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!


Steve Molitor said...

Excellent article! Great points about the NAB tradition being familiar and resonant (like it or not!) to us US catholics.

I find myself going back and forth between the RSV and the NABRE. Mostly the RSV, but the NABRE is quite good. And being a US cradle catholic, the NAB is what I grew up with, what my family reads from to discuss the gospel before Sunday mass, and more or less what I hear at mass. Well sort of - that's the main sore point for me!

Jason MSpyridonP said...

Great post!

JDH said...

Wonderful post, Robert!

I agree wholeheartedly with your evaluation of the quality of the NABRE. I think it's a wonderful translation that holds up quite well next to the RSV and NRSV (which are both also excellent). We Catholics actually do have some great translations, it's the published formats that need to improve.

Also, after that one sentence summary you included, I can't be the only one wanting to hear your reversion story! Have you written about it in more detail elsewhere?

Steve Molitor said...

Good point about literary quality and the Knox bible. What makes something "literary"? Having a lot of thees and thous? Flowery 19th century style english?

Personally I can't read the Knox bible for long stretches - it sounds kitchy to me. But maybe that's just me. ;)

Obviously the King James translation is of the highest literary quality, and translations in the KJ tradition like the RSV and NRSV preserve some of that quality. That's not the only possible literary style however. Hemingway is a great example of a style that is the antithesis of all that, yet still of the highest literary quality.

So, different strokes....

rolf said...

Unfortunately we will not hear the NABRE psalter in the future revised Lectionary ?!? The Revised Grail Psalter will be used instead, so we still will have a Bible that we that will completely line up with the Lectionary!

TS said...

Well-written and engaging post!

Bob said...

Hey--I'm the guest poster.

My reversion story (as short as I can make it)

-I was raised as the most religious member of a lukewarmly Catholic family.
-I went to a good college and let my faith slip away due to the self consciousness of being semi-religious at an Ivy League school during the Bush years, when Christianity was mainly seen as the philosophical arm of the Republican party by many in New England.
-From there it was a fairly quick descent in drugs. I got that out of my system and got pretty heavily involved in left wing activism for a while.
-I was absolutely lost and depressed for much of the time between age 18 and 22, but after college I began to find my place in the world in some bohemian circles. I noticed, say, trees for the first time in my life and was intoxicated by the beauty of the world. I started thinking about Jesus a lot, but mainly in a "I wish it was all true..." sort of way. I had "natural happiness", but nothing supernatural.
-While dating an art student, I awoke in her apartment, quite hung over, and grabbed a strawberry. I bit it in half and was amazed to look inside and see the pith within the empty space of this overgrown hothouse berry. It came to me in a flash, as easy as if you look at a clock and know what time it is without knowingly processing the symbols: God exists.
-I excitedly told my girlfriend, who was quite horrified and dumped me. She wept in the entryway of her building as she walked me out. "There is no heaven," she kept repeating.
-I carried with me the knowledge of God's existence, but didn't know what to do about it. I certainly didn't identify with any specific religion or spirituality.
-In the summer of 2012 I stopped at a Stop n Shop in Johnston, Rhode Island to grab a meager dinner before I went to shoot pool with some friends at a dive bar. I looked down at some point and there on the ground was a very dirty communion host. I knew that it didn't belong there, and after thinking about it for a while, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. The entire rest of the night I felt charged--as if I'd been plugged into a battery or something.
-The knowledge of what this was dawned on me over the course of months and years, not all at once. I gave the host to my parents (who had returned to the Church with new enthusiasm a year or two before) who asked advice from their pastor on what to do with it. The suggestion, considering it was of unknown origin, was to dissolve it in water and feed a beloved plant with it. My mother poured it onto the soil around a sunflower.
-I knew my life was transformed. I knew the Church was who she claimed to be. I already knew God, but now I knew that he loved me and pursued me. Still, that knowledge of its importance, compared to the sinfulness of my life gave me pause and indecision.
-I returned to the Church Ash Wednesday 2013.
-Four years and a couple months seems a laughably short time, but its been quite a journey.

JDH said...

Wow, Robert, that is such a wonderful story of grace. God bless you, and thank you for sharing your journey!

Unknown said...

First off..thanks for sharing your journey with us!
And thanks for this guest post!
I wasn't baptized until 21...along with first Communion and Confirmation. The main Bible I heard and read was the NAB. There were a few quotes here and there from the GNT in the RCIA materials, and that was about it for my exposure to different Catholic translations. It was before forums and blogs, and much simpler. All I needed to know was if it was an approved translation for Catholics and it was fine by me. Questioning the quality of the NAB didn't happen until reading some apologists and joining a certain forum. Now, it's back to keeping it simple again. I've read enough translations of the NT over the years to come to my own conclusions. The biggest one is: any Catholic Bible is fine as long as I'm reading it as a faithful Catholic.
The NAB(RE) just feels like home to me.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Good point about literary quality and the Knox bible. What makes something "literary"? Having a lot of thees and thous? Flowery 19th century style English?"

That wasn't Knox's fault or his decision, using that antiquated language was one of the requirements imposed on him by the bishops who asked him to make the translation. In the book he wrote about his adventures as a Bible translator, "On Englishing the Bible" he discusses in some depth what he did and did not like about his own translation.

The antiquated language was one of his least favorite things about the translation. Another thing he didn't like was the requirement to use a non-critical text of the Latin Vulgate, where he wasn't allowed to make corrections to the Latin text, not even when it was clear that the text has suffered in transmission.

In the 1940's, translation committees in both the US and the UK were extremely skittish about introducing radical changes into the text of the Bible, and none of the translations done during that era use completely modern English, the RSV, the NEB and the original draft of what would become the NAB before it was scrapped and they started over, all used antiquated language.

It would be another generation before Bible translators managed to have the courage to completely break away from tradition and produce a Bible using fully modern English.

Probably the first major fully authorized Bible in modern English was the Jerusalem Bible in 1966, which is no doubt a huge part of the reason why the Jerusalem Bible was such a huge success when it was released, because at the time it must have seemed revolutionary to have a Bible written in fully modern English.

(I say 'major' because you can find efforts like the Goodspeed translation, the JB Phillips translation of the NT, the Kleist-Lilly translation of the NT and the Moffat translation, but these weren't huge mainstream successes, they were minor translations that were somewhat on the fringes of the publishing industry, and of course, none of them were in any sense 'authorized'.)

Matthew Doe said...

First, the NAB[RE(RE{RE...})] needs to get into a "final enough" state where further editions are minimal. This whole discussion about what version one is even talking about needs to become entirely irrelevant. It is mildly ridiculous how long that is taking...

Second, the rule about having to include the footnotes needs to go. Not only are they a serious bone of contention in practice, it is just plain ridiculous to require their printing as if they were holy writ themselves. What could make sense is a clean separation between necessary and minimal "translator's footnotes" and "commentary", where only the former is required to be printed. One can reason that where a reader must be informed about a translation choice or significant alternatives in the manuscripts, then that does belong to a fair representation of holy writ. The musings of some anonymous commentators, whether good, bad, or ugly, should not have any protected status though, at all, ever.

Third, restore traditional renderings with a view to making Catholic tradition and magisterium comprehensible from reading scripture, without the need to translate the translation! This does not mean absolutely everything has to become as it always has been. But a Catholic English bible without the word "hell" in it at all is just stupid - no, a better word would be "ritually unclean" (tum'ah) in the ancient Jewish sense. One can include a translator's note to indicate that for example "'Hell' renders 'Gehenna" here."

Fourth, all liturgical and scriptural documents the Church publishes should be published with a generous copyright-free license. Yes, it makes sense to protect the integrity of such texts, so I can see why one would choose a license that demands the text to be kept intact. But giving these texts freely is so clearly and necessarily the most prominent work of spiritual mercy that the Church as an institution can perform. And from a practical point of view, doing so would make the book (and music!) market explode with Catholic alternatives. I consider it both strategically dumb and as serving Mammon to sit on these texts.

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

One of the good things about all the criticism of the various NAB versions, is that they have been so extreme as to make most lay readers wonder what they are talking about.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Second, the rule about having to include the footnotes needs to go"

Absolutely not! Unlike Protestants, the Catholic Church does not hold that the Bible is 'perspicuous' or that 'everyone should read the Bible for themselves'. Reading the Bible should be done ONLY with the mind of the Church, an individual reader does not have the authority or ability to 'interpret the Bible for himself', which is why notes are required for every Catholic Bible, as a way to safeguard the Bible and prevent the Protestant 'sola scriptura' mentality from infecting the Church. When you publish Bibles without notes, then every Tom, Dick, and Harry walks away from the text with his own idea of what the text means, and you wind up with crazy interpretations like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or the Moonies.

Bob said...

Michael Demers--Thanks! I never noticed you could toggle footnotes and headers.

That will facilitate my dastardly plan to print the gospels out and bind them myself.

rolf said...

Hi, my name is Rolf... and yes... I like the NABRE...
Thank you Robert for bringing us out of the closet! :-)

Steve Molitor said...


Thanks for the information about the strictures Knox was under! I'll have to read "On Englishing the Bible."


Steve Molitor said...

I wonder if the 2025 NABRE (NABRE2? NABRRE - "re-revised edition"?) will substitute the Revised Grail Psalms (or rather the Re-Revised Grails Psalms by then)?

I enjoy reading the NABRE psalms, but unfortunately they may become orphaned.

The NABRE psalms read better on the page sometimes. However I'm working on memorizing some psalms, and for me the the RGP works better there. They really come alive when you read them out loud. Easier to memorize too.

Of course, the RSV / RSV-CE2 psalms, being reminiscent of the KJ, are great in that regard also.

rolf said...

Steve from what I have heard is that the 2025(?) NABRE will contain the same Psalms that are currently in the NABRE but the new Lectionary will use the Revised Grail Psalms.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Fourth, all liturgical and scriptural documents the Church publishes should be published with a generous copyright-free license"

Again, absolutely not! Church texts are copyrighted for the same reason that any other text is copyrighted: to protect the text from unauthorized use or unauthorized alternations. Given the great harm that could be caused as a result of unauthorized use, it is more than reasonable that precautions be taken to prevent it.

Texts that are not copyrighted tend to be altered in ways that the author of the work would not approve of. Look at what was done with the text of the American Standard Version of the Bible before it was copyrighted. The Church cannot allow this to happen to her official documents.

As it is, the copyrights are not very strictly enforced. All Church documents are available freely on the Internet at, and the Church making any 'claims' on the copyrights by, for example, issuing a 'cease and desist' letter to those who may have the text posted online, or anything like that, and the Catholic Church has certainly never used the copyrights to try to silence dissent or criticism, the way that the 'Church' of Scientology does. So, given how easy it is for anyone to obtain a copy of any Church document free of charge, this is really a solution in search of a problem.

Steve Molitor said...

Rolf thanks for the info.

What happened to the goal of a bible that matches the lectionary? Sigh.

citizen DAK said...

I just signed on to "pile on" with another thank you for a great post... Agreed!!
[and the restrictions on R. Knox are interesting news to me too... That does explain a lot]

Matthew Doe said...

Biblical Catholic,

The idea that you can enforce properly Catholic bible interpretation by footnotes is just silly. Unlike scripture, footnotes have no guarantee of Divine inspiration. And we are talking here about the NAB(RE), where the discussion about the footnotes precisely has been that they contradict or at least weaken the Catholic faith. Whether you agree with that judgement or not is besides the point. The point is that footnotes - unlike scripture itself - can weaken or contradict the Catholic faith. And further, that ecclesial authority can be involved in publishing material, like such footnotes, that is decidedly suboptimal in presenting the Catholic faith. Finally, footnotes to bibles are not a regular way of publishing insights / decisions of the magisterium. Neither has the magisterium ever been in the business of closely interpreting biblical texts in the style of footnotes, i.e., basically verse by verse. It is a bad idea to try to cure the lack of formation of Catholics, and their overall disinterest in any writings of the Holy See, by squeezing doctrinal material into footnote commentaries of the bible. If at all, then there's some value in the "Didache" approach of quoting the CCC. But that is a type of "study bible". Meaning that you can easily separate the study from the bible, namely by reading the CCC and the bible as two distinct works.

Concerning copyright, or rather licenses that waive it, you seem plainly uninformed. It is simply not the case that all protection is lost for a text just because one makes it available without charge. For example,
"Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you."
means you can legally suppress any attempt to modify the text. And it means that anybody who is using the text has to credit you. But otherwise people are free to publish and use it. There are many different licenses to fit nearly any usage pattern, and frankly, it's not particularly difficult for someone with access to a decent team of lawyers to create your own if none of them fit.

Dan said...

Reading what Biblical Catholic and Matthew have been saying regarding footnotes: If you want solid Catholic footnotes that do not, in my estimation, contradict the Magisterium, then look no further than the Navarre Bible. Wonderful, insightful and solidly faithful to the Church and Magisterium. Just a thought.....

Unknown said...

Quote from Matthew Doe:"The point is that footnotes - unlike scripture itself - can weaken or contradict the Catholic faith."

I've read many claims by atheists that the Bible made them that way. A proper understanding of the Bible can only be from reading it through the lens of the Church's teachings and interpretations of it.

If memory serves, Catholic Bibles are required to have footnotes. I can't recall where I read that, and a quick Google was no help.

Dan said...

Yes, you are correct about that although some versions that are "Catholic" are text only.

Matthew Doe said...

Ed Rio and Dan,

There is no general rule requiring explanatory footnotes in Catholic bibles. There's not even one for Catholic bibles in English. As far as I am aware, the NAB(RE) is the one and only instance of a Catholic national bishop's conference (namely that of the USA) decreeing that a specific translation they have copyright over may only be published if printed with the explanatory footnotes they have prepared for the text.

It's difficult to prove a negative (namely that no general rule exists). However, I have plenty of Catholic bibles in at least four different languages. "Translator's footnotes" are common, i.e., those that provide alternative readings, additional material only found in some manuscripts or explain an uncommon word. This makes sense, since really the translation is only complete with them. But NAB(RE)-style explanatory footnotes are only found in some of my Catholic bibles. And at least for some of those I have another version of the same translation that omits them, showing clearly that these explanatory footnotes are not required. Again for some I have versions with two different sets of explanatory footnotes for the same translation, showing that neither of them is required. They are simply optional extras.

Finally, I am highly sceptical of claims that reading the bible has turned somebody into an atheist. But be that as it may, it is not sufficient as an argument for requiring explanatory footnotes. At a minimum it would have to be shown that including these footnotes would have stopped the apostasy. If this is the case, then presumably giving these atheists the appropriate footnotes now would convert them back to Christianity, since they suddenly realise their mistaken interpretation ... well, you go and try that. I'm not going to hold my breath though.

(I agree that one needs the Church to properly interpret the bible. I just do not agree that footnotes is how this must or should happen.)

Mark D. said...

Great article -- I appreciate the positive view of the NAB and the NABRE. I have always found it strange that we haven't been able to have a version of the Bible for the laity that is in substantial conformity to the version used in the liturgy. I thought that one of the Vatican's approaches towards Bible translation is that the Holy See wanted to see a single version of the Bible for each major international language group that would be the "official" translation for purposes of study and use in the liturgy. Maybe I was wrong about that...

Biblical Catholic said...

I have to say, I don't really see the logic of saying that because sometimes the notes in a given Catholic Bible may be bad, therefore, there shouldn't be any notes at all. Ummm....actually, that just means that the notes should be BETTER.

This requirement in Canon Law that Bibles should not be published without notes is one the major reasons why the notes in Catholic Bibles are usually much more scholarly and of much better quality than those in Protestant Bibles.

I agree that the notes in the NABRE don't always uphold the teaching of the Church, and sometimes seem designed to undermine it, nevertheless, there is a lot of really good information in those notes that really do help you understand the Bible better. The notes are particularly useful when they point out when the Hebrew text is employing a pun, which it does often. It is usually not easy, or even possible, to translate a pun from one language to another, but when a pun is employed, it is usually significant, and the NABRE notes are the only commentary I have ever seen that makes a consistent to point out the text has made a pun, and explain the meaning of the pun.

As the old saying goes 'abusus not tollit usus' i.e. 'the abuse does not abolish the use.' This is a good legal and moral principle, and it is a good Catholic principle, or at least it SHOULD BE treated as a good Catholic principle because that one little Latin phrase 'abusus not tollit usus' refutes about 90% or more of the complaints that fundamentalists have about the Catholic Church.

Just because notes are sometimes bad, doesn't mean we should just get rid of notes completely.

Anonymous said...

This comment is for Rolf.

Rolf, we have never had the NAB Psalms. They have never been approved by the Vatican for use in the mass. We've always had the Grail Psalms and this one fact, with all due respect to NABRE lovers, is the thing that makes me question the translation. If the work is not good enough for the responsorial Psalm, why is it good enough for the rest of the Liturgy of the Word?

Having said that, at my parish we always substitute Marty Haugen's version of the Psalm, (e.g., if it's the 23rd Psalm, we'll sing Shepherd Me O God) for the real Grail Psalm. We never have the real McCoy. How that abomination can be justified, when the NABRE is not good enough. will remain one of the wonders of the world. I am not a fan of the NABRE but at least it's imprimatured. Marty is a former Lutheran now UCC and he doesn't belong in the mass.

By the way, if you can't stand the lay out and "art" work of the St Joseph NABRE (the pics which portray Jesus as an angry axe murderer)Oxford publishes a plain text version with notes at the end of each book. I use it all the time.

Peter Brennan

Unknown said...

This, in my opinion, is the most sufficient argument for footnotes, from #25 of Dei Verbum;
"It devolves on sacred bishops "who have the apostolic teaching"(7) to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels. This can be done through translations of the sacred texts, which are to be provided with the necessary and really adequate explanations so that the children of the Church may safely and profitably become conversant with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.

Furthermore, editions of the Sacred Scriptures, provided with suitable footnotes, should be prepared also for the use of non-Christians and adapted to their situation. Both pastors of souls and Christians generally should see to the wise distribution of these in one way or another."

As far as I'm concerned, that settles it. And that ends my involvement in the discussion of footnotes that always derails any online discussion of the NABRE.

Besides, family caregiver duties call.

Jason MSpyridonP said...

Matthew Doe

Canon 825 section 1b states "... For the publication of [Sacred Scripture and] their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations.

Footnotes are therefore required under Canon Law to be printed with Catholic Bibles...

Which is why basically any Catholic Bible - even the RSV-2CE - has at least basic commentary in the volume.

Bob said...

Speaking for myself only, my desire for a NABRE without footnotes is only for the ease of uncluttered reading.

I am a distractible reader and a lack of action on the page helps me focus on the text.

I like the Oxford editions for the reason that the footnotes and cross references are moved to the back of each book. My Oxford Compact is pretty small though. I have young eyes and can read it fine, but I may look for a bigger one for reasons simply of comfort.

rolf said...

Peter, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has and is currently using the 1970 NAB Psalms in our Mass! The Liturgy of the Hours in the U.S. ( published by CBPC) uses the grail Psalms and the 1970 NAB text in most parts. The 1991 NAB Psalms are the ones that most people think about as a problem ( vertical inclusive language)! The current NABRE Psalms are better ( in my opinion) than the the revised grail psalms. The Revised Grail Psalms will be used in the future Lectionary, which to me is a shame because I would like to see the whole future revised NABRE used?!? Maybe the revised grail psalms are more singable? Maybe Marry Sperry knows the answer to thus?

rolf said...

I like the Oxford Large Print NABRE which also has the notes in the back of each book.

Ronny Tadena said...

I offer this link to everyone who assumes that the revised Grail Psalms are the assumed new psalter of any new lectonary. Their status is in doubt. I have also seen reports that a further revision to the NABRE may be what ultimately ends up in the new lectonary, presumably this even newer NABRE psalter would be published with the new NABRE NT, wherever that's finally completed.

Also, I have a VERY orthodox (small "o") missal from the Midwest Theological Forum that prints a version of the NAB Psalms for it's reproduction of the Mass readings, daily and Sunday, with no mention of the Grail Psalms (revised or otherwise) anywhere on it's copyright page. I've been to churches that match with this psalter, the original Grail, and revised Grail. The psalter situation right now seems to be a mess, and probably isn't going to get fixed any time soon.

All this confusion makes me think, "who cares what translation it is! Can't we just get some consistency!" The more I make a habit of reading directly from the lectionary and practice the LOTH, the more I come to appreciate the NAB. Is it my favorite? No, but it doesn't deserve even half the hatred it gets online. And if it's the translation that finally ends this wack-a-mole inconsistency in liturgy, study, and private devotion, finally giving the American Church a text that it can really live the faith with in all instances where scripture is read, I say BRING IT ON!!!!

rolf said...

Ronny, I hope your right!

Jason MSpyridonP said...

Ronny, I totally agree.

Having one single Catholic Bible translation for 21st century American English speaking Catholic Christians is very important.

Having one single Bible used Liturgically (and I mean both in the Divine Liturgy/Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours), in both public and private study (Bible groups, Universities, personal study, etc.), and for devotions (copies of prayer books, rosary pamphlets, personal devotion) etc. would foster a much more biblically literate American Catholic Church.

When you are using one version in Mass (modified 1970/1986 NAB), one version in the LOTH (adapted 1970 NAB), another version at school (often the NRSV-CE), another version for personal study (often a RSV-2CE or DR), yet another version in public devotion (often the NABRE or RSV-CE) and even ANOTHER version for personal devotion (often a JB, Knox, or RSV-CE) - it makes it nearly impossible to memorize the Sacred Texts.

And when memorizing becomes untenable, internalization also slips, and when people can neither memorize nor internalize the Sacred Scriptures, they become spiritually malnourished from lack of receiving the spiritual nourishment that comes from eating the Word of God.

Corey Cordell said...

You guys should do a review of the Harper Collins NABRE. Its actually pretty nice.

Matthew Doe said...

Thanks for the various corrections concerning footnotes / annotations in Catholic bibles. I appear to have been mistaken, misled - I guess - by the variety in size and style (and sometimes location, e.g., RSV-CE) of these additions in practice. The NAB(RE) appears to be simply one particular way of doing this - and the discussion should be whether there is a better way, not whether one should abandon that way...

I stand by my comment though that the Church should publish her materials "for free usage, including commercial one" with an appropriate license that protects the integrity and attribution of the text. Yes, there will be some abuse of that, not doubt. But I think the benefits will far outweigh such negatives.

Peter T. said...

@Steve Molitor. Steve, you asked what makes something "literary"?

In regards to Bible translations, it's not about having a lot of thees and thous. It more about the writing style being of high literally quality: using excellent diction and phrasing with strong rhetorical flourishes. In regards to the Bible, a writing style that's suitable for proclamation.

We always should remember that the Bible wasn't written to be read silently. It was written to be proclaimed out loud and be heard. A Bible translation of high literary quality lends itself to this. Its words inspire the faithful to action and devotion.

Timothy said...


Search this blog, I (and others) have. Yes, it is a very nice bible.