Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue has a new post at the Pray Tell Blog in which he continues his commentary on the Revised New Jerusalem Bible (RNJB) and the English Standard Version (ESV) for use in the liturgy. He argues that the RNJB is a better choice for a revised lectionary. At the bottom of the post, he provides a link to a PDF booklet, which contains the readings for each Sunday of Advent taken from the RNJB, as well as an introduction by Dom Henry Wansbrough (the translator) and an afterword by Fr. Neil himself. Here is a direct link to the PDF booklet. Many thanks to Fr. Neil for sharing his post and the Advent booklet with me.
3 thoughts on “Reflections on the RNJB from Fr. Neil, and a Bonus Advent RNJB Booklet”
I’ve read several articles on this issue and it seems to come down to one thing:. the people who think accuracy is the most important issue favor the ESV, while people who think inclusive language is the most important thing favor the RNJB.
It seems the main, and perhaps only reason for the existence of RNJB is to compete with the ESV for the new lectionary. In most of the English speaking world, thru use the 1966 JB, but everyone seems to agree that it is tine to move on from that text, buy non one can agree on what to replace it with.
They could use the NJB, but it has already been rejected by Rome, so the RNJB is an attempt at a “do over” for the NJB, the fact that there seems to be very little difference between the two texts would seem to confirm that this is the intent.
I see the situation somewhat differently. To say that the main reason for the RNJB is to compete with the ESV for the new lectionary implies (to my mind) that the ESV is the default choice. But the ESV was certainly not the first choice in the quest for a new lectionary (I believe the NRSV was considered first), and I think there are good reasons to question whether it should be the default choice now. To my mind, the ESV is a compromise. It is a translation produced by a protestant group of scholars, and the copyright is held by an organization (Crossway) which is distressingly resistant to Catholicism. Now, the ESV-CE was revised and reviewed by a group of Catholic scholars, but it still remains an adaptation of a protestant bible translation, rather than a product of Catholic scholarship.
Using the ESV is a way to get a translation that is close enough to the norms of Liturgiam Authenticam without investing in a whole new translation. It also comes with the bonus that Catholics and protestants would be using the same (or very similar) translation.
Now that the RNJB is on the market, though, it seems more compelling than the ESV. The comparisons here show that it is a relatively minor revision of the existing JB lectionary text, so there will be good continuity between them. At the same time, it nudges the language toward a more literal translation style, revising some of the dynamic renderings in the 1966 JB which are considered out of accordance with the literal translation requirements in Liturgiam Authenticam.
A final note on the RNJB as a “do-over” for the NJB: I’m unable to find any information on the Vatican rejecting the NJB for the lectionary, but the fact that the RNJB is so similar to the NJB in the comparisons here suggests that the factors that stood in the way of approval for the NJB did not require a massive overhaul. One could say that the NJB did not go far enough to move the JB in the direction Rome wanted to go (toward a more literal translation philosophy). The NJB’s inclusive language is generally not considered extreme, but it’s possible that some tweaks were necessary. The RNJB nudges things further in the direction of Liturgiam Authenticam, but the lack of difference with the NJB should help to demonstrate that the NJB is already pretty good. Translations can fail to acheive liturgical approval, but still remain excellent translations with good quality Catholic scholarship.
I don’t know if ‘rejected’ is the right word, but the NJB has been in publication for 30 years and has never been approved for use in the liturgy. This is more than a little odd.
The NRSV has definitely been rejected but was approved for use in Canada due to the fact that the Canadian bishops were simply ignoring the rejection and using it anyway, under the same time-honored Vatican principle that ‘if you’re going to do it anyway regardless of what I say, then I guess I’ll allow it’, which is the same way we got things like altar girls and communion in the hand.
It is extremely odd that the NJB has never been approved for use in the liturgy, 34 years after it’s publication so that most English speaking Catholics are still using a 50-year-old translation.
As far as I am aware, the only English translations that have ever been approved for use in the liturgy are the NAB, the Douay Rheims the 1966 Jerusalem Bible and the 1966 RSV CE, along with, as as I said before, the NRSV being retroactively approved for use only in Canada.
As for whether the ESV is the ‘default’, well it kind of is, as it is the text which has already been selected and work on the ESV lectionary has already begun. So, using the RNJB will require scrapping the work they’ve already put into it and starting over.
But besides the improved accuracy, there is another good reason to prefer the ESV, and that is that the ESV is fully ecumenical, which the RNJB will never be.
There are already several Protestant churches that use the ESV, and I think there is value in one translation being used by everyone or nearly everyone in the English speaking world. There would be very many benefits to using the same Bible and no real drawbacks.
Despite the high hopes for the NAB that it might be an ecumenical Bible adapted for use in Protestant churches, it is clear that neither the NAB nor any Catholic version will ever be used in Protestant churches if we want to have a common English Bible, it is clear that we are going to have to adapt a Protestant Bible for Catholic use. And right now, the ESV seems to be the only viable candidate.
Protestants have already met us halfway by taking our lectionary and adapting it to Protestant use (namely the Revised Common Lectionary, which is more than 80% identical to our lectionary and is used in almost every mainline Protestant church and many evangelical and independent churches), so why not respond in kind by adapting a popular Protestant translation for Catholic use?