Monday, March 31, 2014

Lenten Contest Winner

The winner of the Lenten Contest is Bernadette.  Bernadette has one week to email me, mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com, with her name and address to claim her prize.  Thanks to all who entered!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday Knox: Ephesians 5:8-14

Once you were all darkness; now, in the Lord, you are all daylight. You must live as men native to the light; 9 where the light has its effect, all is goodness, and holiness, and truth;10 your lives must be the manifestation of God’s will.[1] 11 As for the thankless deeds men do in the dark, you must not take any part in them; rather, your conduct must be a rebuke to them; 12 their secret actions are too shameful even to bear speaking of. 13 It is the light that rebukes such things and shews them up for what they are; only light shews up.[2] 14 That is the meaning of the words, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.[3]

Knox Notes:
[1] ‘Manifestation’; the sense of the word is ‘to prove by experiment’, usually in the sense of convincing oneself. The context here suggests that the proof is for the benefit of others, as in I Cor. 3.13.
[2] ‘Only light shews up’; the Latin takes the verb in the sense of ‘to be manifest’, but the Greek allows of rendering it ‘to make (other things) manifest’, which is here more suitable to the context. Throughout this passage, St Paul is explaining that the witness of a Christian life, enlightened by grace, rebukes the wickedness of the surrounding world as inevitably as light reveals darkness.
[3] These words do not appear in Scripture, and some have thought that St Paul is quoting from a very early baptismal hymn.


You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  for everything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Benedict on Wednesday

We continue our reading of Biblical Interpretation in Crisis:

At this point the question arises, how could Dibelius's and Bultmann's essential categories for judgment — that is, the pure form, the opposition between apocalyptic and eschatology and so on — present such evidence to them, that they believed they had at their disposal the perfect instrument for gaining a knowledge of history? Why, even today in large part, is this system of thought taken without question and applied? Since then, most of it has simply become an academic commonplace, which precedes individual analysis and appears to be legitimized almost automatically by application. But what about the founders of the method? Certainly, Dibelius and Bultmann already stood in a tradition. Mention has already been made of their dependence on Gunkel and Bousset. But what was their dominant idea? With this question, the self-critique of the historical method passes over to a self-criticism of historical reason, without which our analysis would get stuck in superficialities.

In the first place, one can note that in the history-of-religions school, the model of evolution was applied to the analysis of biblical texts. This was an effort to bring the methods and models of the natural sciences to bear on the study of history. Bultmann laid hold of this notion in a more general way and thus attributed to the so-called scientific worldview a kind of dogmatic character. Thus, for example, for him the non-historicity of the miracle stories was no question whatever anymore. The only thing one needed to do yet was to explain how these miracle stories came about. On one hand the introduction of the scientific worldview was indeterminate and not well thought out. On the other hand, it offered an absolute rule for distinguishing between what could have been and what had to be explained only by development. To this latter category belonged everything which is not met with in common daily experience.21 There could only have been what now is. For everything else, therefore, historical processes are invented, whose reconstruction became the particular challenge of exegesis.

But I think we must go yet a step further in order to appreciate the fundamental decision of the system which generated these particular categories for judgment. The real philosophic presupposition of the whole system seems to me to lie in the philosophic turning point proposed by Immanuel Kant. According to him, the voice of being-in-itself cannot be heard by human beings. Man can hear it only indirectly in the postulates of practical reason which have remained as it were the small opening through which he can make contact with the real, that is, his eternal destiny. For the rest, as far as the content of his intellectual life is concerned, he must limit himself to the realm of the categories. Thence comes the restriction to the positive, to the empirical, to the "exact" science, which by definition excludes the appearance of what is "wholly other," or the one who is wholly other, or a new initiative from another plane.

In theological terms, this means that revelation must recede into the pure formality of the eschatological stance, which corresponds to the Kantian split.22 As far as everything else is concerned, it all needs to be "explained." What might otherwise seem like a direct proclamation of the divine, can only be myth, whose laws of development can he discovered. It is with this basic conviction that Bultmann, with the majority of modern exegetes, read the Bible. He is certain that it cannot be the way it is depicted in the Bible, and he looks for methods to prove the way it really had to be. To that extent there lies in modern exegesis a reduction of history into philosophy, a revision of history by means of philosophy.

The real question before us then is, can one read the Bible any other way? Or perhaps better, must one agree with the philosophy which requires this kind of reading? At its core, the debate about modern exegesis is not a dispute among historians: it is rather a philosophical debate. Only in this way can it be carried on correctly. Otherwise it is like a battle in a mist. The exegetical problem is identical in the main with the struggle for the foundations of our time. Such a struggle cannot be conducted casually, nor can it be won with a few suggestions. It will demand, as I have already intimated, the attentive and critical commitment of an entire generation. It cannot simply retreat back to the Middle Ages or to the Fathers and place them in blind opposition to the spirit of the present age. But neither can it renounce the insights of the great believers of the past and pretend that the history of thought seriously began only with Kant.

In my opinion the more recent debate about biblical hermeneutics suffers from just such a narrowing of our horizon. One can hardly dismiss the exegesis of the Fathers by calling it mere "allegory" or set aside the philosophy of the Middle Ages by branding it as "pre-critical."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lenten Contest

Let's have a Lenten contest!  Being in Michigan, this Lent seems to have become an extension of the long, cold winter of the past few months.  So, although we our assured of our Lord's rising at Easter, Spring weather is not a guarantee at this point.  Why not, then, spend the next few weeks of Lent reading the Word of God and reflecting on the glories of the Church with Fr. Robert Barron? 

The winner of the contest will receive the following:
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith 

The New American Bible, Compact, Black Duradera with Zipper, Revised Edition 

The rules:
1) If you have a website or blog or are active on Facebook, please announce this contest.   If you don't, that is OK.  You can still enter the contest. 

2) Please enter your name in the comment section of this blog post.  I will randomly draw one winner at the conclusion of the contest, which will be on Sunday March 30th at 11:59 PM.   

3) I will announce the winners on Monday March 31.  The winners must contact me, via email, within a week with their full name and address.

4) One entry per person.

5) Contest is only available to those who live in the United States

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: US vs. UK editions of the NRSV

Thanks to reader Jason for this guest post.

My preferred translation of the Bible is the NRSV (the REB/NEB are a close second and the NIV’84 comes in third).  But, because the NRSV is not as commercially successful as many of the evangelical translations (NIV, ESV, NKJV, etc etc), it is difficult to find beautiful editions.  Most publishers stopped publishing nice leather NRSV Bibles in the late ‘90s, and the leather-bound NRSV Bibles published today almost always use the Anglicized text, which was released in ’95.

So, I happily bought up a number of fine leather Anglicized NRSV Bibles under the assumption, as advertised, that the only difference between the update and the original was spelling and punctuation (and, as I learned later, tweaks to how Brits spell out numbers that differs from the American format).  Indeed, in the “Preface to the NRSV Anglicized Edition” that is printed in each such Bible, you will find this critical text:

“All those participating in the process of ‘anglicization’ accepted that no attempt could be made to alter the basic translation in any way; their responsibility was simply to render words that might otherwise be uncertain or awkward into the best generally acceptable equivalent in British usage, whilst at the same time adjusting appropriate points of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.”

Hold on….  There’s more there in that sentence than spelling and punctuation.  There’s grammar, as well as this vague notion of rendering “uncertain or awkward” words into something more “acceptable”.

The next paragraph in that document outlines how spelling and grammar were modified to conform to British norms, but then the following paragraph goes into more detail about how some words might be altered completely if the American idiom did not match common British understanding.  They use the example of replacing “sea” with “lake” when referring to the Sea of Galilee and explain why.  Well, it was a logical explanation, but it’s just one example.  What else did they change?

But then we reach the killer sentence: “Many smaller alterations have been made,…”  Adding to that vague statement is the complete lack of any resource anywhere that outlines, in full, every change made.

For the longest time, this did not bother me.  I didn’t really care that much, and for the most part I tended to only focus on the typical marketing info that only indicated the spelling and punctuation differences.  That is, until the day I saw my first significant difference in the text.  It may seem like a small thing, but it really shocked me when I came across a passage in the OT in the Anglicized edition that had re-rendered “slave girl” (US version) into “serving maid” (UK version).  That’s not documented anywhere, and I don’t see how that alteration is necessary in any way.  “Slave girl” is quite clear.  Maybe it is too blunt for a British audience, but that is the more accurate translation.

After that discovery, I started to pay very close attention to the words in my Anglicized NRSV Bibles.  Maybe I shouldn’t have, ignorance is bliss after all.  But I found a major change in a critical passage that makes it possible to dramatically change the meaning.  Romans 3:21 in the US edition reads as follows:

"But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,”

While the UK edition renders that line as:

"But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,”

And that one change, “irrespective” instead of “apart from” ruined the Anglicized NRSV for me.  Maybe - BIG maybe - the two phrases are functionally equivalent between the two versions of English, yet when I read “apart from law” I think of something that is separate from the law, while “irrespective of law” has a negative connotation of disrespect, without regard, heedless, without consideration.  To me, that’s a major alteration.

Then I undertook a very careful line-by-line comparison, limited to Romans and 1 & 2 Corinthians (not much free time with 3 kids and a full-time job and a couple volunteer positions).  I found dozens of spelling differences, about as many instances where various prepositions are added without affecting meaning.  But I also found what I consider to be significant words changes that, like Romans 3:21, alter meaning: Romans 11:18, 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 10:24 and 15:8 are less serious, 2 Corinthians 11:32 also bothered me.  I can only guess how many other such changes are present elsewhere in the Anglicized NRSV.

How can I trust the Anglicized NRSV when there is the potential for an unknown number of major textual changes that some editor might have chosen to sneak in when this revision took place?  It does not bother me at all that the REB and the NIV and many other translations render this passage slightly differently, and yet it really disturbs me that this translation is still marketed as and claims to be the NRSV when it is not.

I still love the NRSV and still reach for it first when it comes to my daily reading and study.  I still recommend the NRSV to friends and family when they ask my opinion.  Now, though, I always make the distinction between the original NRSV and the Anglicized edition; I simply can't trust the Anglicized NRSV and no longer read from it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunday Knox: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

“Once justified, then, on the ground of our faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,* as it was through him that we have obtained access, by faith, to that grace in which we stand. We are confident in the hope of attaining glory as the sons of God; Nor does this hope delude us; the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom we have received.  Were that hope vain, why did Christ, in his own appointed time, undergo death for us sinners, while we were still powerless to help ourselves?  It is hard enough to find anyone who will die on behalf of a just man, although perhaps there may be those who will face death for one so deserving.  But here, as if God meant to prove how well he loves us, it was while we were still sinners.”

Knox Note:
*Some Greek manuscripts have ‘we enjoy’ for ‘let us enjoy’.


“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

1 Kings 18:27: Doing His Business

I was recently reading 1 Kings 18 concerning the famous and amusing story of Elijah vs. the Prophets of Baal.  This may have been the first time I read it in the NABRE, so I noticed something at 18:27 that was different from most other translations:  

And at noon Eli′jah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”


At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”


When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: "Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.


When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.

The NABRE's "He may be busy doing his business" was striking when I came across it.  (The ESV and NLT have similar renderings, but the NABRE's is slightly different.)   I decided to do a little research on this and fairly quickly found an old CBQ article from July 1988 by Gary A. Rendsburg about this verse. Rendsburg is a Jewish history professor at Rutgers.  As Rendsburg points out: "In short, there is good reason to conclude that both elements in the hendiadys, siah and sig, refer to excretion and the phrase should be rendered 'he may be defecating/urinating.'  These would certainly be powerful words from the mouth of Elijah and would be a most appropriate mock of the Canaanite god Baal (416)."  Indeed it certainly would be.  They also seem to fit the context of what Elijah is saying, more so than "meditating" or "musing" do.  Elijah is calling-out the bogus god Baal and rendering him counterfeit.  

It seems the vast majority of other translations do not follow this, the exception being the new NABRE Old Testament.  If you go with interpretation, the next question is how to translate this into English.  Do you go with something like "he may be defecating?"  The ESV and NLT go with "relieving himself."   Or perhaps, like the NABRE, do you go with a less explicit wording?  I think most American readers will be able to understand what "doing his business" means, but would "relieving himself" have been a better rendering?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Benedict on Wednesday

Today we continue our reading of Pope Benedict's Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today
First and foremost, one must challenge that basic notion dependent upon a simplistic transferal of science’s evolutionary model to spiritual history. Spiritual processes do not follow the rule of zoological genealogies. In fact, it is frequently the opposite: after a great breakthrough, generations of descendants may come who reduce what was once a courageous new beginning to an academic commonplace. They bury it and disguise it by all kinds of variations of the original theory until it finally comes to have a completely different application. 

One can easily see how questionable the criteria have been by using a few examples. Who would hold that Clement of Rome is more developed or complex than Paul? Is James any more advanced than the Epistle to the Romans? Is the Didache more encompassing than the Pastoral Epistles? Take a look at later times: whole generations of Thomistic scholars have not been able to take in the greatness of his thought. Lutheran orthodoxy is far more medieval than was Luther himself. Even between great figures there is nothing to support this kind of developmental theory. 
Gregory the Great, for example, wrote long after Augustine and knew of him, but for Gregory the bold Augustinian vision is translated into the simplicity of religious understanding. Another example: what standard could one use to determine whether Pascal should be classified as before or after Descartes? Which of their philosophies should be judged the more developed? Further examples could be mentioned to illustrate the whole of human history. All judgments based on the theory of discontinuity in the tradition and on the assertion of an evolutionary priority of the “simple” over the “complex” can thus be immediately called into question as lacking foundation. 
But now we must explain in an even more concrete way what criteria have been used to determine what is “simple.” In this regard there are standards as to form and content. In terms of form, the search was for the original forms. Dibelius found them in the so-called “paradigm,” or example narrative in oral tradition, which can be reconstructed behind the proclamation. Later forms, on the other hand, would be the “anecdote,” the “legend,” the collections of narrative materials, and the “myth.” 

Bultmann saw the pure form in the “apothegm,” “the original specific fragment which would sum things up concisely; interest would be concentrated on the word [spoken by] Jesus at the end of a scene; the details of the situation would lie far from this kind of form; Jesus would never come across as the initiator . . . everything not corresponding to this form Bultmann attributed to development.” The arbitrary nature of these assessments which would characterize theories of development and judgments of authenticity from now on is only obvious. To be honest, though, one must also say that these theories are not so arbitrary as they may first appear. The designation of the “pure form” is based on a loaded idea of what is original, which we must now put to the test. 

One element of originality is what we have just encountered: the thesis of the priority of the word over the event. But this thesis conceals two further pairs of opposites: the pitting of word against cult and eschatology against apocalyptic. In close harmony with these is the antithesis between Judaic and Hellenistic. Hellenistic was, for example, in Bultmann, the notion of the cosmos, the mystical worship of the gods and cultic piety. The consequence is simple: what is Hellenistic cannot be Palestinian, and therefore it cannot be original. Whatever has to do with cult, cosmos, or mystery must be rejected as a later development. The rejection of “apocalyptic,” the alleged opposite of eschatology, leads to yet another element: the supposed antagonism between the prophetic and the “legal” and thus between the prophetic and the cosmic and cultic. It follows, then, that ethics is seen as incompatible with the eschatological and the prophetic. In the beginning there was no ethics, but simply an ethos. What is surely at work is the by-product of Luther’s fundamental distinction: the dialectic between the law and the gospel. According to this dialectic, ethics and cult are to be relegated to the realm of the law and put in dialectical contrast with Jesus, who, as bearer of the good news, brings the long line of promise to completion and thus overcomes the law. If we are ever to understand modern exegesis and critique it correctly, we simply must return and reflect anew on Luther’s view of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. In place of the analogy model which was then current, he substituted a dialectical structure.  However, for Luther all of this remained in a very delicate balance, whereas for Dibelius and Bultmann, the whole degenerates into a development scheme of well-nigh intolerable simplicity, even if this has contributed to its attractiveness.

With these presuppositions, the picture of Jesus is determined in advance. Thus Jesus has to be conceived in strongly “Judaic” terms. Anything “Hellenistic” has to be removed from him. All apocalyptic, sacramental, mystical elements have to be pruned away. What remains is a strictly “eschatological” prophet, who really proclaims nothing of substance. He only cries out “eschatologically” in expectation of the “wholly other,” of that transcendence which he powerfully presents before humanity in the form of the imminent end of the world. 
From this view emerged two challenges for exegesis. First, exegetes had to explain how one got from the unmessianic, unapocalyptic, prophetic Jesus to the apocalyptic community which worshiped him as Messiah; to a community in which were united Jewish eschatology, stoic philosophy, and mystery religion in a wondrous syncretism. This is exactly how Bultmann described early Christianity. 
Second, exegetes had to find a way to connect the original message of Jesus to Christian life today, thus making it possible to understand his call to us. According to the developmental model, the first problem is relatively easy to solve in principle, even though an immense amount of scholarship had to be dedicated to working out the details. The agent responsible for the contents of the New Testament was not to be found in persons, but in the collective, in the “community.” Romantic notions of the “people” and of its importance in the shaping of traditions play a key role here.18 Add to this the thesis of Hellenization and the appeal to the history-of-religions school. The works of Gunkel and Bousset exerted decisive influence in this area.   The second problem was more difficult. Bultmann’s approach was his theory of demythologization, but this did not achieve quite the same success as his theories on form and development. If one were allowed to characterize somewhat roughly Bultmann’s solution for a contemporary appropriation of Jesus’ message, one might say that the scholar from Marburg had set up a correspondence between the nonapocalyptic-prophetic and the fundamental thought of the early Heidegger. Being a Christian, in the sense Jesus meant it, is essentially collapsed into that mode of existing in openness and alertness which Heidegger described. The question has to occur whether one cannot come by some simpler way to such general and sweeping formal assertions. 
Still, what is of interest to us here is not Bultmann the systematician, whose activities came to an abrupt halt in any case with the rise of Marxism. Instead, we should examine Bultmann the exegete who is responsible for an ever more solid consensus regarding the methodology of scientific exegesis.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pope Francis on Reading the Gospels Daily

From Catholic News Agency:

“I’ll ask you a question” he inquired of the crowd gathered, “do you read a passage of the Gospel everyday?” Echoing their responses, he stated “Yes, no…yes, no…half and half. Some yes and some no.”

“But it’s important! Do you read the Gospel? It’s good,” the Pope repeated, stating that “it’s a good thing to have a little Gospel, small, and take it with us, in our pocket, in our purse, and read a small passage in any moment of the day.”

“It’s not difficult,” he continued, adding that “it’s not even necessary” to have all four, but just “one of the Gospels, a very little one” always with us, and “listen to it.”

(Angelus on 3/16/14)

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday Knox: Genesis 12:1-4a

"Meanwhile, the Lord said to Abram, Leave thy country behind thee, thy kinsfolk, and thy father’s home, and come away into a land I will shew thee. Then I will make a great people of thee; I will bless thee, and make thy name renowned, a name of benediction; those who bless thee, I will bless, those who curse thee, I will curse, and in thee all the races of the world shall find a blessing.[1] So Abram went out, as the Lord bade him."

Knox Note:
[1] ‘Shall find a blessing’; some commentators would interpret this, ‘shall bless themselves in thy name’, that is, use it as a proverbial instance of prosperity.

"The LORD said to Abram: 'Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. 'I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  *All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.'  Abram went as the LORD directed him."

* v. 3: "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you."

* [12:3Will find blessing in you: the Hebrew conjugation of the verb here and in18:18 and 28:14 can be either reflexive (“shall bless themselves by you” = people will invoke Abraham as an example of someone blessed by God) or passive (“by you all the families of earth will be blessed” = the religious privileges of Abraham and his descendants ultimately will be extended to the nations). In 22:18 and 26:4, another conjugation of the same verb is used in a similar context that is undoubtedly reflexive (“bless themselves”). Many scholars suggest that the two passages in which the sense is clear should determine the interpretation of the three ambiguous passages: the privileged blessing enjoyed by Abraham and his descendants will awaken in all peoples the desire to enjoy those same blessings. Since the term is understood in a passive sense in the New Testament (Acts 3:25Gal 3:8), it is rendered here by a neutral expression that admits of both meanings.

Friday, March 14, 2014

More on the Death of the ESV Lectionary

For more, go here.

Here is the key section:

After 10 years of unsuccessful efforts by ICPELL, it became apparent that the whole lectionary project was in serious jeopardy. It had proved impossible to find a lectionary that suits the Holy See, the copyright holders of the scripture translations, and bishops’ conferences. Another issue was that the Revised Grail psalms, which were planned to be part of the revised lectionary, have also lost support in some quarters.
At the end of 2013 the decision was made to dismantle ICPELL and leave each conference of bishops to make its own decision regarding a lectionary for Mass. Consequently, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agreed to discontinue its involvement in the international lectionary project and to reprint the existing lectionary. It would contain a slightly modified version of the Jerusalem Bible currently in use and the Grail translation of the responsorial Psalms.
The general opinion is that some poor translations in the Jerusalem Bible are easily remedied and that other required changes to the text can be made fairly quickly.

So, there you have it.  Those who hoped for an ESV-CE can put that dream to rest.  So, what does that leave us with?  Well, from the article above, I would imagine that those other English speaking areas will follow suit and adapt the Jerusalem Bible.   My first question is why not spend a little more time and adapt the NJB.  It is better in almost every way compared to the original.  Also, I do find it interesting that the Revised Grail Psalms had "lost support."  I wonder if that is just in Australia or other places as well, like the UK?  So, then, it is quite possible that at some point we could have a different Psalter being used in the various English speaking territories.  That is just weird, and really I can't find another word to describe this situation.

What about that ever elusive dream of having a Bible, in hand, that actually matches what is read at Mass.  Will the Catholic Truth Society in London create a "new" CTS Bible after the UK bishops adapt the JB?  Will it include the original or revised Grail Psalms?  Is it possible, particularly after all the complaining here in the US, that the American bishops are the ones who actually pull off the unimaginable task of giving us a Bible that matches the lectionary?  It seems clear that the American Bishops are moving forward with the Revised Grail Psalms for future liturgical books, as well as the upcoming revised NABRE.  The revised NABRE NT provides the opportunity to do this.  Let's pray.

May They Be One Bible Campaign

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: The Catholic Study Bible NABRE

The Catholic Study Bible (CSB) from Oxford University Press has a history going back to 1990, just before the publication of the '91 NAB Revised Psalms.  I have genuine leather edition of that volume, which was unique due to the 500+ pages of reading guides that preceded the Biblical text and the generous 2 inch margins.  Needless to say, the combination of those two things made that first edition a bit of a beast.  Perhaps in a desire to reduce its size, later editions, including the most recent NABRE one, got rid of the large margins.  The same thing happened if you compare the 1991 New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV with its subsequent revisions.  I kind of liked the larger margin editions though.  I will be reviewing here The Catholic Study Bible NABRE 2nd Edition (black bonded leather).

It must be said straight away that the biggest issue I have with this edition of the CSB is the fact that the reading guides have not been updated since the release of the NABRE.  For example, if you are looking up the reading guide section (p. 128) on the topic of the Levitical sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7, it will mention that in Lv 2 the NAB calls this the 'cereal offering' when in fact it is called a "grain offering" in the NABRE.  Look down one more paragraph which discusses the often translated "Peace offering" of Lv 3 which is now "communion offering" in the NABRE.  There are also issues when we get to the prophets, where mention is made of how the NAB rearranged verses.  However, the NABRE restored many of them to their proper order.  Then there is the embarrassing fact that one of the introductory articles called "The Challenges of Biblical Translation" talks about the "proposed NAB Old Testament" which is of course the translation found in this study Bible.  The reading guides need to be updated.  This is an issue that has been mentioned before on this blog, including some helpful comments by reader and blogger Theophrastus.  One wonders if this will be corrected only when the NABRE NT is published.  I hope it will be sooner.

After getting that out of the way, let me move to its overall feel and appearance.  The CSB scores high marks here, due to the quality sewn binding and its classic look and feel.  The sewn binding is well done, which assures longevity for this volume.  Attached to the binding are two gold ribbon markers.  The gold gilt-edged is a nice touch, which works well with thumb indexed pages.  I know some people don't like thumb indexed pages, but I find them to be helpful in a study bible of this size.  Now, my 1990 edition of the CSB was covered in genuine leather, which the current edition is not available in.  The bonded leather is ok, nothing special really.  Would have preferred a genuine leather cover like the NOAB 4th Edition, but if I continue to use this edition as much as I have in past months, I may have to give Leonard's a call.  

Now on to the content that is found within its bonded leather cover.  I have truly grown to love the page layout.  The type is large enough to read for study and to use when teaching.  Personally, I always have a bit of a hard time finding a Bible that fits both the at home and in the classroom setting.  This one seems to meet both needs.  The print itself is quite dark, and while the paper used is a fairly thin Bible paper, I don't feel the ghosting is any where near the problem as found in the HarperCollins Bibles.  The paragraph headings are in a clear bold from the rest of the biblical text, while the NABRE notes and cross-references are distinguishable from the text.  In sum, the page layout is easy on the eyes and is inviting to read.

The one thing I think the CSB excels at is in the fact that it contains a whole lot of additional study helps, which not all Catholic study bibles include.  Part of this is due to the NABRE itself, which comes with study notes and cross-references built into the translation.  The CSB goes above and beyond this with the reading guides, which I will discuss later, but more importantly it includes a considerable amount of material in the appendix.  First, we find probably my favorite set of Bible maps, the 14 New Oxford maps which are large, highly detailed, and indexed.  Also included is an almost 100 page concise concordance, which most of you indicated in one of my recent polls was a mandatory element of a good study bible.  There is also a small glossary, a table of measures and weights, and an index to the reading guides. Rounding out what is found in the appendix is a full listing of lectionary readings for Sundays, Holy days, and weekdays.  It still amazes how many Catholic bibles are missing this.  The Mass and the Bible are tied together, shouldn't all Catholic bibles reflect this?

Having looked at the appendix, let's go back to the beginning of the CSB.  This section has two main parts: the introductory articles and the reading guides.  There are eight introductory articles than cover issues related to Biblical history and archaeology to Catholic interpretation and the lectionary.  The authors are well known Catholic biblical scholars, including CSB co-editor Donald Senior, Ronald Witherup, and the recently deceased Daniel Harrington. 

The over 450 pages of reading guides are authored by many of the most prominent biblical scholars of the post-Vatican II Church.  The late Lawrence Boadt composed the reading guides concerning the Pentateuch. Leslie Hoppe composed the ones for the books of the Deuteronomistic histories, as well as 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther and both Maccabees.  The Old Testament reading guides are rounded out with Diane Bergant's treatment of the Wisdom books, Richard Clifford's guides on the Major Prophets, and John J. Collins who does the guides for Daniel and the Minor Prophets.  The New Testament reading guides are anchored in the Gospels and Acts jointly composed by Donald Senior and Pheme Perkins.  Mary Ann Getty and Carolyn Osiek completed the guides on the Pauline corpus, with Luke Timothy Johnson concluding the reading guides with the Catholic Letters and the Book of Revelation.  These reading guides are generally quite helpful at giving an overall walk through each book.  They are more academic in orientation, being primarily concerned with historical, literary, and textual issues.  While the reading guides do address theological issues, I would not say that it is of its primary concern.  I find that most of the guides help to fill in the gaps of the NABRE notes.  There are particular areas in the NABRE's Old Testament, I am thinking here of Chronicles and some of the Wisdom books, where more notes would be helpful.  The reading guides give that additional background and exposition.  Those who have issues with the NABRE notes may not appreciate the tone and focus of the information found in the reading guides.  I should add that at the end of each book in the reading guide, there are recommendations for further reading.  These have been updated since the first edition came out in 1990, and I would expect to see a further updating whenever a third edition is published.

Finally, incorporated into the NABRE text are 52 in-text maps and 18 side-bar essays and charts.  These are placed in their appropriate location within the biblical text, which makes them quite helpful.  Would love to see more of these in future editions.  How about maps and charts in color?  Perhaps that is asking too much.  

In conclusion, when I consider the entire package, the CSB is a serious candidate for best Catholic study bible, with one major caveat being the desperately needed updating of the OT reading guides.  Oxford should really fix this.  Perhaps they could come out with an "augmented" edition, much like they did with the NOAB 3rd Edition.  Some will not like this Bible because of its focus on historical-critical issues.  I think if you know that ahead of time, you will find that this study bible contains a wealth of helpful information.  The fact that the translation is the NABRE, with its much improved OT and Psalms, make this an upgrade over all the previous editions.  I look forward to seeing what might be produced in the coming years as the NABRE NT is revised. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ten Things You Need to Know About Jesus by Fr. Jim Martin


Benedict on Wednesday

After a week off do to Ash Wednesday, we return to Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today

In order not to let the general rules of the method and their presuppositions remain altogether abstract, I would like to try to illustrate what I have been saying thus far with an example. I am going to follow here the doctoral dissertation written by Reiner Blank at the University of Basel, entitled “Analysis and Criticism of the Form-Critical Works of Martin Dibelius and Rudolph Bultmann.” This book seems to me to be a fine example of a self-critique of the historical-critical method. This kind of self-critical exegesis stops building conclusions on top of conclusions, and from constructing and opposing hypotheses. It looks for a way to identify its own foundations and to purify itself by reflections on those foundations. This does not mean that it is pulling itself up by its own bootstraps. On the contrary, by a process of self-limitation, it marks out for itself its own proper space. It goes without saying that the form-critical works of Dibelius and Bultmann have in the meantime been surpassed and in many respects corrected in their details. But it is likewise true that their basic methodological approaches continue even today to determine the methods and procedures of modern exegesis. Their essential elements underlie more than their own historical and theological judgments and, to be sure, these have widely achieved an authority like unto dogma.

For Dibelius, as with Bultmann, it was a matter of overcoming the arbitrary manner in which the preceding phase of Christian exegesis, the so-called “Liberal Theology,” had been conducted. This was imbued with judgments about what was “historical” or “unhistorical.” Both these scholars then sought to establish strict literary criteria which would reliably clarify the process by which the texts themselves were developed and would thus provide a true picture of the tradition. With this outlook, both were in search of the pure form and of the rules which governed the development from the initial forms to the text as we have it before us today. As is well known, Dibelius proceeded from the view that the secret of history discloses itself as one sheds light on its development. But how does one arrive at this first premise and to the ground rules for further development? Even with all their particular differences, one can discover here a series of fundamental presuppositions common to both Dibelius and Bultmann and which both considered trustworthy beyond question. Both proceed from the priority of what is preached over the event in itself: in the beginning was the Word. Everything in the Bible develops from the proclamation. This thesis is so promoted by Bultmann that for him only the word can be original: the word generates the scene. All events, therefore, are already secondary, mythological developments. 

A further axiom is formulated which has remained fundamental for modern exegesis since the time of Dibelius and Bultmann: the notion of discontinuity. Not only is there no continuity between the pre-Easter Jesus and the formative period of the church; discontinuity applies to all phases of the tradition. This is so much the case that Reiner Blank could state, “Bultmann wanted incoherence at any price.” 

To these two theories, the pure originality of the simple word and the discontinuity between the particular phases of development, there is joined the further notion that what is simple is original, that what is more complex must be a later development. This idea affords an easily applied parameter to determine the stages of development: the more theologically considered and sophisticated a given text is, the more recent it is, and the simpler something is, the easier it is to reckon it original. The criterion according to which something is considered more or less developed, however, is not at all so evident as it first seems. In fact, the judgment essentially depends upon the theological values of the individual exegete. There remains considerable room for arbitrary choice. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Previous Study Bible Reviews

Below are links to the reviews I have done, or done by guest reviewers, concerning the various study Bibles available today.  They are organized by translation.  (There may be a few more on this blog somewhere, but these are the main ones I could find.)

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament

Navarre Bible New Testament

New Oxford Annotated Bible- RSV Extended Edition

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible Deluxe Edition

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible (guest review Rolf)

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible (guest review Eric)

The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition (guest review by Geoffrey)

The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition (my own additional comments)

New Jerusalem Bible (This one could have been better.  Maybe I'll update it one day.)

The Discipleship Study Bible

Life with God

New Interpreters Study Bible vs. New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th)  (guest post by Diakonos09)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guest Review: Little Rock Catholic Study Bible

I am happy to post this fine guest review of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible from reader Eric.
            First, my disclaimer:  I am not a Bible scholar; just an average guy (who is probably a little bit OCD about his Bibles).  And, this is my first attempt at reviewing anything since I was a journalism major at the University of Alaska 16 years ago.  Also, as I’ve written it, I think I’ve strayed a bit from my original goal of providing a classic review.  So, please bear with me.

            Next, a perspective on my philosophy of Bible use:  I generally have a translation that I use exclusively, depending on what I am looking to get out of my Bible reading at any particular time.  If I’m looking for apologetics, I read the RSV-2nd Catholic Edition; for devotional reading, I use the Douay; for inspirational-Knox, my study Bible is the original Jerusalem Bible, and my portable is a small Confraternity with psalms from the New Latin Psalter (I consider it my second choice for pretty much any of the uses above, except it doesn’t have the depth of commentary of the JB for study, but hey, it fits in my briefcase nicely…).  The one “hole” in my Bible shelf is the one that is used for religious education in our parishes; a New American Bible-Revised Edition.  I know my kids will eventually get one of their own, and I’ll want to be able to help them as they go through classes (and, if I’m needed as a sub for the program).

I’ve got the NABRE on a couple different apps on my iPhone, but wanted to go with a paper copy.  Getting feedback from various places like the Catholic Answers forums and Tim’s blog, I had two decisions to make: whether to get a regular print or a study version, and then, which one.  After some soul-searching, I decided to go with a study Bible, as I hoped the extra commentary would offset some of the concerning footnotes.  And, others have described the footnotes as faith-challenging, which isn’t always a bad thing – some things like faith need to be tried by fire once in awhile.  I was able to check out a couple different editions through my library, but the one I wasn’t able to test drive was the Little Rock Study Bible.  Well, I was able to get a copy from Tim, and he asked me if I would write a review (subject to my disclaimers above), and I told him I’d be happy to.

So, first, from my experience with the older NAB translations, as well as what I’ve read on my apps, I’m not the biggest fan of the NAB(RE).  I’m one of those who is suspicious of the notes – I understand where they’re coming from and that they don’t cross the boundaries of orthodoxy, but I definitely understand (and agree) with their detractors that they’re not good for the average user.  I was seeking a NABRE under some protest from myself – I wanted to get it not because I genuinely wanted to get one, but because I feel I had to have one.

So, the Little Rock has been here a couple weeks, and I’ve discovered something very odd; I actually WANT to read it.  It’s not for the translation itself, and certainly not the footnotes, but the additional study materials included in the Little Rock far made up any deficiency in the text.  I love having the little extras right on the page with the text they refer to, and the format is wonderful (best layout of any Bible I have, period-I like it better than the Harper NABRE I tried, and that was also superior compared to the other boring NAB layouts I’ve seen).  Having the cross references in side columns and the footnotes on the bottom draws the eye naturally to what you’re looking for; rather than having to hunt a little bit.  I dare say it’s like the Jerusalem Bible, but with a fresh and modern layout.  It doesn’t have quite the depth of commentary that the JB does, but the extra inserts are relevant and offer nice insights into the characters, places, and cultures.  I also do like the prayer starters scattered throughout the text; when I get to one while reading, I do take a minute or two of contemplation on them.  The notes that compare Catholic and Protestant views on justification and the end times were good at getting the points of comparison and promote the Catholic view, although I would have rather had a bit more depth.

I know Tim and others have reviewed the Little Rock Study Bible on this blog, and generally I agree with what they’ve previously said.  I know a while back Tim had an article on what was more important; translation or edition.  And, when I read it, I wasn’t convinced that edition was more important than translation.  Well, after spending a few weeks with the Little Rock, I now understand what he was trying to get at, and I’ve come to agree.

The NABRE will never become my preferred translation, as the ones I mentioned in the beginning are still better suited to their individual uses for me.  But, if you have reservations about the NABRE, do take a look anyways at the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible.  It serves reasonably well as a study Bible, helps guide contemplative prayer, reads reasonably well, addresses some of the major doctrinal controversies, and of course, it’s the closest thing those of us in the USA have to the lectionary.  It’s taken the same place in my Bible library as the Confraternity; a good #2 for most of my uses (and better for study than my edition of the Confraternity, though much less portable).  I’ve gone from getting a NABRE under some level of protest, to actually being happy to have one.  I will be sharing my copy with our parish priest and DRE, with the hopes that our parishes will not just get the low end paperback NABRE for the religious ed students, but might actually spend a bit more money to get them a reasonably good all-around Bible.  A good all-around Bible – I never thought I’d say that about any NABRE.  But, I guess now I have.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sunday Knox: Romans 5:12-19

"It was through one man that guilt came into the world; and, since death came owing to guilt, death was handed on to all mankind by one man. (All alike were guilty men;[2] there was guilt in the world before ever the law of Moses was given. Now, it is only where there is a law to transgress that guilt is imputed,[3]  and yet we see death reigning in the world from Adam’s time to the time of Moses, over men who were not themselves guilty of transgressing a law, as Adam was.) In this, Adam was the type of him who was to come. Only, the grace which came to us was out of all proportion to the fault. If this one man’s fault brought death on a whole multitude, all the more lavish was God’s grace, shewn to a whole multitude, that free gift he made us in the grace brought by one man, Jesus Christ.  The extent of the gift is not as if it followed a single guilty act; the sentence which brought us condemnation arose out of one man’s action, whereas the pardon that brings us acquittal arises out of a multitude of faults.  And if death began its reign through one man, owing to one man’s fault, more fruitful still is the grace, the gift of justification, which bids men enjoy a reign of life through one man, Jesus Christ.  Well then, one man commits a fault, and it brings condemnation upon all; one man makes amends, and it brings to all justification, that is, life.  A multitude will become acceptable to God through one man’s obedience, just as a multitude, through one man’s disobedience, became guilty."

Knox Notes:
[2] ‘All alike were guilty’; some would translate ‘In him (Adam) all had sinned’.

[3] The sense seems to be, that those who lived between Adam’s time and that of Moses, whatever their sins were, incurred no guilt of disobedience, there being no (revealed) law to disobey. Death is the penalty of disobedience; and the fact that death came to Adam’s immediate descendants must therefore be attributed to Adam’s disobedience, not to their own. St Paul must not be understood as meaning that men are not responsible for their actions where they have no revealed law to guide them; cf. 2.15 above.

NAB Lectionary:

"Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression.  For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.  And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned.  For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous."