Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition

"As for the souls of the just, they're in the hands of God; the torment of death never lays a finger on them.  In the eyes of the not-so-just, the just seem to have died and gone to hell; but such affliction as they may have suffered was merely their exit fee from this world to the next.  Their departure was misinterpreted as their demise; in reality they're at peace.  Yes, the just suffer as much as the unjust during the death process; but their passage is full of hope and the promise of immortality." --Wisdom 3:1-4 (The Message)

I was very excited to finally receive a hardcover copy of ACTA's newly released The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition.  I have reported on this publication since it was announced earlier in the year.  If you would like to read an interview I did with Gregory Pierce, President and Co-Publisher of ACTA Publications, go here.  I am sure you will find many of your questions answered in that interview.  

ACTA's description:

Now for the first time and exclusively from ACTA Publications, The
Message features the deuteroncanonical books translated by William
Griffin in The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition. Including the
books of Judith, Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and
additions to Esther and Daniel, all translated in the same
contemporary American-idiomatic paraphrased style as the other
editions of The Message.

Eugene Peterson's The Message is a fresh, compelling, insightful,
challenging, faith-filled translation of the Bible into contemporary
idiomatic American English and is first and foremost a reader's Bible.
Eugene Peterson and William Griffin (translator of the
deuterocanonical books) have made the Scriptures come alive again by
translating them in a way that people can understand what God is
trying to say to us today.

This Bible is meant to be read. The Message is not meant to be a
substitute for your other bible translations. It is meant to sit next
to them where you can pick it up and simply start reading. We hope it
will send you back to your other translations with new insight and

William Griffin translated the Deuterocanonical portions straight from the Nova Vulgata, which might makes it one of the only English translations from that Latin text.  I am working on getting connected with Mr. Griffin to talk to him about that process, so stay tuned.  Of course, Eugene Peterson's translation is what is found, unchanged, for the remainder of the books.  

In regards to the product itself, as with almost all editions of The Message that I have seen in the past, this text is arranged in a single-column format.  For a more idiomatic Bible like this, it really has to be.  Each page is very readable and the verse numbering, arranged by paragraph, are placed on the margins of the text.  The text looks and feels like The Message, which is a good thing. Each biblical book is preceded by a short introduction, including the Deuterocanonical books.  The Deuterocanonical books are placed in their proper Catholic order, as oppose to having them all bundled together between the Old and New Testaments.  This volume also begins with new introductions from the translators Eugene Peterson and William Griffin.   Peterson concludes his introduction by saying: "I am immensely grateful to my Catholic friends and colleagues for their encouragement to 'complete' The Message.  I hope that it will lead to increased ecumenical use and dialogue."

There are two short sections called "The Story of the Bible in Five Acts" and "The Drama of the Bible" placed in the appendix that give an overall guide to reading the Bible as a whole.  In regards to size of the book, itself, it isn't meant to be portable.  The size of the book comes in at 9.1 x 6.1 x 2.3 inches.  So, it is a bit bulky, but not in the same way as found in the rather large New Jerusalem Bible standard edition.  In the future, I would really like to see this Bible available in a more portable edition, much like the Remix editions which are currently available in the Protestant canon and are very popular.  

I am truly excited that this edition is now available for Catholics.  The people at ACTA have maintained throughout that this is not meant to replace your favorite Catholic translation, but rather to be an aid to understanding and discovery.  I think it succeeds in this quite well.  The content and format of this edition is conducive to reading the Bible in large chunks.  The Message remains popular in Protestant circles, and I know of a number of Catholics who take great comfort in reading from it.  So, I am glad that there is finally a complete Catholic edition available for them and for all who are interested in seeing a rendering of the Bible in a fresh, unique way.  As of now, you can purchase The Message in hard or soft cover editions, as well as in an E-book edition for your Kindle or Nook.  Also, ACTA has keyed The Message into their handy This Transforming Word resource which provides a commentary on the readings for Sundays and Feast Days written by Alice Camille.  The Year A edition is currently available for purchase.

"A final comparison.  One can drink wine as it is and swallow hard or one can drink it mixed with water and enjoy it; hence, a book is good when it's written, but better when it's read.  And so it is with mine."  -2 Maccabees 15:39 (The Message)

Thank you to ACTA for providing me a review copy of this product.


Anonymous said...


Timothy said...

Q: Since you are publishing a Catholic edition of The Message, has there been any communication with the USCCB in regards to publishing this Catholic Bible edition?

The Message is a paraphrasal translation of the Bible from ancient languages and is meant to help people appreciate and understand what the Bible is saying in contemporary, idiomatic, American English. It is a “Reader’s Bible” without footnotes or references, a supplement to more formal and literal translations. The Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is meant for use by anyone who values the deuterocanonical writings as either an integral part of the Bible or additional sacred texts worthy of reading and discussion. As such, The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is not intended to be an “official” Bible of the Catholic Church for use at Mass or for formal catechetics. It was therefore not necessary or even appropriate for us to seek USCCB approval or an imprimatur from a specific bishop. The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is not a publication of the Catholic Church but an aid to seekers and believers alike in understanding and appreciating the Bible published by an independent, for-profit publishing house that specializes in books for the Catholic/Christian market.

Larry said...

Which brings to mind a question I've had recently. While we should by default rely on versions with an Imprimatur there is nothing to prevent us from using a version without one. Am I correct in this?

T. said...

Yes, Larry, you may eat a serving of broccoli even though it is not certified organic broccoli. I dare say that you might receive the same overall health benefit -- even more so if you can more easily afford (and enjoy) eating it more regularly.

Timothy said...

You can certainly use it, even a Protestant edition you may use as well. A number of people like the ESV with apocrypha even though it has no official approval. The main issue is on the legitimacy of calling this edition 'Catholic'.

Eric Barczak said...

I would have rather them call it an ecumenical edition. Having 'Catholic' in the title implies that the Church has approved it, which it hasn't.

That being said, if it will get someone to read the Bible who would otherwise not, it is still a good thing.

Anonymous said...

If you get to talk to William Griffin about his translation of the Deuterocanon for The Message E/CE, why not give him an idea for translating the whole Nova Vulgata in modern/contemporary English? More like a 21st century Confraternity Bible.
God bless! Greetings from stormy Philippines!

CarlHernz said...

Larry: Tim's work on this blog is written from the standpoint of a reviewer. Unless he otherwise says so, Tim is not endorsing any publication he presents for us. His labor of love for Catholic readers is designed to help people make an informed decision, and more than just Catholics make up the readership of this blog.

That being said, having worked for the pastoral offices of my diocese in close connection with the media department as well as having spoken with the USCCB about this subject regarding Bibles produced for the Catholic market that do not have formal approval, I felt I should add this information to all the other comments.

The reasons given by the publisher of “The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition” do not free Roman Catholics of the recommendations given by the USCCB, namely to use only those Scripture translations that have been approved for the Catholic faithful for private use, study, and prayer.

Canon Law states: “In order to safeguard the integrity of faith and morals, pastors of the Church have the duty and the right to ensure that in writings or in the use of the means of social communication there should be no ill effect on the faith and morals of Christ's faithful.” In line with this, the same Law states: “Books of the sacred Scriptures may not be published unless they are approved by the Apostolic See or the Episcopal Conference. The publication of translations of the sacred Scriptures requires the approval of the same authority, and they must have necessary and sufficient explanatory notes.” This involves the use of any presentation of the Scriptures prepared for a Catholic audience, regardless if it be a paraphrase or not, regardless if it is intended for “official” or private use.--The Code of Canon Law--TITLE IV : THE MEANS OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATION AND BOOKS IN PARTICULAR (Cann. 822 - 832)

Regardless of their intentions, the publishers of any translation of Scriptures cannot negate the directions of Church authority nor does it free Catholics from their obligation to the same authority on these matters.

The decisions therefore are ours to make. But Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and many Protestant churches each have their own guidelines set for approved Scripture editions. Individuals belonging to each respective religion are not free to ignore the recommendations of their church authorities on the basis of what any particular publisher may say, no matter how well intended.

Eric Barczak said...

After looking through biblegateway at this translation, I have some very mixed opinions. In some areas, it's quite good, although I think in some areas it gets a bit too 'modern'. But, in other areas, I think it gets way too loose and colloquial - a fair number of places where distinctly Catholic doctrines are expressed are too white-washed.

However, I do think we as Catholics need something like this, but paraphrased from a truly Catholic perspective. I'd also like to see such a project include familiar and recognizable prayers, like the actual Our Father in Matthew 6 rather than the paraphrase.

Tom said...

It's interesting how the same verse, with the same meaning, can feel so different depending on how colloquial or formal the translation. "The Message" sometimes sounds humorous due to the informal language. What I don't know is how formal/informal the language sounded to the original listeners in the Greek or Hebrew. Would they sound more Knox-ish or Message-ish?

Of course languages change fast so I suspect that for most of the time the language of the Bible has sounded slightly archaic. Once it sounds fetchingly “other” and stylistically formal then it's hard to go back. Witness the KJV phenomenon.

Theodore Seeber said...

If there is no imprimatur or Nihil Obstat, what keeps this translation Orthodox?

The samples I've seen elsewhere cause me great concern- especially in the realms of Jesus teaching Oneness Pentecostalism instead of Trinitarian Orthodoxy.