Monday, December 8, 2008

Catholic Bible Poll

So, I have reached a total of 100 voters in my non-scientific poll on Catholic Bible translation usage. Here are the results so far, in order:

Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: 27%
New American Bible: 22%
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: 19%
Douay Rheims: 13%

New Jerusalem Bible: 10%
Jerusalem Bible: 6%
Good News Bible: 2%
Christian Community Bible:1%

So what does this tell me? To be honest, the results are not too surprising. When you look at it, it is clear that the poll breaks down into two groups: 1) The first group comprises the RSV, NAB, and NRSV; 2) The second group comprises the DR, NJB, JB, GNB, CCB. Those in the first group comprise 68% of the total.

Focusing on the first group, the RSV, NAB, and NRSV clearly are more literal/formal translations compared with the others, minus the Douay-Rheims. That makes them useful in both liturgical settings and personal study. The first group is also the easiest to get at either a local Catholic bookstore or a secular store like Borders or Barnes and Nobles. I have seen various editions of the NAB, RSV, and NRSV in the Catholic selection of secular stores. The RSV is #1 because it is the most literal modern Catholic translation available. In addition, many popular speakers and teachers, like Dr. Scott Hahn, Fr. John Corapi, and others, promote and use the RSV. As for the NAB, it will always be popular because it comes in many editions and is the base text behind the readings at Mass in the USA. It is clearly the easiest one to get. The NRSV continues to gain a following, probably due to the increased promotion by HarperCollins, who are continuing to publish Catholic editions of the NRSV. It also helps that the NRSV is read in the Canadian Mass.

As for the others, the Douay-Rheims still has a loyal following. I can attest to this not only by the poll number, but also by the many defenders of the Douay-Rheims on the various Catholic online forums. Unless a future translation of the Nova Vulgata is produced, the Douay-Rheims will always have its admirers. (Some of the Douay-Rheims-only people would probably still use it even if a new English translation of the Latin Bible was produced!) The New Jerusalem, along with the original Jerusalem Bible, are still read by about 16% of those polled. It still remains a bit of an exotic translation for Americans, since it is not used at Mass. It's standard edition, with all the notes and cross-references, remains a favorite for those who do Bible study. Yet, I do not see it ever gaining top-billing here in the US. One of its main problems is that it doesn't come in many available, attractive editions. With that being said, I do know a number of very loyal Jerusalem Bible readers. Many of them first purchased their Jerusalem Bible in the '60s, just after Vatican II, and have been reading it ever since. They are a great example for all of us! Finally, the GNB and the CCB remain basically a niche translation.

Thanks to all who participated in the poll. I will keep it up, just to see if any thing changes at 200!


rolf said...

Hey Tim, I think I posted earlier that I was curious why the RSV-2CE used the translation of chalice instead of cup (like the RSV-CE did) in the institution of the Last Supper. Well in the new translation of the Roman Missal the word cup has been replaced by chalice in the Eucharistic Prayers. This is probably one of those changes that Ignatius Press was told to make at the request of the Vatican.

Timothy said...


Very good point. It would be nice to see a list of the specific Liturgiam Authenticam changes!