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Serious Catholics Should Pass,
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This review is from: The Jerusalem Bible (Hardcover)
The Jerusalem Bible (1966) is a Roman Catholic edition produced by scholars in Great Britain. This was the first Catholic version in English drawn directly from the Greek and Hebrew texts instead of the Latin Vulgate, by virtue of Pope Pius XII's Divino Afflante Spiritu. The name, the introduction commentary, the footnote annotations, and some of the scriptural text are taken from a French version published the previous decade by the Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem, who also based their work on Greek and Hebrew sources.
I purchased this bible upon hearing it was the one Mother Angelica used on her EWTN broadcasts. I had also heard that it was a very literal, very Catholic translation, and that the commentary was based on solid Catholic exegesis. I really wanted to like it, but it's been a big disappointment. I think it could be subtitled "Farewell, Early Church Fathers; Hello, Modern Rationalists." Looking back, the language decisions and the decidedly un-Catholic nature of some of the commentary contained in the Jerusalem Bible were harbingers of things to come, like the wretched NAB which would be published some 4 years later.
If you're wanting to reinforce your Catholic Faith from scripture reading, your time might be better spent with offerings other than the Jerusalem Bible. For a volume that is very thick physically, it is spiritually very thin. I think it will confuse more than it will help Catholics.
One yardstick I apply for any translation or commentary is Chapter 1 of Luke. The rendering of the Annunciation Catholics are familiar with is:
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women." (Luke 1:28)
The Jerusalem bible removes an entire sentence, "Blessed art thou among women", without even bothering to note that many source documents include it. Also, the words "Hail, full of grace" are absolutely butchered not only in style but in meaning:
"Rejoice, so highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Catholics believe Mary is in a state of sinless *grace*: her womb is the ark of the new covenant, Jesus Christ. Interpreting her as being "highly favored" is an order of magnitude change in meaning. I have a pair of comfy sweat socks that I could describe as "highly favored"; you couldn't apply the term "full of grace" to anything so ordinary. It has an intrinsic meaning that communicates absolutely the holiness of the Blessed Virgin. This is an awfully "un-Catholic" rendering of an important part of our Faith. A Catholic relying solely on this bible would not know that the "Hail Mary" prayer is thoroughly rooted in scripture.
The introductions and commentary are full of modernist literary-critical scholarship, especially in the Old Testament. Given that, I suppose it's a good thing that the footnotes are in tiny, barely readable print - you can save time by squinting *and* wincing all at once. There is little teaching here for the Catholic - only explanations on dating texts to after the events they prophesy, because everyone knows people really can't predict future events. That would be miraculous - and we can't have people come away from the bible believing in miracles now, can we?
Stylistically, this bible has drawn great praise primarily, I think, because J.R.R. Tolkien worked with the translators. For the most part, the language is ok - I really haven't come across anything I would call soaring or particularly inspiring. One unfortunate choice the translators made that hurts this version is the rendering of the Hebrew tetragrammaton as "Yahweh", instead of "LORD." It's very difficult to mar the beauty of the Psalter, but this decision does change the literary character of these prayers. Psalm 23 (22 in the Douay), another benchmark I use to check a translation, reads as follows in the Jerusalem Bible:
1 Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
2 In meadows of green grass he lets me lie.
To the waters of repose he leads me;
3 there he revives my soul.
He guides me by paths of virtue
for the sake of his name.
4 Though I pass through a gloomy valley,
I fear no harm;
beside me your rod and your staff
are there, to hearten me.
5 You prepare a table before me
under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil,
my cup brims over.
6 Ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me,
every day of my life;
my home, the house of Yahweh,
as long as I live!
Maybe some think that's an improvement, but I wouldn't agree with them.
Notice also, very importantly, that the LORD (Yahweh) is no longer "with" you in verse 4. This is not a trivial point about a superficial change of style; the translators have actually changed the image of the personal God. Gone is the shepherd who was formerly beside you even while you walked in the midst of the shadow of death. Now, sadly, only his rod and staff are there to hearten you. Maybe you could get them engraved: "I called on God for comfort, but all I got was the staff."
My comments on specific elements notwithstanding, all in all this is not a terrible bible; but I was hoping for something more. I suppose I'll continue to use it here and there, and maybe it will grow on me. Who knows, it may contain some good perspectives or wording that can help clarify meaning for a difficult verse, but I don't know how receptive I would be, considering how they've dropped the ball on the "easy" articles I mentioned above.
I think you certainly have much better options as a Catholic. I would suggest:
1. A Douay-Rheims with or without the Haydock notes. I have heard that the notes on the Haydock versions are tiny, so I print out a chapter's worth at a time from an online source and keep them in a binder after I'm done.
2. A pre-1970 Confraternity Bible. They are out of print, so you'll have to find a used one, but don't be suckered into the NAB, which was authorized by the Board of Trustees of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
3. A Navarre Bible, but be prepared to spend some cash. In my opinion, they are very much worth it if you're looking for sound commentary.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2012 3:42:56 PM PDT
Posted on Apr 6, 2013 8:39:22 PM PDT
While I agree with a few of your objections to the JB, you are mistaken about the Annunciation. "Blessed art thou among women" has not been omitted. Those words were *not* uttered by the angel Gabriel but by St. Elizabeth during the visitation in Luke 1:42. The Jerusalem Bible renders it as: She gave a loud cry and said, "Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." A very nice translation and it's exactly where it should be!
As I'm reading through these reviews, I'm noticing an awful lot of errors. I don't know where people are getting their information.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2013 5:26:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 10, 2013 8:43:31 PM PDT
Regina, thanks for your comment. But I must inform you that I am decidedly *not* mistaken about Luke 1:28 and the Annunciation.
If you are curious as to where I got my information you can check the following - they are all available online in various formats.
The Douay-Rheims has:
"And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."
The Latin Vulgate:
"et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit have gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus." Benedicta tu in mulieribus translates as "blessed are thou among women."
The Protestant King James 1611 original has:
"And the Angel came in vnto her, and said, Haile thou that art highly fauoured, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women."
Wycliffe, the "morning star of the reformation" has:
"And the aungel entride to hir, and seide, Heil, ful of grace; the Lord be with thee; blessid be thou among wymmen."
Tyndale (Protestant) has:
" And ye angell went in vnto her and sayde: Hayle full of grace ye Lorde is with ye: blessed arte thou amonge wemen."
The 1904 Greek New Testamant has:
The fact that you think the verse in question never contained those words proves my point about why Catholics should not rely on this bible. It was written by modernists that decided to make wholesale changes to words, style and meaning *without* notes explaining where or why those decisions were made.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2013 2:10:36 PM PDT
Hi John, I apologize, you are correct in that some translations do include the phrase at Luke 1:28. However, I just checked my copy of the St. Benedict Press RSV-CE. It also does *not* include the phrase at Luke 1:28, but there is a note that states that some ancient authorities do add it. I believe the RSV was translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts and is the translation used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When I posted my original comment I was thinking of the "Hail Mary" prayer, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus", which is attributed to St. Elizabeth at the Visitation (well, sans the "Jesus" anyway).
Personally, I think most Catholics would benefit from arming themselves with The Catechism *and* a Catholic Bible.
I have a much stronger objection over the Jerusalem Bible's "highly favored" than almost anything else. Overall, I don't think it's as bad a translation as you make it out to be. It helps to have a firm grasp of the faith and that's where The Catechism comes in. If one is attempting private interpretation of Scripture, then I think the translation would be more of a problem. But Catholics inform their faith from Scripture, Tradition (note the capital "T"), and the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium)...or they should!
Again, I apologize for jumping the gun here. A blessed Easter to you and yours! He is risen!!
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2013 9:20:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 12, 2013 9:30:00 PM PDT
Funny you mention the St Benedicts Press RSV-CE, I reviewed it and mentioned this same verse. Find it here, about halfway down the page:
I also reviewed the Navarre New Testament, which uses the RSV-CE and comments on this verse also:
You may also find the discussion thread on my review of St Benedict's Douay-Rheims interesting, particularly my dialogue with a commenter called "His" on page 2:
Also, you are correct about the Catechism:
Happy Easter to you, too! He is indeed risen.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2013 10:20:46 PM PDT
LOL! Now how did you know that I've been wanting the Navarre NT Expanded? I'm also eying the Knox Bible from Baronius...lovely translation! Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of "blessed art thou among women". As a Catholic, it's a given. And it is clearly stated by a Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth. If it was missing altogether, then I'd say we have a huge problem. Actually, I'm not as big a fan of the RSV as I thought I'd be. In some instances I prefer the JB, it's more poetic, sweeter. Look, nothing could possibly be worse than the NAB. Except the NABRE, that is! As for Catholics not knowing their faith, there are far too many, and I'm willing to bet that none of them are reading a bible, Jerusalem or otherwise.
In the end, however, it all comes down to this:
"Blessed is that simplicity that leaveth the difficult ways of dispute, and goeth on in the plain and sure path of God's commandments. Many have lost devotion whilst they would search into high things. Faith is required of thee, and a sincere life, not the height of understanding, nor diving deep into the mysteries of God."
~Thomas a Kempis
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 11:47:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 13, 2013 1:14:02 PM PDT
The Knox bible is very paraphrastic - maybe the better term is "Anglicized". He "rethinks" each chapter of the Vulgate and then makes translation decisions on how best to communicate meaning using the tools native to the English language. I haven't lived with it long enough to make up my mind one way or another. By the way, it's available online here in case you weren't aware:
You are so right about the NAB and the NABRE. Have you a pre-1970 Confraternity bible? They are excellent - you can pick up one of those glorious giant Catholic Bibles from the 40's, 50's and 60's on eBay (and sometimes on Amazon) reasonably cheap. Some of the OT books remained in the Douay version due to the debut of the NAB, but the language of the translated books is clear, concise, and faithful.
The style of the Douay-Rheims, with its "thees" and "thous" put me in the best frame of mind for scriptural reading; it signals my brain that this is no ordinary material. It's different, apart from anything else. I slow down, I focus, and I let the majesty of the Word fill me.
The one place were the Jerusalem Bible does excel - and I should probably update my review - is in the Pauline letters. Paul demands clear theological understanding, and the JB does a good job presenting his thought clearly and understandably.
I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of Catholics not knowing their faith, and I like your quote from Thomas a Kempis. However, I have to disagree that for a Catholic it is representative of what it all comes down to.
The Catholic Church is built on both Faith *and* Reason (you cannot love that which you do not know.) The simplicity Kempis speaks of was a theme of the devotio moderna movement of the 14th and 15th Centuries in response to a priesthood that had become lax and lazy, not living out the faith daily. It was meant as a corrective, a call to the ordained to live holy lives. Unfortunately, it was taken to extremes in subsequent decades, contributing greatly to the Protestant heresy. It jettisoned all Reason - including the signs, symbols, and sacraments of the Faith - all in the name of simplicity.
"Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15) The proper defense Peter commands us to be prepared to give requires a clear, rational understanding of what you believe and why you believe it: the lover striving to know everything about the beloved. Think of knowledge as the "concrete" that is poured around the "rebar" of faith - they strengthen and harden each other. There are some things *every* Catholic should know and be able to explain, especially to their children, lest they be "picked off" by heretical sects or atheism.
Like so many things about the Faith, the Angelic Doctor has it right:
"Man's salvation consists in knowing the truth, so that the human mind may not be confused by divers errors; in making for the right goal, so that man may not fall away from true happiness by pursuing wrong ends; and in carrying out the law of justice, so that he may not besmirch himself with a multitude of vices. Knowledge of the truth necessary for man's salvation is comprised within a few brief articles of faith." - St. Thomas Aquinas, "Compendium of Theology".
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2013 5:44:26 PM PDT
Again I have to smile. When I re-read the Thomas a Kempis quote after I'd posted it, I hoped that you wouldn't misunderstand and think I was advocating "faith alone"! It does smack of Protestantism, doesn't it? And not only with regard to justification, but, as you said, a complete stripping down of the faith. All out of pride, what a horrible pity. You're right, of course, we cannot love what we don't know, *who* we don't know. I've gotta tell ya though, you're preaching to the choir. I tell every Catholic who'll listen how vitally important it is to not only know what we believe but Why! It's just that I think we sometimes can get too caught up in the theology, the learning, and suddenly God is playing second fiddle. I know it's happened to me (and I'm not a scholar by any stretch). I get a very uncomfortable feeling and find I have to step back and recollect myself, grab my rosary and go "home". It works every time!
Believe it or not, I'm a Thee and Thou person, too. Thank you for the heads up about the Knox Bible. I've got it bookmarked on Biblegateway already but haven't had the time to read it. The few samples that I've read in online reviews were just gorgeous, such exquisite language. I've got to watch my pennies, though.
No, I don't have a Confraternity Bible, but others have recommended it. Thank you for all the information you've provided, John. It's very helpful.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2013 5:35:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 14, 2013 5:49:46 PM PDT
> It's just that I think we sometimes can get too caught up in the theology, the learning, and suddenly God is playing second fiddle. I know it's happened to me (and I'm not a scholar by any stretch). I get a very uncomfortable feeling and find I have to step back and recollect myself, grab my rosary and go "home". It works every time!
Regina, I absolutely agree 100% with you on this. I get that uncomfortable feeling sometimes, too. St. Paul explains it in 1 Cor 13.2:
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
That uncomfortable feeling we get, then, is nothingness; i.e., a movement away from God, the great I AM, existence, or Being itself. A movement away from Him is a movement toward the abyss, and thank the Lord it does raise the "uncomfortable" alarm, or we'd fall in.
I like your remedy, too. Five decades is a soothing balm for the soul.
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