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.