Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Question

We have been having a great conversation discussing all things NCV over at the previous post.  Unfortunately, there is so little that we know, everything tends to be speculative.  While speculation can be great fun, something else has been stirring in me during the past few days.  It is this: I wonder if, like our politics, we align ourselves to a particular translation because that allows us to feel comfortable in a particular segment of the Church?  You can certainly see this in a number of Protestant communities, most notably during the past decade with the rise of the ESV and the whole revised TNIV/NIV debate. Yet, this isn't just a Protestant thing.

I remember well over a decade ago being told by a group of people that a particular translation was the only faithful Catholic Bible I could trust.  This caused me to look upon others translations with great suspicion, even to the point that if someone came to a bible study with one of those "other translations", I'd question whether or not that person was serious about studying the Bible. While I know I have changed dramatically over these past 10-15 years, I am not certain that things are much different today in the Church.

So I throw that question out to you.  I also have been thinking about this in connection to the whole One Bible, One Year challenge.

37 comments:

EvergreenGuy said...

I think that there is something to this, although I haven't encountered it quite as much. I have found serious Catholics (non-dissenters and regular church attenders) who use the NAB and NRSV and don't seem that enamored of the Douay or Knox translation. I have also met, for lack of a better term, liberal Catholics who prefer the Jerusalem Bible or the RSV because of supposedly better English style. Personally, I would prefer a text that was rigorously faithful to the original language texts we have, while at the same time incorporating the insights found in the Latin tradition of biblical commentary & translation. Not because it would favor one camp over another but because it would reflect both the inspired Word of God in the original languages and the wisdom of the Latin Rite in how the Word of God is read. FWIW.

The Raven (C. Corax) said...

For me, it all comes down to the language: my preference is always for what I find sonorous. I can struggle through the the Greek of the NT, so I am less hampered by fears about a translation's veracity, but I want a text to enthral me. The Authorised Version always does that, as t
Does the DR; I find the RSV fine, but find the Jerusalem Bible leaden and actively dislike the folksy glosses like the GNB and the Message.

Christopher Buckley said...

It's not so much that I seek a Bible translation to "feel comfortable in a particular segment of the Church," but to feel connected to the Church as a whole.

The biggest issue for me to overcome as an inquiring Protestant - bigger than papal infallibility, bigger than the Immaculate Conception, bigger than the real presence - was the text of canon. Catholics had "added books to the Bible," so therefore all was suspect. The Catholic Bible was no different than the Book of Mormon. It was as simple as that.

How I overcame that is a different post.

The point is, having made the jump successfully, reading a Bible - in common with other Catholics - is the other half of communion for me now. I am connected to the Church by taking the Word inside of me - whether physically through the eucharist or mentally through prayerful reading of Scripture.

So yes, I understand and believe no ONE translation is authoritative, and that Scripture itself is but one part of the Deposit of Faith alongside Sacred Tradition. Still, sharing a TEXT in common has a powerful effect on me while reading, and is an important outgrowth of sharing a CANON in common.

Especially without a definitive text uniting liturgical and devotional reading, I find HOW I read it to be more critical now than WHAT I read. That sense of shared reading "comes through the loudest" when praying the Liturgy of the Hours, "the prayer of the whole Church for the whole Church." (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours)

Eric Barczak said...

In some ways I went down the path of preferring Bibles that are considered more conservative. I would definitely describe myself as a conservative Catholic (bring back pipe organs, lose the guitars, a full genuflection before communion is a good thing, etc. ). My first was the 1991 NAB because that was the only Catholic Bible that the Fairbanks Waldenbooks had. I wanted the older style thees and thous so for confirmation, my sponsor got me a TAN (some-sort-of) leather Douay. My priest recommended the New Jerusalem, so when I found one a year later, I was up to three. I never really warmed to the NJB, not for any theological reason-it just wasn't my style, so sold it to the used bookstore. I went back and forth between the DR and NAB, depending on my mood for archaic or modern English.

As I became more "territorial" about my faith and defending it, I took a stronger interest in finding a good modern translation to use instead of my NAB (which I also never quite warmed too). As I started looking deeper, I started on my quest to find the best modern version. Since a number of opinions on CAF recommended the RSV and original JB, I started to consider those. That's about the time I found this blog. I picked up a '57 CBPC Confraternity, and decided to use the library to spend time trying out translations before committing monies (see the "Bible Safari" guest article from a year and a half ago. I started with the more conservative translations, but ultimately spent a week or two withall major translations and editions. I ended up owning a total of 6 translations (Douay, '51 Confraternity, Knox Student Ed, JB thin paper, RSV2, and NABRE. Alternating those tramslations, I finally read the whole 73 books in sequence (NT then OT).

A funny thing happened after I finished my total read through and went back to devotional reading; I started gravitating to a few translations and editions. While I found Knox beautiful and inspiring, I just wasn't turning to it much, except to perhaps use as an alternative translation when preparing for being a Sunday lector. With the accessibility of the Little Rock study Bible, I wasn't cracking the JB as often either. And despite preferring the Confraternity to the DR, my sentimental attachment to the DR kept it on the shelf except as a compact travel Bible. So, I let a couple go, and am down to three with any use: DR, Didache RSV2, and Little Rock NABRE. Two "conservative" and a middle of the road. As I said in my guest review on the Little Rock, edition overrode translation (I'm still not a fan of the NABRE, but find the Little Rock gets opened weekly). I still consider myself conservative, but while I've gravitated to more conservative translations, I don't think I did so because they were conservative per se; the filled a niche in my usage.

rolf said...

I think for the majority of Catholics, they use what ever translation they either first received or something that was recommended by someone else. Then there are the 'conservatives' who will only use the D-R, RSV-CE and maybe the Knox. Then there are the 'liberals' who will only use a translation that has inclusive language (like the NRSV, NJB, NAB, etc). I don't think that the extreme ends in Catholicism are quite as promement as Protestism, but they are definitely there. Then there are the rest of us 'in the middle' who don't pick a translation due to any liturgical ideology. I like formal translations first, but also enjoy reading dynamic translations to get a different view of a passage. I am a convert to Catholicism (from agnosticism) so I did not bring any preconceived biblical influence from a former faith with me, so I read all kinds of translations in the beginning and finally settled on the translations I use today.

Deacon Dave said...

In 17 years of pastoral ministry I have encountered two "types" when it comes to Bible translations among Catholics (Protestants may feel stronger about translations due to their Sola Scriptura belief?):

1. The "home-school trads" section who tend to want only the Douay/Confraternity or Ignatius Bibles (along with insisting on only the Baltimore Catechism...which by the way then requires a lot of "catch up" on the part of the parish to bring these kids to an awareness of CURRENT Church law and practice).

2. The Youth leaders/catechists who want the Good News Translation which is easier to read/understand. I used to agree with this GNT idea UNTIL I read its rendering Luke 1:28...where in the world do they get "Peace be with you" out of "Hail, full of grace" or "Rejoice, highly favored one"????

Quite honestly, even out here in the crazy San Francisco Bay Area I have NEVER encountered anyone who insisted on an inclusive language translation.

Michael Demers said...

For me it comes down to reading the classic English translation of the King James Bible, reading the best modern English translation which many believe is the NRSV, and reading the whatever version is used in one's church.

Christopher Buckley said...

DD -

I did not know you were in the SF Bay Area.
You're not the Deacon Dave with the lights in Livermore, are you?
If so, I grew up around the corner.

:-)

-CB

rolf said...

Deacon Dave, I have run into a few people who would not use a translation that did not use inclusive language. I took a graduate level theology course at my local Catholic University. The default translation used by the professor was the NRSV. But on one occasion he read from a non inclusive translation and two woman students (who were Catholic High School theology teachers) got very upset and confronted the instructor and asked him why he was using a translation that was biased against woman? I have also attended A seminar at the Religious Ed. Congress where the instructor (a Catholic Priest) talked about the discrimination of woman over the centuries in Bible translation and referenced the NRSV as a good alternative and the NAB as ok, but it still has a little way to go. So there are both sides present out there. But my experience with RCIA and Bible study over the last 11 years is that most Catholics who I have come into contact with don't even know the name of the translation that they use.

Tom said...

Perhaps it grew out of the roots of historical/critical method, exemplified to some extent by the NAB notes. There might be some "guilt by association" inasmuch as not trusting the NAB or the NJB because of the notes. Certainly I can understand how someone might not feel comfortable in a translation that includes things like, "We're not sure the Exodus really happened..." (I'm not accusing NAB notes of that - just that that's the vibe of many historical/critical type notes.)

Tom said...

Definitely the excesses of inclusive language (where some of the meaning is lost) is a huge turn-off as well. To politicize the Bible is to create a lack of trust and a tribal mentality.

Deacon Dave said...

Christopher - no I am not your Deacon Dave in Livermore. I am across the Bay as a deacon of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Christopher Buckley said...

Well greetings anyway-

I'm moving today out of the Archdiocese of SF to Seattle. Glad to make your acquaintance.

Best-
Chris

birnbaum said...

Let me comment on Timothy's very honest "Question" from a distance, in this case from my German vantage point. I was brought up strictly Roman Catholic from my mother's side and even had my raising in a Benedictine Father's boarding school until graduating. My school bible was, of course, the well known catholic Pattloch– Bibel, which can somehow be compared to the Confraternity Bible. Upon my graduation, my father (with Jewish and Lutheran Protestant ancestors) presented me an RSV New Testament as he was an interpreter to the U.S. Forces after WW II and had strong affinities to the American– English language. Later, when I was asked to buy a Bible for my then fiancé, I went to a bookstore and asked if they had a Catholic Bible; emphasis on "catholic"! As if I could become prey to a "Luther Bible" or another anti–catholic one, get infected and die spiritually.
About ten years later – wounded and full of anguish – I was found by the Lord Jesus on the wayside. A group of Christians (I had no reason at all to ask for their denomination) cared for me spiritually and I was brought to REAL life. One day later, after reading John 15 together with my counselor, I heard the voice of the Lord speaking to my heart. My counselor was a Swiss and had, presumably, a Reformed provenance. He read me from the Zürcher or, colloquially called Zwingli– Bible. It has, of course, no Catholic but a Reformed origin; it's a bit different as to the wording from a typical German Bible, but everybody can understand what is written. After these days of my initial "metanoia" (change of mind) I immediately purchased a Zürcher Bibel and started to read it. I had read in my old Catholic school Bible before as a "good" Catholic but without ANY passion, let alone spiritual understanding. Soon after my metanoia "kairos" – being a bookworm anyway – I started to collect Bibles, German, English, Greek and Hebrew, the latter two I am able to read and understand a bit. Yes, it is interesting and very helpful to read and compare all the different versions and, my collection of Bibles is my one preferred passion (not talking about my family). By the way: These days I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the NCV New Testament - but! - that is it NOT. It is not the Bible version through which the Lord is speaking, maybe to my intellect he does that. It is His voice in the Word which is speaking directly and unplugged into my heart. This heavenly voice changes my heart and mind, as John 15 did to me 30 years ago. If you need to listen and heed to his voice, he uses whatever version at hand. With my Roman Catholic intellect I had every reason to dismiss the Zürcher Bibel, not to say reject it - because it was not Catholic enough. But to my heart - at that time crushed and contrite as required by Him (Psalm 51)– he speaks through His spirit and I am very sure He doesn't care which version he uses through the bringer of the good tidings: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart," be it cited from the NCV, NEB, KJV or else. No time on THAT DAY to feel comfortable with a particular version of Scriptures or not….

Javier said...

You might find this hard to believe, but in the spanish speaking world this "inclusive language Bible" issue does not exist. And if it does, I'm not aware of it. And I bet most spanish speaking catholics don't have the faintest idea of what it means. And we do have feminists, and feminist nuns. But I have never ever heard anyone talk about the issue of gender in the Bible. And I don't really know why. Probably koiné greek is closer grammatically to spanish than to english, and so gender translation could be much more natural and with less room for speculation. But I am only guessing here.
In fact, I would say that in spanish there is no line in the translated text itself, that separates conservative from liberal bibles. If pressed, I could only think of Isaiah 7:14.
In spanish, what sets appart a conservative bible from a liberal one, would be the notes and introductions.

Gerald de Belen said...

I think the segmentation of Catholic Bibles never really had its roots on being conservative or liberal.

The only thing that distunguishes them is LOYALTY TO LATIN BIBLICAL HERITAGE.

On one camp we find DR, Confraternity, Knox and perhaps RSV-2CE. While on one camp we find NAB, NRSV, NJB.

Coming in between are RSV-CE, JB, CCB.

Russell Stutler said...

Many Protestants come into the Catholic Church after having invested many years memorizing scripture from one particular Protestant translation. Those who were fortunate to do their memory work in the RSV have a painless transition. Others like me who memorized from the NASB are constantly encountering uncomfortable speed bumps in our new Catholic Bibles. The RSVCE or RSV2CE is as close as I can come to what is stored in my brain.

For folks like me, the NAB, Jerusalem Bible and others are out of the question. No politics involved, but anyone who loved the NASB for its word for word literal translation will not appreciate any manipulation of the text to make a Bible gender inclusive.

I wish there would be Catholic approval for private reading for the NASB (at least the New Testament since the NASB Old Testament is incomplete) so I could have my cake and eat it too.

Ed Rio said...

My translation choice has very little to do with feeling comfortable with any segment of the Church. For example, I like reading or watching Jimmy Akin, but I don't share his dislike of the NAB(RE). I just try to be a faithful Catholic and be happy aboit it. If some don't like that... that's on them, whatever translation they prefer.

Christopher Buckley said...

Yeah Ed,

As someone who expects formal equivalence to guide translations, I am understand why people object to the original NAB. In the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings, it comes across only slightly less annoying to me than the Jerusalem Bible.

Which is why I don't understand the resistance to the NABRE OT. It's an entirely different beast: a fresh and largely formal new translation from recent transcripts (not merely a revision of the old NAB English), with just enough attention to gender neutral pronouns that it's not offensive to my ear.

Where the NAB and the JB just hit me as the worst of the kumbaya / Godspell era of the faith, the NABRE OT is actually quite delightful. I liken it to the RSV-CE, minus the obnoxious archaic language in the Palms. Anyone avoiding it because of their feelings about the NAB should reconsider.

Steve Molitor said...

Great question Tim. I think this was true for me at one point. When I first started getting serious about Bible reading, I was listening to and reading a lot of Catholic Answers and Ignatius materials, and formed an uninformed dislike for the NAB and a bias towards the RSV and RSV-CE2. I tried to read the DRC but couldn't. Since then my views have softened, and I like the NABRE and NRSV as much as the RSV. Really I think Billy Graham had it right - the best bible is the one you read.

My wife experienced an unfortunate bit of bible tribalism at a bible study last month. She comes from a southern Baptist and evangelical background, and was received into the church last Easter. We moved a few months ago and signed up for a bible study at one of the local parishes. We were told we could use any translation we liked in the study. I couldn't make the first session.

My wife had been reading the NABRE, but proudly brought the 'Catholic Women's Devotional Bible', NRSV Catholic Edition, that I had bought her for her birthday. She loves this bible both for the devotional readings, and because the NRSV reminds her of the KJV (except "I can actually understand it!" she says.)

The leader of the study told her that this really wasn't a Catholic bible, that it wasn't a catholic translation, that it wasn't a Catholic publisher, it was catholic in name only, and that if she read this bible she would form a literalist, protestant interpretation of the bible. She came home very confused.

So we switched to a bible study at another local parish. Many different translations were in use, mostly the NABRE, but the leader used.... the NRSV! NOAB with apocrypha edition, to be exact! Shocking! Needless to say we haven't gone back to the first study.

The leader at the new bible study is also much better informed about the bible as well. I asked which bible he recommended, and he basically said which ever version speaks to you, and that has all the books.

Now there's nothing wrong with saying everyone should use the same translation at a bible study, and the NABRE would be the logical choice. But to say that the NRSV-CE isn't catholic, will mislead, etc., is just ignorant, and needlessly divisive.

Timothy said...

Steve,

That is plain terrible, but a reality. I get the look everyone once in a while still, since I primarily use the NRSV.
By the way, that women's NRSV is a great edition. Wish more Catholic bibles looked like it!

Christopher Buckley said...

Yikes. That.
That is why hardcore evangelicals distrust us.
Especially the ones who do the same thing.
Sorry for that experience.

Steve Molitor said...

Yeah the funny thing was I don't think the study leader was even familiar with the NRSV, or even noticed the translation, since it's not displayed prominently on the cover. She certainly didn't bring up inclusive language issues or any other criticism that would indicate that she was at all familiar with the NRSV. Apparently she never even mentioned the actual translation name ("NRSV"), just that she didn't like it after perusing the cover and front matter.

I attended a subsequent study session, and to be brutally honest I'm not sure that she (the leader) was even that familiar with the bible, much less the various translations. Which is fine, we can all learn together. But don't criticize what you don't understand.

I have a feeling that if my wife hadn't shared that she had just converted from protestantism, the issue may not have come up. The way my wife described it, and the vibe I got, was that she was trying to shed my wife from her presumed protestant misconceptions - but again, in a very ignorant, silly way. This woman was RCIA director at this parish until this year! They are searching for a new one, thank goodness. I think this woman means well, but dang!

Timothy said...

Steve,

God bless you and your wife for your patience and willingness not to be offended by this nonsense. I have talked with a number of people who have had experiences like this at a parish event, though not necessarily scriptural, but nevertheless it soured them on the Church. Some left and found homes at more welcoming non-denominational churches. Maybe Pope Francis is on to something....

Steve Molitor said...

Thanks Tim. I think this woman actually meant well, but she shouldn't be RCIA director, and she isn't anymore.

I think it's better if our identity as Catholics is centered around what we are for (yeah Christ!), and not on what we are against (boo Protestantism!).

Relating this back to your original question, I think sometimes we pick translations to indicate which segment of the church we identify with (yeah solid orthodox Catholics!), in distinction to what segment we do not identify with (boo squishy progressive catholics!). I was guilty of this attitude, and it's neither healthy nor Christ centered.

Steve

Christopher Buckley said...

One of my biggest disappointments after being confirmed has been my experience of the two-tiered self-concept most (American?) Catholics possess: in it, you're "Catholic" if you were born Catholic, and everyone else is just a "newcomer." It's so pervasive, and so annoying, that even among our leadership only "cradle" Catholics are real.

Steve, your experience reminded me of this recent post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. It's something that REALLY resonates with my experience, and I'm sharing it here in case it's a voice of solidarity:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2014/10/the-warm-welcome-ive-received-from-catholics.html

Peace and all good.

Steve Molitor said...

Thanks Christopher for the link.

After this incident I rhetorically asked my wife what the canonical difference in 'catholicness' was between a recent convert like her and a cradle catholic like me. Answer: none. We're both equally "catholic". In many cases converts are actually more knowledgeable and on fire about their faith.

Thankfully, this has been an isolated incident for us. Our RCIA experience at our old parish was great. With the exception of this one incident, everyone has been very welcoming of my wife.

Steve

Michael Demers said...

Steve Molitor,
I am a cradle Catholic and I welcome you and your wife. We need all the help we can get and that means as many newcomers God will send our way.

Michael Demers said...

Steve Molitor:
I am a cradle Catholic and I welcome you and your wife. We need all the help we can get and that includes all the newcomers God sends our way.

Michael Demers said...

I love it when I repeat myself!

rolf said...

Most of the first Christians were converts!!!

Anonymous said...


I'm also a convert who came into the Church back in 1999 and fortunately, my own experience hasn't been anything like the above. Maybe I've just been lucky because I always seem to end up around Catholics with whom I'm pretty much in tune. And to this day, even when disagreements have arisen no one has ever played the "you're just a convert" card on me.

Be that as it may, it's a sad state of affairs whenever any of us act in ways that reflect poorly on Holy Mother Church and it just goes to show that we're all in need of daily conversion and prayer.

Prayer without ceasing!

Pax,
john

Kyrie Iesou Christe, eleison me.

Allister Roy Chua said...

The only consideration I have for a translation to use is that it employs formal equivalence yet is written in modern language (whether the language itself is formal or not is a different and irrelevant story). And that, of course, it is of the Catholic canon. While I grew up Catholic, I wasn't RAISED as such; I was Catholic only because of my Jesuit education. My brothers and cousins are all Protestants (many Evangelical I'd say), and the first Bible study I went to was Evangelical, where I was given an ESV (which I have since gratefully returned to that church). I was also given a Youth Bible (which uses the New Century Version translation), which I loved - its too-dynamic language notwithstanding - thanks to the many notes and devotionals; I have now lovingly passed it on to my godson.

I admit that over the last five years, I have had periods of intense doubt about my Catholic faith, and seriously considered going to Protestantism; but after beginning to revisit my theology classes in university and studying my faith more intensively this past year, I am now happy to be completely and proudly back in the Catholic Church spiritually (rather than just nominally). That said, it influenced my choice of Bible translation/s as well - refer to my first sentence. In line with this, I use the NRSV-CE and the NABRE - one, because those are the widely-available translations here in the Philippines; and two, because the RSV-2CE (which I would have wanted, and still do) is quite rare here. I think I'll be sticking with these two while I impatiently await the 2025 major revision of the NAB(RE).

As for Filipino (specifically, Tagalog), I use the traditional 1980 MBB (Magandang Balita Biblia, Tagalog for "Good News Bible" - in fact, it is a parallel cousin to the English GNT) which while quite dynamic in equivalence is, I believe, the current Tagalog translation used by our Catholic Church. Scripture translations into Tagalog are not plenty, much less so for Catholic translations, so the MBB seemed a logical choice for me.

I consider myself "center-right" religiously, and I do not have any "political" leanings Biblically (I am glad I have never yet encountered any KJV-Only or DR-Only Christians, both of whom would make me uncomfortable) - again, my only conditions are that it is a Catholic translation, it uses formal equivalence (though a little dynamic wouldn't hurt, if it improves readability as far as linguistics is concerned), and it is written in modern English.

Timothy said...

Thank you for your comment Allister!

Gerald de Belen said...

Allister,

RSV-2CE and other Ignatius goodies, and some Baronius ones are available at Totus Bookstore in Greenhills, San Juan.

If you want to know more, feel free to send me a mail through grlddebelen(at)gmail.com

Frater in Christo,
Gerald

Gerald de Belen said...

Allister,

RSV-2CE and other Ignatius goodies, and some Baronius ones are available at Totus Bookstore in Greenhills, San Juan.

If you want to know more, feel free to send me a mail through grlddebelen(at)gmail.com

Frater in Christo,
Gerald

Gerald de Belen said...

Allister,

Pls read my post, Catholic Bibles in the Philippines. :)

Frater in Christo,
Gerald