Critical Notes on the NABRE’s Critical Notes


In an earlier post I made mention of some issues I have with the notes in the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) translation of the Bible but did not go into much detail. Although the translation is fairly good overall, its notes are problematic for traditional Christians. These notes unfortunately reflect modern critical theories which began in German Rationalism / Protestant Liberalism and have been used by skeptics to attack traditional Christianity. In the NABRE, these critical theories are typically presented as if they are universally accepted facts of biblical scholarship (usually with no support for such claims) and no contrary view is even suggested.

It is important to be aware that every edition of the NABRE is required have the same notes whether it is a simple pew Bible or a full-sized study Bible.

What follows are three representative examples of this“higher-critical” scholarship being represented by the NABRE’s notes.

JEPD vs. Moses

The “JEPD” theory of Pentateuch authorship teaches that the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses, but by different authors/compilers over many centuries, culminating sometime around the fifth century B.C. This theory is based on the use of different names for God and differences in linguistic style in different portions of the Pentateuch. This is not only contrary to the clear view of the historical Church, but to Jesus Christ (e.g., Mk. 12:26), St. Luke (Acts 3:22), and St. Paul (Rom. 10:5). Although JEPD has been seriously challenged by other scholars, no hint of this data is to be found in the NABRE notes which consistently present these ahistorical theories as if they are settled academic facts.

Daniel vs. ???

The NABRE uncritically (pun intended) holds to the “Maccabean Thesis” of Daniel’s authorship. This is the skeptical notion that Daniel was written as vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the fact), and consigns Daniel to the apocalyptic literature rather than naming him among the prophets as did Jesus Christ (Mt. 24:15). Denying Daniel’s authorship, dating, and place of writing is all in direct contradiction to both the letter and spirit of the original text. Yet again, there is also no mention of contrary scholarly opinion (e.g., HERE and HERE).

Matthew vs. Q (et al.)

The NABRE also accepts the “Markan Priority” theory of gospel authorship (that Mark wrote first, then Matthew and Luke copied off him and other sources such as “Q”). While perhaps appearing innocuous on the surface, this theory has had several unfortunate ramifications. First, as it is contrary to the established tradition of the Church, it calls the Church’s knowledge of pretty basic facts of authorship into question, which in turn threatens the canonical arguments over rejected writings such as the Gnostic gospels. Second, this critical theory dates the gospels so late that it makes Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem into another vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the fact) – a point the NABRE actually makes explicit in its notes. Third, this idea of gospel development has given rise to the theory of evolutionary Christology, wherein the gospels can be seen to gradually promote Jesus to deity as Christianity developed over the early decades of the Church. Unsurprisingly, the fact that Church tradition can also account for the data that the critical theory cites for its support is not mentioned (see, for example, Bernard Orchard’s The Order of the Synoptics or David Alan Black’s derivative – but more accessible – Why Four Gospels?).


While none of the above theories have been ruled out by the Church’s Magesterium, when they are presented without their contrary traditional views as if they are settled facts, they could be seriously damaging to one’s faith. These three examples do not exhaust the issues with the New American Bible Revised Edition notes, but they are representative of their overall spirit (which one reviewer summarized HERE).

Caveat emptor.