Friday, January 7, 2011

Random Thoughts on the NABRE Announcement

I want to devote this post to talking about the big news yesterday regarding the NABRE. Below are just some random thoughts that have come to mind since yesterday:

First off, it is pretty exciting that we are just over two months away from the publication of a major Catholic Bible revision. When are we likely to see something like this again? I am not aware of any other new Catholic translations in progress, perhaps the only exception being the Bible In Its Traditions project. Of course, there is the NRSV, which Harper UK may publish in its adapted liturgical form at some point. (A version of the current NRSV with Grail Psalms will be published in February from Harper UK.) So, I look forward to analyzing the NABRE in comparison to the original NAB, as well as the RSV and NRSV.

Also, I am encouraged to see that on March 9th the NABRE will be launched in various formats. This includes print, as well as audio and electronic. Having the NABRE on the Kindle will be a definite bonus. In addition, it will be interesting to see what publishers will be producing the NABRE. One of the areas that kept the NAB somewhat stale in the past has been its general uniformity in look no matter the publisher. With all of the attractive formats and designs that publishers like Zondervan, HarperCollins, and Crossway put out for their Bibles, the NABRE certainly needs to be licensed by a major publishing house. I am certain that we will see a new edition of Oxford’s Catholic Study Bible in the near future. Reader Sharon alerted me to the new Little Rock Catholic Study Bible which will be released in June with the NABRE. They had earlier published an edition with just the Gospels.

One of my hopes for this new NABRE is that it will provide a uniform translation philosophy from Genesis to Revelation. As I mentioned in a comment on another post, one of the areas that hurt the NAB in the past was that it was so uneven. If it sticks to the translation philosophy of the revised NAB NT in regards to being fairly formal/literal and using moderate horizontal inclusive language, the revision will be a much needed upgrade. Will it be as accepted by more conservative Catholics who tend to stick with the RSV-CE? My guess is probably not. But if the final product is a better version of the NAB, the Catholic Church in America will benefit. Of course, we will have to wait and see what the translation looks like before jumping to any conclusions.

The last thing I want to mention is the NAB commentary/notes. Oftentimes in the past (and present), one of the chief complaints that I have read against the NAB is the commentary. From my experiences, when people criticize the NAB it is the notes and commentary, more so than the translation itself, which is the issue. In general, while I do think they tend to focus too much on the historical-critical method and spend way too much time on issues like the “Q” hypothesis in the Gospel, overall I think they are OK. Are there some stinkers? Yes, there are a few, most notoriously in Matthew 16:21-23. But as Pope Benedict has said, the historical method is an “indispensable tool” for exegetes, so it is important that issues like that is included. However, I think those who produced the NAB(RE) notes would do better in recognizing the need to provide solid commentary that is both historical, but also faith affirming. It must be remembered that for the vast majority of Catholics, the NAB(RE) will be the only Bible they read.

Either way, it is going to be a lot of fun examining the NABRE.


Diakonos said...

Reasons why I most likely will not buy the NABRE (except perhaps the Little Rock edition for study material):

1.) I did a quick comparison between NABRE NT footnotes at Liturgical Press site (sample pages for Little Rock edition) and the Revised NT as I have at hand and sadly thr footnotes are exactly the same. Though of course I was only able to compare part of Galatians.

2.) NABRE will not be used in liturgy thus we are required to hold onto our present NABs for the sake of parish study groups. Good news is that I guess the non-revised NAB will become cheaper to pruchase?

VERY disappointing on both accounts that such an exciting venture as a revision of a major translation gets lost in the bigger realities of liturgical use and theologically-weak notes. One begins to wonder if the USCBB will ever get things on a smooth path. I guess I just don;t have your (Timothy's) passion of biblical translations in their own right apart from these things.

Mark in Spokane said...

I am very pleased to see that the NAB OT revision is soon to be published and I look forward to purchasing a copy and using it.

That said, I think it is tremendously disappointing that a decision has been made to essentially bifurcate the published version of the new NAB from the version used in the lectionary. This is a very bad decision, in my view. The people of God need to be nourished by the word of God found in the scriptures, and the word that they hear at Mass should be the same word that they read when pondering the Bible. The current situation where the lectionary diverges from any published version of the text is an anomaly -- at least it has been up to now. Now it appears that the anomaly will become the norm.

Timothy said...

Diakonos and Mark,

I agree that is a major disappointment. Perhaps they will reconsider this in time. Of course, any approval from Rome for the revised Old Testament's use at Mass would take some time. But, I do think it would be worth it.

Colleague said...

I don't really see what the beef is. So what if the NABre isn't the same as in the lectionary? Buy a missal if that's your goal. Otherwise, while it may not be the exact same words, it is the same Word. We sometimes forget how far the Church has come in the last 46 years to even suggest more private study of any Bible.

While I often return to translations such as the RSV, NRSV and ESV, I will definitely be intrigued to see what variety of formats the NABre will be published in. I prefer pocket/compact-sized Bibles since I like to carry my Bible around just about everywhere I go. Hopefully an attractive edition of the text will exist because I always found the format of the previous NAB so cheap and gaudy.

Anonymous said...

I just hope that more publishers will jump on board rather than just Catholic Book Publishing!

I seriously don't know how they get so many high level contracts... their layout and quality of product is terrible.

Timothy said...

Yes! They need to make sure a major publishing house can produce the NABRE in varied and quality formats, sizes, and cover options.

Francesco said...


It's unclear what the used market for NABs will be like after the NABRE comes out. Ms. Sperry wrote on this blog that sellers can't sell new editions of the NAB within 18 months of the publication of the NABRE:

"Publisher sales of the NAB will cease 18 months after the NABRE is released for publication. It is likely that some stores will have copies of the NAB for a while after that. But if you really want a copy of the current edition, you should purchase it within the next year.

So pretty much there won't be any new ones after late 2012.

It looks like its going to depend on how current owners of NABs react. Will they buy NABREs and sell their NABs? If so then there will be lots of NABs out there on eBay or wherever. If they do what you and rolf say you will do (i.e. keep them for catechesis and study) it might be hard to find them.

Personally I think its hard to believe they're going to keep the NAB OT forever. What's likely to happen is that they'll leave things the way they are for a few years and then pick it up later. However, you never know.

Krystle said...

I really love my NIV Women's Devotional Bible leather bound with a magnetic flap! I really wish I could find a Catholic bible that has the same feel and portability. I'm hoping that will happen with the NABRE =]

Robert said...

Tim they won't approve it because of the "inclusive language" issue. Get rid of the "inclusive language" and it could be used in the Mass. Have you been following the happenings in Rome lately?. Traditional Catholicism is making a comeback. The Pope no longer allows communion in the hand in any of his Masses. Gregorian Chant is finally returning. The hippie era is going away, and so is liberalism. So for me the NABRE makes no sense whatsoever. What new documents have been found?!!. Every translation says it uses new resources. If that's the case than put the Book of Enoch back into the Canon of the Roman Church.

Robert said...

Krystle, if your Catholic you should stick with Catholic translations. You are missing allot. Does your NIV have the First and Second Book of Maccabees. Or what about the Book of Tobit.

Timothy said...


I would slow down a bit. Keep in mind, if you check the Vatican website you will find the NAB as the English translation on the site. There is some room for inclusive language, that being only modest horizontal ways. That was approved by the Vatican in the most recent lectionary update only a few years back.

As for new documents found, there are of course the Dead Sea Scrolls which pre-date and Hebrew manuscript by almost 800 years.

I am all for the end of 70's era hippie Catholicism. Trust me, I am happy that I was born in 1978. But to suggest that things are going back to pre-1962 Catholicism is simply not going to happen. The Church is going to continue with the Tradition going back to the Apostles through the Second Vatican Council. This includes Sacred Scripture and the translation of it. The Church, since Divina Afflanti Spiritu in the 1940's has encouraged Biblical studies that seeks to provide the best possible translations for the people, which means going back to the earliest sources.

Matt said...

Personally, it doesn't matter much to me that the NAB translations won't match much during the Mass. After all, the its just a translation.

Even as a traditional Catholic, I have decided to withhold judgment on the NABRE until we actually see it.

I was actually looking at a copy of an NAB late last night and thought "Wow, this is such a missed opportunity." It has a decent amount of cross references, footnotes, introductory texts, subject headings, an encyclopedic dictionary, and lectionary. Almost every edition out there is an entire study bible, even the cheapest ones.

Hopefully it will be redeemed in the new version. Maybe they will allow them to be printed without the footnotes or just the cross references and text? That would go a long way.

Mike Roesch said...

While it's true that the commentary and notes are often a major complaint, there are many issues with the text itself. I can barely keep from laughing every year at Midnight Mass when we hear that the coming Messiah will be called "Wonder-Counselor" and "God-Hero," as though Christ is a divine combination of Dr. Phil and the Green Lantern.

At any rate, I am very glad to see this revision.

Timothy said...


That passage from Isaiah will be one of the first I turn to when I get a copy.

Anonymous said...

Robert, and also Timothy:

Some thing you need to keep your eyes on are the new English Ordinariates, with the Anglican Use Mass. There is a fast growing number of Catholics who believe this is a way to eliminate the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo Mass by healthy competition of consumers choosing the best product. Many people are convinced that within the next decade, traditional Catholics will flock to the Extraordinary Form (which uses the Douay Rhiems), most other Catholics will choose the Anglican Use Mass (which uses the RSV-CE, as well as using the older style "Thee" and "Thou" throughout the Mass), while the Novus Ordo (with the NAB in the US and the NRSV in other countries) will die out, having only aging hippies, social workers, and liberal Democratic politicians and activists showing up. Whether this happens, I don't know, but that is what a lot of Catholics are thinking is the plan.

Diakonos said...

Not exactly on topic but regarding the disrespect shown for the Novus Ordo and the Council in some posts...what about Catholic faith in ecumencial councils and our belief that the Holy Spirit directs these councils whose decisions are confirmed (or not) by the Holy Father?

Even if one agrees that the post conciliar implementation may have been misdirected, one must admit, if they exhibit Catholic Faith in the authority of a Council, that the 1962 Mass was agreed upon by the world's bishops and confirmed by the Popes, to be reformed or changed in some ways. This is an unmistakable valid Catholic deliberation and decision of an ecumenical council.

As for the Extraordinary Form a priest may celebrate it PRIVATELY on his own OR for a group who asks for it in a STABLE fashion and it is exactly what its designation says: extraordinary as in "not the norm but the exception". A priest on his own may not decide that "Today I will say the 9AM Mass according to the Extraordinary Form" (except if he is the only one present at that Mass). Of course the NO in Latin is always an option.

This was charitably granted by the Holy Father to meet the spiritual needs of some people and not as an "equal opporunity" liturgy for the Roman Church at large. Hopefully the new translation of the NO will show forth its original flavor.

Timothy said...

Yeah, while I have great respect for the Extraordinary Form, and belong to a parish which offers it, I easily prefer the Novus Ordo. Much of the liturgical problems of the past 40 years is do to abuses of the Novus Ordo. I think a lot of that has subsided in most places nowadays. Of course there are still exceptions unfortunately. But the fact that we are just now getting a revised Roman Missal for the Novus Ordo, which in itself is a great revision, is proof enough for me the Novus Ordo is here to stay.

I believe that the expansion of the Extraordinary Form, as well as the Anglican Ordinatiate, will serve to 'cross-polinate' some of the, at times, lack of reverence that is sometimes found in the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated. (I also think there will be some cross-pollination the opposite way as well.)

Timothy said...

Oh by the way, I am the farthest thing from an aging hippie! But still am as orthodox as you get and prefer the Novus Ordo. :)

Francesco said...

When is it a good thing when a group of faithful "die off"? The purpose of the Church is to evangelize the whole world, not just the groups we like or people who vote the way we do.

There are supposed to be more Catholic liberal politicians, not less; more Catholic social workers, not less; more Catholic activist Democrats, not less. There should be more of such people in the Church because there should be more of all people in the Church.

Obviously we should expect Catholics to behave like Catholics. What we shouldn't be doing is forcing them out of the Church or gleefully awaiting their death.

Matt said...

Diakonos- your I interpretation of the motu proprio is extremely legalistic and has shown to be the liberal churchman position taken by ecclesiastics who are against the traditional Mass. The Holy Father and Ecclesia Dei commission indeed seem to indicate a much broader meaning to it, even going so far as to say that a parish priest does not even need to be asked, nor have a group at all.

I don't think discussing the TLM vs the Novus Ordo is at all helpful regarding the NABRE, btw.

A priest absolutely can decide on his own to say the TLM tomorrow morning at 9am with as many there as possible. To put it on a parish schedule requires the pastor but the faithful are not barred from attending an off the schedule Mass. Pastors are free to celebrate the TLM and replace a Novus Ordo with it.

As for the Scripture readings, my parish right now uses the Douay version but in the past the Confraternity was also used for a time used. I have even heard of the Knox version being read from pulpits.

I wish we had that freedom in the OF.

Diakonos said...

Matt - Out of respect for Timothy and the nature of THIS blog I will refrain from correcting your misinterpretation of the motu proprio and a priest's freedom in community to celebrate the TLM; its proper interpretation is easily available online. Also do not forget that the decisions of an ecumenical council validated by the pope bears more weight and is of higher juridical standing in the magisteriun than an individual pontiff's motu proprio. Now...back to the NABRE...

Timothy said...

Yes, I think we should stick to the discussion at hand: NABRE.

I do want to mention something that is a bit bothersome. Now, I mention this not because of anything Diakonos or Matt has said, but the tend to break these discussions down into Conservative vs. Liberal Catholics is a bit tired. I get annoyed when I see people just make statements that tend to either not be realistic or helpful. For example, the Facebook site for the NABRE has a question/comment that just says something like 'read the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible instead.' Well, how is that of any relevance to the NABRE. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I think the ICSB is fantastic, so I don't know why people have to take that attitude. The same thing happens on thy Catholic Answers forums, or even back when we were able to ask questions to Mary Sperry from the USCCB.

Let's just focus on the merits and shortcomings of the NABRE, looking at how it actually reads.

OK, I am done. :)

rolf said...

We should all be hoping (and praying) that the NABre will be an improvement over the current NAB. Whether you like the NAB or not, this Bible will be used by more American Catholics than any other Bible (by far). So we should hope for its success rather than ragging on it before it is even released.

Diakonos said...

Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement, Timothy. You know, I am going to get an NABRE and do my best to give it an honest read and try.

Mark in Spokane said...

Rolf is right. We should be hoping that the NABRE is an improvement over the current NAB, simply because the institutional weight of the Church here in America will be behind this translation. While it won't be included in the liturgy (yet), it is sure to make its way into the official publications issued by the bishops. It will probably, like the current NAB, even be used on the official Vatican website. This translation is going to make an impact on the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world. Let's hope that it is the best translation available -- better than the NRSV, better than the current NAB, better than the ESV, better than the NJB.

Anonymous said...

By opening this discussion Timothy has invited comment on the NABRE, even before its release. This conversation is possible because we already know a lot about the NABRE.
Most significantly, we know the NABRE will not change or improve the New Testament, especially the Gospels, in any way. But also relevant is the fact that the NABRE will not soon change the texts used in mass, which is the primary way most Catholics interact with the Scriptures. Therefore (seems to me), discussions about the New Testament text, notes and commentary as well as the Scriptures' setting in the Mass are in fact topics of relevant discussion about which we can reasonably comment at this early stage. Am I off, somehow?


Timothy said...


Yes, let's keep the discussion to te NABRE translation, notes, and any legitimate liturgical meaning associated with it.

Peter said...

To those involved: if you would like to continue a civil and polite discussion of the Ordinary Form-Extraordinary Form-Anglican Use forms of Liturgy, you can do so here.

Robert said...

Luke Ch 1 v28

"And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."

"And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, * the Lord is with you!"
RSVCE. Sounds more Roman Catholic to me!!. Than the NAB/NABRE.

When are they going to correct that verse in the NAB.

Peter said...

It is corrected in the revised Liturgical NAB NT. That begs the question, "why is the NABRE using the older 1986 NT revision instead of the newer Liturgical NT revision?"

I sure hope someone asks that question on the Facebook page, and I hope the question isn't dodged.

Timothy said...


I wish I had that answer as well.

Vince A said...

- I wish they instead called it RENAB :-)

- How do you say "NABRE" in spoken language?

Also, Timothy, is it possible to allow an RSS subscription to the comments in this blog? (Actually I know it's possible, but could you put one up? I miss a lot of the comments from past postings). Thanks.

Timothy said...


Will work on adding an RSS feed.

As for the NABRE name, I think of a comment someone made here harkening pack to Mr. Rogers: "Won't you be my NABRE.". :)

Mark in Spokane said...

At this stage, I think that the biggest blunder that the editors of the NABRE have made is deciding not to further revise the NT to conform to the version used in the lectionary. Most of the problematic aspects of the NAB NT as a translation -- the use of "holy Spirit," the lack of overt Catholic readings of key passages (like the angelic saluation in Luke), etc. -- are all corrected in the NAB lectionary revision.

What I am looking for in the OT revision is an improvement in the overall language, a lack of transpositions in the text (e.g., can we actually get a translation of the Hebrew text of Ezekel chapters 1, 8, 9, 10 and 11 rather than a scholarly "reconstruction" of what those chapters hypothetically looked like in the lost original Ur-text?), a more cautious rendering of hapexlegomina rather than either speculative renderings or omission of uncertain texts altogether (which is a major problem, IMHO in the current NAB text of Job), and use of language that allows (although not necessarily necessitates) a christological interpretation of key OT passages to shine through.

I am not expecting a perfect translation. No such thing exists. Even the venerable Douay translation has more than its fair share of clunky passages ("pisseth," etc.).

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to ask one of the OT translators about the inclusion of the NAB liturgical NT. He answered that since only the liturgical texts had been reworked and not the entire NT including them in the NABRE would eender the NT uneven as a translation.


Daniel said...

I'm looking forward to the revision and have never really understood the hostility some have for the NAB.

1) I've always loved the NAB notes. Are there some I might not agree with, sure, but the fact of the matter is that any full annotation of the Bible is not going to fully agree with my reading of every single text. What's important is that the overwhelming majority of the notes give the reader a fuller grasp of the scriptures meaning.

2) Regarding its use as a liturgical text. It's very clear that that what the church values in a lectionary is diametrically opposed to what the church values in Bible translation. Luke 1:28 for example, is properly translated in the current NAB (From the Greek critical text) while it is also properly translated in the current lectionary (From the Latin Vulgate). Bible translations are to be done from original languages while the liturgy is drawn from a much broader traditions of texts. I don't know of any translation that adopts all of Liturgiam Authenticam's peculiar demands regarding translation (Mandating certain transliteration of terms while forbidding the transliteration of others etc.).

We will always have two texts and I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, we have more than two translation texts.


Matt said...

I mentioned on the Facebook site that I would like to see it published without the commentary. I meant that regardless of what the commentary says, since it might be nice to actually have a center column reference NABRE with (perhaps?) some wide margins. I could see a publishing house like Oxford doing that.

Diakonos said...


I am thinking of the NABRE Little Rock Study Bible but I have no personal experience with the Little Rock program. Do you (or any of the readers) have this experience? It seems to have decent kudos from Catholics of the more "middle of the road" point of view. I am thinking that maybe the Little Rock material will help rectify weakness of many of the usual footnotes. I am hoping this is the case because I have been wanting to be able to get on the NAB wagon for a while since it is always the preferred edition for archdiocesan and parish courses.

Anonymous said...

@ Diakonos....I live in Texas and we use alot of the Little Rock Bible Study programs at our parrish. It is very well liked and seems very accurate. I use it alot at home for personal study also. I have already placed an order for the new Study Bible coming out in June as I do trust this company and like the samples I saw. I am looking forward to the NABRE as it is the primary bible used in all activities at our church. Sharon

Krystle said...


Yes I am Catholic, I have NAB and the NRSV versions as well... I was just saying that since the NABRE is coming out, I wish there would be a Study Bible or Devotional NABRE or any Catholic version for that matter that is compact, leather bound, and "eye-appealing" for a younger generation so-to-speak.

Timothy said...


Check out Oxford University Press, who will be publishing an NABRE with the notes/commentary at the back of each book and not on the main page:

Vince A said...

Placing notes at the back of the book works because the NAB (and NJB) have markers in the text to indicate that there is a note or cross-reference associated with that text. I love this feature (the markers).

The ICSBNT doesn't have these markers. I wish they'll put markers in the OT edition of the ICSB (I hope i got the acronym right: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)