Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The LXX and the DSS

I was recently at a Cokesbury Christian book store where I spotted, in the half-off section no less, the book What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why Do They Matter? Being half-priced, I naturally purchased it along with some other discounted books. Since the book is written in a handy questions and answer format, I thought it would be a good primer for the issues that surround the Dead Sea Scrolls. Through my studies at seminary, I have certainly been introduced to the importance of the Scrolls and how they have impacted textual criticism. One question I always wondered about was how the DSS related to the Septuagint. While reading this book, I was happy to see that the authors, Freedman and Kuhlken, address the issue:

Which of the two texts- LXX or the MT- represents a more accurate tradition?

"This is a serious issue. On the one hand, the Septuagint reflects an earlier version than the Masoretic Text. The MT can't be traced back as far as the LXX, and it seems to reflect a number of instances when rabbis had to make hard choices about which particular texts were original and what particular words meant. It also reflects a great deal of haplography......

On the other hand, scholarly attitudes towards the LXX have gone through a lot stages over the years. It has been considered a very accurate, literal rendering of an underlying Hebrew text- and it has ben considered a paraphrase of something that doesn't conform to any Hebrew text.

But the more information that comes in, especially from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the more the LXX appears to be a literal translation of an original Hebrew text. In fact, it appears to be a very literal translation, so much so that in many ways it differs from classical Greek. The translators made deliberate efforts to preserve the original syntax, word order, and so forth of the original Hebrew rather than attempt to achieve an attractive style of Greek....."

So, here are a few of my questions about the previous statement:

1) What do you think about the analysis of Freedman and Kuhlken on this issue of the LXX?

2) Are we not already moving away from reliance on the MT, since many translations are now adopting an eclectic text for the OT?

3) Is there a good reason to simply translate from the LXX for the OT? I know that this is already done in the Orthodox Churches.

St. Jerome

Today is the feast day of St. Jerome, patron saint for librarians. He is remembered for being one of the first great translators of the Bible, completing the Vulgate sometime around the year 405 AD. He also was a voluminous writer in other areas of theology, only matched by the many works of St. Augustine. Remembered as being a very feisty, sometimes controversial figure, Jerome is universally recognized as being a great Father and Doctor of the Church. Perhaps one of Jerome's most famous quotes is "Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ." Amen!

St Jerome died in the year 420 AD.

(In works of art, Jerome is often shown with a lion, from whose paw, according to legend, he once drew a thorn.)

For more info, you can check out the Catholic Online site.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It is now time to begin comparing and contrasting the RSV and NRSV. This will be done in four parts: 1) A four part look at the translations themselves; 2) A survey of the different editions that each translation currently comes in; 3) An analysis of the support materials available for each translation; 4) Miscellaneous considerations.

For this post, I will briefly examine the original texts behind each translation. (I have used Philip W. Comfort's Essential Guide to Bible Versions for textual info in this post.)

For the Old Testament, the RSV followed pretty closely to the Masoretic Text. The Old Testament was translated during a time when Dead Sea Scroll understanding was still in its infancy. However, the RSV translators were able to use some of the newest discoveries from Qumran. In particular, the "Isaiah Scroll" provided some alternate renderings to the MT.

The New Testament translators relied on the 17th edition of the Nestle text published in 1941. They did, however, feel free to deviate from the Nestle text and at times followed a more eclectic method. The newly discovered Chester Beatty Papyri was utilized in some cases. The RSV translation committee completed an additional revision of the New Testament in 1971, but this is not included in the RSV-CE.

The translators provided textual notes at the bottom of each page, indicating when there was some ambiguity in the translation or a possible alternate rendering. For its time, the RSV was the most modern English Bible translation, utilizing the most up-to-date manuscript discoveries.

Bruce Metzger, chair of the RSV revision committee, indicated in the preface to the NRSV that one of the main reasons for the NRSV was the discovery of older textual manuscripts. In particular, the continued discovery of more scrolls in Qumran shed greater light on even more books of the Old Testament. While the translators based their translation on the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977; ed. sec. emendata, 1983), it departed often when the Qumran scrolls suggested doing so. Therefore, the Old Testament translators followed an eclectic text. The book that saw the most deviation from the Masoretic Text was 1 and 2 Samuel. In particular, the first few chapters of 1 Samuel relied heavily on the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries. It should be noted that the translators also used,more than in the RSV, early Greek, Latin, and Syriac texts.

For the New Testament, translators followed the text of Nestle-Aland 26th edition/UBS 3rd edition, of which Bruce Metzger was a leading member. Translators decided to go with a number of new renderings, like the adoption of "Jesus Barabbas" as the rebel in in Matthew 27:16.

The textual notes for the NRSV are even better than in the RSV. The only Bible that rivals the NRSV is the NET Bible. Having these notes, including literal renderings not used in the main text, add considerably to the value and usefulness of the NRSV. It also displays a sense of honesty from the translators in that they are not trying to "hide anything" in a particular translation.

Final Comments:
I am always in favor of using the most up-to-date textual discoveries. In that sense, I am not a Douay-Rheims-only (cousin of the KJV-only contingent) adherent. I believe that the Lord has given us a brain in order that we may use it to discover the most accurate renderings of the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, I think, particularly in the Old Testament, an eclectic text is the best. It is quite clear, then, that the NRSV has a clear advantage over the RSV in regards to textual basis.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Scripture Synod Website

The good folks at the Great Adventure Bible Study System have produced a website entitled Scripture Synod dedicated to providing all the latest news and information on the important Synod on Scripture taking place in Rome beginning in October.

The website states: "ScriptureSynod.com features an ever increasing collection of news, references, links, expert commentary and Bible study resources all geared to allow members of the Church and people of good will to participate with the XII Ordinary General Assembly as they contemplate, render thanks for, meditate upon and proclaim the Word of God."

Check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

RSV vs NRSV Prologue III

Before getting to specific issues regarding the translations themselves, I think it would be helpful to examine the origins of the specifically Catholic editions of the RSV/NRSV.

The Revised Standard Version was a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. The Old Testament was published in 1952, followed by the New Testament in 1946. (A revised NT would appear in 1971.) Seeing the merits of this translation, while also being spurred on by the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pope Pius XII in 1943, the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain gained approval from the RSV Translation Committee to produce a specifically Catholic edition of the RSV. Many of those who were involved in this process recognized that this was an important step in the improving ecumenical relations of that time. The two principal editors of the Catholic edition were Dom Bernard Orchard, OSB and Reverend R.C. Fuller. Orchard was the main editor of A Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture published in 1951. Although this one-volume commentary is now out of print, it was in many places the standard until the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. I happen to own a copy and have found it to be quite helpful even today.

Orchard and Fuller took great care in the editing of the RSV. In the introduction to the RSV-CE, they note: "In the present edition the aim has not been to improve the translation as such. No doubt there are many places where a different rendering might have been chosen on critical grounds. This has been avoided. But there are other places where, the critical evidence being evenly balanced, considerations of Catholic tradition have favored a particular rendering or the inclusion of a passage omitted by the RSV translators." In the Old Testament nothing was changed, except for the inclusion of the Deuterocanonical books and additions to Esther and Daniel. Not even the controversial passage in Isaiah 7:14 was altered, although this has been done recently in the RSV-2CE. The main changes came in the New Testament. For a list of all the changes, see the RSV-CE site on wikipedia. The most notable change comes in the story of the Annunciation in Luke 1:27, where the editors adopted the traditional Catholic translation of "Full of Grace" instead of "O Favored One". Also, whenever "brothers" is used in the RSV, the editors translated it as "brethren". There are also some minor changes and additions as well. In the end, the RSV-CE became the scholarly translation for English speaking Catholics. To this day, it remains the most literal version available and is still very popular in seminaries as well as with many converts to Catholicism. It, along with the NRSV, was the basis for Biblical translations in the English edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The RSV-CE received an Imprimatur from Bishop Gordon Joseph of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 1966.

The New Revised Standard Version was published in 1989 by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. A Catholic edition was later published in 1991, with Imprimaturs from Bishop Pilarczyk, president of USCCB at the time, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. While the original RSV-CE had particular changes made to it, the NRSV-CE contained no changes from the original translation. Part of this must be due to the greater inclusion of Catholic biblical scholars on the RSV Translation Committee. The preface to the NRSV-CE was written by Alexander A. Di Lellam OFM, a Biblical studies professor at Catholic University of America and member of the RSV Translation Committee. Most of his preface highlights the ecumenical dimension of the RSV Committee and the various textual decisions that were made in light of newly discovered manuscripts. In particular, decisions were made in regards to which edition, Greek or Hebrew, of books like Sirach and Tobit were used. Recently, mostly due to HarperCollins, the NRSV has gained more popularity in Catholic circles. It can be seen more and more as the base translation for various Catholic scholarly works. Interestingly enough, most of the NRSV-CE's that have been published recently here in the USA have been the Anglicized text.

If you are interested in seeing the various changes between the RSV, RSV-CE, and the RSV-2CE, this site has it all listed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RSV vs. NRSV Prologue II

Before I begin analyzing the Catholic Editions of the RSV and NRSV, I did want to make some additional preliminary thoughts:

1) In the previous post I mentioned that I would only be looking at the RSV and NRSV. Through my own study and work in ministry, I have found that they are the most useful to me. This is not to say that the NAB or NJB are not good Bible translations. While I do have some issues with the NAB and NJB, they both can be good for the average Catholic. However, the NAB seems to be in need of constant revision (which is being done for the OT currently) and there is suppose to be a new edition of the NJB in the works.

2) One may ask why I am going to review the original RSV-CE and not the RSV-2CE that has been published by Ignatius Press. While I do own the RSV-2CE, I am not comfortable using it because Ignatius Press has been too vague about the alterations made to the text (outside of the archaic language) and the committee (or person) who made the changes. I am also, at this time, unsure of whether or not the RSV-2CE will stand the test of time. It is only being produced by a small Catholic publishing house, while the others have or had multiple publishers.

3) When looking at these two translations, it will be coming from the perspective of a man who works in full-time ministry to young adults and college students, as well as a graduate student in theology. While the translation, itself, will be the main issue, other issue like reference tools/helps, available editions, and use in prayer/liturgy will also be important.

4) I am aware of the NRSV Anglicized text, which seems to be the standard edition that has been produced in all of the newer HarperColllins NRSV Bibles. Since the differences are not that big between the two, I will not be making any reference to it.

5) Finally, I would like to point out a few reference works that I will be using during this process:
Fee and Strauss How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, 2007.
Kraus Choosing a Bible For Worship, Teaching, Study, Preaching, and Prayer, 2006.
Comfort Essential Guide to Bible Versions, 2000.
Metzger The Bible in Translation, 2001.
McReynolds Word Study Greek-English NT, 1999.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Navarre New Testament

I have known many people who have been blessed by the wonderful Navarre commentaries that have been produced over the past decade or so. For many years, they have been releasing these editions individually, occasionally combining them to produce a compact New Testament or Letters of St. Paul editions. Now, with the entire collection complete, they are about to release a more comprehensive one-volume The Navarre Bible New Testament. Included on the Scepter site is a .pdf file that contains some sample pages. The layout looks similar to the earlier editions, although they certainly adjusted the format a bit to better utilize the Nova Vulgata along with the RSV-CE. They also seem to be using a two color scheme of red and black, which is interesting.

Overall, this new edition looks well made and will probably be a lot more comprehensive than the compact edition that I own. However, two things that will cause me to rethink purchasing this new edition: 1) Price: $79.95 and 2) Size: 7 X 10.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

RSV vs. NRSV Prologue

Well, I have been oscillating alot lately on which Catholic translation to make my primary Bible: 1) RSV-CE or 2) NRSV-CE. There are pros and cons to each of the translations, and I am well aware that neither of them are perfect. I think I am at the point now where I can intelligently blog about them, since I have used them each quite a bit over the past 4 years in both study and prayer. So, before I begin this series on the RSV/NRSV, I wanted to see if there were any suggestions on how I can do this most effectively. All comments are welcome!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Catholic Thinline Update

We have a winner! Well, not exactly. My quest to find a Catholic Thinline Bible is pretty much over. There is no specific "Thinline" Catholic edition available to my knowledge, but I think I may have found the closest thing to it. It is RSV Catholic Readers Bible: Black / Blue Tu Tone published by Oxford.

Here are the details: The Revised Standard Version Catholic Bible's New Testament appeared in 1965, and the whole Bible was published the following year. The RSV remains the translation used in official Church documents, and served as the basis for the scriptural text used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church .The Reader's Edition is perfect for anyone needing a straightforward text Bible, whether for reading or personal devotions. It includes a presentation section, prayers and devotions of the Church, and the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum ). Gilded page edges and a ribbon marker make for a thoughtful gift. Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/2

While I would prefer the NRSV-CE, the RSV-CE will probably work just fine. At this point, I prefer this edition of the RSV to the new Ignatius RSV-2CE because I at least know who did the editing and where the changes were made. In comparing the size of the RSV-CE with the previously mentioned TNIV thinline, which is 8.7 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches, it compares pretty well. The biggest difference, in my mind, is that the RSV-CE is thicker than the TNIV thinline. The RSV-CE is still not technically a "thinline" but it is pretty close.

Another difference is that the TNIV version has considerably more study helps included, like a concordance, maps, and some cross-references. The RSV-CE does not have any of these features, but includes the original RSV-CE explanitory notes at the end of each Testament, the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, and a small slection of Catholic prayers and devotions. I have been able to make up for the lack of cross-references by copying a list of "OT quotes in the NT" into one of the back blank pages in this Bible. Also, in regards to Bible maps, I purchased the very colorful Rose Bible Maps inserts, which fit nicely in the back of the Bible. I guess sometimes if you want a particular type of Bible edition, you just have to do it yourself.

I do like the feel of this Bible. This is the first one that I am going to use regularly that has a "pacific duvelle"cover. I am not sure about the quality and longevity of this type of cover, but it seems that many Bibles are now being produced with it. So far, it sits well in the hand and lays flat on the table. So, time will tell to see how well this edition holds up.

Finally, while the text layout is somewhat plain, it does include a lot of space at the top and bottom of each page for personal notations. It is also thumb-indexed, which is nice, but I don't necessarily need it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Catholic Bibles Stink!

Ok, that might sound a bit harsh....but it is true! However, this rant doesn't really have anything to do with the available Catholic translations either. I am not here to complain about the terribly uneven NAB that is continually in need of revision, or the occasional inclusive language translation in the NRSV that doesn't sit well, or the fact that the most literal Catholic translation of the Bible, the RSV-CE, was done half a century ago, not to mention the occasional odd-ball translation found in the (New) Jerusalem Bible. No, that is not what this post is about.

This post is a call to all Catholic publishing houses, and non-Catholic publishers like HarperCollins, to produce high quality Catholic Bibles in various editions. Is this too much to ask? Let me explain my dilemma. I recently wanted to obtain a thinline Catholic Bible that I could use for not only ministry related activities, but also for personal prayer and study at the seminary. Could I find one in the NRSV, RSV, or NAB? No! Instead, I was able to see multiple thinline editions for the TNIV, NIV, KJV, NKJV, and the ESV all in various covers at the local Barnes and Nobles. I almost picked up the TNIV version, but realized that I need and want one with the Deuterocanonicals. The TNIV version I saw was quite wonderful. It included everything I wanted in a Bible, except of course the full Catholic Old Testament. This edition's print was very readable, it included a nice set of maps, the words of Christ in red, a concordance, and some crossreferences. It also fit really well in the hand, and I could see myself using it daily. So where are all the Catholic thinline Bible editions?

While I am at it, this led me to think of a few additional criticisms. I just can't find quality Catholic Bibles being published in various editions anywhere. Here are a few example:

1) The page layout of the New American Bible looks almost exactly the same no matter who publishes it. There are no one column or thinline editions. As a matter of fact, take a look at an old edition, pre-1990, of the NAB and guess what you find? There is very little difference in its appearence. The NAB is suppose to be the main Catholic translation here in the US, but it is poorly supported in many ways.

2) There are very few, if any, high-end leather editions of any Catholic Bible. Most places sell paperback or hardcover editions of the NAB or NJB or NRSV. The nicest Bible I have is the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible. Most of the Catholic Bibles out there are bonded leather editions. How cheap! Where are the Catholic publishers?

3) Finally, can we get an actual Catholic Study Bible that can rival the quality of the (T)NIV, ESV, or NLT study Bibles? The only real study Bible out there is the NAB Catholic Study Bible by Oxford. The problem is that it comes in only one size and to be honest the textual notes are exactly the same as with any NAB Bible. The reading guides at the front are marginally helpful and very limited at best. They even put out a similar edition called the "Personal Study Edition". I personally don't see much of a difference. Ignatius Press is developing their own study Bible using the RSV-2CE, but they seem to be in no hurry to complete it. (I think they would rather publish 12 books by Pope Benedict each season. Don't get me wrong, I love Pope Benedict, but even he would rather see Ignatius Press complete their study Bible.) The first volume on Matthew came out in 2000! That is 8 years ago and they are still not done with the New Testament. Would Zondervan take so long to complete something that is so needed? I don't think they would.

So, in my mind, the only possibility for Catholics to purchase high quality and multiple format editions of Catholic Bibles is for a major publishing house like HarperCollins or Zondervan to take on the project. They have the money and the experiences to do it right. HarperCollins has at least been putting out newer editions of the NRSV-CE in recent years, I hope this trend continues. Right now, the "major" Catholic publishing houses are either uninterested or incapable of doing this.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Note on Audio Bibles

I don't know how many of you enjoy listening to audio Bibles, but to be perfectly honest, I have rarely used them in the past. I think the main reason is that many of them seemed to be just a bit wooden and uninspiring. Ones that I have hear usually have some guy, who could easily be doing movie trailers, reading from the Sacred Text. So, it took me a while before I was willing to actually purchase an audio Bible.

However, late last year I decided to purchase the Bible Experience: New Testament. All I can say is that it is fantastic! Its combination of voice acting and background sound makes it a true joy to listen to at home or on the road. I actually enjoy listening to a particular passage before leading a Bible study or after doing my own personal prayer or study. I highly recommend this! Below is some more info on it, including a link to the Amazon site which has some sample audio:

THE BIBLE EXPERIENCE is just that--an experience--that bypasses many of the previous Bible recordings with a full show of music, sound effects, and a dazzling array of celebrity voices. The producers from Inspired By Media Group put together a cast of more than 80 African-American actors who deliver a rich, diverse rendering of the contemporary Today's New International Version (TNIV) translation in gospel-meeting style. Listeners are treated to a sort of aural kaleidoscope with layers of voices, sound, and music overlapping and occasionally colliding. The lavish production pulls out all the stops, so this is not a Bible recording for purists. If a modern multimedia production "experience" is what you're after, enjoy the fine voices and often dynamic dramatized readings. The "making of" DVD disc is an entertaining extra. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2007 Audies Award Finalist © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Click here for the Amazon link.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Update on The Green Bible

New update on the upcoming NRSV Green Bible:

The Green Bible will equip and encourage you to see God's vision for creation and help you engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. This first Bible of its kind includes inspirational essays from key leaders such as N. T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, Brian McLaren, Matthew Sleeth, Pope John Paul II, and Wendell Berry. As you read the scriptures anew, The Green Bible will help you see that caring for the earth is not only a calling, but a lifestyle.

The date for publication is October 7. If you go to the Green Bible site at Harper Collins, the page includes a thorough "browse inside" feature that allows you to see quite a few pages of this new Bible. I do, however, have one question: Why aren't they including an edition with the Deuterocanonicals? It seems wierd to have a Bible with an essay from John Paul II and prayers from St. Francis, yet not have it with all the Catholic Old Testament books.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Top 5 Catholic Bible Translations

Well, I wanted to spend this post looking at the five most popular Catholic Bible translations that are easily available to most people here in the USA. This will be the first of many posts on these translations, so I hope that no one assumes that this is a thorough critique.....that will come later. The five translations I am going to rank here are the Douay Rheims, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version- Catholic Edition, and the New Revised Standard Version- Catholic Edition. I am well aware that there are other, less-known, Catholic Bibles out there, like the Christian Community Bible, the original Jerusalem Bible, the Knox Translation, and the Confraternity edition. However, these five translations are the ones that most Catholics will come into contact with at secular book stores or Catholic/Christian ones.

The rankings will be based on three criteria: 1) Brief evaluation of the translation itself, 2) The available editions in each translation, 3) Study tools and supplements that use that particular translation. Again, this is my own opinion at this moment. It is important to remember, however, that there is no perfect English translation of the Bible.

1) Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition

  1. Very literal translation that was the scholarly standard for second half of the twentieth century. This translation was worked on by a group of ecumenical scholars, then updated a bit by a group of Catholic scholars in the 60's. Even though this translation was completed in the mid-twentieth century, it still remains very solid, reliable, and readable. Many Catholic converts and Bible scholars prefer this translation.
  2. Ignatius Press and Oxford University Press are the main publishers of this translation. Ignatius Press, in particular, has recently edited an updated version of the RSV-CE calling it the RSV-Second Catholic Edition, which eliminates the archaic language and makes minor changes to the text itself. Oxford University Press continues to publish readers editions of the RSV-CE, which basically contains only the text in a simlar fashion as their compact edition. Unfortunately, outside of these two versions, there really isn't a huge selection of editions of the RSV-CE. I don't see this changing anytime soon.
  3. The RSV, like the NRSV, has a wealth of additional study tools to work with based on it. There are interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries that are all based on the RSV. This is an area of strenght for the RSV. But, since this translation is getting a little older, I am not sure that there will be any additional resources. The one possibility is the Ignatius Study Bible, which currently is being produced. They are almost completed with the New Testament. At some point, who knows when, there will be a complete 1 volume edition of the Ignatius Study Bible.

2) New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition

  1. The NRSV was completed by an ecumenical group of scholars, consisting of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. Overall, it is slightly less literal than the RSV, but it remains essentially literal and is quite good for both study and prayer. Personally, I find reading this Bible much more enjoyable than the RSV. In particular, the OT is well done and reads very smoothly. For many, the NRSV is the scholarly standard. Many will find this edition as the one required for university or seminary courses. One of its great advantages is that it uses the most up-to-date scholarship on recently discovered manuscripts, like the Dead Sea Scrolls. The NRSV is most notable for its use of inclusive language. While many fall in two camps on this issue, either finding it appropriate or heretical, I think it can be done in a way that is both faithful to the original text as well as to contemporary English usage. For the most part, I think the NRSV does an OK job. However, there are times when their attempt to be inclusive can be a bit questionable, most notably 1 Timothy 3:2 and Hebrews 2: 6-8. Fortunately, the NRSV committee provided textual notes with the translation to show when changes have been made.
  2. The NRSV comes in various editions, published by Oxford University Press and HarperCollins. HarperCollins, in particular, has recently begun publishing new editions of the NRSV-CE in new attractive editions. It would be great to see this continued. Perhaps an NRSV-CE study Bible would be a great addition as well. Zondervan also publishes a wonderful NRSV-CE Catholic Womens Devotional Bible. It would be great to see an Catholic Men's edition too!
  3. The greatest strenght of the NRSV is that there are a lot of study tools available. There are various interlinears, dictionaries, Bible Maps, concordances, comparative translations, and a host of commentaries based off of it. And since the NRSV is a decendent of the RSV, the older RSV tools can be used with it as well. Also, one notices that a number of important Biblical scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, use the NRSV for their base translation.

3) New Jerusalem Bible

  1. The New Jerusalem Bible is a dynamic equivalence translation that is both readable and accurate. It is not as literal as the RSV/NRSV. It is noted for its literary style and its use of the Divine Name YHWH instead of LORD, which is found in most other translations. For American readers, one will notice the occasional British term used, but overall there is no problem in following along with the text. In particular, the NJB truly shines in the poetry sections of the Bible, like the Psalms. The NJB is an update of the original Jerusalem Bible. The NJB is more literal and introduced some modest inclusive language. Overall, I find the NJB use of inclusive language to be the best. There is word that a 3rd edition is in the works, so it will remain to be seen if the NJB will be widely used in future years.
  2. There are not many editions of the NJB available here in the USA. The best one is the full hardcover edition published by Doubleday. It contains a plethora of notes and cross-references. It's single column format is also very attractive and easy on the eyes.
  3. One area where the NJB really suffers is that there are hardly any study tools available. The NJB Bible itself, with all its notes, has plenty of study helps, but that is all. I am also unaware of any Biblical scholarship that uses the NJB as its base translation. I think, like many have said, the the NJB is a wonderful starter study Bible.

4) New American Bible

  1. The NAB is the most used Catholic Bible in the USA. Most of this has to do with the fact that it was produced by the CBA and USCCB, and that it is the Bible used for the Mass readings. The translation, itself, is a bit tough to classify, since it has been translated at various points for the past 50 years. The Old Testament began in the 50's, the NT was revised in the 80's, and the Psalms were revised in 1991. There is also word that the OT may soon be revised. So, unfortunately you have a very uneven text. I think, overall, the NT is superior to the rest of the NAB translation. The NAB NT is literal, yet very readable. Unfortunately I find the revised Psalms to be quite bad. Its use of inclusive language is way over the top, so much so that on the Vatican website the Psalms are not included on the NAB Bible translation page. So ultimately what you have is an OT with no inclusive language, a NT with modest inclusive language, and a Psalms with pervasive inclusive language. Honestly, its a bit annoying.
  2. The NAB comes in various covers and editions. Fireside published some fine looking NAB Bibles, for various occasions. The covers are quite nice and the binding is very durable. Oxford University Press, as well Catholic Book Publishing, publish editions of the NAB as well. One thing that does bug me is that no matter what edition or publisher, the NAB format always looks the same. It always comes with the same two-column style, with the same cross-reference apparatus, and the same format for the notes.
  3. In regards to study supplements, there are a few Catholic Study Bibles out there. The most notable is the Catholic Study Bible by Oxford University Press. Outside of that, there are some materials available for study, like a concordance and Bible dictionary. But that is about it. There are some Bible studies, like the Little Rock Bible Study program, that utilizes the NAB but more and more seem to use the RSV or NRSV.

5) Douay-Rheims

  1. The Douay-Rheims is the great historic Bible translation that most English-speaking Catholics used up until the mid-1960's. It remains a very literal translation, that contains archaic English renderings. The historical importance of this translation cannot be overstated. Just as many Protestants have a KJV as reference, even though they may use the NIV or ESV primarily, every Catholic should have an edition of the Douay-Rheims for reference. It shouldn't, however, be the main Bible for study. With the Vatican's call for translations from the original languages in Pius XII Divino Afflante Spiritu, the Church has encouraged the use of more modern translations that utilize the best and earliest manuscripts.
  2. Because this is an older translation, there aren't many new editions available. However, there is one exception. Baronius Press has recenlty been publishing new editions of the Douay-Rheims. These editions are quite well done and beautifully made.
  3. Again, there just isn't much available. Tan does publish a textual concordance that utilizes the Douay-Rheims. One might also be able to find a Latin-English New Testament.