Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Gentle Reminder

This blog is a place for constructive discussion on issues related to Catholic Bibles.  One does not have to agree with a post, nor does one have to like a particular translation, in order to be involved in the conversations here.  For some reason, perhaps due to the current political climate, there has been a dramatic increase in comments that I have deleted because of their tone and content.  Please make sure your comments are courteous and provide some sort of data to support them.  Also, if you desire to post anonymously, please add some name at the end of the post so that people know who to engage with by name.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Guest Post: The Bible, the NAB(RE), and the Lectionary at Mass

Thank you to Robert for the first in a series of two guest posts.

You have heard it or read it before.  “The New American Bible is the bible you hear at every Catholic mass.”  This was probably an introduction to a lengthy screed about the barbaric English style, tin ear, and modernist leanings of what for most U.S. Catholics is the bible.

My name is Bob Short.  I'm a 30 year old school teacher who reverted to the faith when he found the Eucharist on the ground in a Stop n Shop parking lot.

I have a great love for literature, and so for most of my time as a Catholic-by-choice, I bounced around between the translations everyone suggests as literary: JB, NEB, REB, NRSV, even the Knox.  Many times I return to these translations—wooed by their cachet among the internet commentariat and their page layouts and book designs which assume that the bible is to be read, not simply chucked into a desk drawer with the other cheap stuff your parish ordered in bulk to hand out to the CCD kids.

I'll go through a stage when I fall in love with one of these dynamic equivalence translations—devouring the Book of Job for a couple hours, reading Acts of the Apostles in two sittings, etc.  But I always put them down for various reasons.  I find the use of “Yahweh” distracting in the Jerusalem Bible, and find that I'm capable of reading a a couple pages in a row before realizing, “did any of that stick into my brain?”  The Knox bible is wonderful, but it seems an awful lot like a period piece to someone like me who cut his teeth on Hemingway and not the masters of 19th century English literature.  The New English Bible is wonderful, even with its odd habit of falling flat on its face about once every 20 verses.  The Revised English Bible, much like the New Jerusalem Bible, seems to have resulted from a sober minded decision to make an idiosyncratic translation slightly more acceptable to scholars and students who are just going to ignore it in favor of the RSV and NRSV anyway.

So I keep coming back the the New American Bible.  Living in a city in a heavily Catholic part of the country, its quite easy for me to make daily mass part of my spiritual practice.  The NAB is the language that I'm used to, language I find pleasurable. 

“My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

“You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

And so on.  The New American Bible is the source of my “memory verses” and no amount of poorly formatting or St Joseph Edition art inserts will take that away from me.  Yes, of those four examples I just gave, at least two of them are snatches of scripture which, frankly, are unspeakably beautiful in any translation.  My point, however, is simply that the setting I find these scriptures in most often and with the most comfort is in the NAB.  Unlike Carl Hernz's appreciation of the NABRE a few years back, I am incapable of making any case based on knowledge of source languages.  What I have is my own emotions.  To many readers, I'm sure RSV 2nd edition is that pleasing to the heart, soul, and mind.

To the ashamed NAB readers, hiding in the shadows, I say: Come out!  It's okay!

I won't defend the NAB footnotes, though I am of the opinion that they aren't nearly as bad as their reputation suggests. 

When people speak badly about the notes, they are usually speaking about the ones from earlier editions.  Often, though, the criticism revolves around the text itself.  But which New American Bible are they talking about?  For the uninitiated, there are quite a few.

The 1970 edition?: Which featured a freshly translated New Testament and an Old Testament cobbled together from the never-quite-completed Confraternity Old Testament.  It is on the dynamic-equivalence side of things, and in many places reads like the Jerusalem Bible.  It's poetry is quite good—if you don't believe me recite the Canticle from the book of Daniel that pops up on Week One Sundays in the Liturgy of the Hours.  It has become almost a meme to make fun of its rendering of Isaiah 9:5, but to many of us, that is the most familiar version of this passage, one with a music all its own.  (The idea that many Catholics grew up hearing the NAB at the liturgy and that it is what we think of when we hear the phrase “bible English” probably causes a good deal of wailing and teeth gnashing, even here!)  Where might you know the 1970 NAB from?  Its Old Testament is still used in the lectionary, as well as its psalter, though some parishes use the Revised Grail Psalms, as is allowed.  It's New Testament was almost instantly found wanting when it came to oral proclamation and was heavily edited for the lectionary.  It appears unedited in the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, for good (many canticles) and ill (oh dear, that halting and sloppy rendition of the Epistle to the Hebrews we read every Lent and Holy Week).

Or were they talking about the 1986 edition with the revised New Testament?: The Old Testament is unchanged, but the New Testament features the revisions made to make the NAB acceptable for oral proclamation at the mass.  This New Testament is quite good—clear and vivid at an appropriately elevated tone.  Things have gone in a formal equivalence direction, solving instances where the 1970 New Testament had slid into banality.  It's rendition of the Gospel According to John is a tour de force, revealing Christ's divinity in all its challenge and ruggedness.  If the worst thing you have to say about a bible are its footnotes and whether they chose “hades”, “hell,” or “netherworld,” you've got yourselves a pretty good bible.  It also has included some very light inclusive language.  When people speak about what a responsible and conservative use of inclusive language, the Revised English Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are most often proposed, but I put it to you that the '86 New Testament (and later NABRE Old Testament) are particularly good examples of expressing the non gender specific nature of the original languages without rendering the text bland or butchering English.

Perhaps the 1991 edition with the revised psalter was the one they meant?:  With a dignified New Testament which very nearly matched what was heard at mass, the next step was obviously to update the Old Testament in order to make the NAB a consistent reading experience, fine for study, prayer, and following the liturgy.  Well, instead they just got together and ruined the psalter.  Trust me, this not a well liked translation.  Even people who liked the 1995 ICEL Psalter don't like this thing.  It removed the familiar and replaced it with the aimless.  What was left was a bible featuring an dynamic equivalent Old Testament with no gender inclusive language, a psalter that is a lesson on how not to do inclusive language which featured widely varied style from psalm to psalm, and a formal equivalence New Testament with  very well done inclusive language.  Of the 47 years the New American Bible has existed, this edition was in print for 20 of those years.

At long last, was it the 2011 NABRE?: This latest edition features an improved, more literal Old Testament, including a wonderful new psalter that was translated the the liturgy in mind.  Finally, we have a consistent New American Bible!  Will we hear it at mass?  Err, no.  Rather, it seems to be the first step of a master plan to have a single translation which will be featured in the mass and the liturgy of the hours.  For the foreseeable future the lectionary will still feature the 1970 Old Testament and the 1986 New Testament.

So, if you are interested in a bible which will match up with the liturgy, you will need to find one printed between 1986 and 1990.  Good luck. 

And so I leave you with the following unsupported conclusions:
1.                  The 1986 edition of the NAB is quite good.

2.                  The NABRE is even better, though it does not match the mass as well.  It seems reminiscent to me to what an in-house Catholic NRSV would read like: rich in insight to the literal Hebrew and Greek, yet flowing with some amount of beauty as well.

3.                  I hope no copyright holding bishops read this, but the format of many New American Bible editions are so resistant to actual long periods of reading that I think I'm going to copy/paste the text of the NAB gospels into a PDF and have some copy shop print them out in book form for my own personal use.  The longer I reflect on it, what draws me toward deep dives in dynamic-equivalence translations like the NEB aren't the translations themselves, it is their single-column layouts, readable fonts, and lack of asterices, brackets, and assorted gobbledegook interrupting the text.

I will be submitting for consideration to this blog occasional comparisons of the lectionary text we receive at mass with the different printed editions of the New American Bible.

We deserve, I think, a bible that matches the liturgy.

I even put it to you that this will be a good first step toward many of us (first and foremost, me) abandoning debates about the different translations of the bible in favor of actually reading the thing!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Catholic Journaling Bible: New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs (CPDV)

The team at Drawn to Faith is excited to introduce their first Catholic journaling bible. This new journaling bible is perfect for any Catholic who wants to build a stronger relationship with Christ through creative worship. This bible is printed with a single column and over three inches of margin space for journaling, drawing, hand lettering, and even watercolor! The paper in this bible is five times thicker than standard bible paper, and the large format allows for maximum journaling space.
Product Details:
  • -All bible verses from the Catholic Bible
  • -Each book contains a full page illustration perfect for coloring
  • -Premium matte finish paperback cover design
  • -Perfect for all coloring & watercolor mediums
  • -High quality 60 pound paper stock
  • -Large format 8.5" wide x 11.0" tall pages
I would love to see more of these type of bibles.  I own The Message Canvas Bible which is fantastic!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Listen to him!

"During this week of Easter it would do us good every day to read a passage from the Gospel which speaks of the Resurrection of Christ." -Pope Francis via @Pontifex 4/18/17

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move. The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed. “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”
-Matthew 28:1-7 (MSGCE)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Pocket NABRE NT & Psalms

Thanks to Lenny for letting me know that this edition will be coming out in May from Pauline Books.  The listing on the Pauline website also includes a preview of the page-layout.  It is sewn!

New Testament and Psalms Pauline Edition

About this Book:
This lightweight, versatile, and easy-to-read volume combining the NABRE translation of the New Testament and the Psalms is also elegant and ideal as a gift. Starting with the gold-embossed icon of Jesus the Teacher on the cover, it offers extra durability with its quality sewn leatherette binding, while the ivory paper, colored ribbon markers, and gold edges make it a treasury of craftsmanship. The 10-point type and full-page text will make it easy to use as an aid for prayer and devotion.
Features & Benefits: 
  • New American Bible Revised Edition translation (NABRE) is approved for Catholics 
  • Quality sewn binding makes for greater durability 
  • Includes guide on how to use scriptures to pray 
  • Beautiful look and feel make it appealing for prayer and devotional reading 
Product Details:
Binding: Leatherette 
Trim size: 6 X 4 inches 
Pages: 1312

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bible Rebind: Oxford Large Print NABRE

Thank you to Jason for this article detailing his rebound NABRE.  If there was ever a translation that deserved a premium edition, it would be the NABRE.

I was received into the Catholic Church in 2006. Prior to that, I was very active in a conservative Baptist denomination. As readers of this blog are all well aware, the pride that conservative Evangelicals take in their Bibles and the hearty response the resulting demand elicits from publishers lead to easy availability of all kinds of high quality Bibles.

After I entered the Church, I quickly realized things were much different on this side of the Tiber. I looked for some time for a quality Catholic Bible, ultimately settling on the (now out of print) Oxford/Ignatius RSV-CE Reader’s Edition. I used that Bible for years, but as happened with many of them, the binding began to pull apart at the pastoral epistles. Also, although that Bible was pretty good, it had no content at all other than the Ignatius Bible notes, a few prayers, Dei Verbum, and the Biblical text. It had no cross-references or other study helps, and the print was quite tiny.

A couple of years ago, I discovered this blog, and what a wonderful find it was! I actually went back to the very first post and, over several weeks, read through every post until I caught up. In the process I discovered that my frustration with the lack of quality Catholic editions of the Bible was shared by many, but I also came across reviews of some Bibles I did not know existed. And I learned of the possibility of taking a decent book block and having it rebound to produce a premium Bible. This was not an option I had really heard about before.

Through a review on this blog and through discussions with Timothy and Rolf through Facebook, I became intrigued by the Oxford NABRE Large Print. It has a genuine leather cover, which is good, but it is the same hard, durable but not very pleasant, leather found on the RSV-CE Reader’s Edition. The layout, however, is quite good. The print is 12-point, and the NABRE notes and cross-references are in the back of each book, as opposed to on the page with the biblical text. I ordered it and, after reading from it for a month or so, decided this would be my main daily reading Bible and the object of my first rebinding adventure.

From this blog and from the Facebook groups many of us frequent, I was of course familiar with Leonard’s. I considered sending this Bible to them, but I also loved the fact that a number of young men were taking on Bible rebinding as a trade and a ministry. Diego Caloca and Jeremiah Frost are two examples, and I really wanted to support them in their efforts. I corresponded with both and ultimately settled on Jeremiah (Diego was simply very busy and it was going to take longer; there were no other concerns at all with him).

A few weeks later, I had my Large Print NABRE returned to me bound in a wonderful black goatskin with four black ribbons (I wanted to be able to mark Psalms and Wisdom lit, other OT, NT Epistles, and Gospels; that tends to be how I manage my devotional reading and prayer).

I loved almost everything about it. The goatskin is some of the softest and most pleasantly aromatic leather I’ve ever encountered (with the caveat that my experience with leathers is somewhat limited). It is simply a pleasure to hold and to read from. And having a Bible that has some personally chosen features, such as the four ribbons, really enhances my feeling of attachment to it and my desire to read from it.

I did immediately have one concern. I’m not sure if this is minor or major, since I have no other experience with having a Bible rebound. As you can see, I hope, from the photos, the edges of the cover are a bit too short. This causes the edge of the endpapers to get caught in the folds of the leather. I’m not sure how serious this issue would become be over time, but it has already caused some wear on the edges of the endpaper. Beyond that, however, I was extremely pleased with Jeremiah’s work, and would recommend him to anyone else wanting to support this new generation of rebinders.

Now for the rather sad ending to my story (or latest chapter, anyway). For the past few months, I have been enjoying this Bible immensely. I love the size of the print and having the notes and cross references in the back of each book, easily available but not a distraction while reading. This was a Bible I could read from for years, at least until the NABRE NT revision is published. And then, a few days ago, I noticed the last signature in the NT was separating from the book block. I don’t think the fault for this lies with Jeremiah; this seems to be a common problem with Oxford. It is the exact same problem that plagued the RSV-CE Reader’s Editions I mentioned above. I have owned two similar, but not identical, Bibles published by Oxford, and this has happened to both of them. It’s hard to believe that’s a coincidence, even if one of them was rebound.

At this point, I am simply not sure what I’m going to do. Given what has happened, I have my doubts about the quality of the book block, but I may send it to Leonard’s to have it repaired. It certainly is one of my favorite Bibles to read from. Any advice would be appreciated!

The quest for a quality, long-lasting Catholic Bible continues!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Which Translation of the Bible is the Best?

Reader Emilia passed this 2016 article from Catholic Answers by apologist Trent Horn.  Although the article is fairly short, I'd be interested in hearing from you what you think about it. Consider it your homework assignment!

We have discussed issues like this on this site for almost ten years.  I would like to think that we have dispelled any pseudo-knowledge regarding translations over these years.  We have given most translations a good look over and have had very good discussion/debate about each of the major Catholic translations.  So, what is your say?

This thread is now closed.