Friday, September 07, 2007

NRSV gets the Nod (Hurrahs from Sentire Cum Ecclesia!)

Having taught scripture for years and years, I still get asked by Catholics which version of the scriptures they should buy for the purposes of bible study. I always tell them: New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (alternatively: New Jerusalem Bible). If you have the old Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition, well and good, but the NRSV is standard throughout the English speaking world today. It is a scholarly, comparitively accurate, descendant of the original King James Version, and stands in the same grand literary tradition, so its English is good too.

My friend, Peter, who also teaches scripture to Catholics, will disagree violently, and protest that the Vatican has specifically banned this translation from being read in Mass--not only because of its use of inclusive language for human beings (God remains in the masculine) but because of other "inaccuracies".

NEWSFLASH: The Vatican has approved the NRSV for the Canadian Lectionary.

And another newsflaish: There ARE inaccuracies in the NRSV--but then there are inaccuracies in every translation of the bible, and in general the NRSV has fewer than many of the others. There is no "perfect translation", only better translations and worse translations, and translations more or less suitable to particular uses (eg. Reading at Mass might require a different translation than for personal reading which in turn might require a different translation from the one you use for in depth bible study).

Personally, I cannot stand the translation we use for Mass here in Australia (the original Jerusalem Bible with the "Yahweh's" wisely replaced with "Lord's"). I wonder if it were presented to the Vatican today whether it would pass muster at all. The language is dreaful and inaccuracies abound. Fr Neuhaus has similar gripes about the NAB used by the Churches in the United States.

Here's the story folks: From time to time the Holy See comments on scripture translations in regard to requests from Bishops Conferences for approval of lectionaries. But the Holy See has never ever done a complete systematic comparitive survey of English translations of Holy Scripture with the aim of recommending:

1) those approved for reading in the Liturgy
2) those recommended for devotional reading
3) those recommended for accurate bible study

So occasionally they will reject a certain translation for a certain reason for use in a certain circumstance (ie. in the liturgy). This is not the equivalent and should not be taken as the equivalent of:

1) condeming the translation in question as unsuitable for every purpose
2) saying that the translation in question is worse than other translations upon which they have not commented
3) saying that translations that were approved for use in the liturgy in the past (and still currently used) would actually pass the test of Liturgicam Authenticam if they were resubmitted today.

I for one will be very happy when the NRSV is approved for use in Australia. I will be even happier when the NRSV of the psalms replaces the appalling Grail Version that the English speaking churches have been lumped with for all these years in our liturgy and Divine Office.

26 Comments:

At Friday, September 07, 2007 11:55:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Have you had opportunity to peruse the ESV? It's online, but sadly lacks the Deuterocanonicals (but these can be supplied from the RSV itself). I think it is light years ahead of the NRSV!

 
At Friday, September 07, 2007 1:41:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Ditto.

 
At Saturday, September 08, 2007 1:11:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

David,

One of my favorite Bibles was and still is the NRSV Study Bible (including the Deuterocanonicals) published by Oxford University Press.

I only use the RSV-CE and the NRSV. I never, ever liked the NAB or any of the Jerusalem versions and I totally agree with you about the Grail Psalms. Pfui! :(

 
At Saturday, September 08, 2007 9:26:00 am , Blogger Peter said...

I agree with Pastor Weedon. In fact, I have been engaged in an extended conversation with the publishers of the ESV for the last few years.

Since you name me specifically as a detractor of the NRSV I shall have to give a more thorough account of myself in a post (which will have to be later this weekend).

PS: I hope your significant other is going well and it enjoys the health it prefers?

 
At Saturday, September 08, 2007 12:19:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Has ANY of you ever seen Hertz' Pentateuch and Haftorahs?

It isn't a full Bible translation, but rather the Law, by Sabbath portion, with the respective Haftorahs, in a rabbinically revised KJV -- and with extensive notes and essays which are fabulous!

I use it, the original JB and the ESV Concordia Edition for my own reading and study.

 
At Saturday, September 08, 2007 12:42:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

a rabbinically revised KJV

Which begs the question -- does it, like, Luther, acknowledge the Scriptures to be "the cradle of Christ?"

Most Christians who are serious Bible students will have sufficient familiarity with the Old Testament to understand its relation to the new, whatever sources they use.

 
At Saturday, September 08, 2007 2:38:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Of course it bloody doesn't.

It regards the Hebrew Bible as the Hebrew Bible, not the "Old Testament" leading up to a "New" one but the only "testament" there is. It sought to revise in the KJV what it saw as passages mistranslated out of the translators' christological presuppositions which they were determined to find in the Hebrew.

Along with it, to present things like an extended article on the Akedah (aka the Binding of Isaac), showing it to be not a type of Christ but an emphatic rejection of human sacrifice and with that the idea that Messiah has anything to do with the idea that God has a Son whom he sacrifices.

Oddly enough, it was reading the "OT" as the Hebrew Bible, on Jewish (which is to say, Orthodox) terms, not Christian "Bibles", that lead me to see there was indeed a "New" testament. The other value I find in it is the notes absolutely knock to pieces the historical-critical method I learned in my "Catholic" university education where the original JB had attained a textus receptus status.

I suppose I am the only confessional Lutheran whose primary sources are from Orthodox Judaism and post-conciliar "Catholicism" -- but my personal Bible is the Concordia Edition ESV.

You can read my "desert island" list -- on my blog. The Lutheran Ones are in the sidebar, the full list in About Me. Ever hear of Heinrich Schenker?

 
At Sunday, September 09, 2007 6:16:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Peter,

I hope you can talk them into an edition with the Deuterocanoncials included. Does it stand a chance? By the way, my favorite way to make folks love the Deuts is to read from Wisdom 2 - if that's not a picture perfect prophesy about our Lord, I'll eat my hat!!!

 
At Monday, September 10, 2007 11:51:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

"PS: I hope your significant other is going well and it enjoys the health it prefers?".

Ha ha, Peter. But the NRSV does not do anything like this. I have many difficulties with "inclusive" or "non-sexist" language on linguistic grounds--I do not like even these ways of describing it since proper English IS inclusive and non-sexist--its only a certain ideology that reads it that way.

But be that as it may, the NRSV does not pander to or drive the ideology, but is simply sensitive to the usage. Yes, it says "Brothers and Sisters" when the text has simply "brothers", but often it gets the translation better than the old RSV, because it does not translate "anthropoi" (humans) with "men" (although admittedly, "mortals" is not a very satisfactory solution either).

I have still to check out the ESV--but obviously, from what you say of it, it already has two great difficulties:

1) it does not have the deuterocanonicals

2) it is not widely available

The last difficulty means that it will not be available in all sorts of nifty editions (eg. study editions), and secondly that it will not achieve anything like the broad acceptance of the NRSV. There is something to be said, in these days of multiple translations and low familiarity with scripture, for a translation that follows in the familiar "standard" tradition and which is used almost universally by English speaking Christians. Whatever nit-picking we might do about this or that choice of the translator, we may be looking at a period of some stability in the English biblical text.

 
At Monday, September 10, 2007 2:53:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Hey bro, the ESV may not be as yet widely stocked in Australian book stores, but it's the Internet Age and it's as close as this link which is how I got mine!

http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=80073&part%5Fno=011952&find%5Fcategory=80073&find%5Fdescription=Study+Bibles&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=

Or just go to www.cph.org and link through on the sidebar with Bibles/Study Bibles.

 
At Monday, September 10, 2007 4:59:00 pm , Blogger Peter said...

I hope you can talk them into an edition with the Deuterocanoncials included. Does it stand a chance?

Yes, it does stand a chance. I've commented more fully on my own blog.

Peter

 
At Monday, September 10, 2007 11:27:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Of course it bloody doesn't.

I knew that :-)

It sought to revise in the KJV what it saw as passages mistranslated out of the translators' christological presuppositions which they were determined to find in the Hebrew.

There's no getting around the fact that Jewish and Christian paradigms are going to differ over the Hebrew/Christian Scriptures. Lutheran theology is unabashedly Christocentric in both.

Along with it, to present things like an extended article on the Akedah (aka the Binding of Isaac), showing it to be not a type of Christ but an emphatic rejection of human sacrifice and with that the idea that Messiah has anything to do with the idea that God has a Son whom he sacrifices.

Here's a little secret -- before I married I had the good fortune to become very close friends with a young (Reform) Jewish woman whom I met at work and two very fine Jewish gentlemen (one an actual Sabra from Israel). I remember some great conversation with Maury the Jewish baker whom I met through them. I got a real good birds eye view of the OT through Jewish eyes and then there's some fine works in my own personal library by the late great Abraham Joshua Heschel, along with the late Abba Hillel Silver who did is very best to convince Christians of the errors of Christianity in his book Where Judaism Differed. Hope that gives me a few minor brownie points.

Oddly enough, it was reading the "OT" as the Hebrew Bible, on Jewish (which is to say, Orthodox) terms, not Christian "Bibles", that lead me to see there was indeed a "New" testament. The other value I find in it is the notes absolutely knock to pieces the historical-critical method I learned in my "Catholic" university education where the original JB had attained a textus receptus status.

Of course, I never had to struggle through the whole 70's historical revisionist thing because truth be told, at that time I was hardly attending church. When I came back I reimmersed myself with solid, orthodox scholarship and exegesis as well as a fresh rereading of Sacred Scripture.

I suppose I am the only confessional Lutheran whose primary sources are from Orthodox Judaism and post-conciliar "Catholicism" -- but my personal Bible is the Concordia Edition ESV.

From the Orthodox Jewish standpoint you probably are. From post-conciliar Catholicism there's plenty more out there.

 
At Tuesday, September 11, 2007 12:26:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

You know, the original question, which I did not ask for the first time in this post, is whether anyone had encountered Herz (at the time the "Pentateuch and Haftorahs" by JH Hertz, at the time the Chief Rabbi of the British Emprire.

So far, no-one has said yes. And no-one has said no, either. Great Caesar's Ghost!

It isn't a contest about Jewish credentials. I read the Silver book, and Heschel's The Prophets. Silver was Reform, Heschel Conservative. From my Orthodox standpoint -- well, you get it. My kind of rabbi doesn't even call Reform clergy rabbi. Think Reb Moshe. My kind of guy. The rabbi who was going to marry us was my kind of guy too, and being the only Orthodox rabbi in town, the only one I bothered with. I am sure you are not surprised.

I have a feeling if we were Jews, I would be Orthodox (well, that isn't a feeling, I know right well I would be) and you would be Conservative.

You might get a kick out of this -- in the very early days of being married, one thing I liked was at last someone could light Sabbath candles (can't do that if you're a guy) which Nancy did.

The turning point for me was when I came to see the impossibility of a restoration of the Temple and priesthood, therefore the Messiah must have come before the destruction of the Second Temple and even my beloved Orthodoxy was really what of God's religion in the Hebrew Scriptures was possible in the permanent absence of the rest of it.

And again, anyone read the Herz work? Anyone heard of Heinrich Schenker (clue, he wasn't a rabbi)?

 
At Tuesday, September 11, 2007 11:27:00 pm , Anonymous Christine said...

Past Elder, your experiences as a former Catholic who became Lutheran with an intermediate trip as a "righteous Gentile" is simply out of the norm for most Lutherans. Lutheran theology is rooted in the New Testament, particularly the Gospels (again, the "Cradle of Christ" according to Luther). The Old Covenant is seen as a partial revelation that has found its fulfillment in the New and the Old Testament for the most part, while surely a "family history" of salvation going back to its earliest times is nevertheless a collection of signs, symbols and foreshadowings of what was to come in Jesus Christ. But that became very obvious to me in my Catholic/Lutheran upbringing.

Most Lutherans simply are not going to be as engaged with the OT as you are.

I just googled "Heinrich Schenker" who is described as a music theorist, best known for his approach to musical analysis usually called Schenkerian analysis. Now if I recall somewhere you stated that was your academic field of study, which is wonderful, but – is is there any reason most of posting here would be engaged with that?

As far as Herz goes, Jewish exegetical materials are obviously going to have a very different worldview from my own as a Catholic and I see no need to employ them when there are so many fine Catholic/Christian resources out there.

 
At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:36:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Oh, now. Dr. Luther was a professor of OT! And it's the joy of OT typology which many Lutherans (myself included) truly delight in. Our God is such a poet! And the very nature of Hebrew parallelism seems to be His normal mode: how can He express the same thought again in a different manner? So the spirals of the OT types that weave in and out and grow bright and joyous as they point to Eternal Word's enfleshment and fulfilment of the "Law and the prophets." My $.02.

 
At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:11:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

So the spirals of the OT types that weave in and out and grow bright and joyous as they point to Eternal Word's enfleshment and fulfilment of the "Law and the prophets."

Sorry, I wasn't very clear in that response, my thought being Jewish exegetical materials are very much NOT going to point to the Eternal Word's enfleshment of fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, nor would they be expected to. As my good friend Toby used to say, "From a Jewish perspective I could never believe in Jesus Christ" (although some of her coreligionists over the centuries certainly have).

Yes, Dr. Luther did receive a good Augustinian education in Scripture but he did not consider all of it to be equal in all its parts. It is also worth nothing that the parallelism, etc. in the OT is found in Egyptian and other Near Eastern literature.

Interestingly, one of the Jewish exegetical sources I have at home (written, albeit, from a more historical-critical perspective) views much of the early OT period as a barbaric time in which the ancient Israelites committed ethnic atrocities in settling what became the Holy Land and refers to the Temple as a "slaughterhouse".

Just as in modern Christianty, the views run the full gamut. My friend Toby, a Reform Jew, ended up moving to a new neighborhood because the Orthodox Jews in the vicinity drove her crazy !!

 
At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:56:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

By the way, there's a fascinating discussion over on Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It blog about a new craze in *non-denominational* evangelical Christianity urging their adherents to observe Yom Kippur. Mark comments in part:

. . .it is loony for Christians--and especially Protestant Christians whose whole raison d'etre is "salvation by grace apart from works of the law" to now be putting themselves under the Law of Moses again. As Paul hammers home again and again, once you are Christian you are no longer bound by the works of the law. It will be one of the great ironies of history if it falls to Catholics to have to remind non-denom Protestants that the Bible says this.

Yup.

 
At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 6:20:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

My, I'm really gabby today -- hey, Past Elder, my absolutely favorite Jewish author is Isaac Bashevis Singer -- a "mensch" in every sense of the word.

Had to post that while it was fresh in my mind.

 
At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:27:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Since you ask, I'll answer. Heinrich Schenker was and is absolutely the most influential musical thinker for me, and not in the least because in his thinking music was not just what we call music but part of a larger whole.

It was his idea that a piece of tonal music -- using Western harmony -- represents a composing out of the harmonic components of every tone (the overtone series) though structural levels, each one as one comes to the surface of the piece a composing out of the deeper one before it. In this way, music becomes a linear expression by Man of a single harmonic idea of God.

He was also Jewish, and was described by the Nazis in their list of Jews in Music as having infiltrated musical understanding with Jewish monotheism. I agree, he did. But I disagree that this was a bad thing! In fact I think it explains why music, as distinct from organised sound, is what it is. Ironically, most use of Schenkerian analysis in recent decades has also avoided the theological bases of his thought and considered his main idea to be structural levels, which can be discerned in any kind of music, tonal or not.

For me, he explained how I hear music, and from there drew the connexion from God's creation of sound to Man's creation of musical art.

As to Jews and the Hebrew Scriptures, I have found more reason to see the New Covenant as the fulfilment of the Old from Jewish understanding of the "Old", including why the "New" cannot be its fulfilment, than from all the Christian exegesis of the "OT" I have read from any source.

It's one thing to read the OT to see its fulfilment in the NT. It's quite another to read the Hebrew Bible as the Hebrew Bible, and to see that it isn't so much that Jews don't believe Jesus was the Messiah as that Jews don't believe the Messiah will be anything like Jesus, therefore he can't possibly be it unless one reinvents Messiah to fit him.

When you get to it that way, things like the passage where Jesus says "this day this is fulfilled in your hearing", the Council of Jerusalem, and the Last Seder (Supper) just knock you (me) off your chair with the radicalness of the fulfilment!

 
At Thursday, September 13, 2007 2:34:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

As to Jews and the Hebrew Scriptures, I have found more reason to see the New Covenant as the fulfilment of the Old from Jewish understanding of the "Old", including why the "New" cannot be its fulfilment, than from all the Christian exegesis of the "OT" I have read from any source.

I can certainly respect that, PE. Our faith journeys were somewhat different. The Lutheran/Catholic environment in which I grew up molded and shaped me long before the turmoil of the 60's and 70's (which certainly wasn't limited to the confines of the ecclesiastical world) and I didn't have to wrestle with the shock waves that rattled the Abtei when you went to university.

Certainly Jesus did not meet the expectations of Israel as a whole, whose vision of the Messiah was much more in an earthly Davidic form. Yet there is that mystery in the NT that the rejection of Jesus by Israel is connected to the ingrafting of the Gentiles in God's providence.

I am nevertheless immensely grateful for my spiritual father, Abraham, through whom God raised up descendants more numerous than the stars and the grains of sand.

For me, he explained how I hear music, and from there drew the connexion from God's creation of sound to Man's creation of musical art.

Sehr, sehr schoen mein Bruder!!

 
At Thursday, September 13, 2007 3:13:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Der freie Satz is still among my "desert island" list of books. You would probably not be surprised to learn that the conductor I take above all others is Wilhelm Furtwaengler, who studied theory with him. Or that I take Wagner above all other "classical" music. (Do you think there are any Lutheran pastors who would allow Siegfrieds Tod to be played at my funeral? -- digitally remastered Furtwaengler, louder than hell, with the Vorspiel to Lohengrin to open and to Parsifal to close.)

 
At Friday, September 14, 2007 12:33:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

Do you think there are any Lutheran pastors who would allow Siegfrieds Tod to be played at my funeral? -- digitally remastered Furtwaengler, louder than hell, with the Vorspiel to Lohengrin to open and to Parsifal to close.)

Oh, well then let's go all out and have the whole affair conducted at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus where you could lie in state for a week!

Wagner would be proud!

 
At Friday, September 14, 2007 1:09:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

At one time, Wagner considered building the Festspielhaus in Minnesota. And why -- all the Bavarians there and money from Mad Louie, a part of which was the initial support for Guess Who, Die Abtei!!!!!

That's it! I'll have it in the bleeding Abbey Church!

 
At Saturday, September 15, 2007 2:19:00 am , Anonymous Christine said...

That's it! I'll have it in the bleeding Abbey Church!

Splendid idea!

If I am then still treading this earth may I, ahem, attend in persona "Brunhild" ??

 
At Saturday, September 15, 2007 1:02:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Warum nicht?

Put on the armour of Brunnhilde!

That's Bible stuff, that!

 
At Saturday, September 15, 2007 1:03:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I mean it couldn't be more pagan that what you find any other day!

 

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