Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Reading 2017

Each year around this time I like to hear from you as to what you are reading this summer.  Summer seems to always be a great time to dig out that book you got for Christmas or your birthday, but just haven't gotten around to yet.  This summer, I have a small stack of books that I am hoping to get through (although my wife might say it isn't that small.)  Perhaps "hoping to get through" isn't the best way to put it, since I am not trying to win a race, but rather since I don't teach in the summer I do have some free time.  So, quality of reading is far superior to quantity of reading.

Here is what I am up to this summer:

The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition (I have been using this as my main reading/lectio bible for the past year.  I have been using the NABRE for study and the classes I teach.)

A Book of Hours w/Thomas Merton (I have used this daily for almost two months.  Initially thought it was a bit of a gimmick, but it has been a great help to my daily prayer time.  Also, highly adaptable.)

A Long Obendience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation by Bray and Hobbins

The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power by Daniel Berrigan

Cold War Letters by Thomas Merton

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Release: Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation

Recently I became aware of a new text that has recently been released released by Samuel L. Bray and John Hobbins.  You may know John from his bible-blog site Ancient Hebrew Poetry.   (If you have not, I'd encourage you to head over there and read some of the fine articles on translation.)  I was recently contacted by Samuel Bray alerting me to a new book that the two of them had authored and released in May.  Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation is a "translation of Genesis 1-11 that follows the Hebrew text closely and leaves in what many translations leave out: physicality, ambiguity, repetition, even puns. The authors draw deeply from the long history of Jewish and Christian interpretation. Their translation and notes offer the reader wisdom and delight."

In a recent email, I asked Samuel Bray about his new book and what they were trying to accomplish with its publication.  I think you will find his response very intriguing:

There are so many Bibles now, that it would seem like another one could not possibly be needed. But compared to the vast number of new Bibles, the older translations were often closer to the original, carrying over more of its physicality and imagery. And the older translations were better suited to reading aloud. I had been dissatisfied with the new ones, and in early 2015 started working on a translation that would be traditional (in the sense of the Tyndale-KJV tradition), close, and suited to reading aloud. I sent a rough initial draft to John, whom I knew from his blogging on Hebrew grammar and poetry. John and I started working together on the project, and in late 2015, with a draft of the translation and notes in hand, we signed a contract with our publisher, GlossaHouse. Since then we've been able to refine and polish the book.

We have a number of aims in this translation, and as we freely admit in the introductory essay, "To the Reader," there are other good aims that a translation could have. One translation can't do everything. What we offer is a very close translation--one that is sensitive not just to semantic content, but to what might be called the rhetoric or stylistics of the text. This includes its physicality, metaphors, the level of diction, the repetitions, and the puns.

We also are self-consciously in the Tyndale-KJV tradition (a tradition that includes Douai-Rheims). That means that where it's possible, while still sticking close to the original, we want to keep the diction and phrases that connect the English Bible with a vast network of hymns, proverbial expressions, and literary allusions.

And we have given close attention to how the translation sounds when read aloud. That means we care about pacing, rhythm, euphony, even onomatopoeia.

There are a lot of Bible translations, and there are many good ones. We recommend some in our notes (including NABRE). But there is still room for a closer translation in vigorous and rhythmic English. Tyndale did it in the sixteenth century, and there is no reason to think it's impossible in the twenty-first.

One last thing I should mention. We include 135 pages of notes explaining our translation decisions. These notes will help the reader go "behind the camera" and see the kinds of decisions translators have to make. A reader will understand and gain new appreciation for the translation he reads, no matter which one it is.

I will be receiving a review copy soon, which I will report back to you about once I get a chance to examine it.  However, I'd encourage you to check out the publisher's site and the Amazon listing, which has some sample pages.  While it seems crazy that we have to wait around for decades, it seems, for some of our favorite Catholic Bible-related projects to be completed, it is important to note that there are a number of other interesting projects that are going on.  This volume looks like it will be an incredible resource and something that should be supported.  

The Naked Bible podcast has a helpful interview with the authors posted.  It is worth a listen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Which Will Come First?
Completed One-Volume Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
Fully Revised NABRE
The Parousia
survey maker

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Slow Trickle Continues........

Thanks to Emilia for spotting this!  Due to be published October 10th.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: 1&2 Kings
This volume in the popular Ignatius Catholic Study Bible series leads readers through a penetrating study of the First and Second Books of Kings using the biblical text itself and the Church's own guidelines for understanding the Bible.

Ample notes accompany each page, providing fresh insights by renowned Bible teachers Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch as well as time-tested interpretations from the Fathers of the Church. These helpful study notes provide rich historical, cultural, geographical, and theological information pertinent to the Old Testament book information that bridges the distance between the biblical world and our own.

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible also includes Topical Essays, Word Studies, and Charts. The Topical Essays explore the major themes of 1 & 2 Kings, often relating them to the teachings of the Church. The Word Studies explain the background of important biblical terms, while the Charts summarize crucial biblical information "at a glance".

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Saint John's Bible on CBC Radio!

Jason Engel is a frequent author/commentator on this blog, former ambassador of the Saint John's Bible, as well as a good friend.  Recently, he did a fascinating interview on CBC Radio discussing my favorite 21st century illuminated bible and how it had the power to gather people from diverse situations around it.  You can check it out here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

YouCat Bible Origins

Cologne ( When the YOUCAT Foundation and I first set out together to develop a Bible for young people, an experienced publisher said to me: Think it over seriously!  A Bible isn’t easy as it might seem.  To keep the entire body of the text in view, to make it all legible, not to leave anything out, and then the corrections – it can drive you crazy.  It can go wrong big-time.
Alright, I then thought with sincere respect and not a little sheepishness, it would be better not to get too over-confident if the project comes up.   And I thought about my own mini-bible, chock full of dense, small-print, precisely type-set text, and it dawned on me, that if it becomes a reality, that I am permitted to develop a Bible, then it has to be done right, really right.  I won’t do less.
For me the encounter with the emerging idea of a youth catechism almost seven years ago was the beginning of a completely new chapter in life and in my professional career path.  My work till then dealt with local or regional contract jobs, whereas the YOUCAT project introduced me to a new, unexpected global dimension and with it also a completely new expectation of serious, clear communication with particularly complex subject matter.  Yet, the biggest of those was that it fulfilled in the highest degree my yearning to visualize precisely the subject matter that I myself stand for.
Continue reading here.
You can purchase the YouCat Bible here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Good Pre-Sale Price for NLT-CE at is listing the NLT-CE for $9.99 for the Ebook and $18.99 for the hardcover.  Both will be released in October.

Tyndale is pleased to announce the NLT Catholic Readers Edition, approved by the Catholic Church for reading and study and including the official Imprimatur. The Bible includes the New Living Translation text with deuterocanonical books. It also features book introductions to aid your personal study. The Holy Bible, New Living Translation communicates God’s Word powerfully to all who read it.

The New Living Translation is an authoritative Bible translation rendered faithfully into today’s English from the ancient texts by 90 leading Bible scholars. The NLT’s scholarship and clarity breathe life into even the most difficult-to-understand Bible passages—but even more powerful are stories of how people’s lives are changing as the words speak directly to their hearts.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine

Over the past few weeks, I have been enjoying reading through the late Fr. Daniel Berrigan's commentary on the Book of Daniel.  Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine was re-published by Plough earlier this year in a very beautifully bound and typset edition.  Fr. Berrigan was a priest and poet, who many recognize as one of the great antiwar activists of the past generation.  Arrested over fifty times for non-violent protest against nuclear weapons and war, Fr. Berrigan rose to prominence in the late 1960's through his involvement with the Catonsville Nine.   Yet, perhaps unknown to many, Fr. Berrigan wrote a number of biblical commentaries later in life, including books on Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the historical books of the OT.  This commentary on Daniel is a social and political one, which connects the lived experience of people at the time of the Babylonian exile with the realities of today.  This is not a technical commentary, but rather a spiritual/application one.  Even though it was first published in 1998, it remains very applicable to the world we live in today, perhaps even more so.  Any of you who are familiar with the work of Fr. Berrigan know that he had the rare ability to be both outspoken and poetic.  This commentary certainly exhibits these qualities in full, as the book's description makes clear:

A bold and unorthodox application of the Old Testament to current political and social discourse, Daniel is not simply a book about a bygone prophet, but a powerful charge to all people of conscience. As Berrigan writes, “There are principalities of today to be confronted, their idols and thrice-stoked furnaces and caves of lions, their absurd self-serving images and rhetoric. Someone must pink their pride, decode the handwriting on the wall. Who is to stand up, to withstand?”

So, if you are looking for a different style of commentary than you are accustomed to, one that is a more direct, yet poetic, critique of the modern world through the lens of the bible, I'd recommend getting a copy.  I have enjoyed every page of it and hope that they republish some of his other commentaries in the future.  Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine is available in both hardcover and Ebook.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Guest Review: Ignatius New Testament and Psalms RSV-2CE

Thank you to Chris for this guest review.

Because I travel a lot for work, I often rely on the Catholic Study Bible app from Ignatius Press and the Augustine Institute. Phone batteries, however, drain fast. So when the Holy Father recommended in March that Catholics should put down their phones, talk to each other more, and carry a pocket New Testament to read, I began looking for one of my own.

The Ignatius New Testament and Psalms (RSV-2CE) has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its size. Here you can see it alongside the standard Ignatius Bible and Ignatius Study Bible New Testament for comparison. It’s much smaller, and thus perfectly suited for a travel edition.

At basically 4” x 6” it’s extremely easy to stuff in the front pouch of my work satchel, along with the small moleskine journal I use to keep notes and draft poetry.

It’s also a match in size for Christian Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours, so if you travel with that, it’s a good companion.

Obviously, reducing the size requires a different typesetting than the standard edition. The 9/10 font size used in this little volume is still easy to read, while maximizing space even in a dual-column layout. Subsection titles stand out from the text of scripture in an easy-to-read sans serif font.

It has some additional features that I like, including two ribbon markers (at least in the leather edition), a preface from Albert Cardinal Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago, and introductions to both the New Testament and the Psalms. It even reprints the original 1965 letter from Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston to the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain who produced the original RSV Catholic Edition.

I can understand not including a copy of Dei Verbum in the interest of keeping the volume compact, but I really would have appreciated a lectionary calendar of daily mass readings. Sadly, in order to maximize the amount of scripture on each page, the explanatory notes are printed in an appendix rather than inline with the text, similar to the way Oxford handles them in its RSV-CE compact volume.

The most distinguishing feature of Ignatius’ RSV Second Catholic Edition is the way it addresses the criticisms of the Catholic NRSV by simply removing archaic verbs and pronouns from the original Catholic RSV and adjusting some vocabulary for liturgical considerations. It’s in a volume like this where those characteristics stand out the most: it’s in the Psalms where the original RSV maintained the archaic addresses to God, and the New Testament is where a lot of the changes required by Liturgiam authenticam occur. Even more than a full Bible, this New Testament and Psalms has the feel of a Catholic ESV.

For lack of a better description, it’s actually a rugged, “manly” little volume, rather like the one used on the Catholic Gentleman blog to model their rugged rosaries. It’s the Catholic answer to those little NT and Psalms the Gideons used to pass out in front of my high school. I recommend it highly.

Christopher Buckley holds an M.A. in Religion from the Claremont School of Theology. He began as a United Methodist and passed through the Episcopal Church before being confirmed into the Catholic Church as an adult. He lives and works in Seattle with his wife and two children, and blogs occasionally at Connect with him on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and LinkedIn.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Indian Bible Contains Verses from the Vedas

Thank you to my friend Louis for sharing this link with me.  This is an earlier article, 2008, about the New Community Bible.  Might be an interesting discussion starter, particularly with some comments from my readers who live in India.

From the Times of India:

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Pictures of a turbaned Joseph and sari-clad Mary with baby Jesus in an "Indianised" version of the Bible is set to create waves across the country. In a unique experiment, the Catholic Church is coming out with a version of the Bible with verses from ancient Indian texts like the Upanishads and Vedas to explain the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

This is an unprecedented attempt to encourage a contextual reading and understanding of the Bible, says the church spokesman, Paul Thelakat.

"The Biblical text remains the same but verses from Vedas and Upanishads have been used to interpret Christian teachings," says Thelakat. As far as Catholics are concerned, they have to live and interpret their Christian faith and scriptures within the given culture, he adds.

Continue reading this article here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Physical Comparison of The Catholic Study Bible 1990 + 2016

Over the past few years, I have slowly been gifting away most of the bibles I have accumulated since this blog started in 2008.  Two bibles I have kept, however, are the 1990 and 2016 The Catholic Study Bible (CSB) published by Oxford University Press.  They represent the first and the most recent update in this venerable edition.  I am not going to spent that much time discussing the content in both of these bibles, but rather I am going to look at their physical and visual qualities.   However, as we get started, it is important to note that the 1990 edition contains the original 1970 NAB OT (including the original NAB Psalter) and the 1986 NAB revised NT.  The 2016 edition contains the now branded NABRE, with fully revised OT and 1986 revised NT.  (The 2016 edition is also important since it finally updated the extensive reading guides to reflect the NABRE OT, which was not reflected in the 2011 edition.)  The reading guides in both editions are a little under 600 pages in length, but the content is different reflecting updates to scholarship and translation.

The first thing you will notice is the size.  The 2016 is thicker than the original, even though its length is a tad bit shorter.  There are two reasons for this: The first is that the 2016 has considerably more study helps included compared to the original 1990.  When the original came out, it was praised for the extensive reading guides, essays, appendix materials, Sunday Lectionary Readings, and Oxford Maps that accompanied the NAB translation and notes.  Yet, times have changed and the demand for "more" in a study bible have continued to increase.  The newest edition contains all of what the previous edition had, but also more essays, full lectionary readings, updated Oxford Maps, concise concordance, and dozens of in-text mini-essays, charts, drawings, and maps.  The second reason for the size difference is that in the early 90's Oxford created their study bibles with generous margins.  I own the 1991 New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (NRSV) and it too has the same generous margins. 

The cover materials have also changed in the years since 1990, at least for these Catholic editions.  My 1990 CSB was bounded in genuine leather.  Being almost 27 years old, it still has a nice feel to it and continues to have no structural issues.  The sewn binding allows it to still lay open flat, just like it did when I first got it.  The 2016 is made of a fairly stiff bonded leather.  No genuine leather edition is available currently.  A genuine leather cover was not available for the previous edition as well.  Now, if you are suggesting that Oxford isn't doing quality genuine leather editions any more, I will point you to their most recent NOAB NRSV 4th Edition.  That is a beautifully crafted cover, which may be the nicest genuine leather cover I have ever held in my life.  So, it can be done.  The only reason I can think as to why Oxford hasn't done the CSB in genuine leather is the fact that Catholics simply don't buy premium bibles in the numbers that will allow most publishers to make a profit.  Over the many years of this blog, I hate to say it, but I think that remains true for the most part.  

Lastly, the differences in the page-layout are striking.  The 1990 has much more space to it and feels less confined and cramped.  The 2016, while still attractive to read from and enhanced by the many in-text maps, charts, and essays, just isn't as appealing compared to the original.  This, I know, is completely subjective, but I also feel the same way about how the page-layouts have progressed in the NOAB NRSV's as well, which in many ways parallel each other.  

Overall, these are two very different study bibles from Oxford.  Over the span of 26 years, the translations changed, twice, the reading guides were updated, more material was added, and the physical/visual quality morphed into something different.  If I were to sum it up in one sentence, it would be this: While the content improved in almost every way, the packaging of that content decreased in quality.  

As always, your thoughts?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Older NAB College Bible on Big Discount

My friend Paul, at the Pastoral Center, is offering a pretty massive discount on the Saint Mary's Press College Study Bible which utilizes the pre-2011 NAB.  Each of these editions are on sale for $5.00 in their softcover version.  I own one and appreciate that it does include a ton of extra information and articles.  Although it is intended for college students, I think it could also be used for high schoolers as well.

Some of the features of this edition:
  • Introductory articles on how to read and understand the Bible, along with the Vatican Council II document Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)
  • Scholarly introductions to each section and book of the Bible, written and edited so that unfamiliar concepts and customs are easy to understand
  • Ninety short articles that address the social concerns, life issues, and spiritual needs of a student
  • Colorful in-text maps, illustrations, charts, biblical art, and photos throughout
  • Additional study aids, including a glossary of biblical terms, table of Sunday lectionary readings, and biblical history timeline.

Catholic Children's Bible App

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Message Canvas Bible

c/o The Message Canvas 

The Message Canvas Bible is a fantastic resource for those interested in purchasing a journaling/coloring bible.  At this time, it is only available in the original The Message translation, minus the deuterocanonicals. I decided to purchase a copy a few months ago.  It is wonderfully produced and the illustrations are so lovingly rendered that the text begs to be interacted with.  I have also come to use The Message translation daily in my prayers and duting times of practicing lectio divina.  I love the fact that it is rendered in such a different way from the majority of other translations.

I have owned a number of journaling bibles over the years, yet I can honestly say that it is this one that has quickly become my favorite.  The one I previously owned was the now out-of-print NRSV Notetakers Bible which included the deuteros.  The fine folks at NavPress have created a helpful website with additional prints and opportunities to show-off one's creativity.  I even printed off one of their prints for Ezekiel 34 and used it for an extended prayer experience for my high school students last week.  It was well received.

Hopefully there will be a full Catholic edition one day.  However, until then, this edition of The Message Canvas Bible will be used often.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Miscellaneous Stuff

Thanks to Emilia and Mike for these two bits of info that might interest some of you:

1) Bibliotheca set giveaway that ends on June 6th:

2) I thought I'd pass on that there's an ebook format of The Catholic Study Bible, 3rd edition on sale at Google Play for $9.80.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sirach: Catholic Women's Bible Study & Journaling Bible

I believe any book that begins with the sentence, “Wisdom comes from the Lord,” needs to be read. And not only read, but studied and lingered over. How? Well, that is entirely up to you. You may feel called to journal through the Book of Sirach—old school, pen and paper style. You may feel called to get your art on with the creative process of Bible journaling using various mediums from colored pencils, acrylic paints, washi tape and stickers. Or you may you choose to dig deeper into the Book of Sirach by verse mapping your way through. Either way, this book will encourage you, help you and give you the room you need for whatever journaling style you choose. You can find more Bible journaling resources as well as Prayer journaling resources at  You can find it at Amazon here.

Thanks again to Emilia for spotting this one!  She reports that the translation used is the RSV-CE.

Monday, May 8, 2017

So who is going to buy me this?


A magnificent new edition of perhaps the most important book ever printed…

The complete original text and illuminations.

Johannes Gutenberg’s innovation of the printing press and movable type stands as one of the greatest technological breakthroughs of all time. His printed Bible is a legend in publishing history with original copies considered priceless. Now, this landmark work is available in a breathtaking leather-bound facsimile edition. The book features the complete text and all the interior illuminations from a unique original.

Limited to just 2,500 hand-numbered volumes.

12” x 16”, 1,288pp 

6 Monthly Installments of $149

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Catholic Journaling Bible: Old Testament

Thanks to Emilia for the link!
The team at Drawn to Faith is excited to introduce their first Catholic journaling bible. This new journaling bible is perfect for any Catholic who wants to build a stronger relationship with Christ through creative worship. This bible is printed with a single column and over three inches of margin space for journaling, drawing, hand lettering, and even watercolor! The paper in this bible is five times thicker than standard bible paper, and the large format allows for maximum journaling space.
Product Details:
  • All bible verses from the Catholic Bible
  • Each book contains a full page illustration perfect for coloring
  • Premium matte finish paperback cover design
  • Perfect for all coloring & watercolor mediums
  • High quality 60 pound paper stock
  • Large format 8.5" wide x 11.0" tall pages

Monday, May 1, 2017

Guest Post: The NAB vs. the Lectionary (Feast of St. Mark)

Thanks again to Robert for doing this new series!

Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

Entrance Antiphon
Mark 16:15b

Go into all the world, and proclaim the Gospel to every creature, alleluia.

NAB 1970/1986
Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

Nothing to see here, really.  I suppose the lectionary text is marginally more poetic.  Alleluia, of course, isn't from the bible text.  I suppose this is one of those little things that causes changing a lectionary to take a decade.

First Reading
1 Peter 5:5B-14

Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:

God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever. Amen.

I write you this briefly through Silvanus,
whom I consider a faithful brother,
exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.
Remain firm in it.
The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

New American Bible 1970/1986
And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for:

“God apposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble”

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To him be dominion forever.  Amen.

I write you this briefly through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is is the true grace of God.  Remain firm in it.  The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.  Greet one another with a loving kiss.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Exactly the same except for the incipit, which provides an antecedent for the “you” in the reading as it appears in the NAB.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, "My kindness is established forever";
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

The heavens proclaim your wonders, O LORD,
and your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can rank with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the sons of God?

Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.

New American Bible 1970/1986:
The favors of the Lord I will sing
through all generations my mouth
shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is
established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed
your faithfulness”

The heavens proclaim your wonders,
O Lord,
and your faithfulness, in the
assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can rank with
the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the
sons of God?

Happy the people who know the
joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance,
O Lord, they walk.
At your name they rejoice
all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.

For contrast, the NABRE:

I will sing of your mercy forever, LORD
proclaim your faithfulness through all ages.
For I said, “My mercy is established forever;
my faithfulness will stand as long as the heavens.”

The heavens praise your marvels, LORD,
your loyalty in the assembly of the holy ones.
Who in the skies ranks with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the sons of the gods?

Blessed the people who know the war cry,
who walk in the radiance of your face, LORD.
In your name they sing joyfully all the day;
they rejoice in your righteousness.

And the Revised Grail Psalms:

I will sing forever of your mercies, O LORD;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your fidelity.
I have declared your mercy is established forever;
your fidelity stands firm as the heavens.

The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your fidelity in the assembly of your holy ones.
For who in the skies can compare with the LORD,
or who is like the LORD among the heavenly powers?

How blessed the people who know your praise,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
who find their joy every day in your name,
who make your justice their joyful acclaim.

The response is an adaptation of the 2nd verse of the psalm, which matches neither the lectionary text as the reader or cantor presents, nor the NAB.  The lectionary shows its allergy to the use of the word “happy” when “blessed” is an option.  I tend to agree with that decision.  Many translations seemed to opt for “happy” in the heady days of the mid 20th century, but I suppose the word simply seems banal and overused now. 

Here, the NABRE shows how one must take the sour with the sweet when it comes to formal equivalence translations.  “I will sing of your mercy forever, Lord” is magnificent in its simplicity and its beauty.  Other parts (“skies”, “sons of the gods”, “war cry”) remind us that the original context of the psalms was one much different from ours.  The world of the psalter is an untamed one, and to ignore that is frankly to ignore the psalter.  Notice the difference in Verse 3 between the NABRE and the original 1970 translation. 

As you may know, the Revised Grail Psalms are another choice for the liturgy.  Rumor was that it would become the norm for the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass, but that may not end up occurring.  I am unsure if that would be because the Bishops' Conference is nervous about the official Psalter of the American Church being so tightly controlled by GIA or their not wanting to see the NABRE psalms orphaned after years of effort.  Perhaps someone with much more knowledge can add something to the conversation.

My first instinct while reading the responsorial psalms back to back to back is that the Revised Grail version is head and shoulders above the others, but I wonder what an expert in Hebrew poetry would think of this.  Like the Grail Psalms themselves, this revised version seems to be sandpapered of any rough edges and obscure bits.  In the NABRE, some of the psalms sound like dirges, some sound like war songs, and some sound like prayers.  In the Grail Psalms, by contrast, they all sound like prayers.  I'm not sure if that is a bad thing or a great thing.  The vocabulary of the Grail Psalms seems to have been preserved in this Revised Version—perhaps this joyous familiarity is simply that it sounds a lot like the Liturgy of the Hours. 

Alleluia Verse
1 Corinthians 1:23A, 24B

We proclaim Christ crucified:
he is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

New American Bible 1970/1986:
But we proclaim Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Note that the NAB text would make more sense with I:23B included.  So far in this study, the lectionary seems to use the most freedom in the antiphons and alleliuia verse.  Here, the lectionary has mercifully added a verb to the final clause.  Perhaps some Greek expert will tell us if the NAB's odd syntax there is faithful to the Greek or simply a snatch of English which is odd to these ears.

MK 16:15-20


Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

New American Bible 1970/1986

He said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

These two texts are exactly the same except for the incipit and the deletion of the word “so” in the lectionary. 

Communion Antiphon
Matthew 28:20

Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, says the Lord, alleluia.

New American Bible 1970/1986:
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

The “and” which make this last verse of Matthew so pleasing to the ear is unnecessary when shorn of its context as an antiphon. 

Final observation:
The NAB 1970/1986 proves to be all but identical to the lectionary.

The first comparison with the NABRE reveals the limits of a formal equivalence approach to the Old Testament, as well as some of that translation's underrated beauty.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Gentle Reminder

This blog is a place for constructive discussion on issues related to Catholic Bibles.  One does not have to agree with a post, nor does one have to like a particular translation, in order to be involved in the conversations here.  For some reason, perhaps due to the current political climate, there has been a dramatic increase in comments that I have deleted because of their tone and content.  Please make sure your comments are courteous and provide some sort of data to support them.  Also, if you desire to post anonymously, please add some name at the end of the post so that people know who to engage with by name.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Guest Post: The Bible, the NAB(RE), and the Lectionary at Mass

Thank you to Robert for the first in a series of two guest posts.

You have heard it or read it before.  “The New American Bible is the bible you hear at every Catholic mass.”  This was probably an introduction to a lengthy screed about the barbaric English style, tin ear, and modernist leanings of what for most U.S. Catholics is the bible.

My name is Bob Short.  I'm a 30 year old school teacher who reverted to the faith when he found the Eucharist on the ground in a Stop n Shop parking lot.

I have a great love for literature, and so for most of my time as a Catholic-by-choice, I bounced around between the translations everyone suggests as literary: JB, NEB, REB, NRSV, even the Knox.  Many times I return to these translations—wooed by their cachet among the internet commentariat and their page layouts and book designs which assume that the bible is to be read, not simply chucked into a desk drawer with the other cheap stuff your parish ordered in bulk to hand out to the CCD kids.

I'll go through a stage when I fall in love with one of these dynamic equivalence translations—devouring the Book of Job for a couple hours, reading Acts of the Apostles in two sittings, etc.  But I always put them down for various reasons.  I find the use of “Yahweh” distracting in the Jerusalem Bible, and find that I'm capable of reading a a couple pages in a row before realizing, “did any of that stick into my brain?”  The Knox bible is wonderful, but it seems an awful lot like a period piece to someone like me who cut his teeth on Hemingway and not the masters of 19th century English literature.  The New English Bible is wonderful, even with its odd habit of falling flat on its face about once every 20 verses.  The Revised English Bible, much like the New Jerusalem Bible, seems to have resulted from a sober minded decision to make an idiosyncratic translation slightly more acceptable to scholars and students who are just going to ignore it in favor of the RSV and NRSV anyway.

So I keep coming back the the New American Bible.  Living in a city in a heavily Catholic part of the country, its quite easy for me to make daily mass part of my spiritual practice.  The NAB is the language that I'm used to, language I find pleasurable. 

“My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

“You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

And so on.  The New American Bible is the source of my “memory verses” and no amount of poorly formatting or St Joseph Edition art inserts will take that away from me.  Yes, of those four examples I just gave, at least two of them are snatches of scripture which, frankly, are unspeakably beautiful in any translation.  My point, however, is simply that the setting I find these scriptures in most often and with the most comfort is in the NAB.  Unlike Carl Hernz's appreciation of the NABRE a few years back, I am incapable of making any case based on knowledge of source languages.  What I have is my own emotions.  To many readers, I'm sure RSV 2nd edition is that pleasing to the heart, soul, and mind.

To the ashamed NAB readers, hiding in the shadows, I say: Come out!  It's okay!

I won't defend the NAB footnotes, though I am of the opinion that they aren't nearly as bad as their reputation suggests. 

When people speak badly about the notes, they are usually speaking about the ones from earlier editions.  Often, though, the criticism revolves around the text itself.  But which New American Bible are they talking about?  For the uninitiated, there are quite a few.

The 1970 edition?: Which featured a freshly translated New Testament and an Old Testament cobbled together from the never-quite-completed Confraternity Old Testament.  It is on the dynamic-equivalence side of things, and in many places reads like the Jerusalem Bible.  It's poetry is quite good—if you don't believe me recite the Canticle from the book of Daniel that pops up on Week One Sundays in the Liturgy of the Hours.  It has become almost a meme to make fun of its rendering of Isaiah 9:5, but to many of us, that is the most familiar version of this passage, one with a music all its own.  (The idea that many Catholics grew up hearing the NAB at the liturgy and that it is what we think of when we hear the phrase “bible English” probably causes a good deal of wailing and teeth gnashing, even here!)  Where might you know the 1970 NAB from?  Its Old Testament is still used in the lectionary, as well as its psalter, though some parishes use the Revised Grail Psalms, as is allowed.  It's New Testament was almost instantly found wanting when it came to oral proclamation and was heavily edited for the lectionary.  It appears unedited in the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, for good (many canticles) and ill (oh dear, that halting and sloppy rendition of the Epistle to the Hebrews we read every Lent and Holy Week).

Or were they talking about the 1986 edition with the revised New Testament?: The Old Testament is unchanged, but the New Testament features the revisions made to make the NAB acceptable for oral proclamation at the mass.  This New Testament is quite good—clear and vivid at an appropriately elevated tone.  Things have gone in a formal equivalence direction, solving instances where the 1970 New Testament had slid into banality.  It's rendition of the Gospel According to John is a tour de force, revealing Christ's divinity in all its challenge and ruggedness.  If the worst thing you have to say about a bible are its footnotes and whether they chose “hades”, “hell,” or “netherworld,” you've got yourselves a pretty good bible.  It also has included some very light inclusive language.  When people speak about what a responsible and conservative use of inclusive language, the Revised English Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are most often proposed, but I put it to you that the '86 New Testament (and later NABRE Old Testament) are particularly good examples of expressing the non gender specific nature of the original languages without rendering the text bland or butchering English.

Perhaps the 1991 edition with the revised psalter was the one they meant?:  With a dignified New Testament which very nearly matched what was heard at mass, the next step was obviously to update the Old Testament in order to make the NAB a consistent reading experience, fine for study, prayer, and following the liturgy.  Well, instead they just got together and ruined the psalter.  Trust me, this not a well liked translation.  Even people who liked the 1995 ICEL Psalter don't like this thing.  It removed the familiar and replaced it with the aimless.  What was left was a bible featuring an dynamic equivalent Old Testament with no gender inclusive language, a psalter that is a lesson on how not to do inclusive language which featured widely varied style from psalm to psalm, and a formal equivalence New Testament with  very well done inclusive language.  Of the 47 years the New American Bible has existed, this edition was in print for 20 of those years.

At long last, was it the 2011 NABRE?: This latest edition features an improved, more literal Old Testament, including a wonderful new psalter that was translated the the liturgy in mind.  Finally, we have a consistent New American Bible!  Will we hear it at mass?  Err, no.  Rather, it seems to be the first step of a master plan to have a single translation which will be featured in the mass and the liturgy of the hours.  For the foreseeable future the lectionary will still feature the 1970 Old Testament and the 1986 New Testament.

So, if you are interested in a bible which will match up with the liturgy, you will need to find one printed between 1986 and 1990.  Good luck. 

And so I leave you with the following unsupported conclusions:
1.                  The 1986 edition of the NAB is quite good.

2.                  The NABRE is even better, though it does not match the mass as well.  It seems reminiscent to me to what an in-house Catholic NRSV would read like: rich in insight to the literal Hebrew and Greek, yet flowing with some amount of beauty as well.

3.                  I hope no copyright holding bishops read this, but the format of many New American Bible editions are so resistant to actual long periods of reading that I think I'm going to copy/paste the text of the NAB gospels into a PDF and have some copy shop print them out in book form for my own personal use.  The longer I reflect on it, what draws me toward deep dives in dynamic-equivalence translations like the NEB aren't the translations themselves, it is their single-column layouts, readable fonts, and lack of asterices, brackets, and assorted gobbledegook interrupting the text.

I will be submitting for consideration to this blog occasional comparisons of the lectionary text we receive at mass with the different printed editions of the New American Bible.

We deserve, I think, a bible that matches the liturgy.

I even put it to you that this will be a good first step toward many of us (first and foremost, me) abandoning debates about the different translations of the bible in favor of actually reading the thing!