Thursday, January 19, 2012

Popular Catholic Bible Myths: The NAB(RE) is a Paraphrase

Today, I am beginning a new series of posts that will appear periodically on this blog. This series will be known as "Popular Catholic Bible Myths". Many of these "myths" are perpetuated on websites and discussion forums, where there is a tendency to circulate and restate popularly held beliefs that may not be accurate.

Today's Myth: The NAB(RE) is a paraphrase or mostly dynamic equivalence translation

I have found that this myth is assumed by quite a few people who discuss Bible translations at the various Catholic forums and websites. Go to any discussion forum thread about Catholic Bible translations and you are likely to find a few people dogmatically declaring the NAB(RE) to be a paraphrase or highly dynamic translation, compared to the more "noble" RSV or Douay-Rheims. Most notably Catholic Answers, which typically has reliable information, makes the following observation in their translation guide:

"Then there are mostly dynamic translations such as the New International Version (NIV) and the New American Bible (NAB)."

Yet, if you spend a little time with the NAB(RE) it becomes clear that it tends to be more formal/literal than dynamic. Is the NAB(RE) as formal/literal as the RSV? By no means. But it is not far off either, and certainly more literal than the majority of Bibles that have been produced during the past 40 years.

Here is what the translators had to say about the NAB(RE), beginning with the preface to the recently revised NABRE 2011 Old Testament mentions:

"In many ways it is a more literal translation than the original NAB and has attempted to be more consistent in rendering Hebrew (or Greek) words and idioms, especially in technical contexts, such as regulations for sacrifices."

Even back in 1986, the translators of the revised NAB NT devoted quite a bit of space to make the point in the preface:

"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."

In addition, the USCCB NABRE site states plainly that the "NABRE is a formal equivalent translation of Sacred Scripture, sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, using the best manuscripts available."

There are of course instances where the NAB(RE) translates a phrase in a more dynamic-equivalence style, see the "mighty wind" in Genesis 1:2 as an example. But overall, sentence structure and vocabulary tend to follow a more formal equivalence philosophy.

It must be acknowledged that a major problem the NAB(RE) has faced over the years was that it was particularly uneven after the publication of the revised Psalms in 1991. Most people experienced with an edition of the NAB which had a mediating Old Testament translation completed in the 50's and 60's with no inclusive language, a revised New Testament which was far more literal than the original OT and NT with moderate inclusive language, and then a revised Psalter which used both vertical and horizontal inclusive language. It is no wonder that confusion has arisen over this translation.

Fortunately, the most recent New American Bible Revised Edition, published last March, has resolved a number of the problems of the previous edition. It is, overall, a more even translation, both in its translation philosophy, but also its use of inclusive language. There are, of course, no perfect translations, but the current NABRE is superior to the original, while only being slightly less literal than many of the formal translations, like the RSV, NRSV, and ESV.


Theophrastus said...

I hate to disagree with you, but "mighty wind" is a possible literal translation of ruach elokim. There is nothing paraphrastic about it. The phrase has a double meaning in Hebrew.

Timothy said...

More literal than 'wind/spirit of God'?

Timothy said...


Upon reflection, I recognize that Gen 1:2 may not be the best example. Perhaps a better example is the Hebrew 'yada' in Genesis 4:1 and elsewhere which is more formally rendered "knew" as oppose to "had intercourse with".

owenswain said...

As a Canadian I've had little interest in the NAB translation but having worked for a time in a Catholic bookstore I made myself familiar with it. I really didn't like it or it's notes.

Oddly, many Canadians use the NAB simply because it's available in such huge quantity and variety as compared to other translations anfd because of the heavy influence of our American friends. Many people think a brand name, like the St. Joseph's Bible is a translation when it's the NAB. That's is to say, most Catholics are clueless regarding the Bible. Those that are not clueless tend toward the RSVCE/2E because they tend to also be those following (largely American) contemporary apologists who almost exclusively tend to the same translation.

I am interested in the NABRE because I am a bible-geek. I've enjoyed reading the posts here. I remain dubious about the notes though. Thoughts there?

And, this is a good opportunity to say thanks to Theophrastus whose comments here and whose own blog I have come to appreciate.

Timothy said...


You highlight what tends to be the biggest problem most people have with the NAB/NABRE and that is the notes that accompany it. Most discussions about the NAB focus more on the notes than the translation. I think if you search on this blog a bit, you will find a few discussions about the notes. The main question remains: Who is the intended audience? Bible scholars or the typical Catholic?

owenswain said...


Yes. Having formal training and being a convert, I'm not the typical Catholic who, I'm guessing, would look for moral pastoral/apologetic notes. While I don't think of myself as a scholar I am looking for good 'Catholic' note but not in a sectarian way - if that makes sense. I'm comfortable with some ambiguity with an eye to accurate historicity. True, I lean toward the conservative rather than liberal, if we have to label, but I appreciate and am not freaked out be academic notes (that many Catholics seem to automatically react to as 'liberal'). This edition interests me, if I am to have a NABRE and I have it on a watch list.

Timothy said...


I appreciate both the theological/apologetic notes and the historical ones, like you. I think the NABRE would be less derided if it had a few more of the former.

I plan on getting the HarperOne NABRE when it is released in a few months, so there certainly will be a review on this site.

Theophrastus said...

Tim, I do think "mighty wind" is a defensible literal translation of the Hebrew. But you'll note that the NABRE is very responsible here, noting alternative translations.

"Know" is an interesting example. Yada is a euphemism in Hebrew, in the same way that "make love" is a euphemism for intercourse in English. Because in early English Bible translations yada was translated as "know," the word "know" also became a euphemism in English (although it seems somewhat archaic in English now.)

My own preference in these sort of circumstances is that the translation should ideally note the double meaning of terms. Unfortunately, none of the translations at my fingertips right now seems to have a note that explains the double meaning of yada, except the NJPS.

I agree with your general remark that the NABRE is generally less formally equivalent than the RSV. But I can find counterexamples to this as well. What I yearn for are Bibles that are well annotated so that people can simultaneously appreciate the literal wording and the idiomatic meaning.

owenswain said...

"What I yearn for are Bibles that are well annotated so that people can simultaneously appreciate the literal wording and the idiomatic meaning."

You be preachin' at my Amen corner, Theophrastus.

Anonymous said...

I agree the NABRE OT is an improvement towards formal equivalence, and so far (with quite a few notes to go) I would say the notes are more helpful to the general Catholic reader, too. I would like Timothy's and everyone else's reaction to the Psalms, however. As the translator recognition pages show, they were removed from the regular NABRE OT revision process and done by a separate and only partially overlapping group. Why, though, is not explained. Do we see a noticeable difference in use of inclusive language?

[Another somewhat curious thing is that this NABRE revision of the 1991 Psalms came out almost the same time as "The Revised Grail Psalms, A Ligturgical Psalter" another, and different translation again, though Cardinal George apparently had a hand in overseeing both efforts.]

Thanks for any comments or insights. Jim McCullough

john said...

As Catholics we have very few good choices in Bible translations. If one wishes to stay with strictly Catholic Bibles IE those done by Catholics and for Catholics then the choices are (and I list them in the order of best to so-so)

1. Douay-Rheims-Challoner
3. New Jerusalem Bible
4. Jerusalem Bible (1966)
I leave out the "Confraternity Bible" which was the predecessor to the NAB of 1970 only because it is no longer in print.

Now if we extend the list to Bibles done by both Catholics and Protestants (which in include the Deutero-Canonical books) then the list changes, again going from best to so-so, IMHO.

1. ESV (English Standard version with Apocrypha, Oxford Uni Press
2. Douay-Rheims-Challoner and the Authorised Version of 1611 AKA "King James Version" with Apocrypha
3. Revised Standard Version-2cnd Catholic Edition; Ignatius Press
4. NABRE of 2011
5. New Jerusalem Bible
6. Jerusalem Bible (1966)
7. New Revised Standard Version

When I was still an Evangelical some used the RSV until the New International Version and the New King James Version was released, after that Evangelicals dropped the RSV like the proverbial hot potato, we joking called the RSV the "LSV" (Liberal Standard Version)

Theophrastus said...

John: I strongly disagree with your characterization of Bibles as being "strictly Catholic" or "Catholic and Protestant."

A few examples:

* NABRE had Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish translators.

* NJB had Catholic and Protestant translators (e.g., on page vi, Kenneth Grayston, a prominent Methodist minister ,is listed).

* The Douay-Rheims-Challoner, according to John Cardinal Newman, "is even nearer to the Protestant than it is to the Douay."

* If you consider the KJV w/Apocrypha to be a "Catholic and Protestant version" because the KJV NT was influenced by the Rheims, then you would need to consider virtually every modern translation to be ecumenical, since all modern translators review scholarship and translations made by Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Eastern Orthodox, and secularists.

The tradition of relying on scholarship of non-Catholics goes backs to ancient times. For example, St. Jerome credited Rabbi Ben Anina, among others, with assistance in translating the Vulgate.

There is no such thing as a "strictly Catholic" translation.

Chrysostom said...

Bibles that attempt to be both dynamic and literal end up as a monstrosity like the NET Bible. Started out as a formal translation for serious Bible students, then got functional with footnotes added (sometimes) noting the literal translation, while retaining a bunch of notes that are sometimes quite one-sided and dogmatic from a text-critical point of view, in a translation that's now useless for a serious student of the Bible.

That's why we have interlinears and parallel Bibles. Although, I do prefer, and even believe in, formal translations, when a periphrastic rendering must be adopted (which should be sparingly), I do appreciate it being noted (the NRSV, ESV Study Bible, NJPS, and the original King James w/ apparatus do a good job at this, to greater or lesser degrees). Noting every deviation from the truly literal would end up with an "essentially literal" Bible with an interlinear for footnotes.

Christopher W. Speaks said...


1.) What would you say are the strongest selling points of the NABre? Why should a person purchase and daily utilize this translation over and above any other?

2.) Who do you think this translation would best serve?

3.) Should the NABre be the translation of choice for the New Evangelization?

4.) As long as high profile Catholics like Drs. Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre and Edward Sri advertise for the RSV-CE, the NABre will remain periphereal. Should Hahn, Pitre, Sri and others give the NABre more airtime?

Timothy said...


Below is the timeline for the NABRE revision as stated by the Catholic Biblical Association, which may answer your question:

June 2008: The CBA was again invited to make a presentation similar to that of June 2006 of the re-revised Psalter, now before the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship (a reconstitution of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy), now under Bishop Serratelli as Chair, during the USCCB meeting in Orlando. A few days later the CBA was informed that that committee had chosen instead a revised version of the Grail Psalter for use in the liturgy.

November 2008: The completed revised NAB OT was presented to the USCCB at their November 2008 meeting, at which time it was approved. However, at the same meeting it was decided that this newly revised NAB would not be published using the 1991 Psalter. Since the re-revised Psalter was not available for use, the revised NAB will be published when a new revision of the Psalter is finished.

Early 2009: The CCD office has contacted individual scholars to contract for revision of blocks of psalms to be presented to the USCCB for approval.

owenswain said...

@Theophrastus, what I wanted to say but said much, much better.

As to the pedigree the DR(C), someone once remarked to a DRO individual (which I am not saying John is), "The DR is great if you want a translation of a translation of a translation."

Timothy said...


I will combine questions 1-3 and then answer 4 on its own.

a) I think the NABRE is formal enough to be used for study, but also readable for everyday use. Is it going to win awards for its literary quality? Probably not. But it is a very workable, everyday Bible that can be used in most situations.

b)It is available in many more formats and editions than any other Catholic Bible. There are multiple Kindle editions and there is at least hope that future editions will be published, for example through HarperOne.

c) If you are going to try and re-evangelize those Catholics who have left the Church or are just simply not active anymore, which translation would you approach them with? For an initial encounter I would likely go with the NABRE, for many of the reasons I mentioned above (a).

Well, that is not 100% true. I would point out the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, which is keyed to the NABRE, has a number of notable high profile Catholics, like Scott Hahn, who are involved. Scott Hahn is actually doing the commentary on Romans, which should be quite fantastic. Tim Gray and Francis Martin are also contributing volumes, while Mary Healy and Peter Williamson are the main editors of the series. I should also point out that one of the things that I really appreciate about the series is that it has endorsements from both the high profile, new-breed Catholic Biblical scholars as well as more historical-critical scholars like Donald Senior from CTU.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

Dear Tim,
The most important feature of any edition of the Bible is "the notes" (and supplementary materials") that are also included. Given the enormous size of the Bible, we need to be realistic about our expectations here. Frankly, we should not expect that there will be many of them,unless we want Bibles that are 3000 pages long.Most publishers would rightly point out that providing extensive notes and perspectives is (and should be seen as) the role of Biblical commentaries., and/or Introductions.
I tend to think that most Catholics would find an edition like Little Rock Scripture Study's "The Four Gospels" (288pp.) a far better place to start than trying to fight though "the notes" found in any edition of the Bible. Rightly or wrongly, such notes are not intended to be comprehensive and often leave Catholics wholly dissatisfied. Rather than look to steer people to specific translations, we might do better to steer them first to resources that they would find helpful for "where they are" in their lives.

Quite honestly, I think that arguments about the translation of this phrase or that phrase isn't really helpful to most Catholics (or anybody else). I think we should leave that to Hebrew and Greek scholars to whom it might be significant. Our Catholic faith does not depend on such minutiae. Most Christians would be more interested in questions involving how and why the various Christian churches came to view a given text or scriptural theme differently, than in whether a translation can be said to reflect this or that translational philosophy. Regards, Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

owenswain said...

I respectfully disagree with Daniel Norman McNamara.

Notes are very important but the most important 'feature' of any bible is its base interpretation and translation of the sacred scriptures.

Discussion, not argument, regarding the human interpretation of the sacred scripture is a very worthy endeavour.

Attention to individual phrases and words is eminently important to how the faithful understand the faith and as St. Paul instructs so often, behaviour flows from understanding.

"Our Catholic faith does not depend on such minutiae." The Church of your baptism would strenuously disagree. The Church through all ages and certainly the Vatican today consider attention to individual phrases and words in translation of the sacred scriptures for personal and liturgical use to be of great importance.

As Daniel notes, there is no perfect translation or perfect and comprehensive set of notes (this includes "the Little Rock Scripture Study's "The Four Gospels"") therefore all the more reason for the excellent job Tim and his regular contributor make of showing and discussing both the various translations and the various notes and study aids.

I appreciate that this blog and others work to raise the average Catholic above the level of general ignorance regarding the sacred scriptures and aids available to know, love, and live them better.

Christopher W. Speaks said...

If "Christians would be more interested in questions involving how and why the various Christian churches came to view a given text or scriptural theme differently, than in whether a translation can be said to reflect this or that translational philosophy," then history has amply demonstrated that this depends on "such minutiae."

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

Let's refocus on Tim's original point. The myth that the NAB(RE) is a (mere) paraphrase. Clearly it isn't. And yes, it is a bit odd that so many Catholics view it as such, and teach other Catholics to do so. My point, fellow bloggers, is to say that I have no problem encouraging Catholics to use it just as I would any of the other "versions" we and other English-speaking countries use. I am very sure that I could find 1000places in the Greek text where I might wonder if the NAB(RE) version offered "the best" possible English translation. I, howevr, leave such things up to Rome. And Rome seems to find no significant fault in it. Is that not "good enough"? Why so?

Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the timeline on the revisions of the Psalms, Tim. I'm less concerned with the individual steps than with apparent unconcern that we have different translations of psalms being used for private reading, liturgy, and in the Divine Office (unless the Grail is slated to become what we use in the Liturgy--does anyone know?)

And does anyone have an opinion on whether the NABre Psalms are more "degenderized" or less than the old NAB?

Jim McCullough

Timothy said...


You can check at the USCCB site, but, in short, the new Psalms are far less gender neutral than the 91 psalms.

owenswain said...

None of the previous commentors took the focus away from Tim's original point.

Daniel Norman McNamara said, "I am very sure that I could find 1000places in the Greek text where I might wonder if the NAB(RE) version offered "the best" possible English translation."

In which case you are very learned and I encourage you to make active use of that learning for the benefit of your brothers and sisters in the faith. If you are not being facetious neither am I.

Daniel Norman McNamara said, "I, howevr, leave such things up to Rome. And Rome seems to find no significant fault in it. Is that not "good enough"? Why so? "

Because we are encouraged by our Church, by "Rome", to reason about our faith. Sacred scripture and sacred Tradition are at the core of that faith, forming our dogma and doctrine out of which flow liturgy, practical living and faith itself.

You are misinformed or uninformed regarding what "Rome" has found regarding 'modern' translations and documents issuing from the Vatican, which are intended for all the faithful to read, have been a part in the revisions more than one translation and especially as they find us in English language Liturgy which is predominately composed of scripture.

Tim certainly notes the NAB(RE) is not a paraphrase and in this post and others has encouraged its use.

To be fair Daniel it was you who introduced the change of focus to the importance of notes over the sacred text itself. In fact, if you revisit the post you will see the only place "notes" are mentioned is the quote from the translator's Introduction to the 1986 NAB where they differentiate the place and importance of the actual bible text and that of notes.

Anonymous said...

The NABRE is very good as Timothy has said but it's also the de facto (and de jure) bible for American Catholics thanks to the USCCB. I work as a volunteer in a church gift shop and we sell a lot of NABRE and hardly ever any RSVCE or RSVCE-2 (or any other version, for that matter).
-Mike D.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

I doubt that I am so seriously uninformed as has been suggested. We are using the NAB and NAB(RE) in my country and will continue to do so likely for some time. What purpose is served by denigrating it and suggesting that it is somehow an erroneous and misleading translation, the work of evil American bishops leading the faithful into heresy and sin? Or isn't all of that what we all commonly read on the Internet?

I honestly tend to think that "the notes" found in most editions should be seriously reconsidered, and fairly easily could be. Thus, to me, that might be a better focal point, and something publishers would be able to undertake. Yes, "the notes" and other supplementary materials matter. Tampering with the "sacred text" and its translation, that would be a really long term project.

Finally, let me say I understand the preference for literal translations. But I do not identify such translations as being the only "true" translations or the best ones for all situations and purposes.

Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

owenswain said...

"I doubt that I am so seriously uninformed as has been suggested."

So, you *were* being facetious, in which case, so was I and I hope you will better educate yourself. This blog will help.

"What purpose is served by denigrating it and suggesting that it is somehow an erroneous and misleading translation, the work of evil American bishops leading the faithful into heresy and sin? Or isn't all of that what we all commonly read on the Internet?"

My goodness. No one here has done that. But you are not addressing what's been raised in answer to you which means from here on one just goes in circles.

Timothy said...


To be fair, I think Daniel brings up a general assumption made by a number of NAB haters. This can easily be observed on numerous website and certainly the CAFs. Part of the reason for this post are those incorrect presumptions.

owenswain said...

I agree.

john said...

When I said Catholic Bibles done by Catholics for Catholics I did not mean to cast any aspersions on Protestant Bibles or Protestant Scholars. What I meant was Bible translations done under the auspices of the Catholic Church, I do realise that all the modern current Catholic Bibles had non-Catholic scholars on their translation committees.

Also I am not a DRC "onlyist" akin to Protestant KJV "onlyists". As far as I've read from others and my own reading the DRC is the most "literal" Catholic Bible. I jus purchased a NABRE and I haven't read it all that much yet, so Timothy, you have probably read it quite a bit, any thoughts on how the NABRE stacks up on "literalness"?

Timothy said...


You can look back to some of my previous post last year examining the NABRE, but, in short, it is more literal than the original OT. It is a formal equivalence translation, but a little less literal than the RSV. I think if you do some comparisons online between the NABRE and RSV, you will see many areas where the sentence structure is identical. Also, you might want to see some of the 'spot checks' that I have posted.

Javier said...


this must have been said here lots of times before: people keep asking what translation is more literal. I don't really think one can judge a translation by how literal it is.
I'll give an example (that I borrowed from the late Fr. Alonso Schoekel). I happen to be a native spanish speaker. If one is to translate into spanish the phrase "he swam across the river", the literal translation would be "él nadó a través del río". We spanish speakers understand the meaning, but that is not "natural" spanish. The spanish phrase for "he swam across the river" is "cruzó el río a nado".
If one translates a Bible literally from Hebrew and Greek, one might end with a text which is not in english, but in biblish.
Translating word by word shows a respect for individual words which seems a bit kabbalistic.


Javier said...


in my previous post, I forgot for a moment that I was writing for an english speaking audience, and I might not have been clear in one point I wanted to make: the phrase "he swam across the river" translates correctly into spanish as "cruzó el río a nado". Still, from the original english only "the river (=el río)" survives.


rolf said...

I read the NABRE along side with the RSV-2CE in my daily readings a lot, and I have found out that the NABRE is very comparable in formal equivalence and in the places that the RSV is a little more literal, the NABRE is a little more readable. I feel confident in using the NABRE for casual reading or for study!

Anonymous said...

I just want to add something. I've noticed that on various sites and in a comment here, people have said that the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series is keyed to the NABRE. I have one volume, and it contains the NAB text, not the NABRE. On their website they state "Each volume includes the biblical text of the New American Bible (NAB), the translation approved for liturgical use in the United States." So, I am not sure what people mean by "keyed to". Not that I am knocking that series, I really like the volume I have. I just don't see it connected to the NABRE.


Timothy said...


Keeping in mind that the NAB and NABRE New Teataments are identical, the two most recent releases of the CCSS, 1 Corinth & 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, state that they use the New American Bible Revised Edition as the main translation for the commentary. While referencing others, like the RSV, NRSV, NJB, and JB, the Bible that the series bases its commentary is the NAB(RE).

Chrysostom said...

...One good reason to read Sacra Pagina if I've ever heard of one!

Jonny said...

So the bottom line is, that if one wants the strictest literal translation of the Bible from the original languages, one has to read the KJV w/Deutros, and maybe compare to a slightly less literal version like the RSV?

Leonardo said...


for me this was an opportunity to learn what a paraphrase is, which I found its meaning in Wikipedia.

Best regards.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

Dear Jonny,
Maybe others could comment on their experience with the KJV as a guide to the original languages. There is a question here of the textual readings which later translators may have viewed differently. At 1611, still a lot of textual issues to be addressed.

At the end of the day, there is always going to be a question about the adequacy of any translation and its relationship to the Hebrew or Greek texts themselves. Best, maybe, to learn enough of these ancient languages that would allow you to find a commentary which actually explained the Hebrew or Greek text and explained "what's going on here" at the level you can understand. At that point, you may be in a better position to compare various translations and see how each deals with those issues. Translations attempt to achieve a number of purposes. Most really were never primarilly intended to show the reader the syntax and grammar of the original languages. Some translations may do so more consistently than others, but even then usually only in part. This is only to say that this would lie outside the purposes envisioned by most translators. I think most English-speakers would find that the RSV is fairly helpful for this purpose, i.e. a very specialized purpose. What do others think?
Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

Timothy said...


I agree with you. So many things have happened since 1611. You bring up the issue of the textus receptus, which only a very few will argue is the best to go with. The finding of the DSS and the greater worth of the LXX makes other translations a much better option. I am thinking of the RSV, NRSV, ESV, and even the NABRE, all which have an edition with the Deuteros. Of course for a very literal/ formal, there is the NASB, but without Dueteros.

Jonny said...

I was presuming it was common knowledge that the KJV (along with the NASB) is considered one of the most formal, literal English Bible translations.

Yes, I am well aware that there have been many “critical editions” of the Biblical books in the original languages, but most English Bible translations (including the RSV) use a hodge podge variety of different sources from different ancient manuscripts and different languages. I really haven’t seen any changes in the critical editions that are significant enough add or detract from the message of Scripture or the Magesterium of the Church. In fact, the Textus Receptus actually emerged from the traditional texts of our native Greek-speaking Eastern Catholic brethren, who still use the KJV (and the NKJV) to this day.

The beautiful thing about the KJV is not that it is translated from the latest and greatest critical edition or that it utilizes the LXX or other ancient versions, but that it uses traditional Greek and Hebrew texts. This makes possible the awesome resource called Strong’s Concordance that can greatly enhance the study of Sacred Scripture. It exhaustively shows the connectedness and root of the original Greek and Hebrew words that lie behind the English. The other advantage that a KJV reader has is that the older English differentiates the singular and plural forms of “you” and “yours”, (thee, thou, thy, thine; and ye, you, and yours, respectively.) This adds a whole new dimension of accuracy in the reading of Scripture.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to advocate the KJV as a person’s primary reading or study Bible, but I do think it is a wonderful study resource. I would recommend getting one from Cambridge because they include the original textual notes by the translators. I am awaiting this one which will be released in a few days!

Leonardo said...

to Jonny,

his comment express a interesting point of view, and I copied the link to amazon, but it did not work.

Best regards.

Theophrastus said...


I recently read this:

So where is the support for the King James Bible today? Rather surprisingly its keenest proponents today are secularists. They praise it for the beauty of language, extol its place within our culture and vehemently campaign for it to be taught in schools and universities but as a work of literature rather than a work of God.

I think that there is a lot of truth in that statement; not to imply that the academics who love the KJV are all atheists, but even among they religious, they tend to read the KJV as literature rather than as Scripture.

As an example of what I mean, I can point to what I think will be the major KJV release this year: the Norton Critical Edition of the KJV (Volume 1, Volume 2). From what I understand, these are well annotated editions with extensive essays pointing out the various techniques used by the KJV translators. This should be a fantastic resource, but it clearly places the KJV in the "literature" column.

[A side note on the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible you mention; it looks like Cambridge is keeping the same layout for the text (although with a reduced page size), with the notes on the inside margin. That's unfortunate, because if the notes had been on the outside margin, it would have been easier to write in the margins (it is almost impossible to write notes on the inside margin of new book.) I know that David Norton, the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible's editor has said that there are a large number of corrections to his first edition, though. What I really like about the NCPB though is the second volume that contained Norton's textual history. That textual history is incredibly useful.]

Catholic readers too can experience the KJV as literature, but I think that they will turn to the versions with the imprimatur when they wish to experience the Bible as Scripture.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

I wouldn't be wholly negative about academics showing interest in the Bible, even if restricted to approaching it as literature. Perhaps God works in mysterious ways! Far better that than the situation where "Religion" was a taboo subject, and undergrads heard little or nothing of "The Bible".; like it didn't exist.Whether we think it adequate or not, people in English and History departments on "secular" campuses are not there to teach Christian or Jewish Theology. That self-understanding is not wholly a bad thing. Lately (last couple of decades) most have the good sense to invite clergy (ministers, priests, rabbis)and other religious men and women in to talk about the place of this "literature" in their various faith traditions. Is there something wrong with that? Sometimes students feel these "guests" were the best part of the course. That may well be true! Do any of us want academics "pontificating" (excuse the pun) on the religious meaning and significance of this "literature"? I sure don't.
In short then, rather than "pan" people working from this perspective, make yourselves available to illuminate "the other side of the rainbow". Many might be very receptive to such offers.
Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

Theophrastus said...

Daniel: I do not know if your last comment was directed at me, but for the record, I see absolutely nothing wrong with approaching the Bible (or the English Bible) as literature.

Indeed, as I understand the Four Senses of Scripture, it is valid to approach Scripture from multiple senses. It is true that "literary" is not explicitly listed as one of those four senses, but it is clear that theologians, artists, and authors have been inspired by the literary qualities of the Bible. (Two mention just two examples: St. Augustine and Dante.)

Further, the Bible is great literature and it is a great read for everyone -- regardless of religion (just as one does not need to be a pagan to appreciate the works of Homer.) More important, it has been influential to English and (non-English) writers, so it is impossible to deal with the English literature without understanding the English Bible.

My only intended point of controversy in my comment above was to remind ourselves that despite its literary greatness, the KJV is not, at the end of the day, a Catholic translation.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

My comment was aimed at suggesting that readers of this blog might consider making themselves available to academics to raise important issues that they themselves would not. And not to "write them off".

On the KJV, I think your point is well taken that this is not a Catholic edition. And I would not share Jonny's assessment of it in some respects. For those interested Zondervan Bibles published a facsimile "Official 1611 KJV Replica" in 2011., a replica of the original edition. I think readers of this blogwould find the "Introductory materials quite interesting. For about $8, why not? The page size (6" x 9") however, forces me to use a magnifying glass. But fascinating to see what occurred to them to include., including a long letter "From the Translators to the Reader"., and a Calendar for Morning & Evening Prayer. Historians take note! Note too, I would expect to find herein some measure of overt anti-Catholic views. Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

Jonny said...

Hi, Theophrastus:

Thanks for your input. I thought that the new Oxford book released last year by Gordon Campbell was a very informative and fun read about the KJV. Also,if you look at the Baker Publishing website you can see the page layout of the new Paragraph Bible:

owenswain said...

Certainly of the readers who comment here I don't see a tendency to write off academics. I have seen various study bibles being recommended that have an academic/historic tone to the notes and happily based on recommendations here I am looking forward to receiving the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible with 'Apocrypha'.

Per the KJV and me --and I do stress the and me part-- it's probably just my latent post-Protestant knee jerk reaction to many years being under the sound of it and the misappropriation of texts (proof texting) particularly among dispensationalist and other sectarian streams to want to pick it up again.

Paraphrasing one of the things Daniel said, may many an academic come to true conversion by the reading and study of this great literary work/translation of divine revelation.

Theophrastus said...

Jonny: Thanks for your recommendaiton. I read a few books last year about the KJV, including Campbell's. I thought his book was good, but it was not my favorite.

I also saw the layout in that image -- and that was the basis of my statement that the layout appears identical to the 2006 New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (although smaller).

Daniel, I saw the Zondervan KJV edition you mention. It is good for collectors, but it did omit the Apocrypha. Also, the first 1611 edition did have an exceptionally large number of typographical errors.

You are absolutely correct about anti-Catholic views in the front matter of the KJV. You can find them throughout the preface entitled "The Translators to the Reader," particularly in the sections with references to "our adversaries" -- for example, the sections titled

"An answer to the imputations of our adversaries,"

"The unwillingness of our chief adversaries, that the Scriptures should be divulged in the mother tongue, etc.,"

"The speeches and reasons, both of our brethren, and of our adversaries against this work,"

For example, the KJV translators claim that the only reason the Rheims translation was made was because of pressure from the Protestants:

Now the Church of Rome, ... so unwilling they are to communicate the Scriptures to the people's understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confess, that we forced them to translate it into English against their wills. This seemeth to argue a bad cause, or a bad conscience, or both.

A portion of Divino Afflante Spiritu is set aside to answer charges such as these.

Daniel Norman McNamara said...

I recall a conversation many years ago when a very notable non-Catholic scholar said that in the face of all of the arguments over "vernacular" translations of the Bible (in the 1980s -90s), he finally realized why the Catholic Church would wisely seek to avoid all of this by insisting that the Latin version be considered normative in the West. He had also
picked up a Greek - Latin text of the New Testament (Greek on one page, Latin on the facing page) He said he would sometimes look to the Latin when he had a question about the Greek. His impression was that it was helpful to him, even if he felt it wasn't the only possible rendering of the Greek. He recounted stories to us of his own "Divinity school days" when he was told that "those Catholics twisted the scriptures" and purposefully mistranslated texts. He did not discount stories about "Protestant translators" of the KJV finding a lot of "good ideas" in the vernacular translations of their Catholic counterparts., or in the Latin version itself. Frankly, why would they not? Officially, of course, this sort of thing could not happen, or be acknowledged. Many Protestant scholars today are rather sure that it did. I'm very sure that all of the comments in the 1611 preface were views that these translators believed. To me, it is hardly surprising that Pius saw the wisdom of confronting some of these "charges", just a few decades ago! And I am very sure it would not be hard to find those who continue to hold such views about our Church.
Daniel Norman McNamara, Rockledge, FL

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