Thursday, December 9, 2010

NAB NT Series

The year 2011 will likely mark the publication of the NABRE. For those who are just joining this blog, that is the New American Bible Revised Edition, which will include a revised Old Testament and re-revised Psalms. For some additional information on the NABRE go here for a helpful question/answer post with Mary Sperry from the USCCB, which was done earlier this year. Hopefully there will be some additional information, like an actual publication date, early in 2011.

I am planning to spend some time over the next month, through various posts and guest reviews, analyzing the NAB NT. The current NAB NT will be the New Testament in the NABRE, so perhaps it is time to give it a fresh look.

To kick things off, I want to paste some portions of the revised edition of the NAB NT preface. I am hoping to begin the discussion with the basics, so I ask that any comments focus primarily on the preface. There will be plenty of time to discuss this or that translation choice. To read the entire preface, you can go here. So here are some selections I have picked out:

1) The primary aim of the revision is to produce a version as accurate and faithful to the meaning of the Greek original as is possible for a translation. The editors have consequently moved in the direction of a formal-equivalence approach to translation, matching the vocabulary, structure, and even word order of the original as closely as possible in the receptor language. Some other contemporary biblical versions have adopted, in varying degrees, a dynamic-equivalence approach, which attempts to respect the individuality of each language by expressing the meaning of the original in a linguistic structure suited to English, even though this may be very different from the corresponding Greek structure. While this approach often results in fresh and brilliant renderings, it has the disadvantages of more or less radically abandoning traditional biblical and liturgical terminology and phraseology, of expanding the text to include what more properly belongs in notes, commentaries, or preaching, and of tending toward paraphrase. A more formal approach seems better suited to the specific purposes intended for this translation.

2) A particular effort has been made to insure consistency of vocabulary. Always to translate a given Greek word by the same English equivalent would lead to ludicrous results and to infidelity to the meaning of the text. But in passages where a particular Greek term retains the same meaning, it has been rendered in the same way insofar as this has been feasible; this is particularly significant in the case of terms that have a specific theological meaning. The synoptic gospels have been carefully translated so as to reveal both the similarities and the differences of the Greek.

3) An especially sensitive problem today is the question of discrimination in language. In recent years there has been much discussion about allegations of anti-Jewish expressions in the New Testament and of language that discriminates against various minorities. Above all, however, the question of discrimination against women affects the largest number of people and arouses the greatest degree of interest and concern. At present there is little agreement about these problems or about the best way to deal with them. In all these areas the present translation attempts to display a sensitivity appropriate to the present state of the questions under discussion, which are not yet resolved and in regard to which it is impossible to please everyone, since intelligent and sincere participants in the debate hold mutually contradictory views.The primary concern in this revision is fidelity to what the text says. When the meaning of the Greek is inclusive of both sexes, the translation seeks to reproduce such inclusivity insofar as this is possible in normal English usage, without resort to inelegant circumlocutions or neologisms that would offend against the dignity of the language. Although the generic sense of man is traditional in English, many today reject it; its use has therefore generally been avoided, though it is retained in cases where no fully satisfactory equivalent could be found. English does not possess a gender-inclusive third personal pronoun in the singular, and this translation continues to use the masculine resumptive pronoun after everyone or anyone, in the traditional way, where this cannot be avoided without infidelity to the meaning. The translation of the Greek word adelphos, particularly in the plural form adelphoi, poses an especially delicate problem. While the term literally means brothers or other male blood relatives, even in profane Greek the plural can designate two persons, one of either sex, who were born of the same parents. It was adopted by the early Christians to designate, in a figurative sense, the members of the Christian community, who were conscious of a new familial relationship to one another by reason of their adoption as children of God. They are consequently addressed as adelphoi. This has traditionally been rendered into English by brothers or, more archaically, brethren. There has never been any doubt that this designation includes all the members of the Christian community, both male and female. Given the absence in English of a corresponding term that explicitly includes both sexes, this translation retains the usage of brothers, with the inclusive meaning that has been traditionally attached to it in this biblical context. Since the New Testament is the product of a particular time and culture, the views expressed in it and the language in which they are expressed reflect a particular cultural conditioning, which sometimes makes them quite different from contemporary ideas and concerns. Discriminatory language should be eliminated insofar as possible whenever it is unfaithful to the meaning of the New Testament, but the text should not be altered in order to adjust it to contemporary concerns. This translation does not introduce any changes, expansions, additions to, or subtractions from the text of scripture. It further retains the traditional biblical ways of speaking about God and about Christ, including the use of masculine nouns and pronouns.

Ok, what do you think of these first three selections? The selections are focused on issues of translation philosophy, consistant vocabulary, and inclusive language.


Timothy said...

I'll start off by mentioning that the preface of the revised NAB NT is clear in that it follows a formal equivalence translation philosophy. The original NAB NT was certainly more on the dynamic end. I have read reviews and criticisms on forums and other blogs that disliked the NAB because it was a dynamic equivalence translation, but that does not seem to be the case from this preface. (The occasional odd rendering in the OT and the lackluster revised Psalms probably contributed to that belief.). From my perspective, the Revised NAB NT is fairly literal, somewhat slightly less than the RSV. In comparison with the NRSV, I think it is pretty close with a slight edge to the NAB. I'll give some reasons why I think this in a future post.

Abe said...

I like the points that were addressed preface. If I'm reading the lines correctly, then it seems like it will be the perfect book for those that feels that inclusive language should be included at some points in the Bible, but doesn't like the amount found in NRSV.

I like the issues that they focused on. The only thing left might be to see if they properly address the problem people have with the notes found in NAB.

Timothy said...


The preface for the NT was done in 1986, but all indications are that the NABRE will follow those guidelines and presumably Liturgicam Authenticam. We shall see.

rolf said...

I think that there is no doubt that there will be some inclusive language used in the new translation of the O.T. I am ok with that if done properly, only translating those words that were most likely inclusive to begin with. But I would object to the changing of the singular into plural to squeeze in inclusive language where it does not work with English, (that is what notes are for). I wonder what will be done about some of the verse re-ordering that was done in some of the prophetic books of the O.T.? And I hope for more abundant notes in the O.T.

Timothy said...


I think Mary Sperry answered, earlier in the year, that there would be fewer reordering of texts and more abundant OT notes. As for the inclusive language issue, that we will just have to wait and see. If you look at the new Grail Psalter, they do translate Psalm 1 "Blessed indeed is the man" which would indicate acceptance of the norms if Liturgian Authenticam. We shall see if the NAB follows this as well.

Anonymous said...

I was curious about Liturgicam Authenticam. Do you know if it's going to be followed to the letter or only somewhat like the RSV-2CE?

Timothy said...


Not sure. The USCCB hasn't released any sample texts as of yet. I am hoping for some news in January.

Shazamaholic said...

If the NABRE will follow Liturgicam Authenticam, then wouldn't it use the altered NT approved for Mass? That is the version of the NT that follows LA, not the standard 1986 NT.

So far, all signs point to the 86 NT being used, and I just don't understand it. The altered Liturgical NT is the newest revision, and it is the one that follows LA. It has never been published in a complete Bible before, so you would think this would be the version of the NT that would be in the NABRE. Yet so far, it seems like it won't. WHY? Does someone else own the copyright to the Liturgical NT preventing it from being published as part of the NABRE?

This also brings up that, maybe the newly revised OT will NOT follow LA, either. Like the 86 NT, it will only follow those 86 NT guidelines. If the OT does follow LA, then it will be a little unbalanced if the non-LA 86 NT is used.

rolf said...

I was at a used bookstore yesterday and I found a 1970 NAB family Bible in excellent condition. I don't think it was ever really used, the pages inside are still sticking together (like with brand new Bibles). I really like reading from it. For one, the O.T., the N.T. and the Psalms are translated around the same time and the Bible is much more consistent in translation than our current NAB (O.T.-1970, N.T.-1986 and the Psalms-1991). The Catholic Family Bibles have a lot of Catholic devotions, prayers, dictionary and pictures included. When you read from it you really know you are reading from a Catholic Bible. I also really like the 1970 Psalms over the 1991 version.

Timothy said...


It would be interesting to do a comparison of the NAB and Liturgian Authenticam. While it is true the current NAB NT heard at Mass has been adapted, but to be honest only in some selected places. There are some things that LA calls for, like the 'Amen, Amen, sayings, which only the NAB has. This is interesting and probably deserves a post all it's own.

Yes the original Psalms are far superior to the current one. Hoping the re-revised Psalms won't let us down.

Mark D. said...

It would be best if the NAB NT would be revised to conform to what is found in the lectionary each Sunday -- it really would be helpful to have an edition of the Bible that conformed to what is used in the liturgy. That said, I like the Revised NAB NT quite a bit. It reads well. The notes and introductions I think privilege modern scholarship a little more than they should relative to the Church's traditional approach to the Bible, but I think that the approach used is still within the mainstream of how Catholic scholars read the Bible. One thing that I would definitely change if I could is the NAB NT's way of rendering Holy Spirit -- "holy Spirit." That just doesn't look right, and doesn't comport with the standard rendering of that term. It might be a justifiable rendering of the Greek, but it just isn't an appropriate rendering for an official Catholic translation of the Bible. IMHO.

Timothy said...


I agree with you 100%

John Breslin said...

We still won't have "Hail, full of grace" if they are not changing the NAB NT. :-(