The New American Bible of 1970 was the first American lexicon-oriented Catholic Bible. It is also the second Catholic-originated English translation to use the original biblical languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—as a base text instead of the Latin Vulgate. The first translation to take a similar approach was the Jerusalem Bible, published in 1966.
The NAB is the only translation approved for Mass in the United States and Philippines. The Jerusalem Bible holds that esteem in worldwide outside the US and Canada.
The move toward using the original biblical languages as the source for a modern language Catholic Bible was driven by the encyclical Divino afflante spiritu issued by His Holiness Pope Pius XII in 1943. He wrote: “We ought to explain the original text which was written by the inspired author himself and has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation whether ancient or modern. This can be done all the more easily and fruitfully if to the knowledge of languages be joined a real skill in literary criticism of the same text.”
Almost 60 years later, Pope John Paul II added,
“A good translation is based on three pillars that must contemporaneously support the entire work. First, there must be a deep knowledge of the language and the cultural world at the point of origin. Next, there must be a good familiarity with the language and cultural context at the point where the work will arrive. Lastly, to crown the work with success, there must be an adequate mastery of the contents and meaning of what one is translating.”
(From an address to the United Bible Societies, November 26, 2001.)
The NABRE, released in 2011, is the result of a thorough revision of the Old Testament. The team of dozens of Catholic scholars undertook the project to make the translation even more literal and aligned to the original underlying text, while still rendering the Scripture in smooth contemporary English.