At our annual summer Turning to God’s retreat recently, we had a discussion about the meaning of nihil obstat and imprimatur in Latin and in Church usage, and it seemed like having a Lost in Translation post on the topic would be a useful resource.
The Latin phrase nihil obstat literally means “nothing obstructs.” It can only be granted by an appointed reader or censor from the Church and indicates that there is no reason on the basis of theological or moral grounds that a work cannot be printed. The nihil obstat represents the first phase in printing a work with full Church approval.
Likewise, imprimatur is a Latin word meaning “it may be printed.” The imprimatur is granted by the bishop of the diocese of publication and represents a conclusion of the process and authorization to print with the Church’s blessing of the work.
Importantly, neither of these allowances indicates that the Church or readers agree with all content in the work. They indicate, rather, that there is no content in direct opposition to Church teaching on matters of faith and morals.
Turning to God’s Word has just received our seventh nihil obstat and our seventh imprimatur for our upcoming study, The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King. We choose to submit our works for this review process to ensure that nothing in our interpretations will dangerously mislead any of our study participants. Even when our studies contain these approvals, it’s worth keeping in mind as a participant that you are not obliged to agree with every one of our interpretations.
about our newest Catholic Bible study
You can preview a sample lesson from The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King and check out our online study page featuring related supplemental material—including a glossary, map, and prayer based on the biblical text for the lesson. In August, we’ll begin posting the remaining study pages as well as videos to accompany each lesson.
Click on the picture of Moses to learn more about Lost in Translation or to ask Matthew a question. You can sign up in the column on the right to receive Lost in Translation by email every Tuesday.