Ok, that might sound a bit harsh....but it is true! However, this rant doesn't really have anything to do with the available Catholic translations either. I am not here to complain about the terribly uneven NAB that is continually in need of revision, or the occasional inclusive language translation in the NRSV that doesn't sit well, or the fact that the most literal Catholic translation of the Bible, the RSV-CE, was done half a century ago, not to mention the occasional odd-ball translation found in the (New) Jerusalem Bible. No, that is not what this post is about.
This post is a call to all Catholic publishing houses, and non-Catholic publishers like HarperCollins, to produce high quality Catholic Bibles in various editions. Is this too much to ask? Let me explain my dilemma. I recently wanted to obtain a thinline Catholic Bible that I could use for not only ministry related activities, but also for personal prayer and study at the seminary. Could I find one in the NRSV, RSV, or NAB? No! Instead, I was able to see multiple thinline editions for the TNIV, NIV, KJV, NKJV, and the ESV all in various covers at the local Barnes and Nobles. I almost picked up the TNIV version, but realized that I need and want one with the Deuterocanonicals. The TNIV version I saw was quite wonderful. It included everything I wanted in a Bible, except of course the full Catholic Old Testament. This edition's print was very readable, it included a nice set of maps, the words of Christ in red, a concordance, and some crossreferences. It also fit really well in the hand, and I could see myself using it daily. So where are all the Catholic thinline Bible editions?
While I am at it, this led me to think of a few additional criticisms. I just can't find quality Catholic Bibles being published in various editions anywhere. Here are a few example:
1) The page layout of the New American Bible looks almost exactly the same no matter who publishes it. There are no one column or thinline editions. As a matter of fact, take a look at an old edition, pre-1990, of the NAB and guess what you find? There is very little difference in its appearence. The NAB is suppose to be the main Catholic translation here in the US, but it is poorly supported in many ways.
2) There are very few, if any, high-end leather editions of any Catholic Bible. Most places sell paperback or hardcover editions of the NAB or NJB or NRSV. The nicest Bible I have is the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible. Most of the Catholic Bibles out there are bonded leather editions. How cheap! Where are the Catholic publishers?
3) Finally, can we get an actual Catholic Study Bible that can rival the quality of the (T)NIV, ESV, or NLT study Bibles? The only real study Bible out there is the NAB Catholic Study Bible by Oxford. The problem is that it comes in only one size and to be honest the textual notes are exactly the same as with any NAB Bible. The reading guides at the front are marginally helpful and very limited at best. They even put out a similar edition called the "Personal Study Edition". I personally don't see much of a difference. Ignatius Press is developing their own study Bible using the RSV-2CE, but they seem to be in no hurry to complete it. (I think they would rather publish 12 books by Pope Benedict each season. Don't get me wrong, I love Pope Benedict, but even he would rather see Ignatius Press complete their study Bible.) The first volume on Matthew came out in 2000! That is 8 years ago and they are still not done with the New Testament. Would Zondervan take so long to complete something that is so needed? I don't think they would.
So, in my mind, the only possibility for Catholics to purchase high quality and multiple format editions of Catholic Bibles is for a major publishing house like HarperCollins or Zondervan to take on the project. They have the money and the experiences to do it right. HarperCollins has at least been putting out newer editions of the NRSV-CE in recent years, I hope this trend continues. Right now, the "major" Catholic publishing houses are either uninterested or incapable of doing this.