Tuesday, May 22, 2012

3 Things I Would Change in the NABRE

As I stated back in January, this year I am devoting the majority of my devotional and study of the Bible with the newly revised NABRE.  So far, it has been going very well.  I have enjoyed my reading of the NABRE and have been impressed by many of the improvements found in the OT.  My reading of the NABRE has been enhanced recently with the publication of the HarperOne NABRE, which I think is fantastic.  If you are looking for an NABRE readers edition, this one should be at the top of your wish list.

As I have mentioned on this blog before, one cannot truly appreciate the positive and negative features of a translation until one actually commits himself to reading large portions of it.  It has been immensely helpful, therefore, to spend this time observing how particular words are translated from book to book in the NABRE, as well as how the translators worked on larger portions of narrative and/or poetic writings.  This has given me a greater insight into what the translators tried to accomplish with this revision.  The publication of the textual notes to the NABRE will also be very helpful.  Hopefully this will occur at some point this year.

With that being said, I have been thinking about three simple, and quick, ways in which the NABRE could be improved.  This is, of course, just my perception as to what would make the NABRE better.  The three are not meant to be comprehensive, nor drastic in scope, but rather fairly simple "editing" that could be done in a future edition without much effort or expense.  (The quality of the notes is not a major point of this post.)

Here are the three:

1) In Luke 1:28, return to the traditional translation of Kecharitomene  as "full of grace".  A number of the modern Catholic and Ecumenical translations (JB, NJB, RSV, NRSV) all go with something close to the "hail favored one" of the NAB.  The only ones, since since the 1960's, that have the traditional rendering are the RSV-CE, RSV-2CE, and the CCB.  Now one could certainly make an argument that the current NAB rendering is not wrong, which I agree with.  However, the translation of "full of grace" is proper and preferred IMHO.  I am also convinced that the NABRE would win over a number of converts by simply making this change.  (See this article by Msgr. Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington to see what I mean.)  The Lectionary, which uses an adapted NAB, already has made the change.  The way it is now, the current NABRE rendering not only is different than what is heard at Mass, but it also differs from one of the most popular prayers in all of Catholicism: The Hail Mary.  Of course, devotion to Our Lady is important to me personally, but I think this change would be appreciated by a number of others. 

 2) Get rid of the Netherworld!  Not literally of course, like limbo, but the way in which the Greek term hades is translated in Matthew 16:18 and elsewhere in the NT.  Translate the term more precisely and consistently as "Hades", as found in the NRSV and RSV-2CE.  I have never liked the term "the netherworld" and would prefer to see hades translated more consistently as such.  For example, the NAB does translate it "Hades" in the three instances it is found in the Book of Revelation (6:8, 20:13, 20:14).  In addition, the new NABRE translation of Tobit, which uses the Greek Sinaiticus as its textual base, also translated it as "Hades" in Tobit 4:19.  Having two different English terms translate the same place in Greek differently can be confusing to some people.

3) This last one is calling for a bit more consistency between the OT and NT.  First off, as mentioned in previous posts, there are notes in the NT which indicate the way the original NAB OT translates a particular term that does not match up with the revised NABRE OT.  An example of this is found in the note for Matthew 5:3.  There are a few of these scattered throughout the NT, which really should be updated.  Also, there are some additional inconsistencies, like donkey/ass, abandoned/forsaken (Psalm 22), and the use of "body" instead of "flesh" as found in Genesis 2:24 that could be fixed.  That last one, in particular, always bugs me when I read the text Genesis 2:28, but even more so when I look at the note for that verse in Genesis and more specifically in Matthew 19:4-6 , which actually states that "the NAB translation of the Hebrew basar of Gen. 2:24 as "body" rather than "flesh" obscures the reference of Matthew to that text."  That should have been fixed in the updated NABRE OT.


Dan Z said...

1 - Agree 100%

2 - No, "hades" is a pre-Christian concept from Greek-Roman mythology. Use "hell" or stick with "netherworld".

3 - Agree.

rolf said...

Timothy, I agree with those and would add Isaiah 7:14, I would change 'young woman' back to 'virgin' not because 'young woman' is an incorrect translation but because of Catholic tradition. It was translated 'virgin' for centuries prior to 2010/2011. It has been 'virgin' in the Septuagint, and in English from the D-R through the Contfraternity bible and even in modern times by the 1970 NAB. It is a part of Catholic identity (along with 'full of grace'). It is such a dividing point among Catholics (not me, I will still use the NABRE) that the change based upon all the prior mentioned factors should not have been made. When a word or sentence can be translated in two different ways (in which both are correct), then I think that Catholic tradition should be a deciding factor. Why? because the NABRE is a Catholic bible. Just my humble opinion!

Theophrastus said...

I think that comparing the 1986 NT NAB with 2011 OT NABRE is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. True, they are printed together, but there are obvious and numerous stylistic discontinuities between them (which, I might add, is often true of translations of the Hebrew Bible versus Koine Greek Deuterocanon and New Testament -- the former usually being in elevated literary language and the latter being in a more common vernacular language). I do agree with you that at least the notes in the NAB NT should have been updated, though.

(1) I think the current translation of Luke 1:28 has the virtue of much greater accuracy in terms of matching the Greek text (as opposed to the Vulgate text). However, note that even in the Vulgate text, it does not match the traditional "Hail Mary" prayer because Mary's name does not appear in Luke 1:28. Thus, for example, the Douay-Rheims-Challoner has "Hail, full of grace." In any case, given the traditional Catholic exegesis of this verse, the NAB could have included a note here explaining its decision.

(2) I agree with you regarding "netherworld" in Matthew 16:18, although I do note that there is a note that explains the term. (We sometimes complain about the NAB/NABRE notes, but in places like this, they are extremely useful.) However, I do think that the translation of Matthew 16:18 has some advantages in correcting the misunderstanding of many that Hades means the same thing as the Christian hell (which it certainly is not, especially in Matthew 16:18). The reference you give to Tobit 4:19 is somewhat confusing since "recesses of Hades" is closer in meaning to "hell." A better comparison would be to Tobit 3:10.

Hans said...

I would change "oracle of the Lord" back to any other option, though I am partial to "thus says the Lord." It may be more accurate, but I'd have treated this as a footnote because it is so difficult for me to read. Sadly, my relatively frequent reading of the prophets and dislike for this phrase sort of shot my enthusiasm for this translation...

Jonny Polk said...

Here is the NABRE I like best so far:


This was originally a "words of Christ in red" Bible, but now as the "revised edition" it has all black letters. It has the cut-out index thumb tabs, and is sewn-bound in a nice looking black bonded leather, very thin and portable, but I don't think the maps are quite extensive as in the Harper One version.

My primary Bibles for study and devotions are the Challoner D-R and the Haydock, but since the NABRE was released, I have been steadily using it more and more as a secondary source of reference. There are a lot of interesting and informative notes in it, as well as useful cross-references including the Deutro books. Since I don't have a Kindle, my elecronic D-R/NABRE from Royal comes in handy often.

Chrysostom said...

Speaking of Kindles, I just ordered mine a few days ago since I got a coupon to get a refurb (with full 1-year warranty, doubled by my Discover card - AmEx and higher levels of MasterCards and Visas [Signatures, I believe] also have the warranty-doubling feature, along with price protection and a whole lot of fringe benefits besides cash back) for $49. I'll have to see how I like it.

I've pretty much dumped the NAB/RE entirely, using, as Jonny, the Haydock for my primary Bible for study, the NCPB as my primary reading Bible, and referring to the NRSV 4th Ed. NOAB for any case in which one would refer to the NAB/RE for textual questions - I find the NRSV NOAB to be more consistent, more accurate, more fully annotated, and far more up-to-date - along with the NJBC, and a range of multiple-volume commentaries (i.e. Sacra Pagina, Anchor, Hermeneia, ICC, NIGNT, BECNT) instead, for those situations.

I reiterate my statement that whatever the NABRE does, for the type of Bible it attempts to be (which is schizophrenic at times, and largely out of date throughout, even in the 2011 OT), the NRSV NOAB does better, and a text- or historical-critical commentary does even better.

Anonymous said...

The Westminster Translation of the Scripture and the Spencer New Testament, Catholic translations from the Greek, read full of grace.

The root word of Kecharitomene is charitoo which means 'to grace'. The prefix and suffix indicate a fullness or completeness.

When people read favor,do they think of divine favor or simply favor as in the modern generic sense?

I highly agree that the NAB needs full of grace BUT also for you have found grace with God. I find it weird that the RSVCE says Mary is full of grace, then that she has found favor 2 verses later.

Full of grace for the NAB will be a help but many will still despair at the notes.

Mark in Spokane said...

It needs more traditional wording on key points. Isaiah 7:14, "full of grace" in Luke, and "Holy Spirit" instead of the current "holy Spirit." Yes, in the KJV and original Douay Bible the term "holy Spirit" is used, but they also used the term "Holy Ghost" when referring unambiguously to the 3rd member of the Holy Trinity. Since modern translations have dispensed with the phrase "Holy Ghost," it would be helpful if the traditional (since the 1920s) term "Holy Spirit" would be used, rather than the Goodspeed-NABRE "holy Spirit."