Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The New Evangelization and the Bible Part 2

So, clearly, the Scriptures have an essential role in the New Evangelization. Here, in the United States, we Catholics have an ever increasing abundance of Bible editions and related materials to choose from that can be utilized for this task. I am not sure that has always been the case, but this has certainly changed in the last 10-15 years. That fact that a blog like this exists "where Catholics and other Christians can discuss Catholic Bible editions, study tools, and other issues concerning the Catholic faith" is a testament to the growth in Biblical awareness for Catholic Americans.

Now knowing that the call to a New Evangelization has as one of its main goals the reaching out to those who are either former Catholics or non-practicing ones, I ask you this question: What English Bible translation do you think best meets the need for this task? As we examine this question, we need to recognize that many of these people, though not all, have little or no regular encounter with the Holy Scriptures. What Bible translation do we evanglize with and which one do we encourage others to read? Why?


Unknown said...

I'd say the New American Bible-Revised Edition. It's the flagship translation of the bishops' conference and folks are going to hear it in the Liturgy anyway. Moreover, the book introductions and footnotes are generally helpful in addressing historical questions, and this is the primary concern nowadays for new converts: what is the basis, in reality, of our beliefs? They won't be swayed by traditional materials alone, and they need to know it's okay to be unsure about some of the stuff in the Bible.

The NABRE also offers the most diverse editions of any Catholic Bible, so people will have an easy time finding the right materials for their personal use.

Leonardo said...


In my personal experience, what I consider the time when I received the basic evangelical truths was when I was a child.

Later, I come to read and know, sometimes discuss, many passages of the Bible, but what supports my faith is my childhood's experience.

I think that the electronic versions of the Bible are something that many of us were expecting, and the NABRE for kindle is a good one.

But a coloring book of the Bible will do more.

Jonny said...

I would usually recommend the RSV-2CE to someone who was seriously interested in returning to practice the Catholic faith. Of course, my opinion is also influenced by the fact that I am part of a fruitful Bible study based on the Ignatius RSV-2CE Study Bible that has been ongoing for over 3 years now.

I believe that it has been helpful for everyone to have the same text, even when referencing the books that have not been published with the study notes. A good supplement guide (which I would also recommend) like the St. Jerome Commentary, a Haydock Bible, or the Navarre is often more helpful than a compact Bible's built in study notes anyway.

Overall, I think the RSV-2CE is the best choice for any Catholic who wants an accurate translation of the critical texts in modern English. The fact that the basic edition is not weighed down with the "scholarly" notes is beneficial for devotional use. Those returning to the faith need to have emphasis on knowing how to use primarily the Catechism (the big green edition with the study indexes in the back) for study and understanding Scripture in light of the Magesterium.

Theophrastus said...

I think the NRSV wins hands down-- its wide acceptance by scholars, its availability in a wide number of editions, its use in the new liturgy outside the US, its use in the CCC and other Catholic works, its ecumenical nature, and especially the number of annotated editions and commentaries keyed to the NRSV make it the Bible that is easiest to learn from.

(This is not to say that every verse in the NRSV is better than every other translation, but rather that overall, the NRSV gets more things right than other major translations.)

I realize the NRSV is too difficult for some readers (such as children), and for them, I would probably recommend the GNT/TEV.

For those with more advanced reading skills, the RSV is an alternative to the NRSV, although I do not think that the RSV is "better" than the NRSV. There are fewer RSV commentaries available and the situation is confused by the variety of different editions in print. (I am not able to recommend the RSV-2CE.)

The NAB/NABRE is significantly less literal than the NRSV, but the bigger problem is the notes, which often seem written to scholars rather than lay people. The NAB/NABRE is also somewhat inconsistent in translation philosophy (e.g., compare two poetical books: Psalms and Job.)

rolf said...

I think anyone of the three main Catholic translations (NABRE, RSV-CE/2CE or the NRSV) would work just fine.

Chrysostom said...

For the well-churched and educated, say those who have fallen away to Protestantism, or have a college degree, I think the RSV(-[2]CE) or the Douay-Rheims, depending on level of comfort.

For the unchurched and relatively uneducated, I think a new reivision of the original Jerusalem Bible is needed.

I, sadly, don't think the NAB or NABRE in its current form can do anything but great harm in evangelization, for obvious reasons - it is both deaf to linguistic euphony, contains an absolutely overweening level of liberal historical-critical scholarship that will shake the faith of even they educated, if they're not already Biblical scholars (and I doubt many are like myself, and have time to become Biblical scholars), and it's less Catholic than a King James Bible.

The Orthodox Study Bible would bring more souls to Catholicism than would the NAB/RE.

Chrysostom said...

Note: I don't personally like the NRSV (although I do like its incorporation of the DSS in 1-2 Samuel) and do not use it and wouldn't recommend its use, the NRSV is far and away better than any edition available of the NAB/RE. In the situation where it came that two translations were available; that is, the NAB and the NRSV, I would most definitely recommend NRSVs for everyone.

I can under no circumstance recommend, even for children, a "Cliff's Notes" Bible such as the GNT/MSG/TEV/CEV translations (although I believe the CEV does come with apocrypha). One should use an adult translation and help them to understand it (not dumb it down; it seems to be children that are "baby-speeched" end up less intelligent than their peers that are not: I see no reason why this should be different in selection of reading materials), or the use of a translation like the NLT 2nd Edition, if a child is, say, 8-9 years old and wants to study the Bible alone.

Francesco said...

I don't think there is a one-size-fits all answer to this question. My recommendation would depend on a lot of factors, including education, outlook on life, maybe age, and the reason why they are no longer Catholic.

Unless I was dealing with someone who came from a KJV-only or traditionalist Catholic background I would shy away from translations with archaic language. Unless they think that's what the Bible should sound like I don't think it would be useful. Personally I think a dynamic-equivalence translation is probably best for someone who has no contact with Christianity. Knowing what exactly a Hebrew or Greek idiom meant should be secondary to learning the broader meaning of what is being said. If my interlocutor was better educated or expressed an avid interest in the textual basis of the Bible I might consider using a modern formal translation.

Personally I would focus more on the notes than the translation itself. While its true that some translations are undoubtably better than others, unless the translators set out to dillute the gospel with their own message (like the NWT or the Inclusive Bible) the translation's going to say pretty much the same thing no matter what you go with. Sin is going to be bad (admittedly translations try to clarify what is and isn't a sin differently), and loving God and neighbor will be good. Notes, however, allow for greater engagement. My experience has been that the CCB notes have been the most helpful. The NABRE notes don't touch me spiriturally much, and the ICSB:NT notes would confuse anyone who isn't already waist-deep in Catholicism.

I agree with Theophrastus that there are many versions of the NRSV out there, but how many are evangelistically useful? Is the focus of the NOAB or the HCSB annotations a closer relationship with Christ or college-level understanding of a collection of Greek and Hebrew texts? The other editions (Women's Devotional, Lectio Divina, various teen editions) of the NRSV-CE certainly might be better suited for some people rather than others. Being an ecumenical translation is certainly a plus, though I wonder how much a non-Christian would care about that fact.

Of course, if you see the end result of any successful evangelistic endevor will be a full liturgical and sacramental life, then maybe the best Bible may be an NAB with the revised NT (NAB+RNT? NAB-86/91?) and will soon be out of print.

Theophrastus said...

Chrysostom -- I'm not sure if you know this, but the Catholic edition of the Good News Translation has the imprimatur (and of course includes the Deuterocanonicals).

I am not aware of a Catholic edition of the CEV, although the CEV New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs apparently have the imprimatur.

Chrysostom said...

Many things include the imprimatur that I can't personally recommend, at least not for the general population.

The NJBC has an imprimatur (by the author? isn't that a conflict of interest?) and may be of great interest to the scholar, but is likely to make an atheist of anyone who reads it and believes the Bible plays an important role in Christianity. The NAB is similar, in that sense, but, unlike the NJBC, which is arguably the best one-volume commentary available, is a translation that is, with annotations that are at best mediocre. There are many better translations, many more Catholic ones, many more faithful ones, and many more scholarly ones - and nearly every other one is better prose.

I daresay it wouldn't be used if it wasn't mandated by the USCCB; it is never quoted by non-Catholics, and educated Catholics never quote it: look in the Vatican's own documents in English translation: the RSV and NRSV are used. And, at that, it doesn't match the Mass, it's only the "basis" for it, interpreting the word loosely. The NAB would have gone the way of the ERV and the NWT and many others if it wasn't mandated by the USCCB: they keep trying to polish it (best accomplished when bound in brown leather), to bring the aphorism to mind.

Even after a revision, it's a bit better, but still not as good as the Confraternity OT it was based on.

The CCB Bible (if you're talking about the Filipino Christian Community one, and not the Confraternity one) has a good text (far better than the NAB), but the notes in places are actually heretical (see notes on Jas 5) and it seems much too syncretic, if that's a word (or the correct one) in many areas, and is tied in some sense to the cultural milieu that produced it.

However, nothing in the notes is going to turn a believer into an apostate or an atheist into an even more hardened atheist like the notes in the NAB. Possibly the worst thing about them, beyond it being targeted at the layman, being that it is not a great a historical-critical study Bible, unlike the excellent Oxford volumes, nor is it even a decent devotional one, like the Haydock or Navarre: it's a jack of two trades and fails at both.

James F said...

There is no "one size fits all" answer to this.

In general, I would recommend:

for someone who is well educated and well read, and clergy of other faiths, the Douay Rheims

for teens and young adults, and those who may not be well educated or well read, the original Jerusalem Bible (or the NJB, if neccesary)

for the average person, the NABRE.

The RSV-CE\2CE would be great for evangelizing strong Protestants, since that translation is, at heart, a Protestant Bible "tweaked" to be Catholic. But I would shy away from the NRSV. Despite all the kudos it gets from readers of this blog about coming in every size, shape, and form you could want, the translation itself, the most important part of a Bible, is a flawed Protestant translation.

James F said...

There is no "one size fits all" answer to this.

In general, I would recommend:

for someone who is well educated and well read, and clergy of other faiths, the Douay Rheims

for teens and young adults, and those who may not be well educated or well read, the original Jerusalem Bible (or the NJB, if neccesary)

for the average person, the NABRE.

The RSV-CE\2CE would be great for evangelizing strong Protestants, since that translation is, at heart, a Protestant Bible "tweaked" to be Catholic. But I would shy away from the NRSV. Despite all the kudos it gets from readers of this blog about coming in every size, shape, and form you could want, the translation itself, the most important part of a Bible, is a flawed Protestant translation.

rolf said...

The gospel message brings people to Christ not the bible translation. In my RCIA group when I read from the bible, I sometimes switch translations around and no one cares or notices, because the message and its meaning is what counts. All the above mentioned Catholic translations are approved by the Church and are suitable for teaching. The NAB is used in the Mass in the USA and is what most American Catholics will hear for years to come. So to think that you can't become evangelized properly by being exposed to the NAB/RE doesn't make any sense, since that is exactly how most Catholics are being evangelized.

Leonardo said...


I disagree with some comment that consider the NABRE's notes as kind of inappropriate for the uneducated in the Bible.

I think that our principal goal as Christians is to know and follow Jesus, so, it is important to know what the scholars say about the text.

I think that the true inspirations comes from the knowing of the text, not in the capacity to embellish some passages of the Bible, which at last is a form of a lie.

Michael Demers said...

Evangelize by all means but I don't think we have to use a Bible. It's really for adult readers or advanced students. I'd use a catechism, instead.

Theophrastus said...

Chrysostom: First, an error on my part; the CEV does indeed have a Deuterocanon.

My reference to the GNT/TEV having imprimatur was just meant by example to show that it had the Deuterocanon. You question the value of imprimatur, but I was not equating "imprimatur" and "good", rather I was merely pointing out that the full Catholic canon had been translated.

I understand and sympathize with your complaints about "dumbed down Bibles," but I do not agree that the NLT2 is more sophisticated than the GNT-TEV.

I agree that the NRSV is flawed (but not that it is Protestant) -- however, all translations are flawed. The question is really what are the strengths and negatives of a translation? For better or worse, the NRSV is being widely used in explicitly Catholic contexts (ICEL proposed liturgy, Canadian liturgy, English CCC, etc.)

Enrique E. said...

My parents left the Catholic Church in my adolescence, taking us children with them. We grew up hoping from one church to another. For a time we were Methodist, then we went to a very radical Fundamentalist church which practiced a brand of in-your-face evangelism. I returned to the Catholic faith when I was old enough to leave home and build a life and family of my own, which I have done.

I learned that the essential element to the success of evangelicals in their outreach was their die-hard application of Saint Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. To quote some of the last part from the NABRE: “I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel.” To most evangelical groups that I know, this means being familiar with what the other person believes and, most importantly, knowing how to quote Scripture in the way that the person you are speaking to is familiar (that is, if they are religious).

At least for the church we went to, this meant knowing more than just the version we used in worship. It meant leaving our preference behind and learning to quote or at least become familiar with the version (and even edition of some versions) that the other person used.

Having returned home to the Catholic Church, I make an effort to use this approach whenever appropriate or necessary. While I don’t think I have to study over every other Bible version in the manner that this religion often did to be successful, I try to at least be familiar with what is out there and with “who” is using “what.”

In personal opinion I think it is only logical to recommend to those who God places in our spiritual care the Bible version we are most familiar with and/or prefer. I am sure that the Lord and his angels know what each individual needs and connects them to someone with just the right experiences, personality and preferences that will make our evangelizing efforts successful with them.

But in the end we have to also make sure that we use whatever tools are right for the person and occasion. What if the person is Jewish? Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist? Shinto? Anti-religious? Are we equipped enough to know when what we are familiar with or what we prefer in a Bible version helps or hinders our efforts? While I would never suggest that we throw out the baby with the bathwater, the answer to your question might lie more in our efforts to take our personal views and preferences out of the equation when required than in offering arguments to support our choices. We all have to be ready to this if our evangelizing as Catholics is ever going to be successful for “one size” does not always “fit all.”

Timothy said...


Thank you for your comments, which I think provides an important component to thus discussion.