Since the beginning of Advent, I’ve been featuring a comparison between the REB and NABRE for the first reading of each Sunday Mass to survey the overall flavor of the REB’s Old Testament translation. We’ve reached a good stopping point for that series, since all the Sunday Mass readings in the Easter season are from the New Testament (with the sole exception of the Responsorial Psalm). Looking back over the past few months of comparisons, I would summarize a few broad conclusions:

  1. Overall, the REB is usually quite similar to the NABRE in both word order and meaning. There are occasional instances where the REB offers a different word order or appears to be smoothing away a redundancy in the original language. In many cases, the REB retains the same redundant wording as the NABRE.
  2. The most striking differences between the two occur in poetic and wisdom literature passages. The NABRE translates poetry in very rhythmic, memorable English, and the REB often does the same — with differing word order and vocabulary choices.
  3. Sometimes, the REB’s poetry sounds too simple and matter-of-fact compared to the NABRE’s rhythm and style, but in other cases, the REB offers wonderful imagery and rhythm in its own right.
  4. The REB often chooses a slightly smoother, less-stilted wording than the NABRE in Old Testament narrative sections, but the word order and meaning is very similar (a good example is Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15 — the reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent).
  5. In one case (Jeremiah 17:5-8 — the reading for the 6th Sunday in OT), the REB uses the singular “he” instead of the NABRE’s “they.” As a rule, the REB’s use of inclusive language is very restrained.
  6. As Bob Short commented on the 5th Sunday of Lent, the NABRE is unparalleled in vividly expressing the Middle Eastern setting of the scriptures. A host of small details help to evoke the culture and environment of the time in a way that the REB does not always match.

Feel free to add your own observations in the comments below!

One thought on “Reflecting on the REB vs. NABRE OT Comparisons”

  1. I think the series has successfully proven that the REB is a much less ‘dynamic’ translation than is commonly supposed. Its predecessor, the NEB, was widely criticized for being too loose in its translation, the infamous ‘they hacked off my hands and feet’ from Psalm 22 arguably being the most egregious example of this, when the NEB was ordered to be revised, one of the mandates of the committee was that the new version be significantly more literal than the NEB, but without sacrificing simplicity of language or readability. They seem to have succeeded in that goal, at least as far as the OT is concerned.

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