Monday, April 20, 2015

A Question from a Reader: REB

I've noticed that a few of your readers have highly praised the Revised English Bible (REB), and after seeking more information on this translation, I have a question that perhaps you or your readers could answer: As far as I can tell, a Catholic edition of the REB has never been released, even though the Catholic churches of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland were among the official sponsors of the translation. Why? I'm surprised that they would go to the trouble of officially sponsoring the translation work and then fail to approve the resulting translation for Catholic use. I'd be interested in any light you could shed on this. 


Laurence Foley said...

A quick internet search indicates that both Oxford and Cambridge have released the Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

Jay said...

It didn't need one, as it has the Deuterocanonicals, although put in the middle between the Testaments.

tihald said...

I think what the questioner meant was why does the REB not have an imprimatur. Which I was wondering myself.

CarlHernz said...

It is the same reason the CEB doesn't have such approval (as of yet). Though Chruch authority may grant permission that Catholic translators be part of intercofessional Bible translation committees, this in no way guarantees that the end result and the actions of its editors and publishers will:

1. Submit the work to Church authority for approval
2. Comply with Chruch authority to conform as needed
3. May begin to do the above, but suddenly stop the process
4. Fail at meeting the requirements despite all intentions to

The process is lengthy, can take many years, and some Bible producers fail to take this into account when producing a Bible. Commercially they may have planned a Catholic Version but in the end could not wait for publication due to financial demands.

Recently there have been several Bible translations and publishing groups who produced Bibles, some with Catholics on their committee and others who did not who all claim they were producing a Catholic version.

Those publishers who do not submit their Bible for approval yet name it "Catholic" are obviously not interested in providing an actual Catholic publication. Catholics are to use only approved translations for even the most private of uses, and this ingredient is as important as adding Catholic books to the canon. Some attempts have become commercial disasters in the end due to this mistake.

The REB, for whatever reason, decided it was not going to be able to produce a "Catholic" edition. And instead of being dishonest like others it released its version as it eventually came to be known. It is unknown if this process has also proved problematic for the CEB for the publishes have only released an e-book edition of its planned Catholic Bible. But the appearance of Catholic scholars on a translation committee often suggests that the planning stages did have this approval process considered at least at some stage in production.

Biblical Catholic said...

In short, just because Catholic scholars work on a translation does not necessarily mean that the committee intends to produce, or will produce a Catholic edition. Given that the REB was done primarily for use by the Church of England, I can see why they would want Catholic scholars involved, as the COE has a lot of theological diversity, from Anglo-Catholics to evangelicals, and everything in between, having Catholics on the committee, could help prevent the translation from being biased in favor of one faction or another, but I don't think it was ever intended for use in Catholic parishes.

wxmarc said...

Certainly, the involvement of Catholic scholars doesn't necessarily mean that a Catholic edition will be approved and printed. The approval process is long and arduous, as we've seen with the NABRE. But for the REB, the situation seems more puzzling than other examples like the NLT or the Message catholic editions. The translation was officially sponsored by the local Catholic dioceses (among many other Christian churches). To me, that seems like a higher degree of church involvement than simply a few Catholic scholars agreeing to participate in a translation. If the Catholic dioceses of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland were official sponsors, wouldn't they have a greater incentive to review the text and grant it an imprimatur?

rolf said...

I think that the REB would have been granted an imprimatur if the publishers had offered it in a Catholic edition, but this is the same time (1989) that the NRSV was published which stole a lot of the REB's thunder.

Biblical Catholic said...

But the fact that it got the translation work got the blessing of a Catholic diocese, does not mean that they ever had the intention of making a Bible that would used in Catholic parishes. I don't think that was ever the intent.

CarlHernz said...

And the comments following my original one suggest we are missing some of the details, something that the public was not told.

While I worked for my diocesan office, I can say that someone very close to me worked on an intercofessional translation with permission and blessing from proper Church authority. While all involved had the highest hopes that an official Cathilic edition was to be the result, in the end it did not happen. While I am not free to offer any other details, I can say that none of the approval, sponsoring, and blessing before submitting the text for imprimatur or rescript counts. If the end result doesn't meet the strict standards and the editorial board or translation committee refuses to cooperate with making any adjustments that might be needed to receive said approval, years of preparation and hard work and prayers will fall to the side.

Exactly what happened in regard to the REB will probably never be known. Information like this is kept confidential due to many reasons, some commercial that by contract makes it impossible to discuss, and some due to respect that the academics working on the project have for one another.

Biblical Catholic said...

Bottom line that it has been 25 years since the REB was published, if they had been seriously committed to making a Catholic edition, they would have done so by now.

If they started out trying to get the imprimatur, but we unable to get an imprimatur, or were unwilling to do so, then that's just another way of saying that they weren't REALLY committed to the idea of making a Catholic edition.

Let's get serious here, the NRSV and the New Jerusalem Bible both have far more serious problems, as far as translation and theology are concerned, than the REB. By comparison, the REB is a far more conservative translation. If the NRSV and NJB could get the imprimatur, then there is no reason that the REB could not do so as well, if it was something that they really wanted to do.

wxmarc said...

Good points, Biblical Catholic. Maybe I'm ascribing too much significance to the local Catholic dioceses cosponsoring the translation. Have local dioceses officially cosponsored other translations? On the other hand, were there any catholic sponsors of the NRSV? Of course, there were catholic scholars on the committee, but there aren't any Catholic representatives in the National Council of Churches, are there? It seems so strange that the NRSV was fast-tracked to an imprimatur, even though the church didn't have an official stake in it, but the REB never received one, even though the local churches were directly involved in the effort. In light of CarlHernz's comments, perhaps we will never know.

rolf said...

Maybe we are looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe the U.K. and Ireland Catholic dioceses were not looking to establish a new translation for their liturgy (or obtaining a Catholic edition) but were cooperating with fellow Christians on an ecumenical translation that would benefit all the Christians in their private reading and study. Just a thought!

hoshie said...

The Catholic church and the REB and its predecessor the NEB is an interesting one. When the New English Bible (NEB) was being translated in the 40s, Catholics were observers. By the time the REB was published, Catholics were full participants. I have an NEB NT from 1970; it does not list the Church. My 1989 copy of the REB lists the Church alongside the Moravian and Reformed churches. Here are some scans. The 1970 NEB NT is here:

The 1989 REB is here:

Neither Bible has an Imprimatur.

wxmarc said...

Thank you for sharing those scans, hoshie. I'm curious how the REB would compare with the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), which was published four years earlier. I enjoy the NJB, and I think it's definitely more readable than the NRSV, particularly in the Old Testament. I'm slightly bothered by the use of the divine name in the NJB rather than LORD, though. Perhaps the REB would be a good alternative?

rolf said...

Here is a list of the names of the Catholic bishop and priests that were on the committees (not that I know any of them):

Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales;
The Revd Fr R.C. Fuller
The Right Revd B.C. Butler
The Revd Fr J. Deehan (alternate)

Roman Catholic Church in Ireland;
The Revd Dr. J. McPolin SJ
The Revd Professor J. Quinlan (alternate)

Roman Catholic Church in Scotland;
The Revd Fr J. Foley
The Revd Fr T. Hanlon (alternate)

And another note:
'The change in status of the Roman Catholic representatives from observers to full members of the Joint Committee was especially important, since it led to the involvement of two Catholic Old Testament Scholars in the revision work, and a New Testament scholar in the person of the late Bishop Christopher Butler as a Joint Committee critic of the revised text.

(All the above information taken from 'New Light & Truth, The Making of The Revised English Bible' by Roger Coleman)