One of the things I do when I am preparing for a lecture for the CBSM class I teach is to compare the major translations as much as possible. This often means looking at the RSV, NRSV, and NABRE. This week, I am giving a summary lecture on the book of Leviticus. I am sure many of you know the old joke about those who desire to read the whole Bible in one year starting on January 1, but stopping completely in February after reaching Leviticus. However, while perhaps the experience for some, its unfortunate because Leviticus is an important book, not only for understanding Jewish worship, but also for coming into a more profound understanding of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. You cannot fully understand a book like Hebrews, unless you have spent some serious time reading and meditating on Leviticus. But before you begin a study of Leviticus, make sure to have a good commentary or study Bible while doing it. I would highly recommend Oxford's Jewish Study Bible and the Catholic Study Bible. Both are fantastic resources!
This brings me to Leviticus 3, which describes the third offering prescribed by God through Moses. (Please note that Leviticus 7:11-36 goes into more detail about the three different types of this offering.) Depending on the translation, the Hebrew word shelamim may be translated in a number of different ways. Often, it is referred to in English as the Peace Offering, which is followed most notably by the RSV. Some scholars prefer this due to the closeness to the Hebrew word shalom. However, the NRSV and JPS translations prefer to go with Well-Being Offering, which is connected to the idea of peace. Lastly, the NABRE (and the NJB) went with Communion Offering. So which one is better?
In this offering, a herd animal was brought to the sanctuary, divided into several parts with the fatty portions being placed on the fires of the altar and given to God. A choice portion was given to the priest, while the remainder was returned to the offerer and his family to be eaten. It seems that his type of offering was the most common. The note in the NJB gives a good indication as to why it was so popular: "In early times, this sacrifice was the most common and formed the central rite at festivals, being the most perfect way of expressing the communal life, covenantal bond and fellowship existing between the worshipper and his God." In addition, the note found in the JSB points out: "Well-being offerings are thus the natural expression of gladness, the worshipper celebrating by feasting in the presence of God in acknowledgment of His loving-kindness (210)." Finally, Fr. Lawrence Boadt, who died last year, insisted in his introduction to Leviticus in the CSB that our understanding of the Eucharist is greatly enhanced by what we find in Leviticus.
So, with that brief background I provided, both of the Hebrew term and the ritual of the shelamim offering/sacrifice, which English translation better captures the intended meaning?