Revised Bible provides 'more clarity, more detail'
By Patricia Zapor | Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — The revised New American Bible, which was released on Ash Wednesday, March 9, may seem most notably different to casual readers for its efforts at providing context and clarity in how the passages fit together, according to the coordinator of its publication.
“It will be like going from regular TV to high-definition,” said Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director of New American Bible utilization for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “You’ll have the same programs but more clarity, more detail.”
What is being called the New American Bible Revised Edition, or NABRE, will include the first revised translation since 1970 of the Old Testament. The New Testament translation is the same as in 1986 and later editions of the New American Bible.
The NABRE also will include the updated Book of Psalms, which was revised between 1991 and 2010 and has been included in versions of the New American Bible since 1991.
The new Bible will be available in an assortment of print, audio and electronic formats, from a variety of publishers. Individual publishers will roll out their versions on their own schedules. For instance, Oxford University Press announced its line of compact NABRE editions will be available by Easter, April 24, and its study Bibles will be on the market for fall 2011 courses.
The NABRE’s publication will not affect what Scripture texts are used for Mass. The Lectionary translation has already been updated recently.
Sperry explained that some of the updating in the Old Testament resulted from developments in biblical scholarship since the last time it was translated. For instance, recent archaeological discoveries have provided better texts, which affected scholarly views on how certain passages should be translated, she said.
The goal of retranslating the Old Testament was to “get it closer to the original language,” she said. Scholars start with the original Hebrew or Greek text rather than simply working from the 1970 New American Bible version, or from translations used in other Bible editions.
For the most part, changes will be hard to spot, except by those who are serious students or scholars, she said.
But in other places, even casual readers may catch the differences.
She and Benedictine Father Joseph Jensen, executive secretary of the Catholic Biblical Association and one of the scholars who worked on the translation, both gave two examples of the type of changes everyday readers might notice: the disappearance of the words “cereal” and “booty.”
The goal when possible was “to make the language more contemporary,” said Father Jensen. In today’s culture the phrase “cereal offering” conjures up images of Wheaties and Cheerios, not the bushels of wheat type of offering that the term is intended to mean, he said.
The word “booty” also has taken on slang meanings instead of its primary meaning of “plunder,” such as a marauding army might acquire.
Sperry said another change made for contemporary readers was the elimination of the word “holocaust” in favor of “burnt offerings.” Since millions of Jews were killed in German death camps before and during World War II, the word Holocaust has come to specifically refer only to that period of history, she explained.
Kathleen Nash, associate professor and chair of the religious studies department at Le Moyne College, was among the translators that worked on the new edition, beginning in 1996. The project turned out to be more extensive than she had anticipated.
“For a good number of years, that’s all I did: live and breathe translation,” Nash said.
There were disagreements, to be sure, such as over whether the pronoun “he” should be used in all references to God, she said. Another effort was made to substitute “it” for references to the Church as “she.” “That didn’t fly,” Nash said.[[In-content Ad]]