Back to Posts
Jun 22, 2019

How to Live in Your Bible and Pick a Good Translation

Jeff Cavins

One of the most common questions I receive is, “Jeff, what translation of the Bible do you recommend?” There are so many translations out there that we really can’t talk about all of them, but I’d like to mention two of them that you might consider.

One of the most important things about choosing a Bible as a Catholic is to make sure you’re using a Bible that has all seventy-three books. Many of the Bibles you’ll see out there only have sixty-six books; they took out what we call the deuterocanonical books, seven books, of the canon.

Another important thing is to make sure we’re reading a Bible that has the approval of the bishops. In other words, they have gone through it and have made sure that this is a sound Bible for you and you can count on it.

Many of our Great Adventure students use these two Bibles I’m going to recommend. Both have the imprimatur, both have the approval of the bishops in the United States, and both are considered translations of the Bible. Not all Bibles are the same. Some are translations and some paraphrase. A translation is a word-for-word translation from the Greek and Hebrew into English. A paraphrase is a thought-for-thought translation. Unfortunately, many times a thought-for-thought paraphrase loses some of the accuracy, so we recommend that people use a translation when it comes to Bible study.

The two translations that I recommend are two that I use, and many of my friends also use them.

Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition

Predominantly we use the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). There are a number of publishers in the Catholic world who publish this version. The beautiful thing about this version is that, not only do the bishops approve it, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church in America also uses it. It’s also the version that I use most of the time in The Great Adventure studies, and many other Bible teachers in the Catholic world use this version as their go-to Bible. Another advantage is it’s very easy to read.

The New American Bible

The second one I recommend to you is the New American Bible (NAB). The NAB is also a wonderful translation. We use this translation in the Liturgy; when you hear the readings on Sunday, this is the translation that is used in America. It’s also very readable. Many people might say the RSV-CE is just a little bit more readable, but both are dependable Bibles and both come in different sizes. They come in fine print, regular print, and also giant print.

A Love Letter

I would encourage you to get one of these, and get a Bible that you can live in. What do I mean by that? I mean get a Bible in which you’re comfortable underlining, highlighting favorite texts, and writing in the margins. Your Bible should be personal. It should be that place where you meet God and you talk with God. You don’t need to be afraid of it. You don’t need to put kid gloves on when you handle the Bible. It’s like a love letter that you would go over and over and over.

Marking Your Bible

The Great Adventure Catholic Bible

Another question I get very often is “How do you mark your Bible?” I’m not going to go into great detail on exactly how I mark my Bible—which kind of changes from year to year—but there are some tools that I find useful.

I use a pen to write in the margins and to write any notes, but not just any pen. I don’t own stock in the company, but I use Zebra pens. In fact, I have a blue one , a red one, and a black one. They have extra fine-points, and you can find them in most office stores. It writes very neatly and it doesn’t bleed through most Bible paper.

Bible paper is called “India paper” oftentimes, and it’s a little bit thinner than your average piece of paper. If you get a thick pen or a wet marker it can bleed right through, and I know that many people have been disappointed when they bought a brand new Bible and saw that when marking it up it bled through two or three pages. You can test out a pen on one of the back pages of your Bible to make sure it doesn’t bleed through.

Instead of wet markers, one of the tools I started using years ago is just a regular colored pencil. I pick out three or four colors—like yellow, red, blue, and green—and I use them to highlight or underline particular passages I might like or that speak to me in a real clear way. You can use any color. I use the yellow pencil primarily to highlight verses that mean something to me. Some people will use blue for verses that speak about Mary, red about redemption, green about growth in God and in Christ. You can really set up your own system.

It’s About Building a Relationship

I just encourage you to begin. Grab a few pens, get a few colored pencils, and when you start reading the Bible and God speaks to you in a special way, underline the words that speak to you. A year from now, or maybe two or three years from now, you will go back and see all those wonderful verses that meant something to you. You might even write the date next to it and a note in the column.

Use the blank pages at the back of your Bible to write down some major breakthroughs in your life as you’re reading the Bible. Whether you use the NAB or the RSV-CE, whether you use the tools I use or some others of your own, get going and come up with a system to mark your Bible. I pray that this will bring you a fruitful, intimate relationship with God.

Are you making a summer reading list? Don’t forget to spend more time with God and with his Word, the Bible.

Looking for a Bible?

If you want to buy the RSV-CE translation endorsed by Jeff in the video, click here to order your Bible. You can also find more Bible study resources here.


You May Also Like:

Parents, Write in Your Bible

Benefits and Pitfalls of Personal Bible Study

Holy Bible – The Great Adventure Catholic Bible


About Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a Protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the  Catholic Faith. He then quickly became a leading Catholic evangelist and author. Jeff is best-known for creating The Great Adventure Bible study programs published by Ascension, which have been used by hundreds of thousands of people to engage in Scripture in a life-changing way. In addition to The Activated Disciple, some of his other recent projects include his podcast, The Jeff Cavins Show, and the Great Adventure Bible studies, Ephesians: Discover Your Inheritance, and Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life.


Featured photo by Eduardo Braga from Pexels


Get your favorite Ascension content sent right to your email!

  • That was very helpful, esp. about the colored pencils instead of markers. Excited to “live in my bible”. Thanks.

  • >

    FREE Catholic Bible Reading Plan

    This guide lists Scripture in an order that is easy to understand. Sign up for our email list to get it FREE.