The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (RNJB) has been a relatively frequent topic on this blog since the complete translation was published in 2019. I purchased the hardcover study edition published by Darton, Longman, and Todd (DLT) and wrote a review here. I also did a weekly series of posts quoting the Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, and Revised New Jerusalem Bible (along with the NABRE) for one of the Sunday readings (the first post in that series is here).

The RNJB has been on my mind again lately for two reasons. First, I’ve grown to like it over the past year. I left it on the shelf and rarely used it for the first few years after it was released, but this year, I pulled it off the shelf as an additional point of reference along with the NABRE and NRSV while I was studying Paul’s letter to the Romans. I enjoyed using it in that context, so I bought the Kindle edition and used it for general Bible reading while I was traveling. Secondly, I was recently looking for a copy of the DLT study edition online and had a hard time finding new copies. In fact, the DLT website no longer lists any editions of the RNJB in the Bibles category. I’m saddened to see a single-column modern Catholic bible with a sewn binding leave the market.

When I first purchased the RNJB study edition from DLT, I was ambivalent (as many of my posts here indicated). It had far fewer notes and cross references than the NJB — something that could be either a positive or a negative. I often gravitate toward reader’s bibles with minimal notes because I frequently want to read extended passages without the constant distraction of footnotes interrupting my flow of reading. In that sense, the RNJB seemed to be a better reader’s edition than the NJB. On the other hand, I was sorry to see such a well-done set of notes jettisoned for a much more sparing set of notes.

I also felt the RNJB was trying to inhabit an unnecessary and awkward middle-ground. The NJB seemed like a solid example of a well-done and scholarly translation that balanced dynamic equivalence with accuracy in a way that wasn’t overly simplified. Its sophisticated dynamic equivalence is one of its strengths. The RNJB was revised to be more formal and literal than the NJB, but there were plenty of other formal-equivalence translations already on the market. How was the RNJB going to compete in that crowded field?

As I’ve used the RNJB this year, I’ve become less bothered by both of those concerns. During my study of Romans, I found that the RNJB’s cross references and notes were useful and insightful. The NJB has much more voluminous notes and references — too much to keep the flow of reading. When I come across a cross-reference in the RNJB, I can easily look it up without feeling like I am entering a long digression.

The balance between dynamic and formal equivalence in the RNJB also seems reasonably well-executed. In both my study of Romans and general Bible reading, I found the RNJB fairly easy-to-read. Compared to the stilted language in the NABRE, the RNJB has a more natural English flow. But it seems to stay close to the Greek in areas where meaning is debated or when dealing with traditional concepts in New Testament theology (rather than trying to rephrase those concepts into modern terms). The end result is a text where the English grammar is generally more natural than the NABRE, but it also has enough literal precision in terminology that it can be paired with commentaries that are based on relatively literal translations like the NABRE or NRSV.

If the DLT study edition has truly gone out of print, that is an unfortunate loss. On the one hand, it was a somewhat awkward size — extremely thick but relatively modest in footprint. On the other, it was a rare example of a single-column modern Catholic bible with a good quality binding. The study edition published in the US by Image Books is still available, but that edition has a glued binding.

The future of RNJB editions likely depends on whether any English-speaking bishops conferences choose it for use in a new lectionary. As I noted on the blog in 2021, the Irish bishops issued a statement saying that they were considering using the RNJB for a new lectionary. The New Zealand and Australian bishops were also reportedly considering the RNJB around the same time according to this article.

16 thoughts on “Revisiting the RNJB”

  1. About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to buy the original two-volume edition of the 1966 Jerusalem Bible with full notes, something that quickly went out of print and has been unavailable for decades. I regret that decision, although the reason I passed on it still seems sound: the volumes are huge and bulky, like a coffee table book, and would no doubt be very difficult to read and store. They need to make it available again either in a smaller print edition or as an ebook. Neither will likely happen before the copyright on the text expires in 2061.

  2. I’m going to be honest and say that R. Grant Jones’s YouTube review of the complete RNJB Study Edition (the glued Image Books one) right when it came out really did turn me off getting it. The reduction in cross-references and footnotes compared to the JB and NJB, and the flat-out mistakes in the notes, from some tagged to the wrong place to others addressing matters from the JB that the RNJB no longer had, really soured me on the whole thing. I know the note glitches were because the RNJB’s notes were taken from the CTS New Catholic Bible, which was just the JB text with minor tweaks, but it just felt lazy. To me, it’s not really about the amount of the notes. As you said, the reduction in notes could be a positive to some. It was the incongruous nature of some of the notes RGJ pointed out in his video that made the whole thing look unnecessarily amateurish to me, like it had been rushed to print to compete with the ESV-CE for the English lectionary and nobody bothered to copyedit it. Since then, I’ve said the only thing that could get me to reconsider the RNJB is a Reader’s Edition with all the notes removed so that the main glaring flaw could just be cut out completely. Otherwise, I’m content with my brick-sized JB and NJB hardcovers for my fix from that translation tradition. I hope it’s only gone out of print just so they can fix the notes and add the missing cross-references from the past editions and reissue it, but you’re right that it’s sad the RNJB’s presentation was so lacking, especially given the strong reputations the JB and NJB had. If anything, the RNJB feels like it needs a soft reboot if/when it gets adopted for liturgical use.

  3. Does the hardcover reader’s edition of the RNJB have a glued or sewn binding? Might consider picking it up as a main reader for the new year.

    1. Rodolfo,

      It has sewn binding. The problem with it (at least the copy I own) is that the ghosting between pages is terrible. It’s not line-matched, too, which makes it even worse. The bleed-through of the text ruins the reading experience for me. I tried the paperback edition to see if it was better but returned it because it was just as bad.

  4. I pretty much agree with James. The RNJB felt rushed and it suffered because of that. It’s fine to have an edition with fewer notes than the old editions, but calling that edition a “study edition” is a bit of an issue when it has trimmed down on the actual study material from the last version nearly 40 years ago, especially when the NJB and RNJB have the same general editor. It still has too many notes for someone who’d prefer just a text Bible but not enough to be called a true study Bible in the best sense of the term. However, I’d like to point out that there is a Reader’s Edition of the RNJB, but I’ve never seen the inside of one to say whether it’s truly one in the sense that everyone thinks of when they hear Reader’s Edition. I’d also be in favor of “rebooting” the RNJB after it gets liturgical approval in Ireland or wherever.

  5. This is kinda funny because I’ve been thinking a lot about the RNJB lately as well. I recall when I first got by copy of the RNJB I was really excited because one of the first bibles I ever bought myself (as opposed to having it given to me) was the New Jerusalem Bible back when I first started getting serious about my faith in my college years. I recall really enjoying reading it, but over time the use of the Divine Name in the translation really became too jarring for me I had to switch to something else. So when I heard they were revising the NJB to eliminate the use of the divine name, plus other tweaks to make it acceptable for liturgical use, I thought this would surely be my new favorite bible. But I remember as I read it feeling like the translation just didn’t seem to pop like it did when I first read the NJB years ago, it seemed somehow flatter or less engaging.

    The notes seemed problematic to me too, I hadn’t noticed the mismatches that James/R. Grant Jones had cited, though that did compound my problem with them after I found out. I just found the note’s willingness to sometimes judge the sacred text by modern social standards to be very off putting. One example would be at some place in the book of Sirach (I forget precisely where now) where one the notes straight up labels the passage as misogynistic. I mean, judging by our modern standards sure, but any modern reader coming to the text fresh could make a similar assessment, I more interested in how a text like that would have been received at the time. I don’t know, it just seemed like the notes, while often helpful, would also sometimes betray a certain embarrassment with either the text itself, or traditional Catholic interpretations of certain passages (I can’t recall any specifics now, but I do think even R. Grant Jones noted that in his review of the RNJB) I like the idea of a translation tradition like the Jerusalem family of translations enduring, it was after all one of the first independent Catholic attempts to do English translations from the original languages, and unlike its American counterpart (the NAB) it seemed to acquire a certain reputation for literary competence, if not always precision. It just seems like a lot of times these in house Catholic translations seem to go out of their way, in the way they render certain passages, but even more so in their notes, to poke their finger in the eye of traditional Catholic piety and even theology. At least with the RNJB they seemed to tamp down on that for the actual passage renderings (I recall being pleased to see “full of grace” in Lk 1:28 for example) but don’t these publishers realize who their target audience is? What, do they think they’re gonna complete directly with Crossway and the ESV or the Lockman foundation and the LSV on the open bible market? Dream on! Maybe a few open minded mainliner’s might pick up a Catholic bible once in a blue moon, but if you’re publishing a Bible with Deuterocanonical texts in their proper order, the VAST majority of your readership is going to be regularly practicing Catholics, so have some sensitivity to how they read the text!

    All that to say, I have complex feelings about the RNJB. But on balance if some of the English speaking conferences picked it up for the lectionary, on balance that would probably be a good thing, if only to keep this Catholic translation line alive, and perhaps further improved upon in the future.

    1. I remember seeing some posters bothered by the Augustine Institute’s Catholic Standard Version’s aim to not be ecumenically produced, but instead to be wholly Catholic. Say what you want, but I think it’s going to capture a wider Catholic market than people predict for some of the very reasons you’ve expressed about the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. There’s a time and place for skeptical notes, like in the Oxford New Annotated Bible or the new SBL Study Bible, but I don’t think the time or the place is in a Bible targeted at the average, mainstream lay Catholic who’d probably prefer pastoral notes if anything. I really do hope the rumor is true that the 2025 New American Bible may come in an edition with just pastoral notes.

  6. DLT’s print runs may be influenced by the decision by the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland to use the ESV-CE for the lectionary from Advent 2024. This opened the usual criticisms from liberal Catholics, who even condescendingly criticised the “low church” origins of the ESV, despite its closeness to the RSV.

    Concerns about non-inclusive language in the ESV-CE in the lectionary have been allayed by the Bishops of England and Wales. They will use inclusive renderings where appropriate. Uncharitably, I wonder if Fr Gerald O’Collins has taken the time to look at the ESV in any detail. If he had he would see footnotes referring to “brothers and sisters” as an alternative reading where the translators have used “brothers” in the main text. I’m struck that NRSV does the same thing but in reverse (saying in the notes, if my memory serves me, the Greek reads “brothers”). It’s sad that so often the text is argued over for ideological reasons.

    From where I am on the south coast of England I’m looking forward to the retirement of the JB lectionary. I won’t miss the “happy” beatitudes, the “sensible virgins” or other pedestrian rendering of sacred scripture.

    1. Yep. England, Scotland, and Wales choosing the ESV-CE basically invalidated the RNJB’s entire reason for existing. As Marc said, if Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand select it, we’ll probably see DLT revive it with a new printing, but until then, it seems DLT is going to pretend the NJB is still the most recent of the family, since it’s the only translation I can find on their website. And if no country selects the RNJB for its lectionary, it’ll probably be the end of the RNJB as a serious translation, and a sad end to the JB lineage.

  7. I initially had high hopes for the RNJB. But I gave away my copy a while ago. The notes were not my cup of tea. Also, I think the New Catholic Bible is much better at filling the RNJB’s place on the translation spectrum.

    1. I also had high hopes for the RNJB, but I never bothered getting a copy after the initial reviews pointed out the flawed notes and other issues. Also, there’s just the simple matter of it still being too loose to justify it calling itself a literal translation, compared to all the other literal options, and yet not as free as its predecessors to scratch that dynamic itch. I’m still happy to pull out my JB and NJB when I feel the need, and I just can’t find a place for the RNJB in my rotation. In my opinion, the RNJB should’ve tried to become the Catholic answer to the Christian Standard Bible: an “optimal equivalence” translation that manages to find that sweet spot.

  8. I purchased the (Readers edition? The hardback w/ sewn binding; Basically zero study notes aside from introductions) and like the translation. I enjoy listening to interviews w/ Fr. Wansbrough.

    As someone already mentioned the paper was extremely thin and suffered terrible bleed through. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was designed to be cheap in order to get the Bible “into the hands of the many” – and I can understand that impulse. But if your final product is so difficult to read that the reader is forced to set it aside – you have also failed.

    I remain hopeful that one day a proper edition with thicker paper might be released…

    1. Cutting corners to “achieve mass availability” seems like such a bad idea these days. I forget if it was Word on Fire or Ascension or someone else, but there was a study that asked young Christians if they’d rather have a quality, yet expensive, goatskin Bible or the same text put on a Kindle for cheap, and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the former option. If the RNJB wants to be cheap to “get the Bible into the hands of the many,” then just promote the Kindle version first and foremost, but without punishing those who want a physical Bible, especially when the original JB and NJB hardbacks were such quality editions with dark print on thick paper. Word on Fire has the right idea that the best way to make the Bible appealing to non-readers of the Bible is to put it out in an appealing format. Thin paper, bad ghosting, small type, and all that just makes it a hassle.

  9. From my understanding the RNJB main purpose is to bring the NJB up to the standards of the 21st century Catholic Bishops’ Conferences and introduce a more glamorous liturgical twist and update to the NJB—such as the inclusion of a ‘modified’ Revised Grail Psalter, something Fr. Henry Wansbrough OSB coordinated with Abbot Gregory Polan OSB about; also to in effect replace the more obsolete liturgical Bible that England had been using, not in vain, despite England unfortunately choosing the RSV based translation.
    With Ireland accepting the RNJB for its lectionary, the British Isles do indeed have a use for the RNJB which is a gift of God.
    Due to the latest confusion about where the Ignatius study series went what really happened to the Anchor Study Bible? Would that series be suitable for Catholics?

  10. The 1966 JB is far and away my favorite Bible for casual reading. It has a poetic charm to it without being too casual for my tastes, plus there are all those great study notes. I thought the NJB suffered from aiming for more formal equivalence and using gender-inclusive language, but at least it still had good notes. Then came the NRJB: even more formal, and a paucity of notes, yet it’s not really formal enough to do what the editors seem to have set out to do with it. So it ends up not filling any obvious niche. As someone up above noted, the New Catholic Bible does the same job much better.

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