Wednesday, February 3, 2016

NABRE NT Revision Questions

I had a little chat with friend-of-this-blog Mary Sperry a few days back to see if she would be willing to field a few questions regarding the status of the NABRE NT revision process.  For those of you who don't know, Mary is the Associate Director for USCCB Permissions and NAB Utilization at USCCB Publishing. Mary has answered questions on this blog before, dating back to 2010, and has graciously kept us all in the loop regarding the NABRE.

So, if you have a particular question for her, feel free to ask one in the comment section of this post.  Please keep in mind that we are still in the early stages of the NT revision, which will last until the next decade.  Please don't ask about particular translation decisions, since that is something that cannot be answered or shared at this time. You are welcome to ask a general question about the NABRE, not related to the NT revision.    

Some info we already know:
Board of Editors


Emilia said...

Will the NABRE be renamed once the new NT is finished? That is, can we expect another name for the translation or will it be known as the NAB 2025?

Emilia said...

Why does Leviticus 6 only have 23 verses whereas other translations, such as the NRSV and the RSV, continue onto verse 30 in the same chapter?

Timothy said...

Haven't been able to look to confirm, but is this due to the NABRE following the Hebrew numbering as opposed to the RSV/NRSV following the Greek?

Christopher Buckley said...

1) Ditto to the rebranding question: will you be at all open to renaming the translation to boost awareness and adoption as an "official Catholic" translation in English? [Seems like the original reason for "New American" was to underscore it as a contribution from American Biblical scholars... which is far lass of a concern 46 years later.]

2) Can you say more about the textual basis your translation team is using? Will it use source texts at least as recent and complete as the Common English Bible (CEB - Nestle-Aland 27th, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia 4th / Biblia Hebraica Quinta 5th)?

3) Say more about how Liturgiam authenticam figures in or guides your work. The originally stated intent of the NT revision was for a translation that could be used for study, devotion, and liturgy. Can we expect the specified adherence to the Nova Vulgata and use of preferred Latinate renderings when needed for a text suitable for liturgy? (i.e. "chalice") If so, how will you denote in the text where the Nova Vulgata may require a different rendering liturgically than a strict translation of the original language alone?

4) I'm really interested in a Catholic translation in English that not only reads the same as what we hear in mass in the US, but that may be adopted in English speaking countries beyond the US... especially Canada, the UK, and portions of the Phillippines. What efforts can you make at this stage to incorporate considerations of other Bishops Conferences / Biblical Associations in hopes of the widest possible adoption?

Mark DeForrest said...
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Anonymous said...

My questions for her would be:

1. Are there any literary consultants on the NABRE NT Revision Committee?

2. Will the NABRE 2025 be available in mobile versions, like the Crossway in its ESV app, or the Ignatius in its Lighthouse app for the RSV-2CE and the Truth and Life app? Would the USCCB and CBA relax copyright rules to allow the new version to be available freely for mobile devices. I think this should be considered if the CBA wants to promote the translation.

3. Are there any plans to modify lightly the Old Testament if the Holy See would compel them to do so even for the lectionary approval to get Vatican's recognitio that would require outside of the committee's scope of work?

Emilia said...

Oh hey! I'm just did a quick check on the NABRE and I you are right about the different numbering; the "missing" verses are really there :p

Emilia said...

Wow that was some horrible grammar...I meant: I just did...and I THINK you are right...

Mark DeForrest said...
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Christopher Buckley said...

Sorry if this is a duplicate, but I thought Gerald should know: the USCCB does make the NABRE available online, granting permission to the YouVersion Bible app to make the full text (with notes) available on its free Bible app.

In addition to the NABRE, other Catholic texts in English include the Douay-Rheims Challoner and the Catholic Good News Translation.

Biblical Catholic said...

"I'm really interested in a Catholic translation in English that not only reads the same as what we hear in mass in the US"

That's just not possible, the lectionary necessarily makes changes to the Biblical text to adapt it to public reading. Alterations must be made otherwise there will be severe comprehension problems, for example, it won't always be clear which character is speaking, or who is being spoken to.

David Garcia said...

I am curious what your affinity is for the CEB? I love this translation but I know it's not getting widespread attention and I've seen you mention it a few times so I'm just curious how you came to discover and like it?

Christopher Buckley said...

Biblical Catholic: I disagree. A "lectionary" isn't always a "book of edited scripture selections." As a United Methodist and an Episcopalian, our "Revised Common Lectionary" was simply the seasonal list of scriptural citations designated for use in worship on any given Sunday.

We simply opened a copy of the approved translation and read directly from the Bible.

And yes, that's even something Catholic do: the Ordinariates get to read directly from the RSV-2CE at mass.

So, no: we COULD quite easily create a Biblical translations that takes into account the breaks in the Catholic lectionary assignments and structures the rendering accordingly.

David: I'm just impressed by the coordination, translating team, and reading level of the CEB, even though I'm less than thrilled with some of its renderings. Again, as a former UM, I was excited to see this translation come out of that denomination's ecumenical translation work.

Anonymous said...


I forgot to emphasize, but the NABRE in the YouVersion app is only available when your mobile data is on. Otherwise, it cannot be accessed.

Perhaps it would be better if they could make it available even offline upon downloading the app in app stores like the Crossway's ESV app, Ignatius Lighthouse App, Truth and Life App.

In this day of digital age, having a version with an extensive reach will make an impact to its readers and of course demand for the translation would increase as satisfied mobile users will want something that they can hold when their devices are not available since use of mobile devices in the church is generally discouraged, especially when the version envisions itself to be used consistently with Liturgy.

CatholicSteve said...

Will the footnotes be revised and include commentary by the early Church Fathers? Will there be any changes in the OT?


Neil Short said...

I'm happy to hear that. What attracts me to NABRE is the translators (so far) placed higher priority on accuracy than favored/popular wording.

Neil Short said...

Will the bishops consider permitting its publication without interpretive notes?

Steve Molitor said...

As a follow up to Neil's question, will they consider permitting its publication alternative notes? I'm thinking of the Didache and Catholic Study Bibles for example. IANACL * but I think they may be interpreting canon law incorrectly and too literally here. The intent of the law is to encourage the publication of bibles with good notes, but by not allowing the NABRE to be published without its notes, they are actually discouraging the development of good Catholic study bibles with good notes based on the NABRE. It comes across as heavy-handed, controlling and counter-productive.

Do other bishop's conferences publish bibles in other languages? If so, do they not allow their bibles to be published without their notes? If not, are they in violation of canon law and should we tattle on them? ;)

* IANACL - I am not a canon lawyer

wxmarc said...

Would the USCCB ever allow publication of a "protestant edition" of the NABRE? I've occasionally run across protestants who are curious about the NAB, but having the deuterocanonical books interspersed in the Old Testament turns them off. We Catholics get excited when protestant translations (RSV, NRSV, etc.) publish Catholic editions with the books in traditional Catholic order. If we truly want the NAB to be more universal, why can't we do the same and publish an NAB without notes and with the Deuterocanonical books in a separate section?

Anonymous said...

NABRE ONLINE: The NABRE is available at for free with an internet connection (where you will also find the RSV-Catholic Edition and the NRSV-CE). It is also available to download for a small fee with the Olive Tree Biblestudy App available in the App Store, Google Play and several other platforms. Olive Tree App has been my go-to mobile Bible for several years. I recommend everyone check it out.

I have been impressed with how the NABRE has been made available on a good selection of high quality sites and platforms. I thank the publishers and everyone involved in making that happen.

Christopher Buckley said...

One question I forgot to ask is about the timing of the revised NABRE NT and the parallel process of revising the Liturgy of the Hours.

The PDF above indicates the Bishops are aiming to use the revised NABRE for the scripture readings in the second edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. In fact, they plan to make use of the full two-year cycle of readings for the Office of Readings, allowing for MUCh more of the Biblical text to be used.

Will the NT be ready in time? What kind of coordination is there with the USCCB committee working on the LOTH?

Mark DeForrest said...
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Anonymous said...

Christopher regarding the two year cycle of readings for the revised LOTH the Bishops have postponed this for sometime in the future. Based on this I doubt we will se a two year cycle. It will not be included with the release of the revised LOTH which will be released after 2020. See the June 2015 PDF meeting recap.

Lenny V

Emilia said...

Steve: Yes there are other bishop conferences that started their own translations. Like CELAM began a translation project called the Bible of the Church in the Americas (Biblia de la Iglesia en las Américas). They finished their New Testament last year, and it comes in a "typical" edition as well as a "study" edition. Just take a look at their website :

Biblical Catholic said...

Biblical Catholic: I disagree. A "lectionary" isn't always a "book of edited scripture selections."

Then frankly, you don't understand.

Let me give you a simple example:

In the Gospels, there are several long paragraphs of text where Jesus is speaking, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, or the numerous discourses in John etc.

There is no possible way of just reading the full Sermon on the Mount, which takes more than a half hour, in the Mass so that people understand the full context.

The only thing we get is small selections of the Sermon on the Mount.

If these are going to be read in Mass, and if people are going to understand what is going on, then changes have to be made to the text.

You can't just have a reading that starts

And he said to them....

No one is going to understand 'who is 'he'?' and 'who are 'them'?'

There MUST be clarifying text added that makes it clear who is speaking, and who is being spoken to, the vague phrase 'he said to them', has to be changed so that the listeners understand.

Therefore, vague phrases like 'and he said to them', have to be changed to something 'and then Jesus said to his disciples...' or 'then Jesus said to the Pharisees'

The same is true of the order for people understand the context of the passage that is being read, and thus every reading from the epistles begins with the introduction 'Brothers and sisters....' even though this phrase RARELY appears in the epistles.

And the same is true of the Old Testament, where there are long passages of text which are quotations of one person or another, there are long speeches by Moses, long speeches by God, long passages in the prophets, where no speaker is mentioned in paragraph after paragraph.

So, to make the passage comprehensible, clarifying phrases have to be added, phrases like 'and then Moses said. or 'thus says the Lord...'

Otherwise, the passage is not going to make sense to the listeners, or even, frankly, to the reader.

And this has been going on literally, for the entire lifetime of the Church. We have in our possession lectionaries from as early as the third and fourth centuries, and these alterations to the text were being done even then.

You can't just read directly from the Bible word for word and expect anyone is going to understand the reading, the only way to do what you're suggesting, is to have the weekly Mass readings be an hour long, or longer. That isn't feasible.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Interesting idea -- an "ecumenical edition" of the New American Bible"

The NAB is already an ecumenical Bible.

Javier said...

the Conference of Bishops of Spain has its own "The Bible: Episcopal Conference Official Version":
Versión Oficial de la Conferencia Episcopal Española

Also, the Episcopal Conferences of the french speaking countries and territories, have their "Official Liturgical Translation":
Traduction officielle liturgique

Chris Buckley said...

Biblical Catholic-

Interesting presumption. I dunno. It always seemed to work just fine before: They just handed me a Bible, showed me the first first to start on, showed me the verse to stop on, and made it clear if we needed to skip anything in between.

Millions and millions of Christians do it every week. Doesn't seem to break anyone.

But then again, I saw the light and became Catholic, so what do I know? ;-)

Peace and all good.

Steve Molitor said...

My wife was protestant before she became Catholic, and I attended some of her services. They just read directly from the bible like Chris said. Seemed to work fine. Revising slightly in the lectionary to clarify pronouns and such does seem a bit more optimal, but not crucial.

In any case, if the NABRE and the lectionary were virtually the same except for minor clarifications like that, that'd be great!

Francesco said...

Biblical and Chris,

The differences between the lectionary readings and the text they are taken from are sometimes more than just the pronouns or an introductory phrase, and can change the meaning of the text. Compare the Gospel reading for the Annunciation ( with the text of the RNAB NT ( Verse 28's going to say "full of grace" no matter what translation you use.

When they eventually make a lectionary based on the NABRE OT it will say "vigin" for the first reading as well, even if the NABRE OT doesn't.

Christopher Buckley said...

Thanks Francesco-

Yes precisely. And with all due respect to the wonder that is liturgy in the Roman Rite, it's important for all Catholics to understand: this is one of the reasons hardcore anti-Catholic Protestants distrust us.

Because it LOOKS like:
a) We're messing with the Bible
b) We're hiding from the faithful what the Bible really says
c) We change the words of Holy Scripture to fit our beliefs
c) We don't let people read from the Bible

We can dismiss it as "they just don't understand the difference between a lectionary and a book of scripture."

But speaking as someone who converted, painfully and deliberately over more than a decade, to the Catholic Church from even a mainline Protestant tradition, this was a HUGE obstacle for me. WAY bigger than the Immaculate Conception or papal authority.

In fact, putting myself back in that mindspace, I'd have countered: no, the Catholic Church is the one that doesn't get what a lectionary is. The lectionary is a small booklet, containing a list of all the Biblical citations we'll be reading from in worship over three years. But to presume that anyone can claim the right to "edit" Holy Scripture for flow, readability, and comprehension is the height of unfaithfulness and hubris. Our role as lectors is simply to read what's there, plainly and clearly, for the preacher to bring to life an unpack in his sermon.

Add to that the seemingly un-Christian stance of forbidding laypeople to read the words of Christ in worship, and you may be able to imagine the baseline outrage even a moderate Protestant might feel when first exposed to our liturgy, without context.

Clearly I've grown since then, and hold very different beliefs about these objections. But I raise them so we can look out from our place of privilege and try to wrap our heads and hearts around the world of confusion - and frankly hurt - we can perpetuate when we just take it at face value, without interpreting for others.

Peace and all good-

Emilia said...

But Chris,
We don't forbid laypeople from reading scripture in mass. Our missal a have the text and we are allowed to bring them to mass. Besides that, sooooo many catholic bibles have a list of lectionary readings in the back that we can look up

Steve Molitor said...


I assumed that those more substantial differences would be resolved when the revised new testament comes out. Am I wrong about that? "full of grace" and "favored one" are both reasonable translations that can be defended by different text traditions, but why translate it one way in the lectionary and another in the bible? That would be disappointing if these differences weren't ironed out.

In NABRE NT Introduction it states:

"The three-fold purpose of this process is to produce a translation of the New Testament that is even more suitable for individual study and devotion, catechesis, and proclamation within the Sacred Liturgy."

It would be disappointing if that third purpose could not be achieved, if the revised NT could not be used pretty much as is in the liturgy, except for minor changes such as clarifying pronouns and such.

Steve Molitor said...

Pace Chris, I have to say my wife didn't feel any kind of "baseline outrage" when she first started attending mass. She came from a southern baptist and then non-denom evangelical background. She was happy to hear the bible was read at all in a catholic church, 3 times no less! She actually heard a bit more of the bible read than at her old evangelical church.

And I don't think most people are that picky about minor translation changes. She was happy with any translation that was easier to understand than the KJV she grew up with. At the non-denom church people used different translations, and the pastor often read from a different translation than was supplied in the pews, so folks got used to the idea that they were not hearing the word of God exactly, but rather a particular translation of the word of God.

Having said that, I do agree that there's no good reason for the lectionary and bible to differ in substantial ways (more than pronouns and such). That seems like a bureaucratic failing more than anything else - the typical "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing" thing that you see in most large corporations.