Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blog Update

Just wanted to let you know that work has been busy due to retreats at the high school, so I hope to return to regular blogging soon. But until then, feel free to enjoy the best bible blog theme song on the net.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Semi-Regular Weekly Poll

Which is the best Catholic compact Bible?

  • RSV-2CE NT (Ignatius)
  • RSV-CE (Oxford)
  • NABRE Personal Size (Catholic Book Publishing)
  • NABRE (Oxford)
  • NJB (Darton Longman and Todd)
  • Other?


More polls: Låna 5000

Monday, September 24, 2012

International Contest Winner

It was really hard to choose between the many great entries.  But in the end, with my wife's help, the winner is Roman, from Czech Republic.

Roman, please send me an email with your name and address and I will get your Ignatius Compact Bible out to you by the end of the week.  Thank you to all the wonderful entries.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

7 Questions: Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press

Mark Brumley is President of the Board of Directors of Guadalupe Associates and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press. He also oversees magazines for Ignatius Press, is project coordinator for the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, and is editor of Ignatius Press's Modern Apologetics Library and A Study Guide for Joseph Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth. You can hear him regularly on the popular radio program Catholic Answers Live.  Mark was kind enough to answer my "7 Questions" surrounding the RSV-2CE and Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

1)      The Revised Standard Version-Second Catholic Edition remains the most popular translation as expressed by a majority of the readers of this blog.  Could you speak a little bit about how the RSV-2CE came to be?  Some of my readers have expressed a desire to know more about the changes from the original RSV-CE, particularly since the RSV-2CE does more than simply eliminate the archaic English from the text.  One example would be the additions found in Sirach 24 of the RSV-2CE.  Another would be changes similar to what we see in Luke 9:31, where “departure” was changed to the more literal Greek rendering of “exodus”.

The history of the RSV2CE is straightforward.  We published for many years the so-called Blue Bible, the Ignatius Bible, the Catholic Revised Standard Version.  Many people loved it but some didn't like that the occasional archaic language of the translation--the "thees" and "thous" used in direct addressed to God. So we looked into a slight revision, while still keeping the Blue Bible available. Meanwhile, in discussions with the Congregation for Divine Worship, we became aware that some folks in the Vatican wanted a Bible that fit better with the norms for liturgical translations as found in Liturgiam Authenticam. So our edition of the Bible was reviewed by the Congregation and several biblical experts to make it more in conformity to Catholic liturgical use. That is why it's really a sort of RSV Catholic Edition Plus--plus a more standard English reflecting the removal of the archaic language and an enrichment of the translation of the text to reflect the Church's liturgical tradition.

2)      Are there any future plans to release the RSV-2CE in different editions?  Some readers have expressed a desire that Ignatius Press publish a full RSV-2CE compact, as well as a large print edition. 

The answer is "yes but". Right now, the focus is on finishing the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. We have an "inexpensive" group edition of the RSV2CE Ignatius Bible due out soon for the Year of Faith, which will be very affordable for bulk purchases. The other things you mentioned--the compact Bible and the large print Bible--are certainly things we're interested in, if people have interest in using them! If folks have ideas for editions of the Bibles they'd like to see, we're certainly willing to consider them.

3)      Since the NCCCUSA holds the copyright to the RSV-2CE, is Ignatius Press limited in how it can utilize and promote the translation? 

Not as such. The NCCCUSA holds the copyright for the underlying RSV Catholic translation. But the specific modifications to the text are Ignatius Press' copyrighted changes and we have flexibility in what we can do with the translation itself. In fact, there is a lectionary based on the RSV2CE that is used in Africa and some other places for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy in English.  Some folks would like to see it used here, as a complementary lectionary text, but that's a matter for the USCCB to take up.

4)      The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is widely regarded as one of the best Catholic study Bibles on the market.  Indeed, the class I teach for the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan requires the ICSB as its main textbook and all of my students are amazed at the quality and comprehensiveness of the notes and other study aids contained in it.  Could you talk a little bit about how the ICSB came to be and how each volume is evaluated?

Two words, really: Scott Hahn. He was the original impetus for the project. With respect to the evaluation process for each volume, it's kind of a dance. Curtis Mitch, a colleague of Scott Hahn's, works to create the original draft materials, based on a number of things--Scott's ideas, at least broadly conceived, and Curtis' own research. I review the drafts and sometimes interact with other scholars about particular points. Usually, I send my notes to Curtis who reviews things with Scott. We sometimes go back and forth on things, but not often. I see my role as mainly to raise questions (sometimes as a kind of devil's advocate, if I can use that expression in connection with the Bible) and to speak for the average Catholic in the pew to make sure the dynamic duo of Scott and Curtis, who are both brilliant, by the way, don't leave the rest of us behind. The idea is that while there is a broadly Hahnian inspiration for the interpretive moves in the annotations and commentary, we don’t want any one exegetical vision to dominate--in the way, say, Scofield's annotations dominated the original Scofield Reference Bible. This is, after all, a Bible, not a straight commentary. You can do a lot more by way of asserting your own exegetic opinions in a commentary than in a Bible. People have a habit of investing annotations to a Bible with more significance. And understandably so. Thus, we must be careful not to give the impression that any particular scholar's view is, per se, one and the same with "what the Bible says". Obviously, Scott and Curtis agree.

5)      Fr. Fessio, in an interview earlier this year, mentioned that the completed ICSB may need to be published in two volumes.  Is this true?  Some of my readers have mentioned that other study Bibles on the market, like Zondervan’s NIV SB and Crossway’s ESV SB, contain just as much information and are still able to be published not only in one volume, but also in various sizes.

The plan right now is to have a single volume. But there are a variety of factors here that we have to find a way, as publishers, to fit together. One is the comprehensive quality of the commentary and annotations. Another is readability of the text. Another still is the physical size of the book. I expect, though, we'll be able to produce the entire work, in  a highly readable text, and a high quality book.  Once we have finished all the annotations and commentaries for the Old Testament, we will have to make sure everything fits together. we had to do this with the New Testament books. We wound up have to do some revisions of the already-published New Testament content to make sure everything worked. And of course Scott Hahn, being the ever-fertile scholar he is, had some revisions he thought important to make, based on his own further study and input he had received.

6)      When will we see future volumes of the ICSB released?  Dr. Scott Hahn mentioned on EWTN Bookmark earlier this year that the ICSB project should be completed by 2014 or 2015 at the latest.  Is that still the plan?

Yes. I'd like to see it done by the end of 2013 but that's probably optimistic.

7)      Finally, do you have a favorite passage or verse from the Bible? Why?

John 3:16. It says it all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Personalize the SBP "Year with the Bible" for Free!

Or Save 25% on our "Year With" series when you enter coupon code YEARWITH at checkout. I don't own a copy of this yet, but hope to acquire one in the coming weeks in order to review it.

Nestle-Aland 28

HT: Jim

Monday, September 17, 2012

Contest: For International Readers Only!

As promised, I am going to offer a contest for those of you outside of North American. I have promised for a while that I would do this, now I am very happy to offer this contest. 

The winner will receive a brand new compact Ignatius RSV-CE.  This Bible is: An elegant, beautifully crafted compact edition of the popular Ignatius Bible, RSV Catholic version. At only 4.5”x 6.5”, it’s easy to pack when on the move, yet features readable type, along with other special features including:
• Duradera Burgundy Zipper
• Miraculous medal on zipper pull
• Gold-gilded pages
• Presentation section
• "Dei Verbum" document
• Special prayers and devotions
• Beautiful gift box
• Bonded leather covers
• Handsome, top-quality compact edition of very popular RSV Catholic Bible, also known as “The Ignatius Bible”.
• The many special features make this Bible a great gift.
• Compact size permits easy personal reading, at home or on the go.

Contest Rules:
1) You must live outside of North America.
2) You can enter only once.
3) If you have a blog, please advertise this contest on it.
4) Answer the following question in the comments:
"What is your favorite Bible verse?  Why?"  You must do this in 3-5 sentences.
5) Entries must be in by Saturday, 11:59 PM EST.
6) I will announce the winner on Sunday.  That person has one week to email me their name and address.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I spotted this minor change during the second reading of this morning's Mass.  The reading came from James 2:14-18, which I was reading in my pew with the original RSV-CE. 

The RSV-CE reads: "If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food"

The RSV-2CE reads: "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food"

The change in the RSV-2CE is preferred to the original because very few people, if any, uses the term "ill-clad."  While this is certainly not a major change, it is a reminder that the RSV-2CE has been revised more than simply getting rid of the "thees" and "thous".  I have tried, over the past few years, to chronicle those differences, including not only the use of "chalice" in the Gospels and Psalms, "virgin" in Is. 7:14, and "exodus" in Luke 9:31, but also some of the additions and changes found in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.  I know that there are many more. 

If any of you happen to spot any other changes, I am always interested in taking note of them.  So please let me know.  The only real way we can note the difference are through comparison reading of both editions, as well as by using the Emmaus Road RSV Concordance. 

While I think the RSV-2CE remains the best translation available for English speaking Catholics, I continue to be dismayed at how little Ignatius Press does to promote it and to show, in detail, the changes that were made to the Second Edition.  Perhaps this will change in the coming years with the completion of the the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, slated for completion in 2014 or 2015.  I just hope that they realize that this completed study Bible needs to come in a one-volume edition that is able to be brought to Bible studies and classes.  Fr. Fessio has hinted that that it may only come in two volumes, which will ultimately make the ICSB simply a reference book, not a true study Bible IMHO.  If the NIV and ESV Study Bible, which have just as much commentary and come in color, can come in various sizes, so should the ICSB.  Also, since it seems that the RSV-2CE will never become the main lectionary in larger English-speaking dioceses of the world, they should use their resources on maintaining the RSV-2CE as the best translation for serious study.  So, focus on providing additional study aids to work with and suppliment the RSV-2CE and study Bible.(OK, I am done.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Questions (Part 2): Jason Engel from Saint John's Bible

4) Could you talk a little bit about the new Heritage editions?
The Abbey and University want to share the Saint John's Bible with the world as much as possible, but for several years the only way to do that was by taking completed original pages around to various public events.  We want the world to see it, but we don't want the whole world coming to central Minnesota.  One early idea was to have the scribes and artists create twelve identical copies of the Saint John's Bible and place them around the world, but the cost made that utterly impractical.  Starting in 2004, Liturgical Press was engaged to produce the half-sized "coffee table" version that almost anyone can buy at bookstores or online, but the technology to create a full-size, fine-art, accurate and illuminated reproduction - or, as Donald Jackson prefers to call it, a "faithful interpretation" - simply did not exist.

That finally changed in 2007.  Mr. Jackson devoted three years to identifying the best materials and processes to reproduce the Saint John's Bible as accurately as possible.  Digital imaging of each page was performed on-site at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.  The original is written on vellum; Donald found that Monadnock Paper Mills, in New Hampshire, was able to provide a custom-made 100% cotton archival paper with a life expectancy of many hundreds of years that looks and acts similar to vellum.  The John Roberts Company in Minnesota invested in a rare Heidelberg XL105 printing press that uses ultraviolet light to instantly dry the layers of fade-resistant ink that are applied in multiple passes.  That is a critical requirement, because wet ink applied to cotton tends to bleed broadly and rapidly along the fibers.  Printed pages are then delivered to McIntosh Embossing, also in Minnesota, where all of the silver and gold is applied to every illuminated element that appears in the original.  This may require a half-dozen passes or more for each page to recreate the proper appearance and feel of illuminated elements, and may take days.  Each page is then inspected and touched up by hand by members of the original team to ensure the best possible reproduction.  The completed pages are sent to Roswell Bookbinding in Arizona where they are sewn by hand into handcrafted Italian leather covers with wood cores.  Each volume has a unique design including embossed highlights using 24K gold.  Only 299 sets of the Heritage Edition will be produced.  The first five volumes are done, Gospels & Acts and Letters & Revelation are in the works.

One of my favorite reproduction tricks for the Heritage Edition is the illusion of translucency.  The original vellum is thin enough that you can faintly see what is on the other side of the page you are reading.  Indeed, some illuminations intentionally rely on this feature.  The cotton pages, however, are quite opaque.  In order to recreate the appearance of the original, every page not only has it's own content clearly printed on it, but also a very faint image of the opposite page.  The effect is so natural and convincing that no one notices it unless I point it out, and then they are quite delighted by the attention to detail in the reproduction.  This was not done for the "coffee table" edition.

The result is breathtaking.  I've had the honor of caring for a Heritage Edition volume of Historical Books in my home for a few weeks, and I am still awed by its appearance every day.  It is a huge book, more than two feet tall and three feet wide when open.  It weighs more than my pre-schooler.  The pages are heavy with a distinct texture.  Reading the large script is an intentional act, not because it is too small or too ornate, but because it's appearance intimately draws the reader into the text on the page.  I could write volumes about the illuminations alone, which are vibrant and often contain so many elements that a person could ponder them together with the related text for days.

Every time I witness someone first touch a page and try to turn from one to the next, they express a sense of reverence and great care, as if they can't believe they are allowed to touch it (we always encourage people to explore illuminations and read from their favorite passages - with clean hands, of course).  Discussions start and continue afterward as people share with each other what they saw.  Finally, I always ask people to find their favorite passage within the volume I am presenting; this is a dramatic, awe-inspiring representation of God's Word, but ultimately it is an individual's relationship with the Bible that is most important.  The act of locating and reading a favorite passage makes viewing the Saint John's Bible a personal experience.  In my humble opinion, the Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible undoubtedly accomplishes the goal of igniting the spiritual imagination of everyone who sees it.

5) Which of illuminations in the Saint John's Bible do you like the most, and why?
This one is probably the hardest question because I like so many of the illuminations for different reasons.  I'll mention eight of them, and try to keep each one brief because I would rather let other people find their own interpretations.

The first one I would like to mention is actually a theme that runs through all seven volumes.  God is perfect, humans aren't.  Occasionally, a scribe would accidentally miss a line of text.  If the error was caught immediately, the scribe could scrape away the mistake, re-finish that part of the vellum, and continue.  If the mistake was not caught until the page was complete, the solution was to draw a small marginalia like a bird holding a string that would point to the location of the mistake and lead the reader to the bottom of the page where the missing line would be inserted in a ribbon-like banner.  Look at Mark 3:20 for an example.

From Pentateuch, I like the illumination of Jacob's Ladder in Genesis 28.  The print edition does not do it justice, because it is hard to notice certain details that convey the scale of the event being depicted.  Can you find Jacob?  The first time that I saw this in the Heritage Edition and had my perspective properly reset I was stunned.  I also must mention the illuminations for Creation and for the descendants of Abraham and Sarah.

Hands down, my absolute favorite piece of art in Historical Books is a small flourish of color in the margin near 2 Kings 20-21.  Yes, there are bigger, grander images elsewhere (this volume ties Gospels & Acts for most illuminations), but this small flourish is, to me, the single most human element of the entire project.  Brother Dietrich Reinhart, a monk of the Abbey, president of the University, and a leading champion of the project, passed away while this page was being created.  The artist, Suzanne Moore, hid a small D and R in the flourish to honor him.

Wisdom Books has several illuminations that span both pages, marking it as perhaps the most frequently dramatic volume of the seven.  These books of the Bible are, for me, quite a relief from the violence found in much of the Historical Books.  My favorite, though, is a small quarter-page illumination at the beginning of Proverbs.  As I mentioned earlier, the original vellum pages are translucent.  The intro to Proverbs sits over the ending illumination in Job, and the two effectively create a single illumination.  In a typical Bible, Psalms appear between Job and Proverbs.  Psalms have their own volume, and so the artist of these two illuminations took the opportunity to subtly remind readers that the characters in Job likely knew all the Proverbs and yet they still did not know all of God's ways.

There are only a few illuminations in the Psalms volume and all of them are effectively subsets of the first illumination at the start of the book.  I have a personal affinity for Psalm 1, so I really enjoy that frontispiece.  This volume also pays respect to other faith traditions in a very subtle way.  Throughout Psalms you will see golden oscilloscope representations of singing.  Horizontal wave forms were captured from Benedictine monks chanting, while the vertical ones are from several non-Christian faiths.

The "Suffering Servant" illumination in Prophets, located near Isaiah 52 and 53, is not something that would jump out for most people as a favorite.  I struggle with it a lot.  It is grim.  The small scrawny person looks gaunt and lost.  The black gate around the figure is meant to look like a particular passageway that captured Africans went through as they boarded slave ships bound for the New World.  The hint of chain-link fences all around suggest separation and oppression.  This is suffering, both ancient and modern.  This illumination is powerful and horrible at the same time.

The volume for Gospels & Acts is packed with amazing artwork.  The whole book is a masterpiece, and yet some people claim it is the weakest of the seven volumes, in part because it was the first completed and thus many lessons were learned while making it but not implemented within it.  If pressed for just one illumination as a favorite, I would have to say the frontispiece to the Gospel of John.  It is the very first one I saw nearly a decade ago, and I have always been fascinated with it.  I always thought it was an intimidating image of Christ, almost scary as if it were stomping into the scene, looking down with an angry - almost alien - scowl.  It wasn't until a recent trip to the Abbey when I saw a full-size framed print that my perspective completely changed.  I see two distinctly different characters in the illuminated figure of Christ, and that has doubled my sense of wonder with this piece.

In contrast, Letters & Revelation was the last volume completed, and thus represents a dozen years of hard-earned skill and technique by people who were already masters in their arts at the start of the project.  If Gospels & Acts leaves you stunned, Letters & Revelation delivers the knock-out punch.  The illumination for 1 Corinthians 13 is my absolute favorite in the whole volume in part because it is the only one out of all seven volumes that reproduces the complete content of the related chapter within the illumination.  It also just happens to be my favorite chapter.

6) In general, if someone is thinking about purchasing some items from the Saint John's Bible catalogue, where would you recommend they start?
If you are in the central Minnesota area, or willing to make the trip, my first recommendation would be to visit the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library ( ) on the campus of Saint John's Abbey and University. Not only can you find books and prints for sale there, but you can walk through a public display of original pages from the Saint John's Bible.  The Heritage Edition is a joy to behold, but the original remains in a class all it's own, and I think it's worth the trip to see original pages.  HMML is home to the world's largest collection of images of manuscripts, a substantial number of original ancient manuscripts, and an enviable art collection.  The home of Liturgical Press ( ) is also there on campus, and they offer study guides and educational materials using illuminations from the SJB, as well as hundreds of other titles, mostly related to Catholicism.  No visit of Saint John's would be complete without also touring the iconic Abbey Church, the Great Hall, and a walk along Lake Sagatagan out to the Stella Maris Chapel.  Don't forget to pick up a couple loaves of the world-famous Saint John's Bread before you leave.  For everyone else, the Saint John's Bible website is at and offers views of all 1150 pages online, a history of how and why it was made, details about the Heritage Program, an online store where you can buy books and prints and gifts, news about current and upcoming public events, and a section about programming options including use in worship, book loans, exhibitions, and even an educator's toolkit with curriculum and resources.  The website also has contact information if you or an organization you represent is interested in purchasing a set of the Heritage Edition.

7) Finally, do you have a favorite passage or verse from the Bible?  Which translation do you prefer?
I've spent enough time studying English translations and their guiding philosophies, as well as debates, to know that discussing translation preference can be quite the minefield.  Frankly, I'm unhappy with the way translation arguments divide Christians from each other.  My favorite answer is the popular avoidance: "The best translation is the one that brings -you- closer to God."  As for me, if I'm not reading from the Saint John's Bible (which uses the Catholic Edition of the NRSV), I genuinely enjoy reading the NRSV with Apocrypha, and choose it first (either a pocket book that is almost always with me, or a chunky Oxford study Bible).  The academic in me loves comparing translations, because I have occasionally found radically different interpretations of the same text.  To that end, I almost always have an NRSV, RSV, KJV, NIV, and NET on hand and open to the same passages, along with a couple different online commentaries.  If I had the time to learn Koine Greek, I would be reading that.

I have three favorite passages.  The first is from 2 Samuel 14:14 "But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence."  I realize I'm taking the verse out of context, but as a standalone statement I know God did this for me.  I can see many steps he took over the last couple years to bring me back to him, and I am grateful for each one.

The second is from the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-13 "What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray."  Again, I know God came to me when I was lost and too afraid to take the step towards him first.  And let me tell ya, when God rejoices, he does it in a big way.  Wow.

The third is the entire thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.  It's the first complete (albeit brief) chapter I've committed to memory.  Yes, it's the popular wedding passage.  If you've paid attention to the whole letter, you know that chapter is really referring to interactions within a church community, but it's so broadly applicable to every kind of relationship between any number of people.  The Peace Studies major in me appreciates that.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

USCCB and the NAB Report

Thanks to reader Rolf for spotting this from the Adoremus Bulletin for August.

I see six important points from this report:
1) They were going to initially just revise the NAB NT notes, but decided to do a revision of the NT text as well.
2) They are going to work for a lectionary text that is the same as the one which the typical American Catholic will be able to use for study.
3) The Revised Grail Psalms will be included in the completed revision
4) There will be a light revision of the NABRE OT, to reflect Liturgiam Authenticam.
5) There is still a question as to how Liturgiam Authenticam will be reflected in this translation, see the comments by Cardinal DiNardo.
6) It is going to take a long time, hence all the "laughter" and jokes about how most of the people commissioning this revision will not being alive when it is completed.

Report on New American Bible and the Lectionary
USCCB Spring General Meeting
Thursday Morning, June 14, 2012
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: (New York, President of the USCCB) And I’m just thinking, Cardinal Wuerl, how appropriate it is that you’re going to bring us up to date with a report on the New American Bible and the Lectionary in the whole context of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith that we’ve heard about. So please. Thanks for your leadership. Archbishop Aymond is joining you as well.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond: (New Orleans; Chairman, Committee on Divine Worship) Thank you, Cardinal Dolan. My brother bishops, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you briefly in order to share the work of the Committee on Divine Worship regarding the Lectionary for Mass, and the Committee on Doctrine regarding the New American Bible.
A brief history that you will have on the slides:
In 1997 we approved Volume I of the Lectionary, and in 1999 we approved Volumes II, III, and IV. The body of bishops at that time voted to conduct a review of the text after five years in order that we could evaluate the suitability for liturgical proclamation, poetic expression, grammar, vocabulary. In June of 2004, the Committee on Liturgy was given the task to do experimental revision of selected readings. Following that, in November of 2006, the body of bishops approved changes to the selected readings in Advent. In November of 2007 the body of bishops approved changes to the readings of the Sundays of Lent. And further work by the Committee on Divine Worship included the weekdays of Lent, Sundays of Easter, and Sundays in Ordinary Time.
While this work was being done by the Committee on Divine Worship on the Lectionary, there was a separate project that was also taking place on the New American Bible. Specifically the revision of the Old Testament. And that text was published with the imprimatur in 2011. Then a request by the CCD to conduct the revision of the footnotes of the New American Bible New Testament. But when that went to the Admin- istrative Committee there was a suggestion to revise not only the footnotes, but the revision of the New Testament itself.
So, as you can see, there were two projects going on at the same time. After a lot of conversation and ongoing consultation between two standing committees, it is the recommendation and desire of both the Committee on Divine Worship and the Committee on Doctrine, including its Subcommittee on the Translation of Scripture Texts, now to work toward a single translation. That is, a single text of the New American Bible that could be used for all pastoral uses: personal prayer and study; secondly, catechesis; and the proclamation of the Scriptures at Sacred Liturgy.
Some preliminary recommendations were made to the Administrative Committee in March of this year in this regard, and now we would like to outline a plan to proceed — the basic goals and the process to be followed — and to receive your support as we move forward. And Cardinal Wuerl will now delineate for us the goals and the process.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl: (Washington, DC; Chairman, Committee on Doctrine) Archbishop Aymond, thank you very much. The goal — it’s a very simple goal — the goal is to produce a single translation, to arrive at a single translation.
The Synod on the Word of God and the Post-synodal exhortation Verbum Domini clearly articulated the central place of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church. The goal of this project is to see that there would be one translation that would be used for devotional use, catechetical use, liturgical use. It would have all of the qualities that we would hope to find in a translation that would provide us one source of language when we speak of the Word of God. The process is a somewhat simple process; it’s just that it’s going to take a long time. That’s just the nature, and you’re going to hear in a moment why.
The authorization from the Board of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine: with that authorization the CCD, in consultation with the Subcommittee on the Translation of Scripture Texts, will undertake a revision of the New American Bible New Testament. What this will mean is, it will look at those texts to see that they are going to be able to be used for proclamation as well as for ordinary use. This work will utilize the principles of translation that guided the recent revision of the New American Bible Old Testament, and will follow the norms of translation contained in the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam for the translation of Sacred Scripture that’s to be used in Sacred Liturgy.
So, before the work commences, the Committee on Divine Liturgy [sic] will turn over all of the work it’s already done on gathering all of the information on the Lectionary, with the recommendation that the principles that were used in the production of the most recent translations for liturgical use be used. The revised Old Testament will be revised only in light of the Committee on Divine Worship’s principles regarding suitability for liturgical practice.
I know this sounds as if it’s going to be an enormous amount of redoing, but it really will not be. The Old Testament — we just approved that recently — it will just be revisited now to see: those texts that are used liturgically, do they correspond to principles for liturgical proclamation?
The biblical scholars responsible for the revision will be sensitive, then, to the pastoral, the doctrinal, the liturgical considerations as they produce a draft to be presented for review and preliminary approval by the Subcommittee for the Translation of Sacred Scripture. Both committees, the Committee on Divine Worship and the Committee on Doctrine, will then have an opportunity to review these texts. Ultimately it’s all of us, it’s the body of bishops, who’ll be asked to approve the completed biblical text for liturgical use so that we can then submit this to the Holy See for the recognitio. Once we receive the recognitio, then the president of our conference can grant the imprimatur to the New American Bible, and then it will be able to be used in the Lectionary at Mass. So the end product will be one translation that we will all be using, and hearing the same words when we refer to specific texts. And that translation will be used in the liturgy, it’ll be used in study, it’ll be used in personal devotion, it’ll be used when we’re simply reading the text.
Now, as I began, obviously this isn’t going to be done overnight. But we’re asking simply to begin this process so that we will have all of this eventually to bring back. This isn’t being said facetiously, I don’t expect that I will … be presenting this. [laughter] But it’s the time to start, and we have all the pieces in place, and all of the principles in place. So we get started. The sooner we get started, the sooner some of you will live to see it. [laughter]
And if, Your Eminence, there are any questions I would try to answer them, or leave it to my younger colleague here.
Cardinal Dolan: When that happy day comes you will be part of a newsreel on how this all came about. [laughter] Thanks, Cardinal Wuerl. Thanks, Archbishop Aymond and your excellent staff. There may be some… I see Bishop Boyea, I see Bishop Trautman, I see Cardinal DiNardo, I see… I can’t see… in the back there… Bishop Byrnes. Who else? Four of them. Go ahead.
Bishop Earl Boyea: (Lansing) Briefly, what’s going to be the role of the Grail Psalms that we’ve just approved for liturgical use?
Archbishop Aymond: The Grail Psalms will be in this Bible that we’re talking about. They will also be used in the revised Liturgy of the Hours, which we will be talking about in November.
Cardinal Dolan: Excellent. Bishop Trautman, and then Bishop Byrnes.
Bishop Donald Trautman: (Erie) Thank you very much. Could you identify some of the scholars that will be involved in this project?
Cardinal Wuerl: At this point we are not able to do that because we haven’t even begun the process of surfacing the names. We’ve come here… We already have the committee that does the work of translation. We also have our own CCD committee. But we haven’t reached the point yet where we’ve even begun to assemble them.
Cardinal Dolan: Bishop Byrnes, then Cardinal DiNardo.
Bishop Michael Byrnes: (Auxiliary, Detroit) This announcement is very welcome to me, having taught Scripture in the seminary for the last number of years. [In 2003, he earned his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Returning to Detroit, he joined the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and was named vice rector in January 2004. He was named auxiliary bishop in March 2011. - Ed.] Dealing with the New American Bible for study is very difficult, and so I’m grateful that study is an important priority here. I’m fully supportive of this. I hope in our working with the liturgical use of the text, that we’re willing to leave the difficult passages, the difficult translations, the difficult constructions present. Our people, in order to increase their biblical literacy, need to learn how to wrestle with the Scripture. One of my big complaints about the NAB in teaching has been: It tries to remove the difficulties with some of the hard passages. And I hope we leave them in, because it forces us to exercise ourselves spiritually and intellectually in order to penetrate the Scripture. Thank you.
Cardinal Dolan: Thank you. Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Rosazza.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo: (Galveston-Houston) Cardinal Wuerl, first my condolences that you anticipate your demise before the completion of the project. Flowers and prayers are on the way! [laughter]
The second thing I wanted to mention is exactly in light of that. I’m very favorable that there be one translation. It’s something devoutly to be hoped for. The question I raise — someone already answered about the Grail Psalter — but Liturgiam authenticam also asks that we do translations — I presume this is from the Greek, when it comes to the New Testament. And yet, apparently, according to Liturgiam authenticam, some eye has to be held toward the New Vulgate as well. Is that going to be part and parcel — and that’s what’s going to cause the complexity that goes on, in a translation that is both personal study, catechetical and also liturgical?
Cardinal Wuerl: Your Eminence, you highlighted exactly part of the problem why it will take so long. Also you highlighted why we do need a communications person. I was really referring to not being here. I hope still on the planet! [laughter]
Cardinal Dolan: Bishop Rosazza, and then we gotta go to regional meetings. Bishop Rosazza, you were going to bring that [same question] up? Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop Aymond, good work. Thank you. And you’ll keep us posted, right?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7 Questions (Part 1): Jason Engel from Saint John's Bible

Jason Engel, who is a regular commentator on this blog, just happens to be associated with the recently completed Saint John's Bible project produced by Donald Jackson (and team) and Minnesota’s Saint John’s Benedictine Abbey and University.  I asked Jason if he would be interested in sharing his experiences with this project, which he readily agreed to.  Because his answers are quite thorough, I will be posting this edition of "7 Questions" in two parts.  If you have any questions that you would like to ask Jason, he would be happy to answer them in the comments to this post and the following one.

1) I wanted to start off with a question about your involvement with Sacred Scripture. How has Scripture played an important role in your spiritual life? Has it always been that way?
I need to answer the second part of that question first to set the stage:  No, Scripture was not part of my life for a very long time.  I was raised Catholic, and my family attended a Catholic church that was large enough to provide a full parochial school (I went to the public school).  My parents enrolled me in Sunday school and catechism all through childhood. But I was the kid with all the questions that challenged everything.  Without going into details, let's just say the response from teachers, volunteer parents, and my peers was negative.  I stopped going shortly before Confirmation, and developed a grudge against the members of that church that turned into a rejection of Christianity.  That burned in me for 25 years.

So, it was a surprise to everyone when - still early in my "aggressively agnostic" phase - I chose to attend Saint John's University, a Benedictine liberal arts college for men in central Minnesota that is part of the monastic community of Saint John's Abbey (I should also plug our sister school for women, the College of Saint Benedict, just four miles away; CSB and SJU effectively act as one school, check out ).  I had just returned from a year in New Zealand as an exchange student with high dreams of one day being an ambassador working for peace.  SJU was the only school in Minnesota at that time to offer a major in Peace Studies, so it seemed like the right place to start.  I left four years later with my Peace Studies degree and a profound respect for the priests and brothers of the monastery, but my heart still hadn't softened towards Christianity in general.  Coincidentally, I graduated the same year that Donald Jackson pitched his wild idea of creating a hand-written Bible to a couple of monks at Saint John's.

Fast-forward to 2011.  I still resented Christianity.  My wife and kids and I had been members of a secular humanist Unitarian Universalist congregation for a while, and I was sent to a week-long leadership school hosted by a regional UU organization.  I still don't know what clicked in me during that week (several people who attended reported an unexpected "spiritual awakening") but that quarter-century of antagonism toward religion simply evaporated.  A few weeks later, my wife's best friend ended up in the hospital.  She recovered and was released, but still being a bit shaken she asked us to join her at Saturday night church service, "just in case".  I never would have gone if not for the experiences at the leadership school.  Again, something clicked for both of us, and we ended up going back the next week, and the next.  We found ourselves reading and discussing psalms, and participating more and more in this church.  My wife decided to take the plunge, literally, and get baptized.  I did not, I found I couldn't really overcome 25 years of distrust and pain.

And that's when God showed up and talked to me.  I'll just leave it at that.  Coincidentally, about that time I learned the Saint John's Bible had recently been completed.

Now, my wife and I devote a couple hours a day to prayer and a very slow but deliberate study of scripture.  It's allowed us to see God working in our lives every day, even during the years when we were far from him.  We've turned mid-week worship services into our date nights, and weekend services into two-day events for our whole family.  We share that time of study and reflection with our sons (with mixed results, the youngest is right there with us while the oldest can't figure out what happened to us).  I've found reading the Bible to be both profoundly inspiring but also deeply unsettling at times.  It's been a delicate balancing act, because we don't want to fall into the fiery born-again stereotype that too often alienates friends and family, yet we do want everyone we know to see what a positive difference God and scripture is working in our lives.  It sounds a little corny, but the print edition of the Saint John's Bible that we use as our "family Bible" plays a significant role in how I explore scripture.  The Abbey calls it "Visio Divina" which, like lectio divina, is a very intentional, patient, and prayerful consideration of both the text and related illuminations (I once spent four days in Mark 5 and 6 and the accompanying illumination of the multiplication of loaves and fishes).

God's intervention in my life is the reason I have a relationship with him today, the Saint John's Bible is the reason I read scripture today.  It is a warm, welcoming invitation to sacred text.  It is not a doorway (with a door) or a gateway (with a gate) but a wide-open path that draws me in.  It does not soften difficult passages, but somehow the visual beauty of the script says "Keep reading, it's worth the struggle."  I have pages marked out for prayer, others for daily reflection and devotion (my personal method each day is a chapter from Proverbs, five Psalms, and at least one chapter from one of the Gospels), and spend the rest of the time available in a few more chapters as I work my way through the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation (Hint #1 for those who think the print edition is too large for daily use: Go to your local hobby/crafts store and pick up a tabletop display easel; I found one for $20 that perfectly holds a volume upright for reading while sitting at my desk).  I even bring them with me almost every time we go to church (Hint #2: a 17" neoprene laptop sleeve is a great way to carry around a couple volumes).  I am constantly teaching my children that HOW something is said is as important as WHAT is said.  The Saint John's Bible is an amazing HOW.  If you haven't guessed yet, I can get quite passionate when talking about it, and I'm extremely grateful to the Abbey & University for allowing me to share my enthusiasm with others.

You might notice the irony: the Benedictine Catholic community that gave me an education even when I was not a friend of the Church has also given me the title of "Ambassador of the Saint John's Bible" and the task of sharing with the world the peace, grace, love, and joy found in such a beautiful representation of God's Word.  I like how God does stuff.

2) How long have you been involved with Saint John's Bible project? What are your main responsibilities?
Officially - since the start of August.  Stop laughing.  I'm the new kid on the team, but a couple of the other Ambassadors have been involved since before the conversation to do it was even serious.  As an alum, I've been aware of the Saint John's Bible for years, though I didn't grasp the enormity of it until about a year ago.  Unofficially, my first opportunity to do something with the Heritage Program started in January as an enthusiastic fan.  I found the SJB Facebook page ( ), and they had just posted some photos online from a public event in Sacramento, so I left a comment.  The person who maintained the page replied, a conversation started, and (here's another "coincidence") we discovered that we had attended CSBSJU together.  My friend told me an Ambassador would be in Chicago for a week for a few presentations, and gave me the opportunity to host my own public viewing.  All I had to do was find a church to host it.  After a couple months (and I'm pretty sure God put some things in motion to help out) two churches eventually agreed to separate events, one of which had about 1000 visitors.

My main responsibility with the Saint John's Bible Heritage Program today is to promote it to certain organizations and individuals in particular and the public in general with the intent of selling the limited sets of the Heritage Edition, or to arrange print exhibitions or presentations.  Technically, that means "Sales" but reality is a little different.  Almost all the work involves trying to convince someone to let me in the door with a volume from the Heritage Edition, present it, describe how and why it was made, and then give folks a chance to touch it, turn pages, explore.  The hardest part is that first meeting.  Most people either don't know what the Saint John's Bible is, or they've heard of it but don't really get the scale of it.  One Bible scholar flatly declined, but offered to meet unofficially over coffee so we could talk about it (I think he was looking for an excuse to step out of the office for an hour).  He figured it was "just another Bible" and he already had dozens in his office.  When he saw the humble "coffee table" edition that you could buy at a store, his jaw dropped; I have a picture of him a few weeks later standing before the Heritage Edition of Pentateuch completely awestruck.  That's what drives me - seeing such awe and wonder and reverence for this beautiful presentation of God's Word.  I love witnessing that first moment, and I love the conversations it sparks.  It draws in non-believers attracted to the intricate hand-written script who might find themselves reading a Bible for the first time.  It evokes awe and joy and thoughtful reflection from the faithful who might find a beautiful illumination right next to their favorite passage.  The Saint John's Bible ignites the spiritual imagination of just about everyone who sees it.

Then it sells itself, or it doesn't.  My 30-second sales pitch is, "If you think you want this, I can help you make that happen.  If not, thank you very much for allowing me the honor of sharing this with you.  May God bless you and all you do."  That's great, because I'm not a sales guy at all.  I still have my day job to pay the bills.  Working for Saint John's is a privilege and a joy and how I think God has asked me to serve him.  It's not my source of income, but it is my passion.

3) For those who are not familiar with the Saint John's Bible, could you give a brief overview of the project?  How has the SJB been received during your travels?
Donald Jackson is a master calligrapher who has worked for the British Parliament and the Queen of England for decades.  At the age of thirteen, he had already set a life goal for himself of one day creating a hand-written Bible (what were your goals when you were thirteen?).  In the early '80s, he helped establish an annual convention for calligraphers, which was frequently held in the gymnasium at Saint John's University. Over the years, he established strong relationships with several monks from the Abbey, and in 1995 he pitched his idea of a hand-written Bible to Eric Hollas, OSB, who was the director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at the time, over dinner in Chicago (there's an interesting story about a $2 bill that played a role at that dinner).  The Abbey in conjunction with the University spent nearly three years exploring the idea.  They finally commissioned Mr. Jackson in 1998 to create what would become the first hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible of monumental size since the invention of the printing press.

A team of about twenty scribes, artists, and assistants in Wales worked for thirteen years under Mr. Jackson's artistic direction, guided by a Committee on Illumination and Text in Minnesota composed of theologians, historians, and artists.  Their goal was to create a modern illuminated Bible, not merely a re-make of an existing ancient manuscript.  The pages are made of calfskin vellum.  The ink for text was hand-made using natural ingredients like egg whites and 130-year-old Chinese ink sticks fabricated from soot collected from candle smoke.  The scribes used quills made of goose or turkey feathers.  24K gold, platinum, and other rare metals are used for the illuminated portions of the Bible.  Completed pages have been displayed over the years at exhibitions around the world to share it with and inspire as many people as possible.  Now that the text and illuminations are complete, the pages remain unbound in order to continue sharing them.  They will eventually be bound in covers made of oak boards and then remain permanently at Saint John's Abbey.

Several documents on the Saint John's Bible website go into far more poetic detail about it's history and creative process.  I highly recommend reading it.

The Saint John's Bible has received critical praise since the first volume, Gospels & Acts, was presented to the public in 2001.  In my own personal experience sharing it, officially and unofficially since January, I have almost always encountered awe and amazement in people when they view it.  People show up curious and walk away inspired, cheerful, and talking with each other about their favorite features.  Indeed, it's that cheerfulness that keeps surprising me.  Of course, you can't please everyone.  Some of the other Ambassadors have shared stories with me of people who would not look at it because it uses the NRSV text, or because some illuminations incorporate elements from other faith traditions.  I once had to carefully communicate with a person who insisted that Catholics were not Christians so therefore this was not a real Bible.  Those rare negative moments stand out only because the vast majority of the response is overwhelmingly positive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Semi-Regular Weekly Poll

What are your thoughts concerning the upcoming revised (X4) NAB?

  • It will exceed my expectations and become the standard Catholic Bible for English speakers
  • It will be a slight improvement over the most recent revision
  • I like the current NABRE and wish they weren't doing another revision
  • I am fearful that the revision will not be very good
  • I have no idea what will happen, but I am praying that it will be good
  • Other


More polls: snabblånnu

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CBA Contest Winner

The winner of the NOAB NRSV is Joseph Volpe III. His number was selected using an online random number generator. Congrats Joseph! Please send me an email with your address and I will get your prize right out to you. Thanks to all of you who entered.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Book: "Politicizing the Bible" by Hahn and Wiker

Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700 by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker.

Resisting the typical, dry methods of contemporary scholarship, this powerful examination revisits the biblical days of life-and-death conflict, struggles for power between popes and kings, and secret alliances of intellectuals united by a desire to pit worldly goals against the spiritual priorities of the church. This account looks beyond the pretense of neutrality and objectivity often found in secular study, and brings to light the appropriation of scripture by politically motivated interpreters. Questioning the techniques taken for granted at divinity schools worldwide, their origins are traced to the writings of Machiavelli and Marsilio of Padua, the political projects of Henry VIII, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke, and the quest for an empire of science on the part of Descartes and Spinoza. Intellectual and inspiring, an argument is made for bringing Christianity back to biblical literacy.

This title will be available any day now, published by The Crossroad Publishing Company.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Death of Walter J. Harrelson (1919-2012)

Walter Harrelson, biblical scholar, translator, and teacher, passed away on September 4th.  Most people who frequent this blog would know him through his work on the NRSV.  He was also the general editor of the well-received The New Interpreters' Study Bible (NRSV).  For more info about the man, you can go here.

A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord
   Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications! 

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
   Lord, who could stand? 
But there is forgiveness with you,
   so that you may be revered. 

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I hope; 
my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning. 

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem. 
It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its iniquities. 

                                                                     -Psalm 130 (NRSV)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

SBP's Catholic Courses: The Christ

I recently acquired Fr. Alfred McBride's course The Christ from Saint Benedict Press.   As I begin to prepare for my second year as an instructor with the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan, which will focus on the synoptic Gospels, Acts, and Paul's Letters, this course was a nice reminder of some of the more important themes which are found in the four Gospels.  All 8 lectures, which averaged 25 minutes in length, were filled with engaging insights into the mind of each Evangelist.  I definitely recommend this lecture series.  A video introduction to this course can be viewed here.

As the course description points out: "Each of the four Gospels highlights a different aspect of Christ's personality, nature and mission. Father McBride, named one of the top religious educators of the 20th Century, shows how each evangelist presents a unique perspective of Christ, and that only through study of all four Gospels can we arrive at a complete picture of the Lord. Father McBride begins with an examination of Matthew's Gospel, which shows in fascinating detail Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and His inauguration of the Kingdom of God. In Mark, we hear the call to discipleship, the invitation to the narrow road of a Christian life. Luke, writing to a Gentile world, shows us Christ in his humanity, while John reveals his glory and divinity. By considering all four evangelists together, Father McBride shows us Jesus as He was known by his closest disciples and helps us to know Him like never before."

In addition to the course, which can be purchased in audio or video format, a very well put together full-color guidebook is included.  It contains additional information and study questions.

Fr. McBride also has done a study on the Book of Revelation. 

If interested, you can acquire these fine Catholic Courses through the below link:
Catholic Courses - Engage Your Faith Today!

Monday, September 3, 2012

CBA Contest

I am happy to let you all know that I have been accepted as an associate member of the Catholic Biblical Association.  So, in honor of this news, I am going to offer a spur-of-the-moment contest.  The winner will receive a hardcover edition of the 1991 (1994) New Oxford Annotated Bible w/ Apocrypha (NRSV) edited by Metzger and Murphy.  This volume is in very good shape, with only a slight bit of highlighting found in 1 John.  (I found this at a used bookstore.)  One of the unique components of this edition of the NOAB is the very generous 1 inch margins on each page for personal notes.  Many have remarked that this is perhaps the best edition of the NOAB, along with the RSV edition.  (Unlike the RSV one, this contains a concordance.)

Here are the rules:

All you need to do to enter is simply to put your name in the comment section of this post.  You may enter only once.  No anonymous entries will be considered. The winner will be randomly drawn at the end of the contest, which will be Saturday, September 8th at 11:59PM. This contest is open to anyone in North America. (Sorry again to my loyal readers in the rest of the world.) Also, if you have a blog and would like to advertise this contest, it would be much appreciated. I will announce the winner on Sunday. 

Back to School Sale at Logos

Logos is offering, for a limited time, discounts on collections from two of modernity’s greatest theologians: Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Whether you’re a current student or scholar or you’re simply looking to extend your faith education, this is your chance to save big while learning even bigger.

Use coupon code B2SBXVI to save on the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Collection (14 vols.). One of our time’s most revered Catholic scholars, theologians, teachers, and authors, Benedict XVI will have you pulling all-nighters even though there won’t be an exam tomorrow.

The Hans Urs von Balthasar Collection (16 vols.) is a similar treasure trove of Catholic theology, sure to bring you insight, whether you’re wanting to discover new theological ideas or seeking a deeper understanding of Christology, eschatology, Mariology, soteriology, and ontology. And with coupon code B2SHANS, you can get this thought-provoking collection on a student’s budget.