Crisis Magazine. The article is a mixed bag, some of which I agree while other parts I do not. Mr. Weigel relies on an earlier essay by Baylor University's David Lyle Jeffrey entitled "Our Babel of Bibles" which can be read here from the March/April edition of Touchstone. Give time to both articles! I will just be focusing, in this post, on the Weigel piece.
Weigel's argument consists of decrying the lack of Biblical literacy among Catholics since Vatican II, even though this was one of the Council's main objectives. At first, the main reason for this, he argues, is the promotion of the historical-critical method in both the parish and the academy. As he says, "the historical-critical method of biblical study has taught two generations of Catholics that the Bible is too complicated for ordinary people to understand." I tend to agree that for many years since the 60's too much emphasis, particularly by pastors, has been focused only on the historical-critical analysis of the text, to the neglect of principles of interpretation as set forth in CCC 112-114. Yet, it must be pointed out that, as Pope Benedict wrote in the preface to Jesus of Nazareth, the historical-critical method is an "indispensable tool" for studying the Bible. Without a doubt, there have been excesses in how the historical-critical method has been utilized, as the Pope has mentioned on numerous occasion. However, it remains an important tool for scripture study, even with its limitations. The Church supports its use and the historical-critical method will not be going away any time soon.
Next up on Weigel's list is the New American Bible, which he refers to as "the pedestrian translation to which U.S. Catholic are subjected in the liturgy." For a moment, I though I was reading an article by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. We have had plenty of discussions about the NAB/NABRE on this blog, so I am not going to rehash my views about it. As I mentioned last year, I think the NABRE is a considerable improvement over the previous edition which allows it to stack up well against the RSV-CE in many ways. I wonder if he is even aware of the recent NABRE update, particularly with the improvements to the Psalter?
For the remainder of the article, Weigel follows very closely to Jeffrey's essay. He points out, and rightly so in my opinion, the proliferation of "niche" Bibles that are being published each year, like HarperOne's Green Bible or the Woman Thou Art Loosed edition. I might also point out the CS Lewis Bible, the American Patriot's Bible, or Joel Osteen's Hope for Today Bible. While I would agree that these are not necessary and my even be self-serving or simply money-making ventures, how am I to respond to some similar Catholic Bibles like the upcoming Saints Devotional Bible, the New Catholic Answers Bible, or even the CSSI Study Bible RSV-CE? There are certainly extremes, like the American Patriot's Bible, but is having various "niche" Bibles that focus on the Church Fathers or the Saints or Apologetics a bad thing? What about Youth Bibles?
Weigel, then, takes aim at the lack of traditional language found in many modern Bibles, most notably the Common English Bible. However, his complaint against the translation philosophy of the CEB, which avoids traditional terminology and classical English sentence structure as found in the KJV (or RSV), is actually represented in the NABRE, which he had previously panned earlier in the article. Just take a look at his example of Psalm 122:1 in the NABRE and the sacral vocabulary he promotes, both of which are typically found in the NABRE. Now, I am not saying the NABRE is identical to the RSV in this, but it is much closer to the RSV than the CEB.
Finally, Weigel concludes by writing: "My suggestion is to get yourself the Ignatius Press edition of the Revised Standard Version, and read it over and over again until its language works its way into the crevices of your mind and the texture of your prayer. Maybe, some day, we can hear that translation at Mass." A couple of thoughts immediately pop into my mind. First, yes! We need to read good versions of the Scriptures over and over again, so, I completely agree with him there. However, is the RSV-CE the only acceptable version for Catholics? Second, is Weigel aware of the RSV-2CE? Third, does sacral language mean using archaic English? Fourth, what are the benefits of memorizing the Holy Scriptures from a translation which will never likely be heard at a majority of English-speaking Catholic Masses? Remember, the NAB is not likely to change in the USA anytime soon, the NRSV is approved in Canada, and the ESV is being prepared for many of the remaining English-speaking countries.
HT: Reader Tim