Friday, January 07, 2011

New American Bible Revised Edition to Be Released

Word just out that a Revised Edition of the New American Bible--the official translation used in the Lectionary of the Catholic Church in America--will be released this spring.

I have to confess that I had no idea this was coming our way, and as such have no idea what kind of changes will be introduced. I'm quite frankly not sure what the article refers to when it speaks of "the discovery of new and better manuscripts" as a reason for changes. Maybe I'm missing something, but exactly what new and better manuscripts have been discovered in the last 20 years that would call for a revision of this translation?

Hopefully, whatever changes have been made are for the better, but it seems to me that at least that the quality of the English (as well as fidelity to the original languages), the NAB would need a complete overhaul. I'll be interested to see what the Psalter looks like--anybody who knows the story of those shifting sands and the battle over the inclusive language version of it can't help but be a bit wary. After the Gospels, the Psalter is easily the most important book of the Bible, liturgically speaking; having a good translation would be great. Of course, having a new translation means becoming familiar with yet another version of 150 prayers that are traditionally memorized...

Anyway, here's the story as reported at the USCCB website:

WASHINGTON (January 6, 2011)—The New American Bible, revised edition (NABRE), the first major update to the New American Bible (NAB) translation in 20 years, has been approved for publication. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the canonical rescript approving publication on September 30, 2010. The NABRE will be available in a variety of print, audio and electronic formats on March 9, Ash Wednesday.

The new translation takes into account advances in linguistics of the biblical languages, as well as changes in vocabulary and the cultural background of English, in order to ensure a more accurate translation. This issue is addressed in the apostolic exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, in which the pope says, “The inculturation of God’s word is an integral part of the Church’s mission in the world, and a decisive moment in this process is the diffusion of the Bible through the precious work of translation into different languages.

The new translation also takes into account the discovery of new and better ancient manuscripts so that the best possible textual tradition is followed. The NABRE includes the first revised translation of the Old Testament since 1970 and a complete revision of the Psalter. It retains the 1986 edition of the New Testament. Work on most books of the Old Testament began in 1994 and was completed in 2001. The 1991 revision of the Psalter was further revised between 2009 and 2010.

The revision aimed at making use of the best manuscript traditions available, translating as accurately as possible, and rendering the result in good contemporary English. In many ways it is a more literal translation than the original New American Bible and has attempted to be more consistent in rendering Hebrew (or Greek) words and idioms, especially in technical contexts, such as regulations for sacrifices. In translating the Psalter special effort was made to provide a smooth, rhythmic translation for easy singing or recitation and to retain the concrete imagery of the Hebrew.

The NABRE is approved for private use and study. It will not be used for the Mass, which uses an earlier, modified version of the NAB translation.


CM7 said...

Dr. Pitre,

Is there any real reason why they have to stick with the NAB? What would prevent them from making the RSV or Douay-Rheims the official text?


Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus said...

I agree with Michael P. In fact, the RSV CE 2nd edition (NOT the inclusive language NRSV) is perhaps among the best translations into English currently available. And the Douay Rheims is infinitely preferrable to the inclusive language now in the current NAB. I suspect we will see more of the same. I have to wonder if Romans 1:18-32 or 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 will make it through intact.

Anonymous said...

I also use the RSV CE 2nd Edition. A little clunky in places, but probably my favourite.

What translation do you normally use?

Gary said...

I am praying fervently that there will be many changes, starting with the dreadful translation of Isaiah 9:5. What the heck is a Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, or Father-Forever anyway? And Genesis 2:9- the tree of the knowledge of good and BAD?
The gates of hell haven't prevailed yet, but this dreadful translation doesn't help.

Nathan Eubank said...

Interesting. According to the blurb from the USCCB the forthcoming revision is not authorized for use in the mass but only for "private use and study".

Esteban Vázquez said...

I've been keeping up with the news regarding the NAB revision via Tim McCormick's wonderfully informative blog, Catholic Bibles. As an Orthodox Christian I'm an avid reader of Bible translations that include at least some of the books of our OT Canon, and have given the NAB more than a passing glance. As far as I'm concerned, the decision to keep the 1986 revision of the NT is a deal breaker. I mean, it is simply dreadful. No matter how wonderful the revised OT may be (and if the 1986 modus operandi is any indication, I sincerely doubt that this will be the case), it will never make up for that banal and unremarkable translational failure. How the lovely little Confraternity NT evolved into this is surely one of the Great Mysteries of the Ages.

On the other hand, the RSV-2CE is a fine piece of work--a much smoother update of the RSV than the now ubiquitous ESV, even at its most infelicitous. In my house, it is the primary reading Bible.


Matthew Kennel said...

I agree with Gary here. The translation of Isa 9:5 makes me cringe every time I hear it, and it's such a beautiful verse in many other versions (the former Protestant in me loves the KJV of this verse).

Timothy said...

In regards to the question about "new discoveries" for the basis of the Old Testament", my guess is that they are talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls. The current NAB OT has a long history really, going back to the days when it was paired with the lovely Confraternity NT. That Old Testament, which was first published beginning in the 50's, didn't take into account all the DSS which were beginning to be published. (I think they did refer to some of the variants found in the DSS 1 and 2 Samuel.) The only OT book that was revised before the NAB was published in 1970 was Genesis.

As for the re-revised NAB Psalter, that will probably be the first place I go to when I get a copy (along with Isaih 9:5). The current NAB Psalms are notoriously very awkward and uses both vertical and horizontal inclusive language, which made it unacceptable for liturgical use, as well as inclusion on the Vatican website for English Bible translation. (One should note that the rest of the NAB is up there.)

I am somewhat optimistic about this revision. I tend to think that the current NAB NT is pretty good, while certainly not as elegant as the RSV or NRSV. Many of the issues people have with NAB revolve around the Psalms and those occasionally strange rendering in the OT. Of course, another issue all together are the NAB notes/commentary. But, there is some indication that the NAB OT notes will be better, particularly since representatives from the USCCB have said that those notes will include more of a canonical approach.

All of this is speculation until the final product is released on Ash Wednesday. However, one might benefit from keeping an open mind when evaluating the entire NABRE translation.

John Bergsma said...

The trendy and inclusive translations in the NAB often inhibit proper exegesis. For example, you'd never connect Psalm 8 with Jesus' self-ascription as "Son of Man" if all you had was the NAB>

Timothy said...


From all indications, the NABRE's re-revised Psalms has changed that to reflect that traditional/correct translation of "Son of Man". This is particularly helpful since the NABRE NT translation of Hebrews 2:6does correctly go with "Son of Man" when referencing Psalm 8.

kentuckyliz said...

The committee has announced that it is releasing another committee report.


I am going to keep looking for the 1969 Confraternity. A rare jewel.

Timothy O'Keefe said...

I don't care for the NAB, but I'm not impressed with the RSVSCE either. I realize it gets high marks for its literalism, but I find the English to be dry and stodgy. My favorite by far is the Confraternity New Testament, which I've been reading for years now. I've read so many versions - KJV, DR, KB, JB, NJB, RSV, NAB '70, NAB '86, and others. The Confraternity version strikes a balance between traditional biblical English and a degree of modern scholarship. It is far more graceful than the RSV.

I will, of course, scour through the NABRE Old Testament, just to be thorough and informed. But I fully expect that the 'latest discoveries' that supposedly justify this new version are little more than more reckless inclusive language and a softening of the condemnation of the sin of Sodom. Or, as the introduction to the NAB admits, sensitivity to the "gay community." So much for translating the truth.

joanieART said...

As a Bible loving Catholic, it is most important that the translation I use for personal devotional flows beautifully. The New Living Translation does just that. None of you mention it, and what is most unfortunate is that they (Tyndale) don't publish a version with the deuterocanon. When the daily readings use one of those book I pull out my Jerusalem Bible. But oh, i LOVE the NLT, it is so readable, the Word comes to life.

Penfire said...

Would you consider changing the word "virgin" to "young woman" bad? I certainly would. Did they also change Mary's question to the Angel, "How can this be seeing I have known no man?" Otherwise, this does not teach the virgin birth.