The New Jerusalem Bible

New York, NY

Doubleday. 1985. xv, 2108. pp + maps. $37.50

It is more than a little past time to recognize this revision of the highly-acclaimed Jerusalem Bible. The first mention of the first edition of this Bible in this journal appeared in the Oct-Dec. issue of 1966. This new edition bears the Nihil Obstat of John Deehan and the Imprimatur of Cardinal George Basil Hume. It was released in a standard edition, with limited footnotes, at $19.95; and the full-footnoted edition at $37.00.

Since its initial publication in 1966 The Jerusalem Bible has become widely used for liturgical purposes, as well as for study and private reading. Credit, both for the idea and labor of translating this originally-French version into English belongs to Alexander Jones, who, unfortunately, did not live to see the full impact of his project.

In 1973 a new edition of the French version appeared. It incorporated the further progress in scholarship that had been made since the release of the earlier edition. The introductions and notes were changed to take into account linguistic, archeological, and theological advances, and the text itself, in some instances, was changed to reflect new understandings of the originals. The revision was substantial enough to warrant the release of this new edition of it in the English language.

The introductions and notes here are drawn from the French revision, with some additional changes, especially in the NT due to still further advances in scholarship. While the original English edition was criticized for following the French translation more closely than the originals, this revision was made directly from the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Only where the text admits of more than one interpretation has the earlier version been followed.

The character of the Jerusalem Bible as being primarily a study Bible has been retained, and for that reason accuracy of translation was a prime consideration. The General Editor, Henry Wansbrough, acknowledges in his Foreword that paraphrase has been avoided more rigorously than in the first edition and that care has been taken so that in parallel passages, such as in the Gospels, the similarities and differences have been mirrored exactly in the translation. Key theological terms in the originals have been rendered consistently (with the rarest of exceptions) by the same English word. Considerable efforts were also taken, though not at all costs, to soften or avoid the built-in preference of the English language for the masculine sense.

This Bible gives the reader the complete text of the ancient Canon, including the Deutero-canonical Books and passages, with the Books being presented in their original “Catholic” order. This version was produced by the Dominicans of the renowned Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. It may be of curious interest to some that J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbet and Lord of the Rings, was one of the original contributors to this version.