Thursday, September 3, 2009

NRSV Compact Thinline Bible Review

The Go-Anywhere Compact Thinline Bible NRSV w/Apocrypha is the latest release from HarperCollins/One/Bibles. Since its acquisition of the NRSV license, HarperCollins has regularly published different editions of the NRSV, usually in a non-apocrypha, apocrypha/deuterocanonical, and Catholic editions. This has certainly helped grow the polularity of the NRSV which, for many years, seemed to be in a steep decline. In this instance, there are only versions available with or without the full apocrypha/deuterocanonicals, with no specifically Catholic edition.
Because they are referring to this edition as the Go-Anywhere Bible, I wonder if they will be fazing out the original NRSV Go-Anywhere Bible which was released back in 2007. Known for its rather odd shape and very thin paper, this version did have the advantage of coming in a Catholic edition.
Here are the official specs/description for the NRSV Go-Anywhere Compact Thinline Bible with the Apocrypha:
The NRSV Go-Anywhere Compact Bible is the most portable edition of the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) with the Apocrypha available today. At less than an inch thick, this compact Bible combines excellent portability with the readability of a larger Bible and is perfect for personal use or for gift giving.

The Ideal On-the-Go Portable Bible The Go-Anywhere™ Compact Thinline Bible offers a thinline, compact size that combines the portability you'd expect in a compact Bible with the readability of a larger Bible. One touch will tell you why this distinctive Bible will be your constant companion. Perfect for personal use or for gift giving.
Features Include:
*The New Revised Standard Version—the most trusted, most accepted, and most accurate English translation of the Bible available today
*The Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books of Scripture
*Bonded leather with craft-sewn binding for added strength and long life
*Fine Bible paper to maximize readability and portability
*Easy-to-read typeface in a double-column setting
*Thinline size—less than one inch thick—making it easy to take with you wherever you go
*Gilded edges and a ribbon marker
*Presentation page and maps
Overall, it is a very nice, protable version of the NRSV. I use to own the compact edition of the NRSV that was published by Oxford, but I found the print to be too small for daily use. One thing to keep in mind before you buy the HarperCollins edition is that it is more compact than thinline. I was hoping that this would be closer in size to a standard thinline like the TNIV Thinline Bible (a little love for the soon to be deceased), but in reality it is slightly larger than the average compact bible. So, the search for a true thinline Bible continues.
Good points:
* This print is larger and more readable than the compact NRSV published by Oxford.
* There is far less bleed-through in this edition, as oppose to the original NRSV Go-Anywhere Bible.
* There are four black and white Bible maps included, covering the route of the Exodus, the division of Canaan, Palestine in the time of Jesus, and the three missionary journeys of St. Paul.
* In the apocrypha/deuterocanonical section, there is a four page section devoted to explaining the different OT canons.
* Overall, this Bible has a very nice feel to it, even though it is made of bonded leather. The craft-sewn binding certainly helps.
Negative points:
* As mentioned earlier, there is no Catholic edition. (However, I don't see this as that big a deal.)
* Once again, no cross-references. (I will keep championing this cause until it is resolved!)
* No concordance. This was something that was included in the original Go-Anywhere Bible.
* The cover is bonded leather. I will have to see how it holds up after use, but I would have prefered imitation or tru-tone leather.


ElShaddai Edwards said...

Thanks for the nice review, Tim. I'm glad to hear that HC is improving the quality of the paper and using sewn bindings -- those initial releases were almost unusable to my eyes and fingers. If the NRSV translation were more my cup of tea, I'd be taking another look!

Timothy said...


Yes, the paper quality is much better. Like you mentioned, the standard and original Go Anywhere editions were very tough on the eyes. I actually thought the size of the original Go-Anywhere was sort of unique, but it was just so tough to read, particularly in church.

Paolo said...

The NRSV I use is this one:

I like how they included 'Dei Verbum" in the beginning. It's called the "Reader's Edition" which basically means no footnotes, concordance, etc. I was drawn toward it since I didn't want to get caught up in reading every footnote and commentary. I would like a new one but it's out of print, and all these Harper NRSV have such thin paper that it's hard to read with the bleed-through. Blech.

I like the NRSV over the NAB in general, because I find it flows better, and I want to hear traditional translations, such as:

"The meek shall inherit the earth", as opposed to the NAB's meek inheriting "the land."

That being said, I'm not a fan of inclusive language. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Timothy said...


yeah the Nrsv reads very smoothly and every time I decide to read another bible it becomes very obvious. As for the inclusive language, I agree that every once in a while the nrsv goes too far. But the advantage is that the textual notes always show what they are doing and they are integral to the translation.

Ted said...

One of my problems with the NRSV is that they don't always indicate how they have modified the text in order to allow inclusive language. For example Lk 17:2 - "It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble." Why no footnote to indicate that they have changed from 3rd person singular to 2nd person singular? I really wish they would issue an edition that marked all such cases.

Anonymous said...

Please read and be much more circumspect in your discussion of and recommendations of the NRSV

Anonymous said...

Many readers are blissfully unaware of the extent to which the NRSV has altered texts to avoid use of male terms. In fact, most of the cases are not highlighted in the footnoes. Many completely distort the meaning of the text. Anyone who thinks such rewording has no significance should find much food for thought in this excellent analysis
The NRSV is a real trojan horse in the world of Catholic Biblical Studies. Apart from the rapidly shrinking liberal protestant Churches, this translation is hardly used at all by other Cristian groups. The Greek Orthodox Church has declared that it cannot be approved for liturgical purposes or private use and even went so far as to say it doesn't consider this version to be the Holy Scriptures! Of course there are excellent passages here and there but that just makes the whole thing more subtly dangerous. The approval of the NRSV as a Bible Catholics can use was due to the fact that this version is a complete Bible(ie with deuterocanonical books)and happened before the extent of the textual tampering became clearly apparent-just as the Canadian Bishops were too hasty in adopting it for liturgical use,and have had to create a new corrected version to gain Vatican approval. If readers of this blog are really going to stick with this version they should always read it in parallel with the RSV(a pain i know, but its the only way to find out how often the NRSV tampers with the text). The issues are far reaching as the short essay i've mentioned above shows.

Anonymous said...

Sorry readers about messing up the address for the Catholic Insight Article on the NRSV. This should be

The Vatican Document Liturgicum Authenticam should also be read. It excludes for liturgical purposes translations such as NRSV and NAB. The principles of translation it describes exclude certain methodoldogies used in these translations though unfortunately it was issued after the event but will certainly affect all new translations/revisions of Catholic Bibles. The only purportedly Catholic Bible meeting these criteria is the RSV. Paradoxically, apart from the absence of the Apocrypha, recent non-catholic bibles such as the ESV would certainly do so -perhaps even more so than the RSV since the instruction wants Old Testament translations to reflect New Testament theology - something conservative protestants have always insisted on and which some critics think the RSV failed to do.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid i cannot get the address to paste properly so if you want to read the article on the NRSV use of so-called inclusive language you'll have to look it up on the Catholic Insight website. The article is listed under Liturgy and is called Sixty-Four Shadows of Man in the NRSV by Thaddeus W. Pruss.

Timothy said...


thanks for your comments. Even though I tend to like the nrsv, even with its drawbacks, I do appreciate your perspective.

A couple of points:

1 the inclusive language issue is certainly a fluid one. Do I like all the choices made in the Nrsv? No, but I have come to believe that some, only in the horizontal sense, is necessary. I have used some older translations when leading bible studies and have felt uncomfortable with the occassional renderings that weren't inclusive. But that is me. I actually think the NJB does the best job in this regard.

2 I prefer the nrsv textual basis. It more often will go with a dss or lxx rendering more than the rsv or esv. Of coarse, that is my preference. I also think the nrsv has the best textual notes, outside of the NET bible. For me the rsv is simply a fifty year old translation.

3 while there is much to like about the esv, there are some translation choices that bother me and betray the theological perspective of the translation team. For instance it's decisions at 1 Timothy 3:15 and it's translation of episcopos.

4 the nrsv is used in the Canadian liturgy as well as in the catechism of the catholic church, along with the rsv. It also has a ton of other study tools keyed to it which makes it very useful.

5 finally I just really like reading from it. Even knowing the areas where it falls short, I find that my prayerful reading of holy scripture is enhanced when using the nrsv.

Again, I appreciate your comments even If I don't agree 100 percent with th.

Biblical Catholic said...

I agree with the complaint about excessive use of inclusive language in the NRSV, but keep in mind....the 'inclusive language' requirement was imposed on the committee towards the end of their work, under the protest of most on the committee, some on the translation committee actually denounced the final version that was published because it distorted their work.

The version of the NRSV that we have in print right now does not accurately reflect the intentions of the translators....

Think about this.... you spend 15 years working on a project, and then all of a sudden, when you are nearly complete, your boss comes in and changes the conditions and you have to go back to the drawing board and more or less start over, but you don't really have enough time to do EVERYTHING over, so what do you do? You turn around and try to change everything at the last moment.... the result being kind of a mess that in places doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense.....

And that is the reason for the occasional bizarre, awkwardly worded and confusing/misleading passages in the NRSV.....the translation committee wasn't trying to deliberately, obfuscate traditional Christian dogma, they
just did the best they could to 'inclusive-ize' the translation at the last minute... you can't expect someone to suddenly revise 15 years of work from the ground up in less than a year's time and expect that the result is going to be as clear as it should be.

I would like to see a wholesale revision of the NRSV, but I don't know likely that is.

Anonymous said...

I take your points Timothy and Michael as to the fact that study aids may be tied to NRSV and i'm aware that the final form of the NRSV was the work of a handful of people who obviously had their own agenda. But don't you think this is a rather sorry state of affairs? I raised the issue of the NRSV on this blog because its supposed to be about Catholic Bibles. But if you ask what is meant by that the answer would, at a minimal, have to include firstly that it is a complete Bible (has all the books we believe are part of the canon of scripture) and secondly that it has been translated in accordance with present Church instructions - which are obligatory. I'm afraid the NRSV and New American Bible (Second Addition)are both disqualified on the second count. The instructions i'm refering to are contained in the document Liturgiam Authenticam. However, a shortened summary of these can be found in "Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy" issued in 1997by the then Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Bendict. Any reader can google this to read the whole document but here are few of the norms
2. The first principle with respect to biblical texts is that of fidelity, maximum possible fidelity to the words of the text. Biblical translations should be faithful to the original language and to the internal truth of the inspired text, in such a way as to respect the language used by the human author in order to be understood by his intended reader. Every concept in the original text should be translated in its context. Above all, translations must be faithful to the sense of Sacred Scripture understood as a unity and totality, which finds its center in Christ, the Son of God incarnate (cf. Dei Verbum III and IV), as confessed in the Creeds of the Church.
4/1. The natural gender of personae in the Bible, including the human author of various texts where evident, must not be changed insofar as this is possible in the receptor language.
4/6. Kinship terms that are clearly gender specific, as indicated by the context, should be respected in translation.
5. Grammatical number and person of the original texts ordinarily should be maintained.(ie singular male terms cannot be pluralised to "those" etc)
6/2. For example, where the New Testament or the Church's tradition have interpreted certain texts of the Old Testament in a Christological fashion, special care should be observed in the translation of these texts so that a Christological meaning is not precluded.(note that NRSV pluralisation of singular male terms in the Psalms completely excludes any Christological interpretation)

6/3. Thus, the word "man" in English should as a rule translate adam and anthropos, since there is no one synonym which effectively conveys the play between the individual, the collectivity and the unity of the human family so important, for example, to expression of Christian doctrine and anthropology.(The terms man and Son of Man have been expunged from the NRSV text except Son of Man is retained on lips of Jesus but no connection can be made to the Old Testament origins of this as the phrase is eliminated completely in the NRSV Old Testament.)

Enough said ? Actually i haven't finished yet..

Anonymous said...

I think this suffices to show why these Bibles are not really Catholic. Of course these norms and Liturgiam Authenticam were issued after these translations appeared so its very much a case of "after the horse has bolted". But the magisterium can hardly be blamed for this - part of its purpose is to react and correct errors as they arise and they could hardly be expected to have anticipated that so called Catholic Bibles would appear which have swallowed wholesale feminist ideology with regard to the use of language. The real problem lies with translators (or small editorial commitees in case of NRSV)who have foolishly decided to follow what will undoubtedly prove to be nothing more than a passing and intellectually discredited trend. This problem has also affected the non-catholic denominations but they have not fallen for this nonsense to anything like the same extent. Their latest, and i would say best Bibles(ESV and Holman Christian Standard)do not use inclusive language but insist on accurately translating the Hebrew or Greek texts).Then there is the debacle with the TNIV-surely going to prove the shortest lived Bible in history which just illustrates the ephemeral character of such scholarship. But our seperated brethren learn fast when it comes to the Bible which is as expected given the centrality it has in their faith.

There is a great deal of misinformation with regard to the use of inclusive language in Bible translations. Two need to be corrected at every opportunity. One is that the original Hebrew and Greek texts are gender neutral and that so called sexist language arises as a result of translation into English. Of course this is completey untrue. The divinely inspired authors have used these terms. The second is that bibles such as the NRSV always use footnotes to alert you to changes they are making. This is also completely false. The NRSV sometimes does this (for example when it adds "sisters" to St.Paul's texts)but in the vast majority of cases no indication is given so the reader has no idea whether or not they are reading what the sacred author has written or someone else's view of what the author should have written . For example,(and countless others could be given) no indication is given in Psalm 1 that the whole psalm has been pluralised to remove all the male terms in the original text. "Blessed is the man...but his delight.."etc becomes in the NRSV "Happy are those..but their delight". Apart from the the breathtaking arrogance of changing what the sacred author has written thus destroying the true theme of the psalm which is about the individual(in this case man)who has to stand out from/resist the crowd (a very different propositiion from being part of a group)any possible interpretaion of this psalm(and all the others similarly censored)as including a reference to Christ as the pre-eminent just man is completely excluded. (One more entry to follow - i promise)

Anonymous said...

There are doctrinal issues involved not least of which is "Do we still believe the scriptures are the word of God and that every word is divinely inspired" as the Catholic Church teaches. If so why are we accepting changes to what the sacred author has said and are such texts still the Word of God ? Where does it all end ? With the rise of the New Paganism homosexuality is becoming increasingly accepted in liberal western societies. Would it be acceptable to alter the Biblical condemnations of such behaviour ? If not,why not, given that we have already accepted that the texts can be altered to fit in with other ideologies ?
I think it would be very useful if you could encourage discussion on your blog about what we mean by a Catholic Bible or at least put up information about the recent insructions/norms i've already refered to so as to help people decide which version to use. Also, if you want to think with the Church(to use St.Ignatius' expression)you should be discouraging the use of Bibles such as the NRSV. But i commend and thank you for taking the trouble to run this blog, and i hope it will help people make the right choices with regard to what Bibles to buy. I strongly recommend the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition published by Ignatius Press. Claims that its an old fashioned Bible which is hard to read are plain wrong. You can trust the accuracy of the translation, and because it stands within the Tyndale/King James/Challoner Rheims trtaditon it has outstanding literary qualities which (as any Bible translator knows-many have tried and failed) are always going to hard to beat. Many of our seperated brethren are delighted with their new, modern translation of the scriptures- the ESV. So they should be - its the RSV(changes are minimal). God Bless.

Timothy said...


1 let me point out that this blog is meant to provide a forum to discuss catholic bibles. The nrsv comes in a catholic edition, as well as being used in the ccc and approved by the Vatican for liturgical use in Canada. So, I will continue to refer to a catholic edition of the nrsv in the same way as the rsv-ce.

2 while I agree that there is much to like in the esv and even hcsb, there are problems as well. None of them will probably be approved in a catholic edition. As a matter of fact, Crossway, who produces the esv, wanted nothing to do with the oxford esv with apocrypha. I have also laid out some issues with the esv in a prior post. And as for the hcsb, does it not use the divine name, YHWH, a lot in the old testament? That has clearly been discouraged by Benedict 16.

3 When I read the nrsv I do so knowing it's faults. Yet, we both agree that there is no perfect translation out there. I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Thanks again for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Yes Timothy i guess we'll have to agree to differ but i must correct you on one point you make in your latest response to me. You say NRSV has been approved by the Vatican for Liturgical purposes in Canada.This is incorrect. The Lectionary now in use in Canada is not the NRSV text we have been blogging about. Its a revised version (lets call it the Revised New Revised Standard Version)which has had the inclusive language errors of the NRSV corrected. Its is true that until earlier this year the Lectionary used in Canada was the NRSV but that Lectionary was never approved by the Vatican. What happened was that the Canadian Bishops went ahead and produced an NRSV lectionary without first getting approval from the Vatican, and had the Missals printed. The Vatican then gave the Canadian Bishops the choice of either abandoning this Lectionary altogether or making alterations to the text to make it acceptable (get rid of the inclusive language/make more accurate).The Canadian Bishops chose the latter option and were allowed to continue using the unapproved NRSV lectionary but only within a specific timescale during which the corrections had to be made. This process is now complete, the new Lectionary(or what may be called the Revised New Revised Standard Version)has been fully approved by the Vatican and has been in use in Canada for the past seven or eight months. I've read a few Canadian blogs in which parishioners have expressed delight a hearing things like "Bleseed is the man.." at Mass again.I have no problem with that-the NRSV has many good features and corrected in this way could make a fine Bible. I'd like to end on a cheerful note for all you NRSV lovers out there. Father Henry Wansbrough (editor of the New Jerusalem Bible)is currently working on a new lectionary for the entire English Speaking Church. It is an adaptation of the NRSV (ie corrected to make it conform to Church requirements with regard to translation, though the Canadians probably no longer require it)so it looks as though at some stage we're all going to be hearing the "Revised New Revised Standard Version" at Mass. I predict a complete Bible along these lines will appear not long after, but it will then be a proper Catholic Version (ie not just a Bible with "Catholic Version"on the front). But there are no plans at the moment for a new version of the New Jerusalem Bible. I think Father Henry has enough to do at the moment. God Bless

Timothy said...


yeah, I am aware of the adapted form of the Nrsv in canada. I would also welcome a printed form of it but who knows if that will happen.

As for the njb, there is a new edition in the making called "the bible in traditions" but I do not know any specifics about yet. The ecole biblique site does have some info.