"Still, I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." - Jn 16:7 NJB
In my opinion, the New Jerusalem Bible is the best beginner Bible for someone who is new to the Catholic faith or has had a re-conversion back to the faith. Now, when I say that it is a great beginner Bible, I do not mean to suggest that the NJB translation is itself simplistic or easy to read like the Good News Translation for example. My point is that this one Bible has the best collection of Bible study tools and page lay-out in any one volume Catholic Bible currently available. The fact that it was published over 20 years ago is a sad indictment of the poor quality of Catholic Bibles on the market. Before looking at some specifics, let me just say one thing: If you are going to get the NJB, make sure it is the large hardcover edition shown here. Do not waste your time with the other editions that are out there, since those do not include all the study helps that the regular edition does.
The NJB contains the complete text of the ancient canon of scripture, along with up-to-date (as of 1985) and extensive introductions and notes. Eight pages of color maps and indexes, including biblical themes, personal names, and major footnotes.
The NJB is a translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek, unlike, at times its predecessor which did consult the original French edition of the JB. The NJB made use of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 25th edition and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with close reference to the LXX. The NJB is a mediating translation, which leans towards functional equivalence. An informative essay by the NJB's chief editor, Dom Henry Wansbrough, can be found here. In it, he states that the five main principles to his work were:
1) To improve the accuracy of translation, introductions and notes. I was acutely aware that the rationale of the NJB was somewhat different from that of the JB. Alexander Jones had conceived the translation primarily as an underlay to the introduction and notes, that is, as a study Bible. But whereas in 1966 there was no modern translation of the whole Bible into English by 1985 several were available. The study aspect had therefore become all the more important.
2) To remove elements which were narrowly Roman Catholic, such as references in the notes to passages used in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
3) Where possible to use the same English word throughout for the same Hebrew concepts. With some concepts I abandoned the attempt to find a modern English equivalent which would serve to translate all instances of a word, e.g. ‘flesh’.
4) In the synoptic gospels and other parallel sets of texts (e.g. the Books of Kings and of Chronicles) to show the differences between the text, in order to make possible a study of the redactional changes made by the authors.
5) Where possible to go some way towards using inclusive language. I did not estimate that this was necessary at all costs, as the NRSV subsequently did. However, Bruce Metzger was kind enough to write to me to say that NJB solutions had been most helpful to the Committee for the NRSV in the closing stages of their work.
The NJB, like its predecessor, is also the only Catholic translation that uses "Yahweh" instead of "LORD" consistently in the Old Testament. It will be interesting to see if it is used in future editions, particularly with Pope Benedict's recent comments about its use in liturgy.
1) The NJB is a solid translation. It fits nicely right in the middle of the translation philosophy spectrum. I would generally place it close to the NIV/NAB, though leaning more towards dynamic equivalence. Where I find the NJB to excel is in its use of inclusive language. In many ways, I think the NJB is the model. It is used consistently throughout the Old and New Testament, unlike the NAB, yet it does not go overboard like the NRSV. The NJB retains the use of "sons" in important passages in Galatians 4, does not obscure "Son of Man" references in the OT, and doesn't use the plural "you" to make a passage inclusive.
2) The standard hardback edition is a wonderful study Bible. It has copious notes and lots of cross-references. The intros are also helpful, without forcing you to accept various modern theories as fact.
3) The page layout is single-column, which means it is a pleasure to read and there is plenty of room to make notes. It is a real shame that the NJB is the only Catholic Bible, that I am aware of, that has a single-column layout.
1) There aren't many editions of the NJB available. I have seen some used leather editions of the standard NJB online, but it seems that they are not in print anymore. Therefore, if you like the NJB with all the study helps, you can only get it in hardcover.
2) With the rumors that a 3rd edition of the New Jerusalem Bible is in the works, I am not sure how much longer this edition will be needed.
3) There are no additional study/reference helps available in the NJB translation. One of the great reasons to use a translation like the NRSV is that you can get interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and other tools that reference the NRSV. This is simply not the case with the NJB.