Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grail Psalms for Mass Approved by USCCB



Well, I spotted this bit of information on the Catholic News Service website. You can read the whole story here. It looks like the USCCB has decided to adopt the Revised Grail Psalms which are used at Mass in other English speaking churches, as well as in the Liturgy of the Hours, for the Mass in America. Currently, the Psalms heard at Mass here in the USA are from the original version of the New American Bible. As some of you know, this edition of the Psalms is currently unavailable, since a revised version was published back in 1991. The revised '91 NAB Psalms was not approved for liturgical use by the Vatican. As a matter of fact, the Vatican website uses the NAB as its English Bible, minus the Psalms. In my studies at seminary, I have seen very few people actually use it in class.

Probably the most important reason why I don't use the NAB is the terrible quality of the '91 Psalms. There are two main reasons for this:

1) Its use of inclusive language is too over the top in my mind. It makes the NRSV Psalms look conservative in that sense. While I don't have a huge problem with moderate horizontal inclusive language, the '91 NAB Psalms consistently uses vertical inclusive language in relation to God. See Psalm 136. Yuck!

2) The translation is just not good. For example, take a look at the much maligned NAB '91 Psalm 23:1-2: "The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me" Graze? Really? Let's not over-use the sheep metaphor. I think I'd rather lie down. There is also the problem of the 91' Psalms working with the '86 Revised NAB NT. The revised NT I think is pretty good, but when doing cross-referencing with the '91 Psalms it is a mess. (see Psalm 8 and Hebrew 2).

What this all tells me is that the NAB is the mess I think it is. It must be embarrassing to some of the bishops. But, perhaps is there a silver lining? There has been rumours that a new edition of the NAB Old Testament is in the works. Perhaps could this recent decision to adopt the Grail Psalms be an indication that the revised OT will include another revision of the Psalms? Lets hope so! Below are some of the reasons for the switch to the Grail Psalms. Let us hope that this will inspire them to ditch the 91' NAB Psalms as well! (And please, make sure the verse numbering of the Psalms follows the standard usage of the RSV and all the other English Bible versions!)

Bishop Serratelli said "there were four reasons that his committee was recommending the Revised Grail Psalter over the Revised NAB version:

-- "It has been recommended by musicians for its musicality" and can easily be sung, chanted or recited.

-- It is faithful to the Hebrew text.

-- It is already "somewhat familiar" to those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

-- "While being faithful to Hebrew imagery and anthropology, it is critically aware of the Christological references."

3 comments:

rolf said...

The Grail Psalms used in my copy of the Liturgy of the Hours is the 1963 version. Are the Revised Grail Psalms that are approved, using inclusive language? This vote is another strike against the NAB, when the USCCB won't even use the Psalms from their own Bible, this added to the fact that they have to alter readings from the NAB NT to use in the lectionary. Maybe it is time to replace the whole NAB and use another Bible (RSV-2CE) that can be approved on all levels (esp. the Vatican).

Michael said...

The revised NAB OT is no mere 'rumor'.


When it was originally published in 1970, the NAB was immediately judged to be inadequate, and a full revision was proposed, the revision was to be done in parts, starting with the NT, then the Psalms and finally the rest of the OT.

The revised NT was finished in 1986, then the revised Psalms in 1991, and work on the rest of the OT began shortly after that.

The revised OT was originally supposed to be completed in 2003, but has been delayed, perhaps indefinitely, primarily because of the work on approving the new English Missal.

Michael said...

And as far as ditching the NAB completely, never going to happen. The NAB is a huge source of revenue for the USCCB, they earn millions every year from the copyright, not simply from the sales of the NAB in bookstores but also, and more importantly, from the licensing rights from the publishers of the missals and missalettes.

Moreover, since they own the NAB, the bishops can use the NAB in their own official literature and documents without paying for it.

To abandon the NAB would mean that the USCCB would lose millions of dollars a year in licensing revenue, and furthermore would have to pay out millions a year for the right to use another translation in their official documents.

For the bishops to own own their Bible translation that they can cite whenever they want and earn money from by licensing it to others just makes good economic sense. This is the whole reason the NAB exists in the first place.