It should not be this difficult. For all my seventeen and a half years as a Catholic, I have been dissatisfied with the selection of good study Bibles available for Catholics. I resigned myself to this plight long ago, but it has reared its ugly head now that I am looking to buy a good study Bible for my soon-to-be-teenage daughter. Here are my requirements:
Readable, yet respectful, translation: The “Good News Bible” is readable, but not respectable. The King James Version is respectful, yet not readable. I want a translation where I don’t trip over the antiquated words (and in my view, “thee” and “thou” are antiquated), but also don’t get distracted because the wording is too simplified or bland. My personal favorite translation is The Jerusalem Bible.
Good format: I would like the pages to not be whisper-thin and the text be in a clean, decent-sized font. Also, there should be decent margins for note-taking. The Catholic Study Bible is a good example of how a good study Bible is formatted (unfortunately, it doesn’t qualify on the other counts).
Faithful, traditional notes: I’m tired of Bible footnotes which, at worst, contradict or question Church teaching, and at best focus exclusively on source criticism. Reading the Bible fruitfully doesn’t just involve knowing who wrote a text and in what context. It also involves understanding a passage in connection with the rest of the Bible and understanding how it has been interpreted throughout the history of the Church.
Years of searching have been fruitless, and it doesn’t seem to me that my requirements are that strenuous. I currently use the Catholic Truth Society’s New Catholic Bible (available only in the UK), which has my favorite translations – the Jerusalem Bible with the Grail Psalter – and uses a beautiful font and clean layout. However, its notes are subpar and there are tiny margins for notetaking.
Perhaps I should just have the standards of this esteemed bible scholar: