Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Catholic Translation Tribalism

Scot McKnight, popular Evangelical writer and speaker, blogged last week on the issue of translation tribalism. In regards to this issue, he says "what depresses me about Bible translation debates today is tribalism. Some have raised the bar of this conversation to such heights that variation is tantamount to heresy. I want to do a few posts on translation next week, but today let's have a little fun with the tribalism that does exist, that seems almost inevitable, that does sometimes lead to uncharitable divisiveness, but that can lead us to see ourselves in humorous tones at times. Translations can also be a window to our heart and theology and preferences. So here goes with a sketch of tribalist translation tendencies. Each of these is partially true but not wholly true:

NRSV for liberals and Shane Claiborne lovers;
ESV for Reformed complementarian Baptists;
HCSB for LifeWay store buying Southern Baptists;
NIV for complementarian evangelicals; TNIV for egalitarians;
NASB for those who want straight Bible, forget the English;

NLT for generic brand evangelicals;
Amplified for folks who have no idea what translation is but know that if you try enough words one of them will hit pay dirt;
NKJV and KJV for Byzantine manuscript-tree huggers;
The Message for evangelicals looking for a breath of fresh air and seeker sensitive, never-read-a-commentary evangelists who find Peterson's prose so catchy."

So, how would we do this with Catholic Bible translations. Let's limit ourselves to the following translations categories:

Jerusalem/New Jerusalem Bible
Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition
Good News Bible
Christian Community Bible

While I certainly encourage some serious discussion, let's not turn this into a "translation bashing session". I will post my list soon as well.


Thomas said...

I'll take a stab...just guesses:

NAB: RCIA'rs & liberals
Douay-Rheims: hardcore Traditionalists
Jerusalem/New Jerusalem Bible: Mother Angelica fans & language lovers
Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition:
Scott Hahn traditionalists
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: Henry Nouwen fans
Good News Bible - people read this one?
Christian Community Bible - people read this one?

Timothy said...


Well done and good start! As for the GNB and the CCB, the answer is not many read them.

Anonymous said...

This should make for some good comments reading...

"NAB: RCIA'rs & liberals"


Esteban Vázquez said...

Thomas> The JB may well be for Mother Angelica fans, but not the NJB: I well remember the episode of "Mother Angelica Live" where she announced to a booing audience that the NJB used inclusive language! But she praised the JB, and said it was her Bible of choice.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Good News Bible - for liberal Catholic ecumenists who haven't caught on to the fact that the '70s are over.

Christian Community Bible - for Boff buffs.


Paolo said...

NAB: for those who want consistency across their Mass attendance and Bible reading...

Douay-Rheims: paranoid traditionalists who believe all other translations led to travesties such as Vatican II

RSV: only for exclusive individuals.

NRSV: for those who win contests on Catholic Bible Blogs

Good News Bible - for those who like biblical drawings depicting people without faces or discernible appendages

Christian Community Bible: Huh?

forgive me if my attempt at bible humor fails.

Unknown said...

Let's see...

NAB: average American Catholic
Douay-Rheims: Traditionalist Clementine Vulgaters who don't know Latin
Jerusalem Bible: conservative-esque Catholics who think the RSV-CE is Protestant and Mother Angelica lovers
New Jerusalem Bible: average non-American Catholic
Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition informed Conservatives who say- "Oh well, its the closest thing to the NASB/ESV we got... *sad face*"
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition: Liberals who love women, scholarship, and Bruce Metzger
Good News Bible: Children who's parents don't like the NRSV
Christian Community Bible: People who got tricked into buying it

(Hey Timothy, this is Omyo12 from CA)

TS said...

Looking at translations in terms of apocalyptic visions:

Douay-Rheims- lock & load & get thee to the bunker, the world ends in 2012

Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition - buy gold, sell stocks

Jerusalem - "You know not the hour"

NAB - What apocalypse?

New Jerusalem Bible - the revival of the Latin Mass is the apocalypse

New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition - the world can be saved if women are ordained

Raphael said...

NAB: Catholic Americans of a moderate to slightly conservative viewpoint.

Douay-Rheims: Conservative, orthodox, and traditional Catholics

Jerusalem Bible: Mother Angelica and J.R.R. Tolkien fans and poetry/literary lovers

New Jerusalem Bible: Worldwide Catholics of a moderate to liberal viewpoint

RSV-CE: Conservative Protestant converts and snobs

NRSV-CE: Liberals and acadamia

GNB and CCB: Non-practicing Catholics who feel obliged to have a Bible in the home.

john said...

NAB: For the American Catholic Bishops who want to politely "stick it to Rome" and for the Every-Sunday-Mass Catholic Pew Mushrooms who never read the Bible

Douay-Rheims: For Catholics who want the "good ole days" of pre-Vatican 2 back when Catholics could tell Protestants they are going to fry in Hell unless they become Catholic.

Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition: For post-Vatican 2 Catholics who are more Catholic than the Pope and like to go around telling other Catholics that they have incurred "Latatae Sententiae" excommunication unless they absolutely accept every jot and tittle that the Magisterium teaches (as they see it)

New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition: For the Nuns who want to be "Priests" and Catholics who like Theo logical Cafeterias.

Good News Bible: For DREs who "dumb down" the Catechism for virtual illiterates of the video game and computer generation and have a fondness for banners and such.

Jerusalem/New Jerusalem: For literary elites who despise the atrocious barbaric English of the NAB

Vince C said...

NAB: An alternative translation for RSV-CE readers who are resigned to using it in parish Bible studies because that's what the average Catholic uses.

Douay-Rheims: What Catholics would use if they had been born Protestant KJV-only-ers.

Jerusalem Bible: For those who value aesthetics and care less about accuracy.

New Jerusalem Bible: For gray haired nuns in polyester pantsuits.

RSV-CE: For those who care about accuracy AND aesthetics AND don't give a whit what others say.

NRSV-CE: For guys who let their wives buy their Bibles (just kidding Timothy!).

GNB: For non-readers who are determined to read the Bible no matter what.

CCB: For wild-eyed third world types.

Paul W said...

NAB: for Americans
Douay-Rheims: for Catholics who don't know about Divino Afflante Spiritu
Jerusalem: "Do you know one of the translators was J. R. R. Tolkien?" :)
New Jerusalem: non-American Catholics.
RSV CE: Keep that inclusive language away from me!
NRSV: for scholars and academics
GNB: Religious Education at a Catholic High School
Christian Community Bible: Filipino Catholics

Terri L. Coons said...

Vince C - Very funny CCB assessment!

Tom said...

What about Knox: Anglophiles, in the library, with a fountain pen.

Timothy said...


Well done!

Gregg the Obscure said...

NAB - if something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly;
Douay - Ossee, can you see?
Jerusalem - can't stop talking about YHWH;
RSVCE - the forest I can't see for the trees;
NRSVCE - the forest I can't see for all the signs hammered to the trunks of the trees;
GNB - Kumbaya, my Lord;
CCB - Come again?

Thomas D said...

NAB: for the tone-deaf.

Douay-Rheims: traddies!

Jerusalem/New Jerusalem: "Yahweh, I know you are near..."

RSV-CE: Neuhaus & Groeschel Catholics (dare I say, "the good guys"?)

NRSV-CE: For priests who say "the Lord IS with you" at Mass instead of "the Lord be with you"; for priests who let nuns preach the homily.

Don't know enough about the other two.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's my take on this from a protestant who pleads ignorance of Catholic translations.

NAB for obedient Catholics who listens to everything Rome says
Douay-Rheims for the Catholic KJV-only equivalent crowd who thinks JP2 is too liberal
Jerusalem/New Jerusalem Bible for literary types
Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition for protestant wanna-bes who haven't converted to Catholicism
New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition for liberal types who want to stick it to Rome but can't leave the Church
Good News Bible for anyone who likes pictures and are too lazy to actually read the bible

Raphael said...

Very good ones, Newepistles! Especially your one for RSV-CE!

Anonymous said...

I actually happen to be a Filipino Catholic in search for a deeper knowledge of God. I've read other translations and I've found CCB to be the best for me. If on that account my fellowmen ought to be made the butt of jokes by other supposed 'catholics' out there, then I would have to thank God for granting us a precious splinter of His cross.

Since you people actually spent time and effort to judge the Holy Book by its translations, why don't you spend as much time translating it yourselves to see how much work it took for A SINGLE PRIEST to translate it into five languages (and that's the CCB you've been making fun of).

God bless