Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guest Post: Bibles in the Philippines by Gerald

Before I start this post, I would like to thank Timothy for giving me opportunity to post in this blog. I had been an avid reader of the blog maybe around 3 years already.

The Biblical environment here in the Philippines is not that extant compared to the US. Given the cost of sponsoring a translation, oftentimes, new translations here are being produced by organizations.

I would like to recount the history of Biblical translations chronologically, and with some background on the translation.

*1905 – The Philippine Bible Society produced the “Ang Biblia” (The Bible) version. This is a formal translation of the Bible, deriving mainly from the American Standard Version, with the exception that the Tetragrammaton is handled as “Panginoon” (Lord) unlike the ASV which uses Jehovah. Given the translational background of the ASV, you’ll expect ‘Ang Biblia’ also to be wooden at times. But until today, this is still used by many Protestant groups due to its literal nature, similar to how KJV is still valued by some Protestant groups in the US. For a long time, this was the only available Bible translation in the Philippines. ‘Ang Biblia’ has fell into public domain here in the Philippines.

*1950s – Msgr. Abriol did his own translation of the Bible from the Clementine Vulgate. His translation was known as the “Ang Banal na Biblia” (The Holy Bible). Maybe I could find a parallel to him to Msgr. Knox, since his version was initially used as the Catholic version in the liturgy. Also, the two also came from the Clementine Vulgate. The only difference is that while Msgr. Knox took on a slightly dynamic approach, Msgr. Abriol took on a formal approach. Perhaps his version can be claimed as the Philippine Douay-Rheims, because many of the traditional church vocabulary in the Philippines (which was loanwords from Spanish, the same applies for Biblical names of persons and places) was derived from this version. This version is rather a rare find and is only issued by the Paulines. (with Imprimatur)

Modern printings of the ‘Ang Banal na Biblia’ is already a revised version according to the Nova Vulgata. However, this is not the official liturgical version used here in the Philippines.

*1980s – In view of the recent changes in the Church’s liturgical structure, namely, (a) the Divino Afflante Spiritu which called for an opening of Biblical exegesis to the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic sources aside from the Latin Vulgate, (b) the Vatican II liturgical reforms which called for the conduct of Roman liturgy into vernacular, and (c) the Comme le prévoit, which called for a less formal translation of the Roman liturgy, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate (CBCP-ECBA), in partnership with the  Philippine Bible Society, sponsored a new translation called “Magandang Balita Biblia” (Good News Bible).

From the English translation of the title of the version, you are right in concluding that the version parallels in translation philosophy with the Good News Bible. The project was not only done for the Filipino (or Tagalog) language, but also for other Philippine regional languages. Nevertheless, the project was successful in reaching out to the Filipino Catholics in their native tongues. The version was also very instrumental in complementing the objectives of Vatican II by Dei Verbum, to make the Scriptures accessible to many.

For its wide usage and ecumenical nature, this version is used as the OFFICIAL BIBLICAL TRANSLATION FOR THE ROMAN LITURGY in the Philippines. (of course, with Imprimatur)

*1990s – Being a Protestant himself, President Fidel Ramos, by an Executive Order, mandated the “Philippine Bible Week” on the fourth week of January. This is still observed until now and is mainly sponsored by the PBS.

*2001 – After being dormant of the Philippine Biblical scholarship for a while, PBS decided to make a modern update of the “Ang Biblia”, named as “Ang Bagong Ang Biblia” (The New Bible). I think this version is comparable to NASB, as how the NASB was updated from ASV. For far as I am aware, this version is still lacking support in the Evangelical circles, being still loyal to the 1905 Ang Biblia.

*2005 – PBS also decided to update the “Magandang Balita Biblia”, maybe similar to how RSV was revised to NRSV, but the Filipino language don’t have an issue of inclusive language anyways, since our language provides neutral words and pronouns. It modernizes some antiquated language, and incorporated recent scholarship changes as well. One great example is the relegation of some verses from Sirach in the footnotes.

For the Catholic editions, the deuterocanonicals were already interspersed in the Old Testament, the 1980 edition only put them in between the Testaments. Due to the still wide use of the Catholic Church of the 1980 version, the 2005 revision still haven’t got enormous attention from Filipino Catholics.

Similar updates were also done to other versions to the regional languages, but like the Filipino (Tagalog) version, the updated ones were not adopted by the Church.

*2008 – PBS published a New Testament of the Filipino Standard Version (remember, the English Standard Version?). It is meant to be a translation coming in between the formal equivalent Ang Biblia (The Bible) and the dynamic equivalent Magandang Balita Biblia (Good News Bible). If you are to research for this version, you’ll find that the cover of this version somehow imitates the ESV.

However, this version remained a niche one. It even hadn’t gained any attention, and an Old Testament translation was not anymore conducted, with the people being loyal to either of the two earlier major versions.

*2010 (if I am right) – Biblica International, Inc., the same organization holding the rights for the NIV, sponsored a Biblical translation into Filipino, following the philosophy of the NIV, published a new translation into Filipino (Tagalog) and Visayan (Cebuano), called Ang Salita ng Diyos (The Word of God), if my memory serves me right. It was designed to be used by evangelicals (which is fairly obvious) as an alternative to the two major version.

Slowly, it is already gaining attention in the evangelical circles being used in parallel with the NIV.

Thank you for reading my post and I’m planning to have another one featuring English Bibles in the Philippines.


rolf said...

That was very interesting, many similarities to the Bible development here in the USA!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gerald for your presentation.Most interesting.

Anonymous said...

Very informative...good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the comments!
Hope you find it a good read.

citizen DAK said...


Javier said...

from your post I understand that there is only one official language for catholic liturgy in the Philippines, and that it is Tagalog. Am I right?.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late reply, Javier, not specifically. Philippines is a language-diverse nation, each region has their own language. For that reason, Liturgiam Authenticam couldnt require our whole country to just use one language, but maybe one language per region.

However in our area, it is Tagalog for I am in the region near Manila.

In some provinces, Javier, you'll also find that Sunday Masses are held in three languages in a Sunday, one in the local, one in Tagalog, and one in English.

Maybe you could compare us to Spain where you'll find Castillan, Galician, Basque and Catalan in one country.

Javier said...

Very informative, Gerald. Thank you!.

Javier said...

I think you didn't mention the Biblia ng Sambayanang Pilipino, which is the tagalog version of the Christian Community Bible (which, in turn, derives from the Biblia Latinoamericana).
Biblia ng Sambayanang Pilipino


Tommy said...

This is great! Tim once again proves that every post on this blog is well worth the read, and will be just as helpful 10 years from now.

Anonymous said...


With regards to Biblia ng Sambayanang Pilipino (the Filipino counterpart of the Christian Community Bible), it also didn't hold much to Filipinos, primarily to its unusual arrangement of books, and the rendering of the Tetragrammaton as 'Yawe'.

Actually, the English version, didn't have a catch to most Filipinos, aside from the unusual arrangement is the untidy typography.

Much worse has become the fate of the Filipino one.

Javier said...

I don't blame them Gerald. I'm not myself a fan of the ancestor of those two bibles (the Biblia ng Sambayanang Pilipino, and the CCB): the Biblia Latinoamericana.

Anonymous said...

Javier, ¿quién la Biblia Española leyendote?
¿Es la Biblia de Jerusalén?

Perdoname si mi español no sea correcto.

Anonymous said...


Actually your comment on a previous post inspired me to make this guest post.

Javier said...

Hi Gerald,
I'm currently reading the "Biblia del Peregrino" (Pilgrim's Bible), translated by a team coordinated by the late Fr. Luis Alonso Schökel. It is a very nice translation to read. It has a very rich, readable, cultivated and natural spanish. I own a Jerusalem Bible, and I know it is an excellent bible. But it is not yet in my reading list. Mostly owing to it somehow deriving from a french translation, as opposed to being a spanish translation from scratch (I am aware the translators affirm they did not look at the french version when translating the spanish version) .
(And now, in spanish: Actualmente estoy leyendo la Biblia del Peregrino, traducida por un equipo coordinado por el difunto Padre Luis Alonso Schökel. Es una traducción muy agradable de leer. Usa un castellano rico, legible, culto, y natural. Tengo una Biblia de Jerusalén, y sé que es una biblia excelente. Pero no está en mi inmediata lista de lecturas. Principalmente debido a que se trata de una traducción que parte de una versión francesa, en vez de ser una traducción original al castellano (si bien sé que los traductores aseguran que no se tuvo en cuenta la versión francesa para traducir la versión castellana)).

FCDNugas said...

thank or this blog...where can i order inexpensive Catholic Bibles in bulk? thanks.

FCDNugas said...

thanks for this blog...where can i buy inexpensive Catholic Bibles in bulk?