Thursday, February 26, 2009

NRSV Catholic Gift Bible

Since it is the one year anniversary of its publication, I wanted to do a review of the HarperCollins/HarperOne/HarperCatholic Bibles NRSV Catholic Gift Bible. While I haven't seen it publicized all that much, I do tend to find this edition available at the local chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble. (When this edition was published last year, HarperCollins did a press release for it, which you can see here.) Interesting to note, I was at a ministry conference last summer where Harcourt Religion Publishers, who contributed the introductory materials for this edition, was in attendance. I talked with a few of their representatives, but surprisingly they didn't know very much about the NRSV Catholic Gift Bible. Strange?
While the NRSV Catholic Gift Bible seems to be intended as gifts for First Communion or Confirmation recipients, I wouldn't say that this is a youth Bible. It could easily be used by any Catholic no matter how old. The text is the NRSV Catholic Edition (anglicized text), and it includes a concise concordance. Once again there are no cross-references, which seems to be a continuously weird omission for many of the HarperCollins NRSV Bibles. The cover material is the imitation leather/NuTone™ type, which makes it pretty durable. One of the best things about this Bible is its size: 8.5 x 6 x 0.9 inches. It isn't too small, nor is it too big. I really like the size of this Bible! I have found it to be quite handy for ministry activities on campus.
However, what make this Bible even better is the additional material at the beginning. It includes reading guides, an introduction to Catholic Spiritual life, Scriptural Roots of the Apostles Creed, Short biographies of OT and NT figures, a cool picture of Pope Benedict XVI, Maps, chronology of Catholic history, introductions to each book of the Bible, as well as other materials. What makes the book introductions useful is that they contain information as to when the particular book is read during the liturgical calendar. In addition, I have been surprised how often I have referred to the historical timeline. It is formatted in dual columns, one with Catholic history, the other with important world historical dates. Also, while the maps are in black and white, they are pretty thorough. In total, there are 19 maps ranging from the Table of Nations and Cities of Refuge to the Seven Churches of Revelation. An interesting inclusion is a hypothetical map of Paul's 4th missionary Journey to Spain. In sum, I have found that these introductory materials can be useful for people of any age. Those who are new to the faith, would certainly benefit the most.
If I were to change anything about these introductory materials it would be to place the individual book introductions into the Biblical text itself, as opposed to being all lumped together with the other introductory materials. I would also place the maps at the back of the Bible after the concordance, again not with the introductory materials. However, these are only minor quibbles.
If there were two things I would like to see added in future editions, they would be scriptural cross-references, as mentioned before, and a list of the 3-Year Mass reading cycle. It seems odd that while they devote space in the book introductions to mention the time in the liturgy when a particular Biblical book is read, yet they don't include an actual list of where exactly it occurs during the lectionary. In my mind, this wonderful companion Bible would be made more complete with a list of the Sunday Mass readings.
But overall, if you are looking for an everyday Bible that you can use for helping your prayer life, this Bible certainly fits the bill. It would be great to see HarperCollins continue to publish fine Catholic Bibles like this one, perhaps even a Catholic study Bible to compete with the Oxford editions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let Lent Begin

"We are ambassadors for Christ,as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ,be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Working together, then,we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you,and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
- 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
The USCCB has a site dedicated to lent, which includes prayers, audio, and other resources. Enjoy...but not too much because its lent!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lenten Posting

Some of you may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit sparse the last few weeks. Well, there is a good reason for this. I am entering my last semester of S.T.B. studies at the seminary and therefore getting closer to the final S.T.B. comprehensive exam which will take place during Holy Week. Yes, Holy Week! Its funny how that works out.

So, along with the usual class and ministry work, I am spending a lot of time reviewing for the comprehensive exam, which is now just over a month away. Therefore, don't be surprised if my posting continues to be down a bit during Lent. I do have some ideas for future posts and a new series of posts, but I also welcome any ideas from you. I will also gratefully accept any prayers! :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green Bible Review @ Christianity Today

As noted late in 2008, HarperCollins published The Green Bible with much publicity and fanfare. They even created a website for it. At the time of its release, I made some preliminary comments about it. While I felt it had some interesting features, I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't include the Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. This makes it even more curious considering the fact that they included an essay by Pope John Paul II. So, at that point, I just decided to forget about the Green Bible, which I pretty much did until I read a review of it in the February edition of Christianity Today.

The review, by Telford Work, does a pretty good job analyzing the drawbacks to the Green Bible. One of his main objections of the Green Bible is that its very purpose, which is to help people "see God's vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it", seems to simply make the Bible "a vehicle" for a political agenda. While it is important to promote stewardship for creation, which is certainly clear from reading the Bible, it just seems that the editors of the Green Bible came into the project trying to force an agenda into the message of the Bible. This seems to be the wrong way around.

To further his point, he quotes from the NRSV preface, written by the late, highly esteemed Bruce Metzger, where it says: "The Bible carries its full message, not to those who regard it simply as a noble literary heritage of the past or who wish to use it to enhance political purposes and advance otherwise desirable goals, but to all persons and communities who read it so that they may discern and understand what God is saying to them." Touche.

While I encourage you to read the rest of the article for your self, I would like to point out a couple of other places where I think Telford Work makes good sense:

1) "The two testaments' central concerns—covenanted Israel, anointed Jesus, and missional church—are pushed aside by the green passages that testify, or are made to testify, on environmentalism's behalf. Yet if the editors narrowed their criteria or applied them strictly, much less of The Green Bible would be in green, and that would give the false impression of biblical indifference. This double bind makes The Green Bible an awkward witness to the strong theological case that can actually be made for creation care. Despite the publisher's intent, spending time with The Green Bible makes me more aware than ever of the gulf separating ancient Israel from the Sierra Club, and warier of forcing environmentalism, anti-environmentalism, or any other contemporary agenda into passages of Scripture."

2) "The strongest part of The Green Bible is the introductory essays. While their quality is uneven, some stand out as insightful theological affirmations of creation care—particularly those of John Paul II and N. T. Wright. These do the book's heavy lifting. Indeed, they bear nearly its entire intellectual burden."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Catholic Bible Poll at 200

Well, my non-scientific Catholic Bible poll has now reported 200 responses. I had written a post when the poll had reached 100 a few months ago. Here are the results at 100:

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%

And now here are the results at 200:

Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: 32% (64)
New American Bible: 21% (41)
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: 20% (40)
Douay-Rheims: 10% (19)

Jerusalem Bible: 8% (16)
New Jerusalem Bible: 8% (15)
Good News Bible: 2% (3)
Christian Community Bible: 1% (2)

As you can see, the results remain largely the same from 100 to 200 responses. The only real difference is that the Jerusalem Bible has taken over the 5th spot. This is somewhat surprising, since the NJB is in many ways a much better translation than the original. But, like I have mentioned before, the original Jerusalem Bible has a strong following to this day.

There are three clearly definable groups. The first consists of the RSV, NAB, and NRSV, which tend to be formal equivalence translations. This has remained virtually the same since the poll began, and I don't see this changing in the future. The second group includes the DR, JB, and NJB. The JB and NJB are considered to be more dynamic equivalence, while the old DR is actually more formal than the RSV. The third and final group is consists of the GNB and CCB. In total, only 5 votes have been cast for these two translations. They are clearly the least known and available.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NRSV Compact Bible Battle

Well, here is another Bible review using the NRSV translation. Lately, it seems that I have been spending a lot of time analyzing NRSV Bibles. I think the main reason for this is the fact that there are more editions of the NRSV being produced which have the Deuterocanonicals included in them. If you consider the main translations that Catholics use, the NAB, RSV, or NJB, you quickly realize that there is not much going on with those three currently. However, the NRSV seems to be the exception. I have mentioned before that I am glad to see HarperCollins, HarperOne, HarperBibles, HarperCatholicBibles or whatever they are called, continue to publish NRSV Catholic editions. They have been coming in different sizes and covers, some with more or less study helps. (Still no cross references though!) So, I decided to do a quick review of the two best NRSV compact editions that are available with the Deuterocanonicals.
NRSV Go Anywhere Bible Catholic Edition:
The NRSV Go Anywhere Bible CE is published by HarperCollins and retails for around $29.95. It comes in three different types, a Catholic Edition, a Regular/Protestant Edition , and an Orthodox Edition (w/ full "Apocrypha"). This edition of the NRSV is the Anglicized version. In all cases, the publishers went with a imitation leather/NuTone™ covers which "combine extraordinary durability with the softness of calfskin leather." Right. However, what makes this compact NRSV unique is its shape. It is 4” x 8 1/4”, which makes it one of the most oddly shaped Bibles out there. I guess that means its compact, but maybe it doesn't. It certainly won't fit in a pocket or a purse easily.
The NRSV Go Anywhere Bible also includes the standard prefaces that come with the NRSV and a concise concordance. Oh I forgot to mention that it does have a Bible ribbon marker, which for many Catholic publishers is considered a "bonus feature".
I have used this Bible on a number of occasions, mostly for private reading before Mass or during daily prayer time. Two things instantly stand out: 1) The paper is very thin and one can easily see the back side of the page through the paper. It is pretty distracting. 2) The odd shape of the Bible makes it hard for it to lay flat, either on a table or in your hand.
The New Revised Standard Version Bible with Apocrypha: Pocket Edition:
This edition, published by Oxford University Press, comes with or without the Apocrypha. There is no specifically Catholic edition. It is also the standard NRSV translation, not the Anglicized version. It's size is truly compact, being 4 1/2" x 6 1/8". OUP has published this NRSV compact edition in multiple cover options, including genuine leather, bonded leather, imitation leather, and zipper closure editions. Depending on what cover you decide to get, the price range is anywhere from $29.95 to $39.95.
It should be pointed out that in some of the product descriptions online, like here, it states that this edition contains a concordance. This is not true. However, it does contain the standard NRSV preface, a table of measures and weights, and of course the much coveted Bible ribbon marker. The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals are placed in the middle, between the Old and New Testament, and they are ordered to reflect the various canons, beginning with the Catholic.
While this edition is very bare-bones, I find it easier to read and certainly more portable than the HarperCollins edition. It also lays out flat on a table and is much easier to take around with you. Therefore, I definitely recommend the Oxford edition over the HarperCollins one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Jerusalem Bible Review

"Still, I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." - Jn 16:7 NJB

In my opinion, the New Jerusalem Bible is the best beginner Bible for someone who is new to the Catholic faith or has had a re-conversion back to the faith. Now, when I say that it is a great beginner Bible, I do not mean to suggest that the NJB translation is itself simplistic or easy to read like the Good News Translation for example. My point is that this one Bible has the best collection of Bible study tools and page lay-out in any one volume Catholic Bible currently available. The fact that it was published over 20 years ago is a sad indictment of the poor quality of Catholic Bibles on the market. Before looking at some specifics, let me just say one thing: If you are going to get the NJB, make sure it is the large hardcover edition shown here. Do not waste your time with the other editions that are out there, since those do not include all the study helps that the regular edition does.

The NJB contains the complete text of the ancient canon of scripture, along with up-to-date (as of 1985) and extensive introductions and notes. Eight pages of color maps and indexes, including biblical themes, personal names, and major footnotes.

The NJB is a translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek, unlike, at times its predecessor which did consult the original French edition of the JB. The NJB made use of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 25th edition and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with close reference to the LXX. The NJB is a mediating translation, which leans towards functional equivalence. An informative essay by the NJB's chief editor, Dom Henry Wansbrough, can be found here. In it, he states that the five main principles to his work were:

1) To improve the accuracy of translation, introductions and notes. I was acutely aware that the rationale of the NJB was somewhat different from that of the JB. Alexander Jones had conceived the translation primarily as an underlay to the introduction and notes, that is, as a study Bible. But whereas in 1966 there was no modern translation of the whole Bible into English by 1985 several were available. The study aspect had therefore become all the more important.

2) To remove elements which were narrowly Roman Catholic, such as references in the notes to passages used in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

3) Where possible to use the same English word throughout for the same Hebrew concepts. With some concepts I abandoned the attempt to find a modern English equivalent which would serve to translate all instances of a word, e.g. ‘flesh’.

4) In the synoptic gospels and other parallel sets of texts (e.g. the Books of Kings and of Chronicles) to show the differences between the text, in order to make possible a study of the redactional changes made by the authors.

5) Where possible to go some way towards using inclusive language. I did not estimate that this was necessary at all costs, as the NRSV subsequently did. However, Bruce Metzger was kind enough to write to me to say that NJB solutions had been most helpful to the Committee for the NRSV in the closing stages of their work.

The NJB, like its predecessor, is also the only Catholic translation that uses "Yahweh" instead of "LORD" consistently in the Old Testament. It will be interesting to see if it is used in future editions, particularly with Pope Benedict's recent comments about its use in liturgy.

Positive Features:

1) The NJB is a solid translation. It fits nicely right in the middle of the translation philosophy spectrum. I would generally place it close to the NIV/NAB, though leaning more towards dynamic equivalence. Where I find the NJB to excel is in its use of inclusive language. In many ways, I think the NJB is the model. It is used consistently throughout the Old and New Testament, unlike the NAB, yet it does not go overboard like the NRSV. The NJB retains the use of "sons" in important passages in Galatians 4, does not obscure "Son of Man" references in the OT, and doesn't use the plural "you" to make a passage inclusive.

2) The standard hardback edition is a wonderful study Bible. It has copious notes and lots of cross-references. The intros are also helpful, without forcing you to accept various modern theories as fact.

3) The page layout is single-column, which means it is a pleasure to read and there is plenty of room to make notes. It is a real shame that the NJB is the only Catholic Bible, that I am aware of, that has a single-column layout.

Negative Features:

1) There aren't many editions of the NJB available. I have seen some used leather editions of the standard NJB online, but it seems that they are not in print anymore. Therefore, if you like the NJB with all the study helps, you can only get it in hardcover.

2) With the rumors that a 3rd edition of the New Jerusalem Bible is in the works, I am not sure how much longer this edition will be needed.

3) There are no additional study/reference helps available in the NJB translation. One of the great reasons to use a translation like the NRSV is that you can get interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and other tools that reference the NRSV. This is simply not the case with the NJB.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

RSV-CE Bible Concordance Coming Soon!

Emmaus Road Publishing will be coming out in late spring with an RSV-CE specific Concordance. The price is $35.95.

The site has a brief description of the product:
The first and only concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) of the Bible. This exhaustive reference tool contains over 15,000 words and 300,000 entries, and has listings for both the first and second editions of the RSV-CE. As easy to use as a dictionary, keywords and passages makes Scripture accessible to people of all walks of life.

All I can say is that this is a long time coming! Luckily, I was able to get a hold of a used Eerdmans Concordance to the RSV (including Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha) a number of years back.

There is, however, another fine Catholic Bible study tool coming soon that I am more interested in purchasing: Catholic Bible Dictionary by Scott Hahn. The publication date is set for June 16 and the publisher is Doubleday. I think the last specifically Catholic Bible dictionary that was published in English was that old 1965 Dictionary of the Bible by John L. Mckenzie. Update definitely needed!

New NRSV w/ Apocrypha Edition

Hendrickson Publishers will be releasing a new edition of the NRSV w/ Apocrypha later this month. It seems that there will be at least two different covers available, both in 'Flexisoft' imitation leather. The folks at have provided a few page samples, including the table of contents. After viewing them, it appears that this edition will be simply a reading Bible, with not many extras included. The size of the Bible is 8.5 X 5.5 (inches).
While at this point it doesn't look likely that I will be purchasing this edition, it is nice to see newer editions of the NRSV being made available.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Textual Basis: RSV-2CE, NRSV, ESV

Well, here comes another in my series of comparisons between the NRSV and ESV. This time, however, I decided to add the RSV-2CE to the mix. The three editions that I will be comparing are seen in the picture on the left. They are the 1) Ignatius RSV-2CE, 2) Cambridge NRSV w/ Apocrypha Reference Edition, 3) ESV w/ Apocrypha. In this post, I wanted to examine the textual basis behind each of these translations.
The RSV-2CE is only a slight updating of the original RSV-CE by way of the original RSV. A list of the changes can be found here. Most of the changes have to do with the elimination of archaic language. Along with this, they did adopt a few alternate renderings as found in the RSV notes, most notably in Is. 7:14 as well as some suggested changes recommended by the Vatican. Fr. Joseph Fessio SJ, editor at Ignatius Press, commented on this blog last year about the process by which the changes were made in consultation with the Vatican. There was no attempt to use inclusive language in this update.
While it may be tempting to look at the RSV-2CE as being similar to the work done by the ESV, it must be pointed out that the changes are very few compared to the ESV. In addition, the RSV-2CE's textual basis is still the one used by translators of the original RSV OT and NT. According to Philip Comfort's Essential Guide to Bible Translations: "The Old Testament translators generally followed the Masoretic Text. At the same time, they introduced a few different renderings bases on the famous Dead Seas Scroll of Isaiah (166)." Thus, only the initial findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls were used for the OT. The Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha books were not changed from the original RSV.
As for the New Testament, the RSV-2CE retains the textual basis behind the original RSV NT, which used primarily the seventeenth edition of the Nestle text (1941). None of the modifications done in the 1971 edition of the RSV NT are found in the RSV-2CE. (It should be noted that there is a strange phenomenon in the RSV-CE compact editions published by Oxford in recent years. It seems that some of the 1971 modifications were added to the original RSV-CE text. Again, some of these changes can be found here.)
Bruce Metzger (1914-2007), 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 from 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. The translators of the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha books made use of a number of texts, including findings from Qumran. This information can be found here.
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 NRSV was one of the first major translations, following the lead of the NJB, to introduce gender-inclusive language. In many ways it is the standard, although there are some places, particularly in OT references to the "Son of Man" and in Heb. 2, where the traditional rendering would have been more helpful.
ESV w/Apocrpyha:
The ESV OT is based on the Masoretic text found in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983). Unlike the NRSV, the ESV tries to remain committed to the MT. This is particularly striking in 1 Samuel. The ESV Translation Committee states: "The currently renewed respect among Old Testament scholars for the Masoretic text is reflected in the ESV's attempt, wherever possible, to translate difficult Hebrew passages as they stand in the Masoretic text rather than resorting to emendations or to finding alternative reading in the ancient versions (ESV preface xi)." Of course, there are some places where they have followed the LXX for theological reasons, most notably Is. 7:14. For the Apocrypha, the translation team drew heavily on the RSV Expanded Apocrypha published in 1977. According to the Preface to the Apocrypha, the Gottingen LXX served as the textual basis for all the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonical) books, except for 4 Maccabees (Rahlfs's LXX) and 2 Esdras (1983 Vulgate by German Bible Society).
The NT follows the Nestle-Aland 27th and the UBS 4th corrected editions. In many ways, it reads much the same as the 1971 RSV NT. It has been reported that the changes between the RSV and ESV only constitute somewhere between 5-10%.
The translation team decided to use a modest amount of inclusive language in the ESV. Although not always being consistent throughout the translation, the ESV's use of gender-neutral language is far less than the NRSV and the NJB.
In my opinion, the biggest decision that one has to make when evaluating the textual basis behind these three versions is in regards to the Old Testament. The RSV-2CE and ESV tend to stick much closer to the MT, while the NRSV is more willing to use an eclectic text. It is interesting to note that while the NRSV will make use of the LXX, most prominently, to correct uncertain MT renderings, the RSV-2CE and ESV will use the LXX at times for theological reasons. So, do you like sticking close to the MT or do you prefer an eclectic text which is not afraid to use the LXX, Qumran, Old Latin, and Syriac texts more frequently?
I prefer using an eclectic text to translate the OT. With all of the textual discoveries that have been made since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many uncertain renderings can be solved, rather than leaving them ambiguous. I am also sympathetic to the LXX. Some books that I have recently read have reiterated the importance of the LXX in relation to the MT. Thus, any translation that is willing to appeal to the LXX or Qumran more liberally is superior in my book.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Bibles 2

From left to right (Top to bottom)
Top: RSV-CE (oxford), Confraternity Version, St. Paul Catholic Edition New Testament, The Discipleship Study Bible, The Haydock Bible (Douay-Rheims), HarperCollins Study Bible, (deceased) Grandfather's NIV Schofield Study Bible, NRSV (Oxford)

Bottom: NJB Study Edition, The Catholic Answer Bible, NRSV Apocrypha, NJB Compact,
NAB (1986 edition with revised NT)