Monday, October 24, 2016

NABRE Facebook Live Session w/ Mary Sperry

Our friend Mary Sperry from the USCCB will be holding a live Facebook chat Tuesday, October 25th at 9:00 p.m. EDT on the Fans of the NABRE Group Page.  She will be able to answer questions you may have about the upcoming NABRE NT revision.  Make sure to join the group if you are interested in participating.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Knox on Translation

“For centuries people have laughed at the old Douay version, because in Galatians v.4 it gave the rendering, ‘You are evacuated from Christ’. In 1940, what metaphor could be more familiar, or more significant?”
 -On Englishing the Bible (28)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Guest Post: Creation, Science, and Wisdom in The Saint John’s Bible

A hearty thank you to this guest post from Jonathan.  As you know, I am a huge supporter of the Saint John's Bible, so this post was especially interesting for me to read.

Over the past two years, I have shown the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’sBible to over 500 people in my student job in Archives & Special Collections at Santa Clara University. Whether my audience is church groups, undergraduates, or (more recently) the Catholic Biblical Association, people are invariably amazed by the beauty of this work.

The more I show The Saint John’s Bible, the more I notice two features of this landmark manuscript. First, I notice the way it creates conversations between different parts of Scripture. It creates these conversations by repeating symbols in different illuminations. Second, I notice how these conversations between images and text reflect contemporary themes in Catholic biblical interpretation.

Take, for example, the theme of creation. Ever since John Paul II kicked off the creation care movement, environmental stewardship has become a part of Catholic social teaching. Pope Francis especially emphasizes the presence of God in creation in Laudato Si’, in which he writes: “Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God” (84). How might we read Scripture in the light of this call to creation care?

One of the most famous illuminations in The Saint John’s Bible is the Creation frontispiece to Genesis. This illumination follows Genesis 1’s account of the seven days of creation. Each vertical column is one of the seven days.

God’s repeated refrain that His creation is good makes Genesis 1 a crucial text for contemporary Catholic creation care (e.g. in Laudato Si’ 65–67). Unlike Genesis 2, Genesis 1 situates the creation of humankind in the creation of the cosmos and all other living things. Although humans are special, we are a part of creation, and we are dependent on this planet Earth for our survival. Modern evolutionary theory similarly shows the continuity between humanity and all other living things.

Donald Jackson alludes to scientific research on humankind’s origins by including scientific imagery in this illumination. The chaos and formlessness, the tohu wabohu in Hebrew, are illuminated as disjointed fractal patterns. The fish in the sea are images of fossils. Most importantly, the creation of humankind is depicted using prehistoric cave art from Australia and Africa. This cave art reminds us of the scientific account of humanity’s origins as primates. Rather than any kind of “war” between science and religion, this illumination reflects the Catholic idea that scientific truth leads to God, and that the Book of Nature is just a crucial as the Book of Scripture (e.g. Laudato Si’ 6). The Saint John’s Bible brings the scientific account of creation into the theological account, not just as a theory that can be reconciled with Scripture but as another window into the glory of God’s creation.

When I show this illumination, one aspect that often puzzles viewers is the raven in the center. After all, would it not make more sense to include the dove from the flood? However, Noah did send a raven to find land before he sent the dove. Also, one legend about St. Benedict recalls him feeding ravens in the wilderness. (This Bible was sponsored by the Benedictines!) Other viewers have pointed out to me that the raven represents wisdom in many cultures, such as in indigenous American myths.

The raven appears in Wisdom quite literally in the frontispiece to Ecclesiastes in the Wisdom Books volume. Ecclesiastes chronicles the search of one man for order in the chaos of life. The raven at the center immediately connects this illumination to Creation. But rather than the order of the cosmos in Genesis 1, this image depicts a tension between order and chaos, just as the sage of Ecclesiastes seeks order in the chaos of life.

The most obvious chaos in this image is in the way the text relates to the art: the illumination is not neatly confined to a page, but is spread over two pages in an asymmetrical, borderless chaos. The word for “vanity” in Ecclesiastes’ famous line “all is vanity!” can also be translated as “breath” or “wind,” and here the wind has become a whirlwind reaching beyond the borders of the physical page. The butterfly wings, another motif in The Saint John’s Bible, are blown about seemingly unattached to any butterflies. And if we see the raven as an allusion to the flood, then perhaps we can see this illumination as reflecting the chaos of the flood, the heavy winds that Noah would have sheltered from in his ship.

Yet even here there are indications of order. We see small columns of rainbow patterns, another frequent motif in The Saint John’s Bible, a reference to God’s promise to Noah after the flood. In the upper right, Jackson included an astronomical diagram. This is reminiscent of the cycle of the moon in the Genesis 1 illumination, the structure of the cosmos as created by God.

Scholars who study the way the Bible depicts creation note that in the prophets, when humankind turns wicked, the earth groans under their sin. In this illumination of Ecclesiastes, the reverse happens: the torment and chaos faced by the sage are writ large in the cosmos. As Old Testament scholar Choon-Leong Seow writes of the sage: “the real world is full of inconsistencies and even flagrant contradictions that cannot be explained away. The world is not an orderly place, and meaning is not always discernable, despite the best human efforts” (Ecclesiastes, Anchor Bible Commentary, p. 41).

Although the sage does not always see the divine wisdom behind the chaos of life, he still upholds its value (7:11). The Saint John’s Bible responds to Ecclesiastes’ lament with an illumination depicting the House of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-9:6.

This illumination replicates the whirlwind background of the Ecclesiastes illumination. But beneath the whirlwind we see a place where the winds have calmed into flat horizontal lines: an order, a structure, rather than chaos. In the House of Wisdom, we see the plan God has placed in creation. The seven pillars of this house become here seven candles, with one burning brightly with the interconnected circles motif found throughout the Wisdom Books volume. In the text, Wisdom invites the reader to “eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed” (9:5), depicted here in clearly Eucharistic terms. The House of Wisdom is the Temple with its lampstands, but also the Church with its Eucharist.

If Ecclesiastes struggles to see the order in creation, Proverbs 8:22-9:6 and Genesis 1 help us see that order. By repeating symbols such as the whirlwind, the raven, and the rainbow, The Saint John’s Bible brings together these different passages into a conversation on creation. This conversation asks: how do we relate scientific and theological accounts of creation? How do we see order in creation when all seems to have fallen into chaos? How does the beauty of God in nature call us to care for creation?

Too often, when we look at The Saint John’s Bible we look only at individual illuminations. I have only started to see these conversations between art and text, between texts, and between this Bible and contemporary Catholic biblical interpretation because I have worked with this Bible closely for two years. Now, Michael Patella’s Word and Image and Susan Sink’s The Art of The Saint John’s Bible are superb works. But neither of them systematically survey this Bible’s symbolism and how it creates conversations between different texts. In understanding this Bible and its unique message, we have a long way to go.

Author Biography:
Jonathan Homrighausen is a graduate student in Biblical Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, and a Student Assistant in Archives & Special Collections at Santa Clara University. Previously, he spent two years in the Catholic Biblical School in the Diocese of Stockton. His article on The Saint John’s Bible and Donald Jackson’s earlier work appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The Scribe, the newsletter of the Heritage Edition. He is currently writing a book on The Saint John’s Bible, and blogs at

Monday, October 17, 2016

Guest Review: Jerusalem Bible (Salvador Dali Illustrated Edition)

A special thank you to long time reader of this blog Rolf for this review of the Dali Jerusalem Bible.

The Jerusalem Bible (Salvador Dali illustrated) edition is a Bible that I had been 'watching' on ebay for a very long time. It was published in 1970, but it makes frequent appearances on ebay usually for $150.+ I was able to obtain this copy at auction in new like condition  for about $65. shipped.

This is a huge Bible:  12 x 8 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches and it weighs a little less than a smart car! The Bible is bound in red (bonded, genuine or faux?) padded leather over boards. I am not sure, I have read that it is leather and faux leather but the slightly padded hardcover looks nice and works well with this big Bible!

The Salvador Dali illustrations are all full page and there are 32 of them. Dali's illustrations can be strange, but they always make you think when you see them.

The real reason I wanted this Bible was for a chance to read a large print Jerusalem Bible! I have three other Jerusalem Bibles, two with size 9 print and a compact with size 7 print. When I found out that this Bible had size 11 (well spaced) single column print, I had to get one!  The paper is thick and bleed through is very well controlled! The illustrations are on much heavier paper and are quality prints. It comes with two very nice and wide red ribbon markers.

This is a table top/ lap type Bible, but it is a great reading/ devotional Bible (with minimal notes/reference numbers at bottom of the page)! Is it worth $150.? In excellent condition I think it is! With high end Bibles now selling for $250-$300.+ and bonded leather study bibles nearing the $100. mark, I would say yes! But maybe with a little looking around it could be found cheaper!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Knox: Psalm 120 (121)

(A song of ascents.)
I lift up my eyes to the hills, to find deliverance;
from the Lord deliverance comes to me, the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Never will he who guards thee allow thy foot to stumble; never fall asleep at his post!

Such a guardian has Israel, one who is never weary, never sleeps;
it is the Lord that guards thee, the Lord that stands at thy right hand to give thee shelter.

The sun’s rays by day, the moon’s by night, shall have no power to hurt thee.

The Lord will guard thee from all evil; the Lord will protect thee in danger;
the Lord will protect thy journeying and thy home-coming, henceforth and for ever.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Bible in the Digitial World, Betsy Shirley (America)

The Bible was the first book ever printed, but ink and paper are no longer required to share its message with a mass audience. At last count, the world’s most popular Bible app, the YouVersion Bible, had been downloaded more than 228 million times. Its distinctive icon, designed to look like a stubby, square Bible, is found on smartphones in every country in the world, giving users access to 1,305 versions of Holy Writ in 954 languages—and counting.
Conversations about the Bible in the digital age usually turn to questions of access: how technology has changed the number of people who can get their hands on a copy of the Bible and how easily. But in the story of ever-changing technology and the timeless word of God, increased access is not the only development. The Bible is a transcendent text with a very stubborn material presence, but when new technology prompts us to change the material context of Scripture—whether from papyrus scrolls to enormous illuminated manuscripts or from mass-produced soft cover books to a string of computer code—how we interact with it changes as a result. 
For more, follow this link.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Guest Post: My Journey to the King James Version

I would like to thank my friend Kevin for writing this post from his perspective as a Mennonite.  I hope you all find it as fascinating as I did.

Based upon the title of this post alone, it is safe to assume that I am not a Catholic. I am a Mennonite, but I have been a reader (but not really a commenter) of the Catholic Bibles Blog for quite some time. I appreciate the Bible in all its forms, and I am always intrigued by how manuscripts, denominational differences, and language have created so much diversity in the art of translating the Bible into English.
I received my first Bible ten years ago this year. It was a NLT Student’s Life Application Bible in paperback. Now, I primarily use a rather elegant KJV Westminster Reference Bible in black calfskin. As you can probably tell, from my first experiences of church ten years ago until now, my Bible preferences have shifted drastically. My first Bible and my current go-to are on completely different ends of the spectrum on textual sources, translation style, and physical quality. The main point of this post is to discuss textual sources and translation style.
So far, I have used for at least several months, or read several books of, the following translations (in no particular order): NLT, NIV (1984 and 2011), NAB, NABRE, RSV, RSV-2CE, NRSV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, NAV/TMB, and KJV. I have never limited myself by any one translations philosophy or denominational perspective. I am a Protestant, but I like the Bible in all its myriad forms. However, if you look at the aforementioned list of translations, there is a preference for versions in the Tyndale-King James tradition (e.g. KJV, RSV).
My time with so many versions has taught me one major truth: they are all good. None are perfect, but every single major, committee-produced translation is good. You can read the NLT, RSV, and KJV side-by-side, and get the same basic message. They will read differently, sound differently, and have different variations based upon textual sources, but the same message is there. Once this truth really started to settle in, my pickiness with different Bibles started to go away. However, if you are Catholic or Orthodox, the Protestant options are often going to be missing some important books.
My journey to the King James Version involves three key points:

As a Mennonite, to talk about church tradition seems a bit strange, but I have to admit that I value it. I especially value the English Protestant tradition that has given us so many masterpieces of English literature and liturgy (e.g. the King James Bible, Book of Common Prayer, the works of Shakespeare). The King James Version of the Bible permeates English. There are many times when we speak, and we unintentionally quote from the KJV. The KJV is all over English language liturgies/worship services, and the KJV is found in other Bibles that are its descendants (ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NKJV, etc.).

However, there is a far greater aspect of tradition that just makes the KJV “click” for me. The KJV is the Bible of my family. Both of my parents grew up in KJV using churches. My father will still say that the KJV is the “most accurate” translation (which I know is debatable). All of the Bibles that mean something to me since they were passed down by loved ones are King James Bibles. When I read my KJV, it reminds me of the coverless KJV my great-grandmother used until her death, or the large Holman KJV my grandfather has studied from for 50 years. That level of sentimentality cannot be found in any other version.

Translation Style
 This is not unrelated to my previous point. The KJV endures because of how beautiful it is. The KJV was translated in such a way that it was both faithful to the original languages and faithful to English. It is both literal and literary. Because of how common illiteracy was 400 years ago, it had to be. Any Bible translation was going to be primarily heard from lectors during the liturgy, not in private homes.

Consider, for instance, one of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9 KJV). In the Tyndale-King James tradition, this passage is rendered in such a way that it is both faithful to Greek and beautiful in English. It is somewhat gender inclusive with “sons of God” becoming “children of God”, but it retains Greek idiom quite well while bring it alive in English. Compare this to the Good News Bible, which says, “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!” It says the same basic message in today’s English, but you lose the balance between the original languages and good English literature.

Even today, many of the most popular versions are intentionally based in the KJV style. They take from the KJV (or other KJV-based versions) because of the translational majesty of this particular version. Peter Hitchens wrote, “The new versions tend only to be tolerable at all when they stick closely to the Authorised Version's poetic text.” (His brother, Christopher Hitchens, also praised the KJV.) Peter is right. Just look at the towering popularity of the RSV and now ESV, or the NKJV. The only English version that comes close the KJV family in terms of popularity is the NIV, but even it falls very short. In terms of style, the KJV continues to reign as king.

Textual Sources
The source texts behind the KJV are where the real debate tends to lie. If you look at the KJV tradition, it has branched in two directions: 1. towards the critical text with the Revised Version and its revisions; 2. continued reliance upon the Textus Receptus (e.g. NKJV, KJ21). (I only mention the New Testament Greek sources, because most English versions almost only use the Masoretic Text for the Hebrew Old Testament. Not all Masoretic Texts were created equal, but there is very little difference.) The textual debate is not a major concern for me, since it seems so little of the New Testament is actually affected. Sure, you have a handful of important places (e.g. Mark 16:9-20, 1 John 5:7), but most differences would not be noticed by the average reader.     
However, I do appreciate the King James Version’s use of the Textus Receptus. It comes closest to what the majority of Greek manuscripts reflect, and I have my reservations about current trends in textual criticism. I am personally a bit troubled by the reliance upon two primary sources (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) even when other sources that could be contemporary or older disagree. Mark 16:9-20, for example, can be found in some early witnesses such as the church fathers, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, and Vulgate. Scholars seem to be biased in favor of only a couple sources to the exclusion of others. The KJV’s use of the Textus Receptus, however, gives one a good alternative to current textual standards.
In conclusion, I have found the KJV to be a wonderful Bible. It has enriched my devotional reading and study for the reasons I only briefly covered here. I would never recommend using the KJV only, but I also would not recommend using any one translation only. We are blessed today with so many websites and programs that allow us to explore the Scriptures even without having a physical copy in front of us. We should always utilize those resources.

If you are Catholic, I strongly suggest exploring the King James Version (even though you do have the wonderful Douay-Rheims Version). The King James Version originally included all of the books as found in the Vulgate, and even many Orthodox Christians utilize the KJV. I personally recommend the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with Apocrypha or Cambridge Cameo Reference Bible with Apocrypha. They both come the closest to providing an unabridged edition of the King James Bible. There is also the little-known Third Millennium Bible (New Authorized Version) which is a slightly updated KJV with Apocrypha.