Catholic NABRE Bibles: Which One?

American Catholics would do well to possess a copy of the American Church’s quasi-official version of the Bible, the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE). However, there are many different editions available, some of the most popular are not necessarily the best options, and it can be challenging to find the right one to buy.

The content of the Biblical texts, the footnotes, and the cross-references should be identical in every edition of the NABRE. The differences between editions will be found in the quality and type of materials, the page layout and typeface, and the optional inclusion of additional study helps. Choosing an edition thus becomes a process of aligning features with the reader’s particular needs and price constraints.

Your mileage may vary, but my own preferences for the three main usage scenarios I envision would be as follows:

Below is an alphabetical listing of the active NABRE publishers, with brief summaries of their offerings.

American Bible Society:

The ABS publishes an inexpensive, somewhat compact, edition of the NABRE in both hardcover and paperback. The typeface is small. This edition contains the canonically required NABRE annotations, making it something of an anomaly among ABS published Bibles, but is otherwise almost bare-bones, incorporating only lectionary schedules for helps. The ABS also publishes a military edition, free to military families, containing a Sunday Readings schedule, a number of prayers, and other devotional helps. ABS Bibles are generally not high-quality editions, being intended more for gift distribution to the unchurched than for individual purchase as personal Bibles.

Catholic Book Publishing:

CBP is a long-standing, very popular publisher of Catholic Bibles, offering the NABRE in many varied editions, most of which carry the moniker "Saint Joseph Edition". However, be aware that CBP also publishes “Saint Joseph” editions based on other translations as well.  They are available in a wide array of bindings, sizes, type settings, special purpose formats, etc. — from pocket paperbacks to large-format Family Bibles. Prices vary from about $7 to about $60.

The Saint Joseph Edition Bibles are essentially Study Bibles, as they all include some varied selection of articles, documents, lectionary cycle readings, photos, maps, dictionaries, etc.

One chronic shortcoming of the Saint Joseph Editions is their cramped page layout, and especially their presentation of cross-references, which are mashed together end-to-end, paragraph style, in small print, rendering them all but unusable to tired eyes. Outside of the compact editions, the typeface of the Biblical text itself in these editions is typically fairly generous.

CBP also publishes some NABRE Bibles under the imprint World Catholic Press, which, at least in some editions, improves the presentation of cross-references.

Fireside Catholic Publishing:

Fireside sells NABRE editions in an array of sizes, bindings, and formats, with an emphasis on special occasion and gift Bibles. They also sell "youth" and other devotional/pastoral editions, including a unique amalgamation called Librosario, which has a single-decade rosary embossed on the back cover. They are also a publisher of the New Catholic Answer Bible, a vehicle for apologetic material.

For those interested in Bible study, Fireside offers a Personal Study Edition in paperback, and a practical looking School & Church edition in both medium and large print hardcover. These editions are affordable, and contain a concise Bible dictionary, Sunday Readings schedule, and other helps.


Harper offers a single, slightly oversized hardcover edition, with superior readability. The typeface, though not large, is dark and sharp, set against cool white paper, which is thin enough to allow some bleeding. The two-column Biblical presentation is clearly distinguished from the editorial apparatus below by breaking the annotations into 3 columns of smaller text. A judicious use of dark red element coloring enhances navigation. Cross-reference entries are well presented. There are no fan tabs, but the starting and ending Book/Chapter/Verse are shown on the outsides of the page header. Other than the narrow outside margins, the use of white space is more generous than is typical. No helps included except for 14 pages of Zondervan maps. Well bound, the hardcover lays flat from Gen 1 to Rev 22. Surprisingly low priced – you can buy it for about $20. If it had a couple ribbon markers, this would make a perfect reader’s edition NABRE.

Liturgical Press:

Liturgical Press publishes the NABRE as the base text of its Little Rock Study Bible, which incorporates both prefatory essays and extensive additional in-text annotations, often practical in nature, and presented in heavily-colored callouts. The NABRE text is presented in single-column format with expanded outer margins, well segregated from the two-column NABRE footnotes, which reclaim the extra margin space. Cross references are helpfully presented in the margins next to the Biblical text, but grouped together rather than in-line with their referent. Readability is somewhat compromised by the use of paper that is on the warm side of white, a design choice probably made to try to combat the bleed-through challenges of using paper thin enough to present almost 2,700 pages in a hand-held edition. The hardcover retails for $50. Some readers may be put off by the magazine-like presentation and/or the devotional elements.

Midwestern Theological Forum:

MTF publishes a NABRE edition of its Didache Bible, which incorporates a full set of annotations based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, augmenting the standard NABRE annotations. The typeface is generous at 9.5 point, and the overall presentation is clean. Hefty at 2,500 pages, this is the most complete study edition of the NABRE available today. $45 hardcover.

Our Sunday Visitor:

OSV sells inexpensive (~$13) paperbacks of the basic NABRE text, which use thicker paper than many similar economy editions, sporting a clean page layout with two-column footnotes clearly set off from the two-column text with a page-wide horizontal bar. It provides well-formatted cross-references set in a lightly shaded box. OSV also sells other editions that use the NABRE as a vehicle for promulgating pastoral wisdom and advice, such as "Men’s", "Women’s" and "Teen" Bibles, as well as an edition of the New Catholic Answer Bible.

clip_image002_thumbOxford University Press:

OUP publishes two similar study editions of the NABRE, which include lengthy “Reader’s Guides” prefixed the the Biblical text. Each is available in several bindings, and the hardcover editions of each can be found for about $35. Some details for comparison can be found here.

Saint Benedict Press:

SBP/TAN offers a compact edition in several bindings, which are attractive, but rather less economical than competing editions, and unfortunately not all that easy to read. The compact size is achieved at the price of smallish text size, and of paper thin enough to permit noticeable bleeding of the text on opposing pages. If your eyes are young enough to handle the font, this edition has a clean, pleasant layout, although the cross-references presentation is inadequate. Includes the 3-year Sunday Readings schedule, and a collection of Catholic prayers.

Saint Jerome’s Press:

Along with several "Teen" Bibles, Saint Jerome’s offers a very economical (~$5) medium-size paperback edition of the NABRE they call a Catholic Readers Edition, which includes the text of Dei Verbum, and which would suitable for supplying parish inventories, or for individuals looking for a very basic copy of the NABRE translation. A Catholic Student Edition, in a slightly larger hardback format, adds a Bible Dictionary, Sunday Lectionary schedule, and several other helps, while remaining economical.

St Mary’s Press:

Primarily a provider of Religious Education materials, St. Mary’s sells the NABRE in the Catholic Youth Bible, other teen-oriented devotional/pastoral editions. They also sell the elegantly styled Anselm Academic Study Bible, which augments the NABRE annotations with about 100 pages of additional study content, packaged in a very attractive layout, albeit using typeface on the smallish side. The Anselm editions seem a bit overpriced given the limited editorial additions, but is one of the more nicely formatted editions available. St. Mary’s is also now selling a basic, economical NABRE paperback for under $10.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:usccbNabre

The USCCB has begun publishing their own edition of the NABRE, available from their website in an economical (~$10) paperback, or in a couple economical burgundy leather-bound editions (soft and hard cover) with a ribbon marker. Small but well-presented notes and cross-references are unevenly placed in two columns under the two-column text, and the columns are separated by a vertical bar down the middle of each page. In the leather editions, this element, and the text headings, are nicely offset in burgundy color, as is a fan tab element which is missing from the paperback edition.