Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Semi-Regular Weekly Poll

Which is the best translation for study?

  • RSV
  • NRSV
  • NAB(RE)
  • NJB
  • Douay-Rheims


More polls: Låna pengar


Chrysostom said...

Out of that list, RSV. Douay-Rheims is my personal favorite from the list and has its uses, but its place in many kinds of study are limited by its Vulgate textual basis.

Non-literal or formal translations are useless for any kind of actual study, and the NJB is a prime example of "how not to do a literal translation". The NRSV has its own problems in going far beyond the text in some passages, and translating what's not even there, although, it is, in parts, fairly literal (and is the mainstream scholarly standard, which, sadly, says a lot about the state of Biblical scholarship).

The NAB is just useless, although the NT of it, especially the older one, is literal. For study, it's just a poor choice: there are too many other contenders for it to make a good showing - so many contenders that flaws such as terrible prose and poetry can be considered. The old NAB Psalms were written by a poet who couldn't scan and two illiterate Hebraists. The NABRE is an improvement, although still not equal to an RSV, nor, do I believe, the NRSV.

I'd rank them as follows:
1. RSV
2. DRC
4. NAB
5. NJB

The NJB may have its uses - but I can think of nothing it is more ill-fitted for that intensive study of Scripture, being about as fitted to the task as the New Living Translation.

Of course, for intensive study in English translation, no Bible currently on the market can beat the NASB, with the ESV, KJV (for the traditional NT text, of which I am a partisan), and NETS (LXX) following closely behind.

Chrysostom said...

Erratum: I have since found out the old NAB Psalms were actually written by a master of doggerel and poor fiction, an illiterate Hebraist, and a gender theorist. Apologies to the second illiterate Hebraist who I maligned by associating with the project.

Jonny said...

I did vote for the Douay-Rheims, but admittedly my vote was biased by my preference for the translation, as well as the Haydock Bible being my primary study Bible of choice. I am not sure that there will ever be any study Bible to match the Haydock... whenever I have theological questions I turn to its extensive notes, when I need Scripture references about a specific topic I turn to the massive dictionary in the back. I am also making my third or fourth round in praying the D-R Psalms out loud in family prayer time, and I must say that they are by far my favorite even beyond the KJV, RSV, and Grail Psalters.

I am aware that the more recent versions often follow (more or less) the "King James tradition" in interpretation, and the RSV seems to be choice in that category among many studious, outspoken Catholics. This would be my second choice, and although I use the NOAB RSV frequently, I often find that the Ignatius RSV's cross reference system is even handier when looking at Old/New Testament parallels. I also recommend using a laminated booklet from Rose Publishing with any Bible for maps, charts, and timelines:


Having this is a huge help to look at the text and map at the same time, and it has a transparent page that overlays showing where the modern day counties are in relation.

Timothy said...


You bring up the important issue of study tools. While the actual translation is important, it is also helpful, IMHO, to have things like concordances, dictionaries, commentaries and the such keyed to one's particular translation of choice.

Biblical Catholic said...

I am actually of the opinion that the NAB New Testament is among the best modern English New Testaments currently in print...it's the NAB OT that has problems...

Anonymous said...

CTS Pocket New Testament and Psalms

Chrysostom said...

Tim was one who convinced me to take a look past my own bile and read, more objectively, the NAB NT, without letting its association with the NAB OT and Psalms color my view of it. Admittedly, it is much better than the NAB OT, and has a few shining renderings (the rendering of "ego eimi" being the one that comes to mind, and which was pointed out to me), and no absolutely terrible renderings, although it misses the Angelic Salutation, and, I'm not sure if it says, "it is better to marry than to burn [with passion]", the "with passion" part not being in the original Greek, and losing a pun of St Paul's that carries over in to English.

Jonny said...

I am just wondering if anyone else senses a disconnect between the theology presented in the NAB(RE) notations, and those that have been commonly held sacred throughout the history of the Church?

There are many often cited differences in the translation itself, and also the often noted tendency of the NAB(RE) notes to dissect the text or treat it as it were a fictional book written solely by human authors (perhaps textual criticism misunderstood due to a lack of spiritual connection in the notes?) I will spare the reader in listing many of these places, but I wanted to offer this one example of what I have come across in my studies.

I was looking at a reference to respond to a Jehovah's Witness in regards to their belief that the Holy Trinity is a fabrication. The ultimate proof text for the JW in the conversation was Mark 13:32, and I remembered the Haydock D-R had two excellent explanations as to why Jesus said the Son did not know the time of the Parousia:

"But how can the Son be ignorant of that last day? Were this the case, we must thence conclude that his nature was imperfect: since he was under the necessity of a second coming, and yet was ignorant when that time should be. But we must remember, that the meaning of this sentence is not, that Christ was really ignorant of this circumstance, but only that it was not then a convenient time to disclose the secret. (St. Augustine) --- Not as if Christ were ignorant himself, as certain Eutychian heretics, called Agnoitæ, held; but because he knew it not as our teacher, to teach it others, as being not expedient. (St. Ambrose, de fide, lib. v. chap. viii.) --- The Son of God is ignorant of this day, not according to his divinity, which sees and knows all things; but according to his humanity, which does not know it of itself, of its own light, but by revelation which is made to it by the divinity, which is intimately united to it. In naturâ quidem divinitatis novit, says St. Gregory, non ex naturâ humanitatis. See St. Matthew xxiv. 36.

I then decided out of random curiosity to reference the NABRE on this verse. The Mark reference proved unhelpful, as it basically reiterated the text, so I looked at the parallel in Matthew 24:36:

21 [36-44] The statement of Matthew 24:34 is now counterbalanced by one that declares that the exact time of the parousia is known only to the Father (Matthew 24:36), and the disciples are warned to be always ready for it. This section is drawn from Mark and Q (cf Luke 17:26-27, 34-35; 12:39-40).

22 [36] Many textual witnesses omit nor the Son, which follows Mark 13:32. Since its omission can be explained by reluctance to attribute this ignorance to the Son, the reading that includes it is probably original.

I was shocked when I read this in the NABRE, because it seems to support the view of the Jehovah's Witness that Jesus is not God, but merely a created being with a different spirit!

Nor does the NABRE seem to align itself with a more precise declaration of the nature of the Trinity according to the new catechism... here is a key reading therein:

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity."83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God."

I think Catholics need one official Bible with notations, not originating from a local conference of Bishops, but one diligently assembled from a Latin master under the direction of the Holy See. Catholics need a Bible that officially explains the Scripture from a genuinely Catholic perspective (as far as that is possible,) and not just someone’s rambling opinions stamped with a generic imprimatur! A good Catholic Holy Bible should offer encouragement and not doubt, and lead the reader to have a personal encounter with Christ in the Holy Catholic Church.

Biblical Catholic said...

The marginal notes in the NAB are, by and large, atrocious, I think everyone here can agree with that

Francesco said...

A "Holy See Edition" of the Bible already, exists sort of. It can be found on the Vatican's website. You can also download a program from the Congregation for the Clergy that offers useful resources like commentary from the Church Fathers; magisterial documents from various popes, councils, and catechisms; and various versions of the Roman Missal (pre- and post-Vatican II). Its mulch-lingual, so if you wanted it in Latin or French or whatever, it is there.

Given how much anguish the new translation of the mass has caused, I shudder to think of what a Roman "Authorized Version" would do the Church and Christianity.

Francesco said...

Yuck! "already exists, sort of" and "multilingual".

Jonny said...


Thanks so much for the links. The Vatican's website simply has the New American Bible with notes and the Nova Vulgata with no notes, and I was already aware of these. I was not aware of the Congregation for the Clergy website, and that one I think will prove to be very useful to me. The english Bible used there is the RSV-CE. You look up your Scripture reference, and click the "comment" icon to view a wide assortment of related commentary, from ancient to modern!

Before I converted to the Catholic Church, I did not appreciate the commentary available in study Bibles. Now, I see how important, if not essential, it is to be there, especially in a world that is infected with heresy and false religion. There are so many false teachers that devour the families of our loved ones with pride, greed, and self-righteousness! I have seen it! These poor souls hang on in blind faith because they want to serve Jesus, but are led astray by people who malign the meaning of God's Word. I am not referring to all non-Catholics by this, I am referring to everyone who takes Scripture out of context and uses it abusively for their own ends.

It would be wonderful if a non-Catholic could go to any decent bookstore or library, and get a Catholic Bible in contemporary english that focused on explaining the faith as brought to us by the Holy Spirit, through the Magesterium and Sacred Tradition, in its deeper meanings regarding the Church and Sacraments. I am especially referring to how Christ, our Blessed Mother, and the Church with her apostolic priesthood fulfilled the shadow of things to come in the Old Testament typology. I am aware of the forthcoming Ignatius Study Bible, and although I don’t agree with all of the notes, I think it is a step in the right direction.

I didn't see the new translation of the Missal as something painful, but I took it in with great excitement after much anticipation. An official Bible with commentary from the Vatican could be nothing less than a labor of love, helping many to grow in lucid understanding and appreciation of the Holy Scriptures. For now, the Douay Rheims and Haydock Bibles will suffice because they are most equipped for apologetics and evangelism, and draw most heavily upon the wisdom of the Magesterium and Church Fathers, but it is sad that they do not reach the hands of those who need most it as readily as an NAB.

Biblical Catholic said...

There will never ever ever be 'an official Bible with notes by the Vatican' because that is not the job of the Church.....to publish 'an official Bible' would be to create 'an official text' of the Bible...putting Church authority and Church infallibility on the line to try to decide questions of textual criticism is a really bad idea even if one were to grant that Church infallibility could apply to such questions in the first place it would be wildly imprudent....

The Church does not tell us how to interpret every verse of the Bible...that just isn't how the magestrium works...

Jonny said...

Biblical Catholic:

There is not or has never been an official Catholic translation of the Bible? If the Vulgate or Nova Vulgata do not qualify as "official" to you, then perhaps you misunderstood what I meant. By "official" I simply meant an approved version of both Testaments in a common language, but not to officially state that it is a perfect representation of the original texts, or even that it is un-revisable. To do so, as you say, would be very imprudent.

There would be many benefits to having both Testaments translated in consideration of a standard Latin edition, especially when so many other foundational documents (catechism, liturgy, encyclicals) also are translated into vernacular in consideration of a common Latin master. But even more than an updated Latin version, I would like to see an official set of Biblical notes in Latin, to be included with any Bible translation. As Biblical Catholic has implied, the Church has not been given an official interpretation for every single verse of Scripture, yet there are many books, chapters, and verses in which she has proliferous, infallible wisdom in Magesterium, as well as a rich history of commentary of the great saints and doctors of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church already uses both of these resources in an official capacity to interpret Sacred Scripture, and to utilize Sacred Scripture to expound and reinforce the Magesterium. It is this wisdom that I would like to see in a set of Bible notes. The problem with study notes in some Catholic Bibles (besides questionable content in the first place) is the fact that the notes are often stated as fact when indeed they are just theories, or current popular opinion. To have such things in print with the word “Catholic” stamped on the cover can be a calumnious misrepresentation of the Church and the God who is her Head, even with the disclaimer of the imprimatur in the front. In short, I am saying there is room for something much better, and ultimately, having that official approval is intrinsic to that being possible.

I know that I am a dreamer, and may not see something of that magnitude in my lifetime, but what about in 2 or 3 thousand years from now? When I look at how much the Church has grown in her first two millennia in the way of Biblical studies and Catechesis on the printed page, I do not, least of all, expect her to be stagnant in the next up and coming!

There is one other Catholic Bible currently available, that I neglected to mention, that focuses on bringing the heart and mind of the Church to the reader’s attention. The St. Benedict Press “First Communion Gift Edition” of the Challoner Douay Rheims has a modest assortment of beautiful, full color glossy inserts that display the basics of Catholic faith and devotion. I gave one to an atheist coworker who was interested in reading a “Catholic” version of the Bible to gain a basic understanding of how the Catholic Church interprets the Scriptures. This one, albeit labeled a First Communion edition, was a perfect fit for him!

Biblical Catholic said...

That's just not how the Church works....contrary to myth, the Church is not an authoritarian, autocratic top down organization, producing translations and notes is the job of the local ordinary....and the Church does not want to impose a particular interpretation from on high....the Church prefer rather than the job of interpretation, historical criticism and whatnot be done by the theologians, by the Biblical and such....

To publish an official commentary would be to impose restrictions upon scholarly study of the Bible....which the Church doesn't want to....

The magisterium steps in primarily to settle disputes when they have raged out of control or threaten the Church. and even when the Church does provide an 'official interpretation' all she really does is just say 'such and such an interpretation is wrong', she doesn't say 'this one interpretation is the only possible right one', all she says is 'you can't say this verse means x if by it you mean to deny some important doctrine' beyond that the Church only sets down general guidelines, not definitive interpretations as such.

In addition, it's just impractical, there would be no one who could do it, the hierarchy themselves are much too busy, the task is too large....it is best left to the local ordinaries.

But there are plenty of locally produced Bible that do what you suggest, such as the Navaree Bible....but there will never be a universal one...

Chrysostom said...

"The St. Benedict Press “First Communion Gift Edition” of the Challoner Douay Rheims has a modest assortment of beautiful, full color glossy inserts that display the basics of Catholic faith and devotion."

I have the burgundy hardcover SBP "Confirmation Edition" (with gilt edges and square corners), which I believe is identical, except it contains a page each with the basic stories of Ss Maria Goretti and John Bosco.

Its print is a bit small, is the only problem - that and the fact that it's formatted in the archaic, Geneva Bible style (the original KJV was paragraphed); the much expanded typeface as present in the Haydock Bible makes the formatting a little less annoying, although it still makes the Psalms nigh unreadable.

Chrysostom said...

And the Navarre Bible would have been nigh-perfect in textual terms if it had used a better English text.

In formatting terms, it could have been improved by dropping the Latin from each page and putting it in a separate volume (it's too small to read anyways, and takes up too much space), reconfiguring the layout of the page (especially the notes) according to the guidelines of Jan Tschischold's "Asymmetric Typography" (or, at least making the notes smaller font than the text itself; the notes have a "choppy" feeling reading them because of the large font combined with narrow column), which would have cut about 2 volumes off out of the 10-volume set (4 volumes if you count the Latin).

In places, the Navarre presents historical critical theories poorly, but, on the whole, does it far better than the NAB/RE; what's sad, is, beyond even the weak support for some of these theories, the ones that are presented in even the New Oxford Annotated Bible are a decade or more out of date (see the essay, "Farewell to the Yahwist"), as JEDP-redactive-theory has long been deprecated for some theory or the other, whether it be the fragmentary, the additive, the redactive with different sources that are harder to define, etc.

Biblical scholars at long last realized that (to simplify), one can't identify the authors of the Pentateuch based on which word they use for "God" and that alone, and realized additionally that the redactor/s would not have been as stupid as JEDP-redactor theory requires them to be.

Chrysostom said...

I just looked at the poll again, and am decently surprised to find that my ranking in the first post is identical to the ranking given by The People in voting as well. I suppose I'm not so out-of-touch as I thought.

Chrysostom said...

Again, let me apologize: not "Asymmetric Typography", but Tschischold's "Form of the Book".

Biblical Catholic said...

The Navarre doesn't address historical critical criticism at all...so I guess that would be pretty poor if that is what you were looking for...

Chrysostom said...

Historical criticism integrates poorly into the Biblical text; if you want historical criticism, buy the relevant Hermeneia or Anchor Bible volume, or the New Jerome Commentary.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

"Biblical Catholic" raises some importnt considerations about the magisterium and our Catholic approach to "the Bible". We will continue to publish short works about specific issues. We will not publish a Bible which is also a theology book. We would just publish the theology book. That is probably an approach quite different from that which would occur in other Christian churches. We have not been a "sola Scriptura" group. So it follows that not everything begins and ends with the Bible. And some things that concern the Bible, we would simply publish separately. No, it isn't a terribly "logical" approach. But we like it and have found it both reasonable (our reasonable) and functional, again, for the reasons "Biblical Catholic" suggested already.