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The Revised New Jerusalem Bible

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (New Testament and Psalms
Edited By Henry Wansbrough OSB
(Darton, Longman & Todd, 768 pages)

The Jerusalem Bible is an English translation of the Bible published in 1966. It is the text mostly used in Roman Catholic Masses. It was beautifully presented with wonderful notes and introductions. J. R. R. Tolkien was a contributor. It drew on the scholarship of École Biblique, and it kept a strong eye on the French La Bible de Jérusalem of 1956.

Henry Wansbrough OSB, however, contended, “Despite claims to the contrary, it is clear that the Jerusalem Bible was translated from the French, possibly with occasional glances at the Hebrew or Greek, rather than vice versa.” He edited a revision: The New Jerusalem Bible in 1985. [Thanks for the correction].

The New Revised Jerusalem Bible has come out first with the New Testament and Psalms.

The language, concepts and imagery of the original scriptures are presented more accurately by the RNJB than the colloquial approach of many other modern translations.

The message of the Bible is for all people, so care has been taken to avoid traditional male bias of the English language, while remaining faithful to the meaning of the original scriptures.

The book of Psalms is based on the text of the 2010 translation of The Revised Grail Psalms.

Ancient systems of measuring and timing have been replaced by modern, metric equivalents.

The notes, cross-references and book introductions of the JB and NJB are replaced in the RNJB by new materials which reflect the fruit of the most up-to-date and ecumenical scholarship.

I have already reviewed the The Revised Grail Psalms (here and here). I see nothing in the NRJB New Testament translation that would make me prefer it to the NRSV. On occasions when the NRSV and RNJB differ, it is the RNJB that appears to be the poor translation. If they haven’t bothered to produce a Revised New Jerusalem Bible version of the psalter, why did they produce the rest? I confess to a natural aversion to the endless iterations of English-language Bible translations. The introductions and notes may have been updated to more contemporary scholarship than the earlier Jerusalem Bible, but they are also much reduced. So what it looks like we have is a bible that is little different from the NRSV with notes little different to a good NRSV study bible.

If Roman Catholics (who are currently using the Jerusalem Bible) are working towards a new translation to use at Mass and for the Offices, I suggest and hope that – as is already the case in many places – they use the New Revised Standard Version rather than the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. I can see no significant benefits to using RNJB and lots to using NRSV.

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11 Responses to The Revised New Jerusalem Bible

  1. That would be a pity (lack of clear benefit over NRSV) on a few fronts: the JB was a refreshing new translation (as I recall, when, yes, even in an evangelical Anglican parish, it was used in Bible studies) and then, later, I requested an NJB for my Bible at priesting, and have always valued the superb, extensive notes since.

    (On a different note, I am working my way through David Bentley Hart’s recent translation of the NT and wondering what advantage it gives overall; and frustrated by some quite odd choices of words.)

    • Thanks, Peter. I loved the Jerusalem Bible, its layout, beautiful way it was bound, introductions, notes, cross-referencing – and especially the real sense of story that came through the translation; a real feel of different genres before I could access the original Greek and Hebrew. It seems to me that all those advantages are lost in the RNJB. What would happen if the NRSV was presented in the manner of that JB as a study bible? Blessings.

  2. There’s one howler here, which is the claim that the 1985 NJB changed “Yahweh” to “LORD.” Get down your 1985 NJB and have a closer look! It’s really a great translation with great notes, and it does use “Yahweh.” No translation is perfect, but NJB was one of the rare versions that could really be said to add something of value to the crowded field. A real pity that the USA Catholic Church never adopted it, preferring the awful NAB.

    • Thanks, T.W.! I have removed the howler. Please just use your ordinary name – unless “T.W.” is what you are normally referred to. Blessings.

  3. My NJB does spell out YHVH as Yahweh. I do like the way it is laid out, in a classic Times Roman in one column.

    In the USA RC churches, the New American Bible – Revised Edition (NABRE) is used. In Canada, the NRSV is used, which is nice for Anglo-Catholic parishes like ours, so we can use the Canadian RC lectionary books for weekday Masses.

    I’m with you in preferring the NRSV overall, but I do value my NJB for an alternative take and for its notes.

    • Thanks, Scott. Yes, I got my NJB confused 🙂 That’s corrected in the text now. I also use the NRSV Daily Mass readings – which the CofE has also bound well. [So – no surprise – I’ve got both editions…] Blessings.

  4. The English-speaking African Roman Catholic Episcopal Conferences – what a mouthful – decided to adopt the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition – another mouthful – as their official liturgical lectionary. More variety.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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