Welcome to the fourth in a series of posts comparing the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible and the Revised New Jerusalem Bible for one of the readings at each Sunday’s Mass. For today, the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, I’ve chosen the first reading (from the book of Exodus).

Sunday, September 15th, 2019 — 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
First Reading: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14

Jerusalem Bible

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostasised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”‘ Yahweh said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with Yahweh his God. ‘Yahweh,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’ So Yahweh relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

New Jerusalem Bible

Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people whom you brought here from Egypt have become corrupt. They have quickly left the way which I ordered them to follow. They have cast themselves a metal calf, worshipped it and offered sacrifice to it, shouting, “Israel, here is your God who brought you here from Egypt!”‘ Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘I know these people; I know how obstinate they are! So leave me now, so that my anger can blaze at them and I can put an end to them! I shall make a great nation out of you instead.’

Moses tried to pacify Yahweh his God. ‘Yahweh,’ he said, ‘why should your anger blaze at your people, whom you have brought out of Egypt by your great power and mighty hand? Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by your very self and made this promise: “I shall make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever.”‘ Yahweh then relented over the disaster which he had intended to inflict on his people.

Revised New Jerusalem Bible

The LORD then said to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have gone wrong. They have been quick to leave the way that I ordered them to follow. They have cast themselves an image of a calf, worshipped it and offered sacrifice to it, shouting, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”‘

The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people. Look how obstinate they are! So leave me now, so that my anger can blaze at them and I make an end of them! I shall make you into a great nation instead.’

Moses tried to pacify the LORD his God and said, ‘Why, LORD, does your anger blaze at your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt by your great power and mighty hand? Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by yourself and made this promise, “I shall make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever.”‘ The LORD then relented over the disaster which he had intended for his people.

New American Bible Revised Edition

Then the LORD said to Moses: Go down at once because your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way I commanded them, making for themselves a molten calf and bowing down to it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are, continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” So the LORD changed his mind about the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

9 thoughts on “The Jerusalem Bible Family and the NABRE: Comparing Translations (24th Sunday in OT)”

  1. Again, this week, I see little difference between the NJB and the RNJB. In my opinion, the rewrite is a “wordsmithing” of the NJB. Thus, I think it might be worthwhile to look at the motivation for the production of the RNJB. Based on some internet surfing, the RNJB appears to be an effort to head off the movement of the English Bishops toward replacing the JB with the ESV. Thus, I would suggest that the ESV be included in these comparisons.
    The blogosphere is full of articles arguing the merits of the ESV or the JB family. Here is one: https://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/1276/why-you-ve-been-reading-the-story-of-martha-and-mary-wrong-and-how-the-jerusalem-bible-gets-it-right Further Henry Wansbrough himself argues against the ESV by comparing it to the RNJB. https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/14756/lowering-standards
    IN MY OPINION, the arguments regarding a change in the lectionary probably fits into 3 categories: gender neutrality, traditional word choices, and, a preference for language usage from Victorian and earlier eras (nostalgia) as it appears to impart authority and thus superior.
    However, I would suggest that those categories, in the end, are not very substantive. These arguments do not take into account the goals of Dei Verbum which I extract here (always problematical but I do it anyway):
    “Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).
    12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.”
    In light of the above I would suggest reading this article regarding a new Jewish English translation of the Hebrew Bible https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/magazine/hebrew-bible-translation.html and then this quick tutorial on the Hebrew word “soul” https://www.pursuegod.org/hebrew-word-study-nefesh/ Then, I would suggest that you do a word study of the words “spirit” and “soul” in the Book of Genesis. I would compare the ESV to the RNJB, NJB, JB, NRSV, and NIV. In my study, I conclude that the ESV translation is merely a descendent of the KJV and it ignores recent scholarship that focuses on the original meaning of the writers. Interesting when you do a global search on the word “soul,” in the Old Testament, in the ESV and the NIV you can see a drastic difference in the use of the word “soul.” In the ESV “soul” appears 228 times. In the NIV “soul” appears 72 times. If you do studies on many translations you will see that, in general, the newer the translation the less times the word soul appears in the Old Testament.
    Sorry for the length of this response and for all the “homework” but I think it is important to dig deeper. Hopefully, when the revised New Testament appears in the NABRE, it will join a great Old Testament and all will be used in a new lectionary.

    Aside: Let our translations not rigorously follow “Liturgiam Authenticum” Paragraph 27 without considering Paragraphs 20 and 21. Further, let the Motu Proprio on Liturgiam Authenticum regarding approval methodology prevail.

  2. For me the fact that it is only a minor spit polish of NJB is a good thing. A radical revision of the NJB is unnecessary, at most only a minor tune up is needed. Now, whether it changes the things that needed to be changed is another question.

  3. With the recent purchase of the Grail Psalms by the USCCB, some of the “flavor” of the Jerusalem Bible that inspired the Grail Society in the first place will soon be a mainstay of the American liturgical experience. Jim’s hard work in his comments might be met with what was mentioned in that July 18, 2019 news release ( http://www.usccb.org/news/2019/19-132.cfm):

    “In purchasing these copyrights, the bishops are following the guidelines of the Holy See’s Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which requires that a Conference of Bishops possess all the rights necessary to promote and safeguard the accurate and appropriate use of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy.”

    The Jerusalem Bible was something new for the Church. It was a new way to translate, to no longer conform to old ways of rendering the Word of God. It opened the door to fresh ways of expression. The Grail Society in England took this to heart and were greatly inspired by it when it produced its psalter that became as important to English-speaking Catholics as perhaps the KJV became to many Protestants. If it were not for the JB, the Grail Psalter may never have been.

    But now even the Revised Grail Psalter has been revised even further with immense critical eye to detail for accuracy and a note to try to reproduce in English the cadence of what I like to call the “hoppity” rhythm of Jewish poetry. (Judaism’s “Adon Olam” prayer for the evening is such an example.)

    With all these adjustments made since the initial release of the Revised Grail Psalter, it is now known as the Abbey Psalms and Canticles. One might say this is an example of meeting the best of what a beautiful rendition has to offer with what the best that scholarship can give. (While the new text has yet to be released, I watched the bishops in some of their discussions on translation revisions a couple of years ago which was televised as part of their November conference. Their work showed great love and desire for the American Church to have nothing but the best translation possible.)

    We move ever closer now to the finale NABRE of 2025 that will be made fit for all uses, private prayer, study, and even the liturgy. You can now add the Abbey Psalms as being influenced by the JB.

  4. USCCB needs to improve the Old Testament text also, for in some places the NABRE text doesn’t go with the Original Manuscripts. E.g. Genesis 1:2.

  5. I am quite fascinated by the NAB-RE, I have been using the NJB because of the format it is in (Published by Doubleday) and the way it uses rich vocabulary words as well as the overall verbal quality of the text.
    I’m thinking about buying the NABRE Personal Study Bible by Oxford since I want to study the Bible in a more technical way, while keeping the NJB for further reflection and comparison. But should I perhaps solely use the NJB Reader’s Edition or get a new RNJB in place of a NAB-RE and utilize stand-alone commentary (Anchor Bible Commentary or Sacra Pagina)?
    If the NAB-RE is more up-to-date than the NJB then is that enough justification to get it, or am I better off purchasing the RNJB, or just keep the one Doubleday NJB that I have now?
    Based on my aim for a deep technical understanding paired with faith formation and catechetical learning of the Bible, whcih translations seems best for me? Or should I maintain a twin understanding of the Bible by utilizing both NAB-RE and NJB?

    1. I think the NJB study edition with full notes is among the best overall for both technical study and catechetical learning. It’s hard to beat it. If you want a one-stop shop, I would recommend that.

      But truly, there is no harm in using multiple versions. I refer to different translations all the time, and I rarely stick with one. Each version can offer a new perspective on the text and seeing multiple translations gives you a sense for the shades of meaning in the original language.

      If you’re new to studying the Bible, and you want to study entire books of the bible (rather than individual verses or chapters), I think a more dynamic translation like the NJB is a better choice than the NABRE. Its English style flows well. A relatively literal translation like the NABRE will often preserve grammatical details from the original language that are not natural in English, and it takes more effort to read it. This is good for deep study of short passages, because it communicates the underlying text’s grammar with more precision. But for studying entire books of the Bible and trying to understand the sweep of salvation history, I think a dynamic translation like the NJB is a better choice.

  6. Thank you so much for this very educated discussion.
    For my situation a single study Bible will actually be more feasible and space-saving than accumulating an array of individual commentary.
    I love how the NJB retains the “El Shaddai” as well as “Yahweh”, as it allows the reader to uncover the mystery of God that the ancient priestly(?) circles encountered (were they Canaanites or some other Palestinian/tribes?)
    I can’t help but be completely consumed with trying to understand the Bible more and more, and the biggest obstacle for me has been choosing a translation as, like you said a “one-stop-shop” since if I’m going to think in-depth about some Biblical passage I would prefer a mediating approach within the dynamic-literal spectrum, rather than an unapproachably archaic, clunky, or off rendering.
    It’s a little difficult to find a study edition of the NJB since I believe it is out of print, while the RNJB does have those new Reader’s and Study editions, but since I already have a fine NJB, I’ve curious to get the Harper Collins NAB-RE Hardback since I love the notes in it (despite what others have to say about them) and I think the NAB-RE serves as a perfectly “mediating” translation… How would you compare the NOTES of both the NAB-RE and NJB Study Edition(s)?
    I would love to study the Hebrew Bible as a career since as a kid I’ve always been drawn to those weird Old Testament depictions, and as an adult I’ve grown obsessed with learning about this subject as I’ve entered into the Catholic faith from a previously atheistic background.

  7. This has been such an enriching discussion. I love learning more and more about the Bible and translations seem like the main gate to further understanding.
    I’ve read about half of Genesis with my NJB, I just have been looking for a good commentary/notes. It’s quite difficult locating an NJB Study Edition as I believe it’s gone out of print, but I know there are the newer RNJB Reader’s and Study Editions. The striking qualities of the NJB stand out to me a lot through it’s clear language and use of “El Shaddai” and the Yahwist vein in the Biblical text (were these the Canaanite people or some other tribesmen who wrote these names down?)
    Instead of getting individual commentary on select parts of the Bible, it seems more feasible to get a study Bible. If I have trouble finding the NJB Study Edition, then I’ll consider getting the NAB-RE since it has notes (Unlike some commenters on Youtube I actually love the NAB-RE notes).
    If the NJB is a little more on the dynamic-side, I wonder why a lot of the online community characterize the NAB-RE as dynamic as well, what my senses tell me is that a balanced and “mediating” approach to the literal-dynamic spectrum is what should be strived for and the NAB-RE seems to fall under that mediating part of the spectrum.
    So, if the NJB Study Edition is hard to come by as a used Bible, would getting the NAB-RE (hardback, HarperCollins) be a worthy alternative? How would you compare the two based primarily on their notes/commentary alone?

    I’m so fascinated by the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps my obsession is a sign I should pursue formal discipline in the subject, since I love learning about it and asking these questions.

  8. The first post was the original but I thought I deleted it on accident so I re-posted a paraphrase of the original.

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