The occasion for the formation of the Catholic Biblical Association was the outcome of the desire of Bishop Edwin O'Hara, chair of the Episcopal Committee on the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, to improve quality of the New Testament normally used by Catholics by having the Challoner-Rheims New Testament revised. In 1936 O'Hara called a meeting of American Catholic Scripture scholars to help plan and carry out the project. At this meeting a proposal was aired and agreed to for the formation of an association of American Catholic biblical scholars.
At a subsequent meeting on Oct. 3, 1936, the CBA was voted into existence. Edward P. Arbez was elected its first president. A committee drew up a Constitution and By-laws, and these were approved and adopted in 1937. The CBA was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1941 and reincorporated in 1958. In the beginning the CBA was under the patronage of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).
Thus the Bible translation was an early concern for the CBA (and has continued to play an important role), but the broader purposes of promoting the scholarly study of the Bible, to provide for exchanges between scholars through meetings and publications blossomed about the same time; there was also the intention of disseminating the fruits of solid biblical scholarship both on the scholarly and popular levels.
Whereas O'Hara's aim had been to revise the Challoner-Rheims NT on the basis of the Vulgate (the basis for most Catholic vernacular translations in those days), and a revised NT was in fact published in 1941, and work begun on the OT was following the same course, the appearance of the Papal Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943, with its encouragement to return to biblical languages, led to scrapping the previous work and beginning a new translation of both the OT and the NT from the original languages. The work began appearing piecemeal from 1948 on, still under the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) title. In the final stages, however, especially with the collaboration of several non-Catholics, the work became a more ecumenical project, and when the completed work appeared in 1970, it was given the title "The New American Bible." The NAB NT was further revised, and this revision was completed in 1987. Revision of the NAB Psalter was begun in 1988 and it was completed and approved in 1991. Revision of the rest of the OT was begun in 1994.
While the CBA began with fifty charter members in 1936, its full and associate members number over 1,200 in 2011 spread throughout the world. (For qualifications of membership, click here.) The faith dimension of the CBA continues to be important, but there is no confessional test for membership and many non-Catholics and Jews are members and active in the association. There are various regional chapters.
The CBA also has promoted biblical study by providing some support to scholarship students in doctoral Scripture programs, to young scholars after graduation (click on "Grants" in the main menu), and by providing help in funding archaeological digs.
The CBA was one of the founding organizations of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion from its inception in 1970 until its demise in 2010. The CBA, along with other societies, formed the Joint Committee of Catholic Learned Societies and Scholars (1977-82) in order to speak with one voice to the bishops; we organized symposia of bishops and scholars, studies from which contributed to at least one episcopal pastoral.
The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, the official organ of the CBA, first appeared in 1939. It carries scholarly articles and notes in Scripture and related fields, an extensive book review section, as well as news of the association's annual meeting and other pertinent notices; its circulation in 2010 was over 3,800; all issues from 1946 to the present are available without charge to members and subscribers (click here for more information).
The Catholic Biblical Quarterly--Monograph Series began to appear in 1971 and additional volumes have been published regularly since then (click here for more information).
Old Testament Abstracts first appeared in 1978 under the General Editorship of Bruce Vawter. It provides summaries and bibliographical information on articles and books in all major languages from all over the world; in 2011 more than 2,300 books and articles were abstracted. Its circulation in 2016 is something over 2,000. The whole run of issues from 1978 through the present, fully searchable, are available from the American Theological Library Association (click here for more information).