Now that the bishops of Scotland, England, and Wales have chosen the English Standard Version — Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) to replace the Jerusalem Bible (JB) in their new lectionary (as reported on this blog here), I’ve been wondering what the future holds for the Revised New Jerusalem Bible (RNJB).

Last year, I did a series of comparisons (the first post in the series is linked here) between the entire Jerusalem Bible family, and I was interested to see the overall similarity between them. The RNJB certainly is more literal than the JB and NJB, but I can easily recognize it as coming from the same translation family. At the same time, the RNJB contains far fewer footnotes than the JB or the NJB. If it will not be used in liturgy, is there a reason to prefer the RNJB over the NJB? How will it fare alongside other non-liturgical translations like the New Catholic Bible (NCB)? Did Dom Henry Wansbrough labor in vain to produce the RNJB?

From my perspective, the RNJB is in the middle of a few contradictions: the limited notes make it a better reader’s Bible than the NJB Study Edition, but it has too many section headings that break up the flow of reading. It is relatively more readable than the NABRE or ESV-CE, but it is less readable than the JB and NJB. If I want to study, why would I choose the RNJB over the NABRE? If I want to read long passages, why would I choose it over the NJB?

It makes the most sense as a general purpose Bible for all occasions (literal enough for study, dynamic enough for reading). But if it won’t be used in liturgy, will anyone use it for that purpose? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “What’s Next for the RNJB?”

  1. I think the RNJB was a better fit for the lectionary in the British and Irish Isles than the ESV-CE. As much as I found the style a bit wanting, it has several virtues.. It is literal enough for study, dynamic enough for proclamation and reading. It usual more “traditional Catholic terminology” in the OT and NT compared with the ESV-CE. It uses inclusive language but not to the degree of the NRSV.

    On a personal level, though I found the style and cadences a bit wanting. I do like the RSV/NRSV/ESV style. Also I found the use of modern units of measure in quantities and distance a bit jarring to read in the RNJB.

    But the English and Scottish Bishops have decided otherwise. I can’t say it will be used much. Maybe the Canadians will pick it up? I can’t think of any bishop conference who would now that the Scottish and English have spoken?

  2. I agree with much of Devin’s assessment, although I actually enjoy the style of the RNJB, and I’m almost jealous that Great Britain chose the ESVCE for the the lectionary (wish we would, too; on the other hand, the more I read the recent NCB, I think it would be fine, too).

    Like Devin, I wonder about the future of it, at least at an international level. I can see it used by British Catholics who have several local translations on hand. I agree, too, that it has a good balance of literal and dynamic translation philosophy behind it and uses inclusive language more effectively than the NRSV.

    I find it more reliable than the NJB but I suspect that for many the question will be: Is, is it worth purchasing yet another bible (and not inexpensive for a hardcover book) for those who already own the NJB? With the RNJB they’re gaining more accuracy (how much more may be debatable), but giving up the plethora of magnificent scholarly notes that makes the NJB such a treasure, in my opinion. (Though they’re few, the RNJB notes are very good, and I do appreciate having a freshly revised volume in the JB family that’s small enough to be easy to carry around while still having introductions and notes within the text.)

    My gripe with the RNJB at this point is simply that it is only available in a volume with smaller print, and while the binding is good (sewn signatures), the cover is of poor quality (I had to tape mine within a few short months of purchase; I purchased the DLT version available from Great Britain, by the way, not the glued binding American version). I’d love to own a better volume with larger font, but I don’t expect that any time soon, given the above points.

  3. Remember that Ireland, Australia and New Zealand still need to update the Jerusalem Bible Lectionary. I wouldn’t take it for granted that they will follow the Indian Bishops’ Conference (as England & Wales and Scotland have done). Perhaps they might prepare a RNJB lectionary together?

  4. I just rewatched R. Grant Jones’s review of the complete U.S. study edition of the RNJB, and honestly, it just seems like a rather compromised project. It feels like it was rushed to production to compete for use in the lectionary, and now that it lost that fight, what we’re left with is just a bit frustrating.

    The fact that the U.S. study edition hardcover has a glued binding, that it has introductions to some books but not others, that it seemingly reproduces existing footnotes some of which don’t even make sense with the new version of the translation, that the notes are less extensive than some of the older editions of the JB and NJB. And this is petty, but I’m still upset it didn’t go back to the Jerusalem Bible’s translation of 1 Corinthians 15:44, AKA the only good translation of 1 Corinthians 15:44 in existence.

  5. To be honest, I am not sure why the RNJB exists. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the NJB, a fact which seems to be confirmed by the fact that the differences between the RNJB and the NJB appear to be neglible. Morever, this is idependent of the original French JB’s third edition which was published in 1998 and it contains none of the marginal notes which are supposed to be main appeal and value of the Jerusalem Bible series.

    If it was produced to compete with the ESV for a new English lectionary, rushing it through for that purpose was likely a mistake because we don’t even know whether the RNJB will win Vatican approval for liturgical use. The NJB was rejected for this purpose, and the differences between the NJB and RNJB appear to be marginal.

    1. I suspect if the RNJB was selected by a Bishop’s conference, it would have Vatican approval. The CDW is note the same under Pope Francis as it has been under the prior two pontificates. Cardinal Sarah is nominally in charge but by all indications, Archbishop Roche is calling a lot of the shots. And there is a lot more deference to the local Bishops. Magnum Principium is now the law of the land for better or for worse (I personally have mixed feelings). And it definitely suggests that Biblical and liturgical translations will be rubber stamped by the Vatican with little input.

      While Liturgiciam Authenticam is still enforce, it has been moderated somewhat (but how much is yet to be seen) by Magnum Principium. Since the RNJB did take into account LA, I think if the Bishop’s want the RNJB they would get it.

  6. Personally I cannot qualify to be a scholar, but i wonder if after the new Lectionary is published in England, Wales, Scotland using the ESV/CE translation there might well be later a second Lectionary using the NRJB version and leave every parish the freedom to choose. (I seem to recall that after the first 1969 Lectionary came out in the JB version, permission was given to use the RSV as an alternative choice – for which I believe scholars were very pleased). Could not this be repeated the other way round ?

  7. This is my favorite thread, I’m highly intrigued by the difference between American and British Bible translations offered for Catholics. I’m wondering if the RNJB is meant to supersede and replace the NJB or is more a liturgical-version of the NJB with small modifications like the divine name. Is it in any way sacrilegious to Jews to read the divine name when reading the NJB (which I’ve come to favorite) and does it cause ripples in interfaith dialogue, or is the RNJB use of “LORD” just a way to implement the existing Jerusalem Bible heritage into the liturgical setting?
    Aside from that, is the NJB more identical to the RNJB, than the NAB is to the NABRE—might the NJB be a more “acceptable” translation in regards to LA and other Church documents since the NAB(RE) has a notorious history of revision and rejection for use in the American liturgy (since the American Lectionary is closer to the older NAB than it is to the NABRE even though it’s modified, which I find so strange, I don’t understand why it doesn’t use the newer NABRE…)

    I’m confused.

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