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Revised New Jerusalem Bible Sml

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 Revised New 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Ancient systems of measuring and timing have been replaced by modern, metric equivalents.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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29 thoughts on “The Revised New Jerusalem Bible”

  1. Peter Carrell

    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.)

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. I strongly relate here, I’m struggling a lot in settling with a solid translation for “all purposes.”
      I currently have an NJB (lacking the notes) and I really want notes, so I’m thinking about getting a used CTS New Catholic Bible (JB-with Grails Psalms-and more up to date notes), or perhaps a used JB Popular Edition… I don’t want an NRSV simply because I want a more unique rendering than the Tyndale-Authorized line.
      What do you think? Should I just stick with the NJB, or might the JB be superior with notes?

      1. There is the extra problem, Dillon, in that – of your list – there won’t be one that you are hearing in church. Blessings.

        1. Do you think it’s reliable to use the New Jerusalem Translation (since I already have multiple editions of it) rather than more recent translations like the NABRE or RNJB? The NJB was published in 1985, whereas the RNJB is from 2019(?) to me 1985 really doesn’t seem that far back, some Catholics use the RSV still and that’s from the 50s I believe. What are your thoughts on this, I contemplate this issue far too much.

          1. Dillon – it depends on what you mean by “reliable”. Certainly, NJB is fine for your devotional life and reflection. In three decades there has been some improvements in scholarship and changes in English-language usage. I do not get the impression that you are using your particular Bible translation alone to establish doctrine or to argue from – if that were the case, I think there are other things that need to be reflected on; so, yes – find some other things to contemplate 🙂 Blessings.

          2. From my research the NJB was published in 1985, whereas the the NRSV was published in 1989, I wonder how much more advanced these two translations can be compared with their successors today? St. Jerome was against word-for-word translations since they wouldn’t be accessible but he also cautioned against a paraphrase also. To me the NJB is a dynamic translation done right, the language seems more penetrating and colorful than the NABRE and the NRSV especially, I’m just wondering since the JB was suitable for the English Lectionary, the NJB while being more accurate to the Hebrew and Greek must certainly be suitable for study and as a main Bible for reading.

          3. I’m not sure, Dillon, how agile you are in more than one language. Languages do not work in the simple categories that you are categorising translations into in your comments. I’m not sure, as just an example, that you are reading Jerome in the original – nor what Jerome might say in this current conversation. 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.

    1. 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. Diegwu Ezeagu

    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.

  5. I value a strongly ecclesiastically based Catholic Bible translations while also being ecumenical in substance, and I’ve been looking for a good translation for solid study and private reading. Naturally the CTS New Catholic Bible seems great, but I already have the NJB it just doesn’t have any notes. Textually do you think the NJB far outperforms the JB alone and so it would be counterproductive to read the JB as contained in the CTS New Catholic Bible? I live in the U.S. and the NABRE is the standard here, I just don’t wish to use it since it’s “in suspense” regarding revisions and I could never find an adequate format of it. Whereas the NRSV is great, and ecumenical, I just don’t want a translation from the Tyndale-Authorized line… I want something uniquely Catholic and academic. I read that the RNJB is kind of watered down compared to it’s predecessors, unless I’m wrong, should I just get that version then? What should I do?

    1. From what you are describing, Dillon, you won’t end up with a single translation in any case – as you will hear a different translation in church. I don’t know what you mean by “watered down”. And I don’t know what the issue is with “the Tyndale-Authorized line”. I’m also not sure what an “ecclesiastically based” translation is – a translation is good or weak, more word-for-word or dynamic equivalent; if you want it for study, you will want one at the word-for-word end of the spectrum; NRSV is the most scholarly respected, be the scholars RC or not. Blessings.

      1. Thank you for your response. I like the NRSV I just don’t like how literal it is I suppose. I like a mediating approach to the dynamic and literalness otherwise it can be sort of static. I like my New Jerusalem Bible, and it’s only 4 years older than the NRSV. I’m a Catholic so when I say ecclesiastical I mean that it was done by Catholics (ecumenical or not). As far as I am aware both the New Jerusalem Bible and NABRE involves interfaith and ecumenical engagement. The NABRE is more advanced than the NRSV and NJB so do you think that it’s any more accurate or is it more about keeping up with adjusting the Catholic Bible to be more formal? For me a dynamic translation (done right) will illumine the text and convey accuracy better than form-centered translations. The CTS New Catholic Bible is the most ecclesiastical in that it matched the to-be phased out lectionaries of the British Isles in the Catholic Church. I don’t want a translation that is sterile and accommodating to political bias and sentiments. So it seems translations like the NABRE and JB-NJB are unapologetically translated since they are naturally more conservative being Catholic based translations. I value ecumenical involvement I just don’t think I’d Catholics should outsource our translations from mainline Protestantism or Evangelicals at that

        1. I think we are mostly on the same page, Dillon. Remember that Canadian Roman Catholics use NRSV as their Mass (etc) text. NRSV has good RC participation, has the deuterocanonical books available – so is catholic in its wider sense 🙂 But I think you are fine with your direction of travel. Blessings.

  6. Dear Dillon,
    There is definitely an argument to take the NRSV *off* the list of translations to rely upon. While it is reliable for the most part, it gives itself liberty to present loose and flabby translations far more often than rivals such as NJB1985 or CSB. For example, this past Sunday in church (the Feast of the Transfiguration) the Epistle was 2 Peter 1:13-21. In my church, which uses NRSV, we heard “I think it right, as long as I am in this body… since I know that my death…” NJB gives “I am sure it is my duty, as long as I am in this tent… since I know the time for me to lay aside this tent…” In fact, the Greek wording was never understood by Greek speakers in any time or place to be ordinary terms or even tired metaphors for “body” and “death” (as can be confirmed by checking the standard lexicon BDAG or by studying the usage of these words). The NRSV simply decided to be a paraphrase instead of a translation here. To give a more general example without references, I am 100% a supporter of gender neutral translations of family terms such as “brother” and “son” where appropriate to the meaning; but in the NRSV sometimes these terms are replaced by terms that do not denote family relationships at all (“members” or the like), and here the theological accuracy is placed at risk, as a family metaphor (or supernatural reality rightly called by family terminology) is simply not the same thing as a term without a family meaning.
    There is very little in Bible scholarship that requires changes since 1985 if it was done to better standards in the first place. The overall translation philosophy has an effect of the greater order. NJB1985 is as good as any other modern translation. If you want one to look at alongside it, I’d recommend the Christian Standard Bible. It can also be interesting to look at the NET or latest NIV (which has in fact responded to substantive criticisms and made significant improvements in the more recent versions).
    Yours in Christ,

    1. I think, Tarik, that I will not convince you, example by example – and I have no need to do so; I am quite comfortable that you use whatever translation you find enriching. I will simply take your first example:
      δίκαιον δὲ ἡγοῦμαι ἐφ᾽ ὅσον εἰμὶ ἐν τούτῳ τῷ σκηνώματι διεγείρειν ὑμᾶς ἐν ὑπομνήσει
      where you contend that σκηνώματι is NEVER used as a metaphor for our body as a tabernacle. I suggest you read Euripides, Xenophon, and Plutarch in the original Greek for this metaphorical use. You can follow this metaphorical use further in 2 Cor 5.

      1. That it is a metaphor, and still felt as such by St Peter’s readers, was precisely my point. This is why other dynamic translations have not flattened it out as if it were a mere synonym of σῶμα. This sort of locution mustn’t be treated as equivalent to where the papyri show us semantic distinctions collapsing in koine.

      2. PS Reading Classical Greek in the original was the thrust of my professional life for 20-some years. I don’t share your optimism that it is a common pastime among the NRSV committee as it was in the days of Lightfoot, Westcott, Plummer, Carr, et al.

        1. And I don’t share your optimism, Tarik, that it is a common understanding amongst the world’s speakers of English that ‘tent’ in “I am sure it is my duty, as long as I am in this tent… since I know the time for me to lay aside this tent…” refers to our body as a tabernacle of our soul, as it was in the days St Peter! Blessings.

    2. Thank you Tarik.
      As a Catholic in the US we mainly have the NABRE as the “standard” for a translation, I just prefer the rich literary qualities and uniqueness of the NJB (both on stylistic grounds and ecumenical/British English involvement) at the same time I hope to not limit myself to just one translation. The NABRE seems great but I just don’t like how it’s in a form of a “suspense” since it’s currently being revised (again) the incessant revisions also seem like a bad omen to me so I don’t really want to use it. I know the Contemporary English Version is partially approved by the USCCB so I might use that, the ESV and NRSV are a little to KJV-like to me but I have an open mind. I do appreciate he rich history of the Tyndale-KJV tradition. The CSB and NIV are approved except the NIV Psalms I believe. I highly value ecumenical translations while at the same time not being watered down. Perhaps studying the ancient works themselves might be a further step in my life since I clearly have an obsession with biblical studies.

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