of KJV-like word-for-word translation and study Bible footnotes in a single English Bible. It is my second choice for "best word-for-word Bible translation."

The primary advantage that the NAB has over the ESV is that it more consistently follows the United Bible Society's (UBS) definitive Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition (UBS4) text. For example, the NAB only eliminates the wording that the UBS4 eliminated, and it consistently brackets the wording that the UBS4 retained within brackets. The disadvantage is that the NAB is not quite as word-for-word literal as the ESV.

The NAB also has several advantages over the NRSV [book review]: (1) the NAB is an excellent, modern English translation while maintaining many of the preferred Bible words used in the KJV (e.g., "man" in Gen 1:26,27, "flesh" in Rom 8, etc.); (2) the NAB avoids politically correct (but non-literal) "language of inclusion," which the NRSV chose to selectively adopt; and (3) the NAB only eliminates the wording that the UBS4 eliminated, and it consistently brackets and provides explanatory footnotes for all wording that the text of the UBS4 retained within brackets; whereas, the NRSV is not nearly as consistent in following the UBS4.

Still, the NAB may not be considered an ideal choice for everyone. Though the NAB's text is excellent, some readers may object to the fact that (1) most of the approximately fifty biblical scholars that produced the NAB are Roman Catholic; (2) the NAB is published primarily by Roman Catholic presses, though there is an Oxford University Press edition, too; (3) the NAB's introductory section of at least the Saint Joseph's Edition includes a "Letter of Pope Paul VI," "Dogmatic [Vatican II] Constitution on Divine Revelation;" and (4) the NAB's footnotes include a few Roman Catholic references. Except for those few theologically oriented ones, the footnotes as a whole represent outstanding scholarship similar to that found in the NRSV study Bibles. This is not much different from the some other Bible versions and study Bibles having very theologically biased introductory materials, footnotes, or appendix materials. Some readers very likely may object to the NAB's theologically biased content, just as they may object to theologically biased content in other Bible versions and study Bibles. The Preface to the Old Testament states (Saint Joseph's Edition of The New American Bible , page 44):

The collaboration of scholars who are not Catholic fulfills the directive of the Second Vatican Council, not only that “correct translations be made into different languages especially from the original texts of the sacred books,” but that, “with the approval of the church authority, these translations be produced in cooperation with separated brothers” so that “all Christians may be able to use them.”

Conclusion: The NAB's Bible text is a very sound and theologically neutral translation, and for the most part the footnotes are excellent.

See also "Best translations."


Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer