New Jerusalem Bible 2006

gratefulbear asked me the other day if I’d be interested in reading the Bible next year, ideally with shared reflection/discussion (among the topics that have already come up: what’s the most “Republican” book in the Hebrew Scriptures? The answer may surprise you). This is actually something I’ve wanted to do ever since I felt called back into Christian practice: in the words of Bishop Spong, do my little bit to “rescue the Bible from fundamentalism.” It is such an amazing book, filled with glory but also patriarchy, and mysticism but also dualism, and justice but also chauvinism… the earliest Christian mystics immersed themselves in the sacred texts, and this has become a core aspect of the mystical tradition ever since. In our time, we have the unique opportunity to approach the Bible with a post-modern appreciation of its immense contribution to our culture, as well as the profound problems that have arisen in the wake of the many contested methods of interpreting this text and applying it to spiritual practice.

Here’s what we’re thinking about doing:

1. Using the New Jerusalem Bible, which neither of us have read in depth yet. The NJB has a reputation of being a beautiful, poetic translation which is based on progressive scholarship. It is a Catholic Bible, meaning it has 73 books, rather than the 66 found in Protestant Bibles. As for a specific edition, we are looking at using the Saints Devotional Bible, which supplements the Biblical text with 200 additional readings drawn from saints and mystics throughout the ages.

2. To set up a schedule for reading, we’re going to follow a daily reading format that is taken from My Daily Catholic Bible, which arranges the text into manageable daily readings, one each from the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures. Unfortunately, My Daily Catholic Bible itself uses the Revised Standard Version, which is a 50-year-old translation. So gratefulbear has graciously offered to transcribe the reading schedule from this book, and post it to his website. That way, we can use the New Jerusalem Bible, and we’ll have daily readings that should only take about 20 minutes a day, covering the entire Catholic Bible in a year.

We’ll begin on 1/1/06. I think we’re looking at setting up a Yahoogroups for anyone who’d like to read along, but I’m also thinking I’ll post at least some of my reflections here. But if you want a handy way to see what others are writing, the Yahoogroups list will be the way to go.

I cannot stress this loudly enough: this is not about “Reading the Bible so that we can more purely conform our miserable sinful hearts to the stern demands of Jesus.” Rather, I for one am interested in discerning the textual basis for Christianity as a mystery religion (which of course is the headwaters of Christian mysticism), while also looking at how to reclaim the Biblical text as a source of spiritual insight within a post-modern, post-patriarchal, post-fundamentalist context. Should make for a rather interesting adventure. Hey, how often do you get an Episcopal Sufi healer peace activist and a pagan-friendly Celtic Catholic together (both of whom love jam bands almost as much as they love centering prayer) to try to figure out how the Bible can still be relevant today? Sounds like a wild ride to me… (and of course, we welcome others’ insights, questions, debates, bad puns, and snarky comments as well).

So stay tuned, I’ll post the link to the Yahoogroups as soon as we have it set up.

  • davensjournal

    Unremitting Pagans allowed to join in, to offer interpertations to the text?

    I have no objection to reading and understanding the Bible, heck, I advocate doing so for anyone who is a Pagan or Wiccan. I myself studied the Bible and Book of Mormon while I was a Mormon, although the study of the OT was by far the best section I remember.

    • Carl McColman

      By all means! And you especially, I know your comments will be insightful.

      I’m curious to see who will get more worked up over this: conservative Christians or dogmatic Pagans….

  • philfoster

    this here Bible readin’

    Kudos as always for taking yet another plunge. Having just finished reading the entire Bible for the first time since seminary I can tell you it is a different read at 55 than at 25. More beauty, more comfort, more challenge and definitely more mysterious. Blessings to you and BearMan.

    • Carl McColman

      Re: this here Bible readin’

      Hey, I was hoping we might talk you in to joining us on this wild and wooly adventure. Or, having just read the Good Book, are you gonna wait another 30 years before reading it again?

      P.S. When are we getting together?

  • gfunksouljah

    I’m curious to know why you selected the New Jerusalem Bible.

    Other than the fact that the Revised Standard Version is aging…are there other faults you see with it over the New Jerusalem? I’ve always been told by some priests who are trained in Biblical studies and some family friends in seminary, that the RSV-CE was one of the most accurate translations we currently have in the English.

    I’m only curious, not looking for a debate, so I much appreciate your comments…

    • gratefulbear

      I agree that from a scholarly viewpoint the RSV, or its successor the NRSV, is probably a better translation than the NJB. The NRSV is the version my church uses (St. Luke’s Episcopal), and it’s the primary version I use in my own study. I’ve always wanted to read the NJB, though, because of its literary and poetic beauty. As I mention on my Blog of the Grateful Bear, J.R.R. Tolkien was a contributing translator and lexicographer of the original English edition of the Jerusalem Bible. To a literary geek like me, that’s a big draw. And having been raised Protestant I’ve never read the deutero-canonical books, which is another reason I want to read a “Catholic” version of the Bible. And the Saints Devotional edition of the NJB looks very interesting to me, although I’m sure some of the quotes will infuriate me (as will some of the Bible passages!).

      I would absolutely LOVE it if we had some Pagans reading along with us, or even just commenting now and then. Diversity is good!


      • wheezinggirl

        Count this pagan in. Its been a long time since I actually read the bible – and it was some old family edition – but I am very interested in a discussion on the topic.

      • ravyng

        Jerusalem or Douay-Rheims for me

        altho I use RS for daily stuff–Oxford Study- Catholic Edition. and I have to admit I also have an Amplified–just for fun. I am another pagan convert to Catholicism…
        should be interesting–I will join the yahoo group when you get it started.

    • Carl McColman

      I would say our decision was not so much against the RSV as for the NJB, for reasons that has already articulated. Certainly when I was growing up, the RSV was the gold standard among liberal Protestants. It feels really comfortable and familiar to me, but that can actually work against the reading experience — it becomes too easy to gloss over challenging texts, just because they’re well-worn in the brain. Using an unfamiliar translation can snap a new experience out of an otherwise well-known text.

      Since I’ve just become a Catholic, naturally I have an interest in reading Catholic approved translations, of which there are two: the New American Bible and the NJB. The New American is the more conservative of the two, and it’s the one used at Mass, so I’m getting plenty of exposure to it. So for me the NJB was very much a logical choice of a Bible to read. It really does have a reputation as a very beautiful and literary translation. And the Tolkien connection is a nice plus.

      Hey, if this is successful, I’m thinking we’ll do it again in 2007 with the NRSV.

      • Carl McColman

        Slight clarification to above comment: to the best of my knowledge, the RSV and the NRSV are approved for use in the Catholic Church as well. But the NAB and the NJB are approved translations that (at least in my experience) are not as widely used in Protestant or Anglican circles.

        • ravyng

          I believe the RSV is used in the catechism and official docs, and the NAB is approved for use in US liturgy. other translations are ‘approved’like the Jerusalem Bible–but I am not sure the NEW RSV and the NEW Jerusalem Bible are approved for ‘official’ use.
          I am not really thrilled with the NAB.

        • ravyng

          ok this says the NJB is also approved for liturgy. but not the NRSV.

  • liadan_giolla_b

    Count me in. I, too, read a Catholic Bible. The Wisdom readings are especially significant for me. My favorite book remains Genesis though. I’ve spent years on it and still feel I’ve done no more than touch the surface.
    Liadan Giolla Brighide

  • liadan_giolla_b

    BTW. I am also very interested in the art, science and theory of Biblical translations.

    I do believe that the original books of the Bible were inerrant, but we don’t have the originals. Time and Man have distorted some of the text despite attempts to be faithful.

    I also feel Literal translations are not accurate translations. Word for word translations often render the original meanings illegible, especially in English translations.

    Liadan Giolle Brighide

    • gratefulbear

      From what I understand, the New Jerusalem Bible is a “happy medium” between a word-for-word translation (which can be stilted and difficult to read, like the evangelical New American Standard Bible) and a thought-for-thought “dynamic equivalence” translation (which can be far removed from the original as well as theologically biased, like the evangelical New Living Translation that George W. Bush reads).

      The NRSV leans more toward the word-for-word end of the spectrum than the NJB, although it does make use of dynamic equivalence on occasion. The NRSV is not as “literal” as a new translation that I also use, the English Standard Version. I like the ESV, although its theological bias (basically evangelical Presbyterian) does show through on occasion. The translators of the ESV didn’t bother to include the deutero-canonical books, though, so it really isn’t a “complete” Bible. I say that not because I’m Catholic (I’m not; I’m Episcopalian/Sufi) but because so much of the Wisdom/Sophia tradition is included in those books.