Monday, April 2, 2018

Is the RNJB a Viable Option for the New Lectionary?

I would like to thank Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue for providing this essay on the RNJB and the Roman Lectionary.  Fr. Neil will be a regular guest contributor, focusing on issues related to the lectionary and other translation issues.  Please welcome him to the Catholic Bibles Blog.  A full bio is below.

Lectionary translation is a tricky business. Initially after Vatican II a number of English lectionaries were prepared and in many areas parishes were free to pick the translation that best suited them.  In the United States three translations were approved: The Jerusalem Bible, The Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible. Of these the New American Bible was the most widely used.

In 2001 the Congregation of Divine Worship in Rome published an instruction called Liturgiam Authenticam tharegulates liturgical translation in Catholic liturgy.  Liturgiam Authenticam 36 deals with the use of scripture in the liturgy:

In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. This stability is especially to be desired in the translation of the Sacred Books of more frequent use, such as the Psalter, which is the fundamental prayer book of the Christian people. The Conferences of Bishops are strongly encouraged to provide for the commissioning and publication in their territories of an integral translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for the private study and reading of the faithful, which corresponds in every part to the text that is used in the Sacred Liturgy.

This preference for a single translation of Scripture was implemented in the United States and (even before Liturgiam Authenticam) when the current Lectionary edition was adopted permission to use the three earlier translations was withdrawn. Although it is worth noting that the current US Lectionary is not actually from any published edition of the New American Bible. John Allen, the veteran Vatican reporter, analyzed the process used to produce the current US Lectionary in a 1998 article.

Canada also has a fairly new edition of the Lectionary using an adapted edition of the New Revised Standard Version.  Ignatius Press prepared a new edition of the Lectionary using their own Second Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version that was approved for use in the Antilles. Some had hoped that US parishes might adopt this as an alternative to the New American Bible, but this was not possible due to the restrictions of Liturgiam Authenticam and this edition of the Lectionary was eventually adopted by the Ordinariates for their liturgy. Surprisingly an edition of this Lectionary was also adopted by English Africa (with the Revised Grail Psalms), even though this seems to be in contravention of Liturigam Authenticam as they had recently published a new edition of the Liturgy of the Hours uses the New American Bible (also with the Revised Grail Psalms). 

However, in many English speaking countries the Jerusalem Bible Lectionary has remained in use as basically the only Lectionary version, and these regions are still using the initial edition of the Lectionary prepared in the aftermath of the Council (with minor revisions made in 1981). This is the case in Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.  

Today this Lectionary is clearly in need of revision.  Over the years there have been attempts by the bishops of these regions to prepare a new Lectionary using the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and, most lately, the Revised Standard Version.  For one reason or another (usually to do with copyright) all of these projects have failed to produce a new Lectionary and some have suggested that there is now a certain fatigue on the part of the bishops regarding the prospect of starting another process to produce a new Lectioanry.

The Jerusalem Bible has served the Church well and is now over 50 years old. In 1985 a new edition (the New Jerusalem Bible) was prepared by the Benedictine Dom Henry Wansbrough. This was based on the newer French edition and contains updated scholarship and has corrected some of the translation inaccuracies of the original English translation.  However, to my knowledge, this newer edition was never used in any approve liturgical book.

Readers of this blog will be aware that Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd have recently published the New Testament of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. This edition was also prepared by Benedictine Henry Wansbrough and is a thoroughly reworked translation that is more faithful to the original text, has been prepared with an eye to proclamation and has a moderate use of inclusive language.

The New Testament has been published before the full Bible to allow the public to have an appreciation of the full project while the final touches are being put to the Old Testament which will be published before the end of this year (and is in the process of receiving an imprimatur).

Personally I have been impressed by the quality of the translation and have been wondering if it could provide a relatively painless solution to the Lectionary problem in those countries that use the Jerusalem Bible Lectionary. In particular, given that it is the direct successor of the original Jerusalem Bible, the translation already sounds familiar to Catholics in these countries. I believe that there is a great value in continuity in translation. Also given that there are new translation guidelines governing the process of liturgical translation, it should now be easier to officially prepare a new Lectionary edition.

During the Easter season a peculiarity of the Lectionary is that it uses only New Testament readings. Therefore I propose that the readers of this blog help me to compare the current Jerusalem Bible version of the Sunday Lectionary readings with the same passages in the Revised New Jerusalem Bible.  

Each week I will post a comparative table of the two translations of the selection of readings for that Sunday’s Mass accompanied with a short analysis of any differences that I note. I invite readers to chime in with their comments. The goal of this exercise is to help answer the question if it would be wise to propose this new translation of the Bible as the basis for a new Lectionary in those regions that already use the Jerusalem Bible in their Lectionary.

This week we are posting the first comparative version for the Mass of the Day of Easter Sunday. Due to the length of this introduction I have not prepared any comments on the translations, but I invite the readers to do so in the comments section.


Neil Xavier O'Donoghue is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. He currently ministers in the Archdiocese of Armagh, Ireland, where he serves as vice rector at Redemptoris Mater Seminary. He has studied at Seton Hall University, the University of Notre Dame, and St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctorate in Theology from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

12 comments:

Dave Garcia said...

This is very interesting! But out of curiosity...

I am going to assume most readers of this blog probably do not live in the regions that use the JB lectionary... is that a fair assumption? If not, then the rest of what I say is moot! Lol! But if it is... then I wonder - should/does our opinion regarding the use of the RNJB as the lectionary for these regions really carry much weight?

Also “given that [the RNJB ] is the direct successor of the original Jerusalem Bible, the translation already sounds familiar to Catholics in these countries.”

I know verse comparisons are forthcoming, but the RNJB really is not a “direct successor” anymore. The NJB was already a considerable revision to the JB1966 and the RNJB seems like it’s almost a whole new translation that is a “successor” in name only. But I guess we shall see!

Devin Rice said...

What I first noticed in the Gospel of Easter Sunday was how much of the text of the JB remained unchanged in the RNJB. There were certainly changes, but nothing that really stood out as mere tweaks.

For the reading from Colossians, there were more substantive changes. The JB uses "have been brought back to true life in Christ" while the RNJB has "have been raised up to be with Christ". The RNJB uses "things that are above" versus the JB's "things that are in heaven".

Timothy said...

You’d be surprised. There are quite a few folks outside of North America that visit this blog.

Dave Garcia said...

Tim ... figured my point would be moot! Lol!!

Jim said...

It would seem apparent that the RNJB has an incorrect title, if it follows the JB and not the NJB. Perhaps the title, for accuracy, should be the Revised Jerusalem Bible.

Jeff S. said...

I couldn't find the link that Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue refers to
when he says:
" This week we are posting the first comparative version for the Mass of the Day of Easter Sunday. Due to the length of this introduction I have not prepared any comments on the translations, but I invite the readers to do so in the comments section."

Could someone please post it here on this comment section?

Timothy said...

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I will post the comparative versions.

Devin said...

That makes things easier. Any possibility of also posting NAB-RE readings as well?

owen swain said...

Let me know when we get a MSGCE for Liturgy or a CEB for Same and I'll get excited. ;-) That said, welcome to the new guest writer and blessings on the good padre.

Peter T. said...

While it appears that the Catholic Church of India is preparing to switch over to a new lectionary based on the new ESV-CE translation, what English translation is their CURRENT lectionary based on?

Michael Demers said...

Peter T., the RSV.

rolf said...

Welcome Father O’Donoghue! I look forward to the comparisons and comments!