Thursday, January 21, 2016

Psalm 23 in the Jerusalem Bible

Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  In meadows of green grass he lets me lie. To the waters of repose he leads me; there he revives my soul. He guides me by paths of virtue for the sake of his name. Though I pass through a gloomy Valley, beside me your rod and your staff are there, to hearten me. You prepare a table before me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup brims over.  Ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me, every day of my life, my home, the house of Yahweh, as long as I live! 
-Psalm 23 (JB)


rolf said...

A lot of people get hung up on pronouncing Yahweh in the JB/NJB, and it ruins the flow of the Psalm or other passage for them. When I encounter Yahweh in the text I pronounce it Lord, and over the years it has become second nature for me and is no longer a stumbling block. If I could change one thing in this version of Psalm 23 it would the word 'gloomy', I would rather have seen dark valley or something like it.

Evergreen Guy said...

It is interesting to see all the things I dislike about the JB translation encapsulated in its version of a single psalm.

Timothy said...


You are more than welcome to explain your dislike. :)

CatholicSteve said...

I once read something on a forum that has stuck with me; the poster said he felt all Bible translations were gifts from God. And that makes sense! Especially when some people don't even get the luxury of a Bible at all. I've been learning to not worry about Bible translations anymore; instead I want to approach the Word of God with humility and obedience. as long as its a Catholic translation and approved; why fuss right?

"He guides me by paths of virtue for the sake of his name."
What a wonderful verse!


Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

I want to echo the sentiments of CatholicSteve. Every now and then I like to look at this very short YouTube video to remind myself to value the Bibles I own, regardless of translation. I have definitely taken it for granted in the past.
Corrected video:

Emilia said...

Not my favorite, I still prefer the Revised Grail Psalms. Though, the cup brimming over is a perfect way to translate the Hebrew because that line is trying to show us that God gives us overflowing abundance (no pun intended), or more than we need.

Evergreen Guy said...

I'm not arguing for the JB to be banned or burned or prohibited. I just don't like it. Why? The use of the Divine Name, the inconsistency of the translation in its use of terminology, the fact that for every line that soars in the translation there abounds clunky and awkward word usage that detracts from the translation's elegance ("gloomy" -- ugh). The cadences don't flow well. Plus, the decision in many places to rely not on the Hebrew or Greek but on the original French version of the JB was a grave error. It is one thing to rely on a translation on the Vulgate, that has been hallowed by use and recognized as reliable by the Council of Trent, it is a another to work off a French translation with no particular grant of authority from the universal Church.

Ryan Pias said...

I do enjoy reading different translations of the Psalms, thanks for sharing this!

I'm joining a Benedictine monastery in a couple months (Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon), and one of their former Abbots translated the Psalms which they use when they chant the Office, here is how that translation puts this Psalm (though, in the Office they do not use the name of God, they use the standard "LORD", etc...):

Yahweh is my shepherd:
I will be in want of nothing.

He will have me lie down in green meadows;
he will lead me to the waters, where there is rest,
and give new strength to my soul.

He will direct me to lush pastures
for the sake of his name.

Should I even walk in the darkness of death
I would fear no evil,
for you are beside me!
Your rod, your staff - these will guide me!

You prepare a table for me
in full view of my enemies.
You anoint my head
and fill my cup to overflowing.

Surely your goodness and your unfailing love will
pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh
as long as days will last.

**For anyone interested, this translation can be purchased:

"The Psalms: A New Translation" by Bonaventure Zerr, O.S.B.
ISBN: 0809122189

Anonymous said...

For one thing, I strongly dislike the use of Yahweh for the Tetragrammaton for the following reasons:

1. Yahweh is only a best approximation of the full pronunciation of YHWH. Jews then believed that God the Father deliberately kept his personal name in secret so as to avoid blasphemy or to avoid using the full name in sorcery or idolatry.

2. Jesus himself affirms the name God the Father chose to disclose for himself, I AM.

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)

This cryptic statement of Jesus also confirms his oneness with the Father. "I am" as referring to himself in the verse and "I AM" alluding to the name God the Father disclosed in Exodus 3:14-15.

3. If Jesus saw that not pronouncing the name is not beneficial as what he did in many Jewish customs such as cleaning before taking a meal, healing on a sabbath, he may had been given even hints as to what the full name is as deferrence to the Jewish custom of not pronuncing the name.

4. In connection to number 3, and as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated in his 2008 instruction, it has been long a Jewish custom of replacing the name as LORD. It would be very atrocious for us Christians to do the opposite as Jesus himself did not see the need to defer with the custom.

5. Of all the three persons of the Trinity, only the Son, Jesus Christ has a personal name. This reflects as a part of being fully man. One cannot be a human without a name. Does anyone bothered to know the personal name of the Holy Spirit? Paraclete is surely not his personal name either.

Leighton said...


Blessings on your journey. The translation you shared is beautiful. I will have to look into that.

I was reading Psalms from my JB (original, not the CTS version, which I use a lot, in addition to the NJB) last night, and they are, in most places, lovely. What I struggle with as far as the JB (original and CTS version) goes is, as Evergreen Guy alluded to, there is inconsistency in the translation. Many passages are wonderfully poetic, others downright pedestrian. I personally believe the former outweighs the latter. Overall it is pleasant to the ear. The Psalms, for instance, in most cases, express the emotion of the psalmist powerfully (I think Fr. Wansbrough did well with this in the NJB, too).

The other thing is, some of the translation choices baffle me, such as Gal. 1:6, where the JB leaves out "in the grace of Christ," in spite of the fact that other translations include it or variations.

There are many of these choices that make it difficult to fully trust the text. Though I agree that if it has the imprimatur, it is okay to use, so I do. This is why it is helpful to use more than one Bible, of course. I keep my RSV around when I am in the JB.

Evergreen Guy said...

For those of use who don't know the biblical languages or Latin, I think it is absolutely essential that we don't rely on any one translation. It is good to have a mix -- at least two that embody different translations styles. Normally, I use the New English Bible with Apocrypha: Oxford Study Edition as a dynamic translation, and the NABRE for a more literal translation -- with the Orthodox Study Bible New Testament & Psalms in the NKJV as a third translation (along with getting the Orthodox perspective in the study notes & book introductions). Under the influence of our host at this blog, I got a copy of The Message Catholic Edition too, but I've found that it is a bit too much of a paraphrase for my tastes, so I went back to the NEB. These aren't the only possible translation combinations, of course. My wife prefers the NABRE and Good News Bible Catholic Edition. It isn't so much the specific editions as it is the translation philosophies behind them that I think is important. One freer translation, one more literal.

Eric Barczak said...

I think the last part of the psalm has a certain literary/poetic meter to it that agrees with me. In fact, I'd say the beauty of the Jerusalem Bible psalter is the only reason I haven't traded it for a CTS New Catholic Bible.

Evergreen Guy said...

The poetic power of a particular translation is a subjective determination. When I read the JB though, I'm just not experiencing it -- I just get hung up on the awkwardness of the translation at key spots: the use of the Divine Name, "gloomy," etc. Compare the JB's version of the Psalm with that found in the NABRE. The NABRE is generally not acknowledged to be a literary masterpiece, but even so I find that the Psalm flows more smoothly in that translation than in the JB:

The Lord is my shepherd:
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me
inf front of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days.

Again, that ain't the KJV when it comes to cadence, but still a significant improvement I think on the JB's phrasing.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Plus, the decision in many places to rely not on the Hebrew or Greek but on the original French version of the JB was a grave error. It"

The fact that they translated from the French rather than the original languages or the Latin was not really a 'decision', it is something that happened because they ran out of time. The original plan was going to translate first from the French, then to translate from the original languages, and compare the two translations, and only use the French as a guide, so as to maintain the same literary style of the original French Jerusalem Bible. But their time quickly ran out and they just used the translation from the French because they didn't have the time to re-translate from the original languages and do the comparison.

Leighton said...


The translation of the Psalms you mentioned is excellent (The Psalms: A New Translation" by Bonaventure Zerr, O.S.B. ISBN: 0809122189). Just got it yesterday! Thanks!

Ryan Pias said...

Leighton - you are most welcome, glad you like it! God Bless...

Bob said...

I've begun to train myself to see "The Lord" when I read Yahweh in the psalms and have come to enjoy the JB psalms quite a bit.

I wish they did to the JB psalms in the CTS what they did everywhere else--replace Yahweh, leave it the same. I understand they wanted to make a liturgical bible. And I have weird issues with the Grail Psalms. I love them when I say the liturgy of the hours. Elsewhere? I find them awkward. I even am unsatisfied with them in the responsorial psalm at mass.

owen swain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stasya said...


Patrick McIntyre said...

I see no problem with the flow of this psalm using the word “Yahweh”, but even if I did I would not substitute “the Lord” because that’s not what Yahweh means. “The Lord” in Hebrew would be “Elohim”, whereas Yahweh means “I am”.