One of those coming-back Catholics is a guy I will call "Ray." Ray knows that his understanding of Catholic teachings is a little, shall we say, vague. But he wants to start doing something about that, and he wants to begin in a very good place: the Bible.
I would like to start reading the Bible - what are your recommendations on a version - there are sooo many different ones? I downloaded an app to my tablet (free app, of course) and it has so many different versions - I am not sure which I should use. Once I settle on that - where is the best place to begin? I am not sure if reading from Genesis on is the right way to go.
|Photo credit:pasotraspaso Foter (CC BY)|
Since there are two questions here: which translation would be best and where (how!) to begin. I'll just deal with translations in this first post.
My personal preference in terms of translation is the New American Bible. This is a clear, basic English translation--in fact, it is the same one you hear at Mass in the United States. For me, reading and hearing the same version is a big help toward recognizing Scripture and even memorizing the most important sections. I also like that the recent revisions make this translation much closer to the original Hebrew and Greek that Jesus and the Apostles would have been familiar with. The abbreviation most often used for the New American Bible is NABRE (New American Bible, Revised Edition). You can get the NAB for your i-device on iTunes for $1.99; not free, but not bad. (I haven't used this app, so I can't really recommend it; you can get a highly rated NAB app for $7.99 that might work more smoothly.)
Another major Catholic translation that is unlikely to be on a free app is the Jerusalem Bible, also updated as the New Jerusalem Bible.
Your app may not feature these translations because of copyright issues. The closest thing to the NABRE among the commonly used Protestant translations is the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (RSVCE). There is also a "New" Revised Standard Version, which has some unfortunate concessions to political correctness. I use it sometimes for convenience (I have a teeny little New Testament for travel and it is NRSV), but because I am familiar enough with the text to know where they are fudging on the words. I don't recommend the Good News (also called "Today's English Version") because the language is so casual (it is a paraphrase more than a translation), but that's just me. For someone on their first go-through of the Bible, it may hit the spot.
Is my insistence on using a Catholic translation a bit narrow-minded? Actually, you may already know that Catholic Bibles include quite a bit more (very interesting!) material than the typical Protestant edition. These books (Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch--along with amplified versions of Daniel and Esther) are called "deuterocanonicals" because they were recognized as Scripture a little later than books like Psalms or Isaiah. (We're not talking 313 AD late, but more like 100 BC-90 AD late). Some Protestant Bibles will include them, along with other ancient writings, in a section called "apocrypha," where they are indistinguishable from books that have no biblical status at all. (So I think it is better for a Catholic to stick with a Bible that makes it very clear which books are accepted as divinely inspired!)
Catholic Bibles are also required to have explanatory footnotes: a real help to grasping what a passage means, which other passages it is connected to, and what place it has in connection to the whole of Catholic teaching.
I'll be back again with some thoughts on how to get started--and where! Meanwhile, here are some free resources for Catholic Scripture study (a few places to start):
Scott Hahn's (free!) self-guided Scripture study courses: you have to register first, but access is free. Take your pic of introductory overviews or detailed studies of themes or books. (Hahn's story is interesting; he became a Catholic because he recognized that the Mass was the Bible in action!)
Understanding the Scriptures podcast: 30 (free!) audio lessons on the Bible, prepared as an accompaniment for a textbook, but you don't need to have the text to benefit from the lessons. You can get this on iTunes, as well.
Catholic Education Resource Center is a good overall Catholic questions/answers site. I have this link set to a search for all the bible-related questions.