Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NABRE Sneak Peek: Genesis 1

The NABRE Facebook site has just released the new NABRE's version of Genesis 1. You can see the entire first chapter of Genesis, as well as the commentary notes, here. My guess is that there will be considerable discussion on the decision to retain much of the original NAB language found in verses 1-2 and the use of "them" in verse 27. So, give it a read and let me know what you think! (Don't forget to look at the commentary notes as well.)

Below is the original NAB's version of Genesis 1 for reference:

1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." Thus evening came, and morning followed--the first day. 6 Then God said, "Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other." And so it happened: 7 God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. 8 God called the dome "the sky." Evening came, and morning followed--the second day. 9 Then God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear." And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. 10 God called the dry land "the earth," and the basin of the water he called "the sea." God saw how good it was. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it." And so it happened: 12 the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw how good it was. 13 Evening came, and morning followed--the third day. 14 Then God said: "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, 15 and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth." And so it happened: 16 God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was. 19 Evening came, and morning followed--the fourth day. 20 Then God said, "Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky." And so it happened: 21 God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw how good it was, 22 and God blessed them, saying, "Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth." 23 Evening came, and morning followed--the fifth day. 24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds." And so it happened: 25 God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. God saw how good it was. 26 Then God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground." 27 God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth." 29 God also said: "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 30 and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food." And so it happened. 31 God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed--the sixth day.

22 comments:

Theophrastus said...

I was a little surprised that the revised notes are so much more extensive than the existing notes.

I was even more surprised that the notes to Genesis 1:26 specifically teach away from the traditional Trinitarian interpretation of this verse and towards the traditional Jewish reading of the verse.

The tone of the notes here is considerably more scholarly (and in many ways, more difficult conceptually) than the earlier edition.

Anonymous said...

Fail.

BC

Timothy said...

Theophrastus,

Yes, one of the things that was said at the announcement was that the notes would be more expansive, which they seem to be so far. While I generally like the scholarly notes, I do hope there is more in the way of theological and canonical exegetical notes as well. One hopes that they remember that the average Catholic is the one who will be reading the NABRE.


BC,

I have to be honest and say that I am not sure about that rendering either. I am, however, waiting to read the whole revision before I make comments.

Francesco said...

The biggest change for me are these:

NAB v. NABRE
1) "saw how good it was" v. "saw that it was good"
2) "fixed times" v. "seasons"
3) "luminaries" v. "lights"
4) "shed light upon" v. "illuminate"
5) "cattle" v. "tame animals"
6) "make man in our image" v. "make human beings in our image"
7) v. 26

I think that the NABRE is better for 1), 2), 3), and 7), but that the NAB was better (or at least as good) for 4), 5), and 6).

Obviosly I write knowing only English and not Hebrew, so I can't judge if they improve things on the Hebrew end.

Going from "cattle" to "tame animals" kind of irks me a bit, but all the other changes seem minor to me. I'd prefer if this didn't re-ignite the genderless language debate, but I fear that we're going to have another skirmish in the translation wars when the full NABRE comes out next month.

rolf said...

Overall I think that there are some improvements as Francesco pointed out. Many will not like the NABRE because it is moving from having a non inclusive O.T. to an inclusive one (no matter how minor). I am glad that in v. 27 that the NABRE translated 'man' as 'mankind instead of 'humankind' (I word that I have never liked, it sounds so synthetic.)
I think one of the bigger improvements will be the quantity of notes in the O.T. which were lacking in the current O.T. Of course they are historical-critical in nature and there will be many that won't be happy with that. Overall, with the Psalms I think this is an improvement so far.

Francesco said...

Yes, I'm happy "mankind" was chosen over "humankind" or some other term. If "man" was unacceptable, then this is the lightest possible change they could have made.

Another change that improves things a bit (and that I missed earlier) is in v. 2: "formless wasteland" is now "without form or shape". This last change along with going from "how good it was" to "saw that it was good" are two things that sound better to me. Though going from "cattle" to "tame animals" seems to trivialize things a bit, I'm cautiously optimistic about the NABRE from what I've read.

Anonymous said...

* [1:26] Let us make: in the ancient Near East, and sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth (1 Kgs 22:19–22; Is 6:8; Ps 29:1–2; 82; 89:6–7; Jb 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). This scene accounts for the plural form here and in Gn 11:7 (“Let us then go down . . .”)

So glad to know that this construction has nothing to do with the Trintarian nature of God. It's just a construct of Ancient near east religions creeping into Hebrew creation myths. Very helpful comment for us Catholics to have.

BC

Timothy said...

BC,

Yes, I sort of shook my head a bit at that note. In particular, today I taught two sections of freshmen theology students that Genesis 1:26 was an Old Testament foreshadowing of the Trinity!

Anonymous said...

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

Genesis 1:26

"... God speaketh here in the plural number, to insinuate the plurality of persons in the Deity. (Challoner) --- Some of the ancient Jews maintained that God here addressed his council, the Angels; but is it probable that he should communicate to them the title of Creator, and a perfect similitude with himself? (Calmet) ..."

Anonymous said...

Buried at the end of a long footnote for verse two we find this:

A mighty wind: literally, “spirit or breath [ruah] of God”; cf. Gn 8:1.

if that is what the Hebrew literally says, then why not translate it that way in the text?

BC

Anonymous said...

Jerusalem Bible Commentary, 1966

Genesis 1:26 "God said, 'Let us* make man in our own image..."

"It is possible that this plural form implies a discussion between God and his heavenly court (the angels, cf. 3:5, 22); our text was thus understood by the Greek version (followed by Vulg.) of Ps 8:5 (quoted in Heb 2:7). Alternatively, the plural expresses the majesty and fullness of God's being; the common name for God in Hebrew is Elohim, a plural form. Thus the way is prepared for the interpretation of the Fathers who saw in this text a hint of the Trinity."

Anonymous said...

From what I've been reading so far, it looks like the NABRE will certainly be better than the NRSV-CE and the New Jerusalem Bible, but it won't be as good as the Douay-Rheims or RSV-CE/2CE. The UK bishops should adopt the NABRE for mass instead of the NRSV!

Diakonos said...

Can't Genesis 1:26 be BOTH a Hebrew form of thought or writing (discussing with the heavenly court) which was used by God because He knew that it would ALSO lend itself in this plural form as a "hinting" of the Trinity?

Theophrastus said...

BC: regarding your comment on verse 1:2 -- that is a comment carried over from the current edition of the NAB. Tim did not reproduce the original notes of the NAB, but you can find them here for now.

English has no word that simultaneously means "breath/wind" and "spirit". It is, in essence, an untranslatable pun in Hebrew

Theophrastus said...

It will be interesting to read NABRE passages from the Hebrew Bible and Deuterocanon that are often explicitly given Christological interpretations (e.g., many passages in the Isaiah and the other Prophets). The trend in most mainstream academic study Bibles (such as current editions of the New Oxford Annotated Bible) is to interpret the passages on their own terms rather than through later New Testament interpretations.

On the other hand, in the new cross-reference section, some New Testament cross references were given. Note that the selection seems quite strange -- for example, John 1:1 is usually cross-referenced from Genesis 1:1 -- but in this case, no such cross reference was given. It is quite odd because the current NAB notes to John 1:1 make a big deal out of the stylistic similarity of the two verses. It almost gives the perception that the editors of NABRE Genesis disagreed with their New Testament colleagues and felt the similarity was just accidental.

Hieronymopolis said...

Hello,

Thank you for posting this information about the NABRE. While everyone is focusing on the Revision of the Old Testament it would be good to take a look at the New Testament Version of 1986. I have done some comparative study between the New American Bible NT and the original Rhemes New Testament of 1582 and found some interesting discrepancies. I will leave it the reader to draw any conclusions from the data.

HOLY NAMES OF DIVINITY, WHOLE VERSES AND CERTAIN PHRASES Found in the Rhemes New Testament of 1582 BUT NOT FOUND in the New American Bible’s New Testament of 1986

Colleague said...

I think the NABRE note concerning Gen 1:26 is being blown way out of proportion already. It says that "God was imagined" as operating in conjunction with other heavenly beings (not necessarily other gods) who decided matters on the earth. From my own reading of ANE texts and other Old Testament commentaries: yes, God was imagined as such for a time.

I think the problem is that the average Catholic requires all Bibles which bear an imprimatur to have notes which are strictly spiritually edifying, having little to no regard for historical data. There are plenty of other Bibles and books which state the developed understanding of God's plenitude and Trinitarian nature. Simply because it is intended solely for Catholics, I don't think the NABRE is required to fit into this niche. I see nothing conflicting with the note at Gen 1:26 as it is in the NABRE and a later developed Christian understanding of the "us" as Trinitarian.

Anonymous said...

How did we get the Bible? From the people of God, who wrote it in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, which in their ancient forms are now extinct. They subsequently translated into ancient Greek.
The people of God in the New Testament are the Church, who, empowered with the gift of speaking and interpreting unknown tongues, made inspired translations into Greek and Latin.
What do we have with the NABRE? "Scholars" who do not know the original languages making translations of the Bible from Frankenstein manuscripts based on the current understanding of the original languages which is derived from secular texts.
I am not opposed to scholarship by any means, but scholarship should not override what has been established by the Holy Church, especially in regards to the Holiest Book that ever has been and ever will be.
And in regards to the notes, if any Bible has notes that detract, distort, or disclaim ANY established truth given to us by our Holy Mother Church, they are not fit to be bound together with the precious Word of God.

Hieronymopolis said...

While everyone is focused upon the NABRE Old Testament it would be worthwhile to take a look at the New American Bible's New Testament of 1986. I have done some comparative studies between the original Rhemes New Testament of 1582 and the NAB's NT of 1986 and found some interesting discrepancies.

HOLY NAMES OF DIVINITY, WHOLE VERSES AND CERTAIN PHRASES Found in the Rhemes New Testament of 1582 BUT NOT FOUND in the New American Bible’s New Testament of 1986

http://hieronymopolis.wordpress.com/

Theophrastus said...

Colleague: You write "because [the NABRE] is intended solely for Catholics".

This is most certainly not true! In fact, one need not look hard for this evidence; it is clearly stated in the NAB's Preface.:

The New American Bible has accomplished this in response to the need of the church in America today. It is the achievement of some fifty biblical scholars, the greater number of whom, though not all, are Catholics. In particular, the editors-in-chief have devoted twenty-five years to this work. The collaboration of scholars who are not Catholic fulfills the directive of the Second Vatican Council, not only that "correct translations be made into different languages especially from the original texts of the sacred books," but that, "with the approval of the church authority, these translations be produced in cooperation with separated brothers" so that "all Christians may be able to use them."

In fact, the NAB is actively used by non-Catholics: for example, the 1970 NAB has canonical status in the Episcopal Church USA (see Canon II.2). The NAB shows up in any number of parallel Bibles aimed at a general (not necessarily Catholic) audience, such as the (Oxford) Precise Parallel New Testament and the (Oxford) Complete Parallel Bible.

However, it is likely the case that the average English-speaking American Catholic who looks for a "Catholic" Bible will be most likely to come across the NABRE. Do you think these notes are good for a reader who lacks a college education? Do you think these notes are good for a reader who wants to engage in lectio divina?

And how is the reader to interpret the notes? Is he to understand these notes (for example, their declaration of the documentary hypothesis as being absolutely correct) as being dogma of the Magisterium? Universally accepted scholarly opinion? Or will he correctly understand that these notes to be views of particular editors or particular schools of biblical study -- views that can fade in and out of fashion.

Anonymous said...

Theophrastas,

To be fair, I think you make too much of TEC's approval of the NAB 1970. It is worth noting that the Canon lists 13 approved versions by name (most of which are never actually used, some of which have never been heard of.) Then the Canon tosses in a blanket statement which could cover just about anything a parish or diocese might want. But the actual usage has been almost exclusively KJV, RSV and NRSV with the Evangelicals opting for the NIV and lately the ESV. As a former Episcopalian, I doubt 10 Episcopalians anywhere even know the NAB 1970 is approved or would care to use it - not that they could as even the Catholic Church no longer uses or prints it.

In reality, adoption of the NAB 1970, the JB and the NJB were more likely ecumenical gestures of the previous generation of leaders, and was not a sober assessment of the quality of the NAB 1970. To be blunt, the ECUSA, as it was then known, never intended anyone to use the NAB any more than they expected their people to run out and purchase the NEB or the REB or, worse, the ASV.

If you want to correct Colleague, I think you should produce evidence of actual use among Protestants rather than one very low key tacit approval buried deep in a blanket Canon of(P)ECUSA/TEC.

Brad

Colleague said...

Theophrastus:

I know that the NAB is still the standard text given to American candidates and catechumen as the final part of the Rite of Acceptance (part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), but it has been my observation that American Catholics are increasingly preferring texts such as the RSV or Douay-Rheims. It can be argued that this is due to a dissatisfaction with the NAB, which is in part true but which ultimately finds its basis in the increasing trend of evangelicalism in the Church and an explicit need to identify one's self as unabashedly Catholic. As such, many evangelicals find most scholarly consensus to be in the same league as The Jesus Seminar, unable to distinguish between the names and books of prominent Catholics engaged in debate with the agnostic-secularism of the Seminar. Thus, anything that isn't written by Scott Hahn or Curtis Mitch is considered suspect.

My point is not to defend the NAB(RE)'s footnotes as suitable for all persons at all times. As somebody who was once confused by the footnotes, I clearly recognize the fact that most average Catholics without a college education would not be able to read the footnotes in a manner loosely-affiliated with the Magisterium or be able to recognize a hypothesis when they see it; however, as the late prominent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown once observed, the Magisterium has actually made far fewer official pronouncements on the meaning of specific texts than vice versa. Furthermore, from what I've observed in my extended use of the NAB, the footnotes are completely in line with these specific announcements, where applicable, as well as the guidelines set forth by the Pontifical Biblical Commission concerning biblical interpretation, and even the statements of the Catechism itself. For what it's worth, the ideological trendiness of the footnotes is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes actual scholarly discussion. For instance, the footnotes stay clear of any discussion linking Mark 12 to Egyptian viticultural practices. Now, I am no professor nor am I a seminarian, but in my conversations with both current biblical scholars and seminarians the topics covered by the NAB(RE) footnotes are hardly as scandalous as some people might make them out to be.