Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Jewish Study Bible

The Jewish Study Bible:  
A Modern Reading of the Ancient Scriptures 
[Written in 2011, for Protestants for the Common Good.] 
Judaism has had its Rabbinic Study Bible since the second generation of printing in Europe (1516).  Most recently, for English-language readers, The Jewish Study Bible presents the Jewish Scriptures as the product of Israelite times but also as reverently set in the long history of Jewish life and liturgy. 

Outline of the Review
            From Hebrew to English
                        Earlier Study Bibles:  Hertz
                        Cohen
                        Plaut
                        The New JPS Version 
            The Jewish Study Bible (2004) 
                        Marc Brettler
                        Adele Berlin 
                        Goals of the Study Bible
            Contents 
                        Arrangement of the Biblical Books
                        Transitional Introductions 
            The Biblical Books 
                        The Contributors and the Books
            The Essays 
                        The Ages of Jewish Interpretation
                        The Bible in Jewish Life and Thought
                        Biblical Backgrounds
                        The Gem of the Essays:  The Religion of the Bible
            Conclusion              

The Rabbinic Bible, the Miqra’ot Gedolot (the Great Readings), was first printed in Venice in 1516, giving the Hebrew text of the Bible surrounded by the Aramaic translation (the Targum) and the Medieval commentaries of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and others.  A second edition was published in 1525.  These were the Hebrew Bibles the Reformers and early Protestant scholars read and used in place of the Latin Vulgate to translate the Old Testament into the colloquial languages of Europe.  
The picture below shows a page from a Rabbinic Bible printed in Poland in 1907, shown on page 1875 of The Jewish Study Bible. 

From Hebrew to English 
The Hebrew-Aramaic Great Bibles have continued as the mainstay of Jewish Bible study through the Guttenberg era.  (The Miqra’ot Gedolot I purchased at Hebrew Union College in 1960 is a 10-volume work from Pardes Publishing House in New York dated 1951.)  The main texts are in the Semitic languages because Jewish worship and study is in Hebrew, though other languages of the people have also accompanied Hebrew since the days of Aramaic and Greek.  Thus, in time the need came for English-language versions of the Jewish scriptures to accompany the Hebrew and Aramaic.  Here’s how Max Margolis described that time (somewhat dramatically), in his Preface to the 1917 translation of the Masoretic Text:  
The greatest change in the life of Israel during the last two generations was his [Israel’s] renewed acquaintance with English-speaking civilization.  [The Jews had been banned from England in the 14th century.]  Out of a handful of immigrants from Central Europe and the East who saw the shores of the New World, or even of England and her colonies, we have grown under Providence both in numbers and in importance, so that we constitute now the greatest section of Israel living in a single country outside of Russia.  We are only following in the footsteps of our great predecessors when, with the growth of our numbers, we have applied ourselves to the sacred task of preparing a new translation of the Bible into the English language, which, unless all signs fail, is to become the current speech of the majority of the children of Israel.  
(The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text, Jewish Publication Society, 1917, “Preface,” p. vi.)  
As Jews settled into American culture, the ubiquitous King James Version (KJV) of the Bible came along with the language they learned.  Soon, however, an alternative to the Christian version of the scriptures was needed, and by the middle of the nineteenth century there was published a Jewish translation of the Bible that became very popular in the United States, published by an immigrant from Germany named Isaac Leeser.  He put out a Hebrew-English Torah in 1845, and the Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures in the 1850s.   
These were basically just Jewish adaptations of the KJV, and by the end of the century American Jewish scholars wanted a more current English version.  After some false starts, the Jewish Publication Society finally released in 1917, The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text, the work of a seven-man editorial board that had spent seven years on the project.  (See Margolis’ account in the “Preface,” and the Jewish Study Bible article, “Jewish Translations of the Bible,” pp. 2013-14.)  
Earlier Study Bibles:  Hertz.  In the course of the twentieth century, the JPS translation of 1917 provided the English text for Jewish study Bibles.  The Soncino Press in London was especially prolific in Hebrew-English works on Bible and Talmud, including The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, ed. J.H. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, 1st ed 1936, 2nd ed 1960.  The format of this work, going back to ancient times, gives the Hebrew text of the weekly readings of the Torah accompanied by the English translation.  Rabbi Hertz wrote introductions to each of the readings and gave verse-by-verse commentary on the entire Torah, plus commentary on the prophetic readings that traditionally accompany each weekly Torah section (the “Haftorahs”).  He also gave Additional Notes on scholarly topics along the way, such as, “Israel in Egypt—The Historical Problems,” and “Reward and Punishment in Judaism.”  (The Soncino Press published, in the following decades, a series of commentaries in matching format on the rest of the books of the Hebrew Bible.)  
Rabbi Hertz’s commentaries were conservative in their Biblical scholarship, and reflected the popular piety and morality of Britain in the early twentieth century.  
Cohen.  In the 1950’s, Soncino found it appropriate to issue an alternative edition of their Pentateuch, called The Soncino Chumash, ed. Dr. A. Cohen, 1956.  (“Chumash” is a nick-name for “the five fifths” of the Torah, thus penta-teuch, five-scroll work.)  This work had the same format as Rabbi Hertz’s, but instead of having commentary from the Chief Rabbi, the commentaries were selections from the classic Medieval Jewish commentators, Rashi (11th century French), Abraham Ibn Ezra (12th century Spanish), David Kimchi (12th century Spanish), Rashbam (12th century French), Nachmanides (13th century Spanish), and Obadiah ben Sforno (16th century Italian).  
The result is a large volume of succinct samples of Jewish interpretation of the Torah by its great classical commentators.  
Plaut.  More recently, after the Jewish Publication Society had published its new Torah and Nebi’im translations, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reformed Judaism) has published The Torah:  A Modern Commentary (1981), ed. W. Gunther Plaut.  The format is the same as the Hertz and Cohen volumes, Hebrew text with English translation arranged in weekly Torah units, accompanied by running commentary and little essays on special topics.  
This edition has two noteworthy additions:  Each Torah unit is followed by a section called “Gleanings,” which are little quotations or vignettes of homiletic relevance to the topic of that reading.  Also, enhancing the scholarly value of the work, there are five essays written by William W. Hallo of Yale University, one on each book of the Pentateuch, examining its ancient Near Eastern background:  “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Literature,” and so on.  These are excellent essays.  
(It should be mentioned that in the Plaut Torah, the book of Leviticus receives completely different treatment from the other four.  It is introduced and commented on by a separate specialist in the sacrificial and holiness systems, Rabbi Bernard J. Bamberger, deceased at the time of publication.)  
The New JPS Version.  Beginning in 1953, the Jewish Publication Society projected an entirely new English version of the Hebrew scriptures.  (The Christian world had just come out with the Revised Standard Version.)  It was a slow process, involving different groups of scholars on each of the three parts of the Jewish Bible:  the Torah coming out in 1962, the Prophets (Nevi’im) in 1978 (though a few books were published separately earlier), and the Writings (Kethuvim) in 1982 (though Psalms and Job had earlier separate editions).  Finally, a revised complete work appeared as Tanakh (Torah-Nevi’im-Kethuvim) in 1985, supplemented by minor revisions in 1999.  In 2000, JPS issued the very convenient JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, printing the leading scholarly Hebrew text (the Leningrad codex of BHK and BHS) alongside the 1999 revision of the NJPS translation.  
Broadly, the NJPS translation occupies a middling position on the spectrum of translation styles:  it is less word-for-word that traditional English versions, but not so idiomatic as to be paraphrastic.  It is only a little more thought-for-thought than the Revised Standard Version or the New Revised Standard Version.  Mostly, this translation makes no accommodation for inclusive gender, such as turning masculine singulars into plurals, as in Psalm 1:1 (“Happy is the man...” NJPS; “Happy are those who...” NRSV).  
This version has a generous use of the footnote, “Meaning of Heb. uncertain,” which is unfortunate in that it doesn’t even suggest the nature of the problem—such as divided testimony among versions, as some other recent English versions do.  
The Jewish Study Bible (2004) 
The Jewish Study Bible is published by the Oxford University Press—not the Jewish Publication Society, which brought out the various editions of the NJPS translation.  The Study Bible was a project of Oxford—in fact a spin-off of Oxford’s flagship Study Bible, the New Oxford Annotated Bible, 2001 edition.  One of the Associate Editors of the NOAB 3rd ed. (2001) was Marc Z. Brettler, and he serves as the editorial link between the Oxford Annotated Bible and the Jewish Study Bible.  
Marc Z. Brettler.     
Marc Brettler is a fixture of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.  He did his undergraduate study there with high honors, went on to a Ph.D. in 1986, after which he served on the Brandeis faculty in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies as an Assistant, Associate, and then (1999) as full professor.  He served as Chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from 2001 to 2006, and as Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies since 2001.  He has received awards for outstanding teaching as well as for publications, especially in Jewish adult education programs.  
His doctoral dissertation was published in revised form as, God is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor (SJSOT, Sheffield, UK, 1989), and later works continued  presenting ancient Israelite writings to modern, historically-conscious, readers.  In the late 1990s he was appointed Associate Editor for Old Testament (excluding Prophets and Apocrypha) of the Third Edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (Michael D. Coogan, editor, 2001), and continued in that role for the Fourth Edition in 2010.  This OAB editorial work involved him in presenting serious Biblical interpretation at a popular but academically demanding level.  It also qualified him preeminently for editing a Jewish Study Bible with standards comparable to those of the OAB editions.  
Between the two editions of the Oxford Annotated Bibles, Marc published a work aimed particularly at Jewish readers who wanted a critically based introduction to the Jewish Scriptures.  This was How to Read the  Bible (Jewish Publication Society, 2005), which was then republished by Oxford for a wider audience and titled How to Read the Jewish Bible, 2007.  This publication is a general introduction to the Jewish Bible, an ideal preparation for reading The Jewish Study Bible.  
Marc Brettler’s most  recent continuation of serious Study Bible editing is a joint venture with Amy-Jill Levine, of Vanderbilt University, The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Oxford, 2011.  (The bookseller blurb:  An international team of scholars brings out how Jewish practices and writings [particularly the Septuagint] have profoundly influenced New Testament writers. Too, there are 30 essays on such topics as Jesus in Jewish thought, parables and midrash, and Messianic movements. An illuminating, unusual approach. 700 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.)  
Adele Berlin.  Marc Brettler is only the Co-Editor of The Jewish Study Bible!  In alphabetical order, as listed on the title-page, the first Co-Editor is Adele Berlin.  
If Marc Brettler is a fixture of Brandeis University, Adele Berlin is a fixture of the University of Maryland.  Having gotten a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, Ms Berlin was appointed to the English faculty at the University of Maryland in 1979.  There in time she served on “Area Groups” for Literary Theory and Mythology and Folklore, but she also had a joint appointment in Jewish Studies and herself developed the program in Biblical Studies.  She was eventually appointed Robert H. Smith Professor of Hebrew Bible, and has recently received emeritus status.  
Early publications were Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative (Sheffield, 1983), The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (Indiana, 1985), and interpretations of the Biblical books of Zephaniah (Anchor Bible, 1994), Esther (Jewish Publication Society, 2001), and Lamentations (Westminster John Knox, 2002).  She served on many editorial boards and in professional societies, being President of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2000.  Among her activities at Maryland, she served as Director of the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies, chair of the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee, chair of the Internal Review of the Women's Studies Department and Program, and she held the position of Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs in 1994-1997.

Serving as an elder statesman for the Study Bible project was the Consulting Editor, Michael Fishbane, who had served on the Brandeis University faculty from 1969 to 1990, and since then has been Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.  An early landmark publication was Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, Oxford 1985.

Goals of the Study Bible.  The overall goal of the Study Bible is to present a full and academically responsible reading of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings interpreted by Jewish scholars.  In their Introduction the editors state two goals more specifically:  
The first goal is to convey the best of modern academic scholarship on the Bible, that is, scholarship that reflects the way the Bible is approached in the university.  This desire comes from a strong conviction that this approach does not undermine Judaism, as leading figures of previous generations had argued, but can add significant depth to Jewish belief and values.  
The second goal is to reflect, in as broad a fashion as possible, the range of Jewish engagement with the Bible over the past two and a half millennia.... [The contributors to the Study Bible] employ state-of-the-art scholarship and a wide range of modern approaches; at the same time, they are sensitive to Jewish readings of the Bible, to classical Jewish interpretation, and to the place of the Bible in Jewish life.  In this respect they are actually quite “traditional,” in that Jewish interpreters have a long history of drawing on ideas and methods from the non-Jewish world in which they lived and incorporating them into Jewish writings.  (Pages ix-x.)  
To some extent, the second goal—to keep the Bible focused within Jewish life—is carried out in all parts of the work, with interpretation of particular Biblical passages constantly referring to post-Biblical Jewish traditions and practices.  However,  this goal is especially served by the series of Essays at the back, of which more below.  
Contents
The book is organized into two parts, the Biblical books, with their introductions and running annotations, and twenty-four Essays on the Bible in Jewish history and other background materials.  
Arrangement of the Biblical Books.  
The editors make a point in their Introduction that the Jewish Bible is not just a shortened version of the Christian Bible.  The Jewish Bible is complete in itself, has an integrity of its own, and it is that integral Jewish Bible that the contributors always have in view.  That Jewish Bible consists of three parts:  Torah, Prophets (Nevi’im), and Writings (Kethuvim).  The common acronym for the Bible in Hebrew is TaNaK, which is the unity of these three parts.  
By the time of Rabbinic Judaism (first century of the Christian Era), the Scriptures were judged to consist of twenty-four scrolls.  (Greek-speaking Judaism in Egypt had a different, longer list.)  Five scrolls made up the Torah, the Law of Moses.  Eight scrolls made up the Prophets, commonly divided into the Former Prophets (historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve—all twelve on only one scroll).  The latest in history, and the most conglomerate group, were the eleven scrolls of the Writings.  Since all these were separate scrolls, there was no precisely fixed order of the writings.  The order of the Writings used in the Study Bible is Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Five Scrolls, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah (one scroll in Hebrew-Aramaic), and Chronicles (also one scroll).  
(A Note on Scrolls.  “The Scriptures” in New Testament and early Rabbinic times consisted of a large collection of scrolls, requiring considerable cabinet space in which to store the separate scrolls, arranged according to the preferences of the custodian of each particular library.  For the size and character of these scrolls, see pictures of the big Isaiah scroll from Qumran, 1QIsaa.  NOTE:  See the Isaiah Scroll in an unroll-it-yourself presentation at:  Isaiah Scroll .)
People used to the traditional Protestant Bible will have some re-orienting to do.  The prophets are in the middle of the book, not the end.  The Psalms are in the last third, not the middle.  Ruth is toward the back, in the Five Scrolls, not after the book of Judges.  Daniel (not originally a prophetic book) stands between Esther (last of the Five Scrolls) and Ezra, appropriate to its actual Second Temple historical context.  And Chronicles appears at the very end, not as a supplement following the books of Samuel and Kings.  
Transitional Introductions (by editors) 
While introductions to the Biblical books are written by individual contributors, the larger units of the Bible—and sometimes special units in it—are introduced by Marc Brettler and Adele Berlin.  The Torah (7 pages), the Nevi’im (11 pages), and the Kethuvim (5 pages) have general introductions by Marc Brettler covering matters concerning the larger unit.  
For example, the Torah introduction has sections entitled, 
Terminology, Contents, and Traditional Views of Authorship;
Modern Source Theories; 
Compilation and Redaction of the Torah.  
The introduction to the Nevi’im has sections on, 
Terminology and Content;  
The Historical Books and Historiography [sacred histories]; 
The Former Prophets and the Deuteronomistic History; 
The Historical Books and Historicity [sources for historians]; 
The Latter Prophets and Their Order; 
The Nature and Composition of the Prophetic Books; 
The Phenomenon of Prophecy.  
The introduction to the Kethuvim contains the following comments.  
Kethuvim has no central theme or idea, in the way that the Torah (or Hexateuch) might have the land promise and its fulfillment as its center, or the Prophets as a whole might illustrate the significance of heeding the mediated divine word.  In fact, with the exception of Psalms and the five scrolls, which have significant liturgical uses, Kethuvim has not received much attention within Jewish tradition.  (Page 1279.)  
Berlin and Brettler also provide a brief introduction to the “Five Megillot (Scrolls).”  These five little works, though small, are traditionally counted as separate items and not lumped together as were the twelve smaller prophets.  The five scrolls have been arranged differently in different textual traditions, but eventually they were given a liturgical order, the order in which they are read during the year at Jewish festivals and observances (starting with the First of Nisan in the spring, see Exodus 12:2).  That order, given in the Study Bible, is:  
Song of Songs, read on Passover in April; 
Ruth, read on Shavuot (Weeks, Pentecost) in May-June; 
Lamentations, read on the Ninth of Av (Fall of Jerusalem) in July-August; 
Ecclesiastes, read on Sukkot (Booths, Tabernacles) in September-October; 
Esther, read on Purim (March).  
The Biblical Books  
The Contributors.  The twenty-four books of the Bible (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah are each single books for interpretation purposes) are introduced and given running commentaries by twenty-one scholars.  The credentials, institutional bases, and particular religious affiliations (Conservative, Reformed, Orthodox) are not given in the Study Bible.  There is no List of Contributors; they are identified simply by name—no titles—at the end of each Introduction to a book, and in the Table of Contents attached to their respective books.  Many of these are prominent scholars, likely to be recognized by people relatively familiar with current Biblical scholarship at large.  
At considerable risk of important omissions, the present writer will single out a few contributors and the books they have written about.  
Genesis.  Jon D. Levinson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School, where he has taught since 1988.  Levinson focuses on the literary and theological character of Genesis, but his Introduction has a summary on its historicity, and its general orientation can be taken as typical of the approach and spirit of The Jewish Study Bible.  
Because the action of the primeval story [Creation to Abraham] is not represented as taking place on the plane of ordinary human history and has so many affinities with ancient mythology, it is very far-fetched to speak of its narratives as historical at all.  In the case of the succeeding three large sections of the book, the matter is more complicated... At best, we can speak of accurate local color, although this may mean only that the Israelites knew something about the lands in which they placed their legendary forebears... Negative evidence, however, is not necessarily evidence of a negative, and historians are likely to continue examining the reports of Israel’s Mesopotamian origins and Egyptian sojourn for the foreseeable future. (Page 11.)  
Exodus.  Jeffrey H. Tigay, Emeritus A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania.  Tigay has taught at Penn from 1971, right after receiving his Ph.D. from Yale.  He also teaches in the Jewish Studies Program at Penn.  
On the structure of the Exodus narrative, Tigay makes the first major break in the book at 15:21—as is common in modern treatments of the book.  This seems particularly unfortunate in a work especially attentive to Jewish tradition, because it is clear that the ancient text made the big break at Exodus 13:17.  The narrators completed their summary of the sojourn in Egypt and the religious observances related to it prior to 13:17, and at 13:17 the characteristic actions of the wilderness period begin (guidance by cloud and fire, murmuring that the exodus was a bad thing).  Most of all, in the context of the Jewish Study Bible, the break for Sabbath reading comes at 13:17!  Both the original editors of the text and the later liturgists saw the major break in the narrative at 13:17.  
On the other hand, the traditional Hebrew text makes no special break at 15:21 at all.  The only traditional ground for breaking there is to include the Red Sea victory in the story of the Exodus, thus keeping it in the Passover Haggadah.  
Leviticus.  Baruch J. Schwartz, A. M. Shlansky senior lecturer in Biblical History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noted for his work The Holiness Legislation (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1999), emphasizes the interpretation of Leviticus, with the Holiness Code as a separate stratum of the Priestly work, in the context of the whole narrative structure of the Priestly Work, Exodus 25-Numbers 10.  
Deuteronomy.  Bernard M. Levinson (who also did Deuteronomy in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd and 4th eds.) holds the Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible and is also Professor of Classics, Near Eastern Studies, and Law at the University of Minnesota.  His interpretation of Deuteronomy is rigorously historical, seeing the work and its historical background as pivotal in the development of Israelite religion.  
Historical Books.  Among those treating the historical books are Carol Meyers (Joshua), Grace Wilson, Professor of Religion at Duke University, teaching there since 1977.  She was a Brandeis alumna, receiving her Ph.D. in 1975.  
Yairah Amit, Professor of Biblical Studies at Tel Aviv University, Israel, does Judges.  Professor Amit is prominent for her treatment of literary criticism and Biblical narratives.  
Ziony Zevit, Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at the American Jewish University (University of Judaism), Rockville, Maryland, does the book of Kings.  Prof. Zevit is noted for his mammoth The Religions of Ancient Israel (Continuum. 2001).  He views Kings as a work originally created in the age of Josiah (640-609 BCE), the deposit of a major religious revolution in Israelite religion, but updated by later writers.  
Prophetic Books.  Marvin A. Sweeney, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology, did two major prophetic books for the Jewish Study Bible, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  (He was later to do Isaiah for the New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th ed.)  He had already published King Josiah of Judah: The Lost Messiah of Israel (Oxford University Press, 2001), developing at length the historical context of the two books he treats here, and more recently he has written a major commentary on the book(s) of Kings for Westminster John Knox (2007).  
The Scroll of the Twelve, titled in the JSB, “The Twelve Minor Prophets,” is treated by a single contributor, Ehud Ben Zvi, Professor in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta.  A recent publication has continued his focus on the Scroll of the Twelve:  Two Sides of a Coin: Juxtaposing Views on Interpreting the Book of the Twelve/the Twelve Prophetic Books (Analecta Gorgiana, 2009).  In the JSB, Ben Zvi provides a four-page introduction to The Twelve as a separate collection.  
The Psalms.  The book of Psalms has been reserved by the editors to themselves for introduction and commentary.  This is particularly appropriate because one of Adele Berlin’s specialities has been the treatment of Israelite poetry.  (See her publications listed above.)  She also contributed the Essay on “Reading Biblical Poetry,” on pages 2097-2104.  Their Introduction is straightforward, with numerous references to later Jewish traditions about the Psalms.  They are appropriately reserved on the topic of genre, which was a mania of late twentiety-century Psalm study.  
One comment seems questionable, however.  “Praise is the quintessential nature of psalms, and hymns of praise are the most common type of psalm in the Psalter” (page 1283).  By any usual count, laments far outnumber hymns in the Psalms.  It is true that laments often have elements of praise in them (“In You our fathers trusted; / they trusted, and You rescued them,” Psalm 22:5, Hebrew verse numbering), but these are only rhetorical elements in an intense complaint and outcry for deliverance. 
Other Kethuvim.  On other books, this reviewer was disappointed in the treatments of Daniel and Chronicles.  
One is not likely to question orthodox scholarly orientations in the annotations of a study Bible, and thus Daniel is still treated with the first literary chop being between chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-12.  Just phenomenologically, if one can escape the genre-mania for a moment, the major literary chop in Daniel is that between Hebrew and Aramaic languages, that is, chapters 2-7 and 1 + 8-12.  The Aramaic Daniel is an integral and balanced composition with an A-B-C-C’-B’-A’ structure, matching up pairs of episodes according to major issues in Second Temple religious life:  
A and A’.  The Four Ages leading up to Israel’s Deliverance, 
            Nebuchadnezzar’s Four-Metal Statue, Daniel 2, 
            Daniel’s Four-Beast Political Decline, Daniel 7;
B and B’.  World Kings Who Violate God’s Boundaries, 
            Daniel’s Three Friends in the Fiery Furnace, Daniel 3,
            Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Daniel 6; 
C and C’.  World Kings Overcome by Arrogance, 
            Nebuchadnezzar’s Madness, Daniel 4, 
            Belshazzar’s Feast, Daniel 5.   
In the case of Chronicles, one could wish for more clarity on the structure of the work, given in six short lines at the end of the Introduction (page 1717).  The genealogies of I Chronicles 1-9 are clearly minor preliminaries to the great block of David materials in I 10-29.  David is clearly important as Preparer of the Temple, though the Chronicler also loves huge numbers of fighting men mustered for the wars of the Lord.  One has to go into the subheadings of the annotations to find the main structural achievements of the Chronicler.   
The Essays 
Much in the treatments of the Biblical books is not unique to the JSB.  The contributors present the best academic work current in the discipline, as taught and published by Jewish scholars.  The Essays, however, in part at least, present major topics that are distinctively Jewish.  The blocks of Essays are, 
            Jewish Interpretation of the Bible, pages 1827-1919.  
            The Bible in Jewish Life and Thought, pages 1920-2020.
            Backgrounds for Reading the Bible, pages 2021-2104.  
The ages of Jewish Interpretation begin with the Bible itself, “Inner-biblical Interpretation” (Benjamin D. Sommer), where, for example, Daniel 9 contains a re-interpretation of verses in Jeremiah 25 and 29.  There is then “Early Nonrabbinic Interpretation” (Hindy Najman), that is, such works as Jubilees, the Greek translations, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, and Josephus.  Then Classical Rabbinic Interpretation (Yaakov Elman), Midrash and Midrashic Interpretation (David Stern), Medieval Jewish Interpretation (Barry D. Walfish), Post-medieval Jewish Interpretation (Edward Breuer), and Modern Jewish Interpretation (S. David Sperling).  These are substantial essays, averaging 13 pages each, and provide significant orientation for readers unfamiliar with general Jewish history.  
The Bible in Jewish Life and Thought contains eight essays, the last of which is the history of Jewish translations of the Scriptures into the local languages of Judaism down through the ages, with special emphasis on the new translation used in the JSB (Leonard J. Greenspoon, 16 pages).  Other essays cover the Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Esther Eshel), the Bible in the Synagogue (Avigdor Shinan), The Bible in the Liturgy (Stefan C. Reif), The Bible in the Jewish Philosophical Tradition (Hava Tirosh-Samuelson), The Bible in the Jewish Mystical Tradition (editors and Elliot R. Wolfson), the Bible in Israeli Life (more below), and Jewish Women’s Scholarly Writings on the Bible (Adele Reinhartz).  
Here the Essay on The Bible in Israeli Life, by Uriel Simon, is particularly interesting.  (This is a shortened version of an article published in Hebrew in 1999 and republished in the journal Modern Judaism, 19.3, also 1999.)  The article discusses with some urgency how the use and interpretation of the Scriptures have shifted since the creation of Israel in 1948.  
The essay begins, “The Bible, once at the center of the cultural scene in Israel, has become marginalized; its magic has faded” (page 1990).  The sections of the essay have the following titles:   
Early Days:  The Holy Scripture of Secular Zionism 
Method of Interpretation:  Derash Claiming to Be Peshat [“plain” meaning] 
The Crisis of Secular Zionism Undermines the Validity of the National Midrash 
Existential Peshat as a Possible Response to Current Needs 
Here are two significant quotes from the appeal in the final section:  
[The historical interpretation of the Bible by secular Zionism] can protect us from the fundamentalism that uncritically embraces biblical norms (such as political violence) in utterly changed circumstances....  
[On the other hand:]  The time of arrogant peshat, professing to be the supreme, exclusive, scientific truth, is over; the time has come for peshat which, though conscious of its advantages—rigorous discipline, rationality, consistency, independence, immediacy—is also acutely aware of the attendant disadvantages—clinging to the past, exclusive attention to the rational, and aversion to ambivalence.  This [new] peshat, far from disdaining midrash, recognizes its contribution.  (Page 1999.)  
Biblical Backgrounds 
Nine Essays provide broad information about the historical backgrounds of the Biblical writings.  As the editors explain in the introduction to this section, several of these are revised versions of essays included in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd ed.  
(It should be mentioned here that the JSB also contains at the back Tables and Charts for Timelines, Rulers, Weights and Measures, Calendar, Table of Biblical Readings, and lists of differences between chapter and verse numbering that differ from common Christian Bibles.)  
The editors themselves have provided the main historical essay, “Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible.”  The view of the historicity of Israel is moderately “maximal,” tying specific events and periods to archeologically-based data as much as possible.  At least major features of David’s era are recognized as historical, and the dynasties of the Divided Monarchies are firmly set in the larger international context.  The later periods are treated at more substantial length, the Persian and Hellenistic periods.  The historical coverage stops at the Maccabean period.  
Other “Background” Essays deal with Concepts of Purity in the Bible, Languages of the Bible, Textual Criticism, Canonization, the Development of the Masoretic Bible, and Modern Study of the Bible, largely adapted from the NOAB.  
The Gem of the Essays:  The Religion of the Bible 
In this reviewer’s opinion, the Essay by Stephen A. Geller on the Religion of the Bible is the best article-length survey of the religion of Israel generally available to students.  This is as close as we have come, in brief compass, to an adequate explanation of how early Israelite religion can have been a typical ancient Near Eastern religion and at the same time have produced the distinctive religious orientation that created the Bible as we find it.  This is the history of the critical turn that brought ancient Israel into the Axial Age (though this latter point is not explicit in Geller’s essay). 


Stephen A. Geller (not to be confused with an M.D. of the same name) is the Irma Cameron Milstein Chair of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  He graduated from Cornell University in 1960 and Jewish Theological Seminary in 1965, later getting a doctorate from Harvard University in 1976.  His essay shows a maturity in dealing with both literary issues and religious issues also reflected in an early more substantial work:  Sacred Enigmas:  Literary Religion in the Hebrew Bible (Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1996).  [This book is currently selling online for $107 to $191.]

The basic viewpoint of Geller's essay is stated at the beginning:  "Biblical religion was a minority, dissident phenomenon, always at odds, as the Bible itself states, with the actual religions of the small kingdoms of Israel and Judah" (page 2021).  The whole essay is too complex to easily summarize, but here is its outline:  



        Israelite-Judean Religion [pre-“Biblical” religion], 6 pages.
Biblical Religion, 4 pages
            Revolution or Reform?
                        1.  Monotheism
                        2.  Centralization of worship 
                        3.  Myth vs. history 
                        4.  Individualism  
                        5.  Text religion and canon 
                        6.  Forms of piety 
The Development of Biblical Religion:  From Prophecy to Text , 1 page
Deuteronomic-covenantal Religion, 2 pages
Priestly-cultic Religion, 2 pages
Other Traditions of Biblical Religion, 4 pages
            The Liturgical Tradition [Psalms] 
            Prophetic Tradition in Biblical Religion 
            The Wisdom Tradition 
Conclusions and Synthesis, 2 pages 
Conclusion
This review has been mainly descriptive, with only a few evaluative comments along the way.  In case it hasn’t become clear, it is this reviewer’s assessment that this is a superb piece of scholarship and as fine an introduction and reading companion to the Jewish Bible as can be found.  Christian readers can get a better presentation of their own “Old Testament” here than in most books offered by their own confessions.  
That assumes, of course, that one is open to a historical-critical reading of the Scriptures.  As the Essay on the Bible in Israeli Life indicated in passing, literalist-fundamentalist readings of the Bible are apt to end up praising violence and warfare as having divine sanctions—because many Biblical texts present God as commanding and sanctioning death and slavery to non-elect human groups. 

The Jewish Study Bible, on the contrary, is a beacon of hope because it shows that top-level scholars in all sorts of institutional and religious settings are presenting Biblical traditions in humane, compassionate, and religiously sensitive ways.  It expresses the profound conviction that historical truth is ultimately supportive of the deepest grace and blessing of the God who chose and keeps Israel. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The New Jerusalem Bible


The New Jerusalem Bible:
A Historic Work of the Roman Catholic Tradition 

[Written in 2011 for Protestants for the Common Good.]

NOTE:  This is a very long review, mainly because of the historical background included.  Anyone primarily interested in the New Jerusalem Bible itself should skip to that section of the review.  



Outline of this Review
      The Historic Background
            The Roman Catholic Bible:  Counter Reformation to Vatican I
            The Roman Catholic Bible:  Vatican I (1870) to Vatican II (1962)  
            Two Scholars Under the Modernist Ban:  Loisy and Lagrange
      The Editions of the Jerusalem Bible 
      The Jerusalem Bible (1966)
      The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)  
            Contents of the New Jerusalem Bible
            The Pentateuch:  Traditions, History, and Moses
            The Psalms – and Yahweh
            The Servant in Isaiah
            Composition of the Synoptic Gospels
            John and the “Coming” of Jesus
            Paul the Man and His Letters
      Evaluative Remarks 

A year or so ago I did an adult series at University Church in Hyde Park, Chicago, on “Three Historic Bibles in English,” and one of the Bibles described was the (New) Jerusalem Bible.  Nearly half of this review will be spent explaining why this Bible was “historic.”  
The Historic Background
The Roman Catholic Bible:  Counter Reformation to Vatican I
The first printed book in Western Europe was the Bible – the Gutenberg Bible (about 1453).  “Bible” at that time meant the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, the common Bible of the West from 400 CE on.  Until the sixteenth century, Christians of the West did not have or use the Old Testament in Hebrew or the New Testament in Greek (except for a few scholars in the Renaissance).  Particularly the Hebrew scriptures had never been declared to be the scripture of the Church.  The Christian Old Testament was the Greek version used in the Eastern churches and the Vulgate in the Western churches.  It was only with the Protestant Reformation that the Scriptures were declared to be the ancient writings in Greek and Hebrew, and only Protestants then began making translations from those ancient languages.  
The canon and text of the Christian Scriptures were conclusively defined for the Roman Church by the Council of Trent, that series of meetings between 1545 and 1563 in which the Roman Church reinvented itself after the Protestant Reformation.  Trent said the true and infallible scriptures of the Church are the Latin Vulgate – and later in the century an authorized printed edition of the Vulgate was published (the Sixto-Clementine edition of 1592-98).  English translations from the Vulgate could be used, but not translations directly from Hebrew or Greek.  These restrictions continued until the mid-twentieth century.  
The Church rejects Liberalism.  The French Revolution and Napoleon’s re-making of much of European culture set up a great struggle between conservatives and liberals.  As the nineteenth century developed, the papacy was tightly allied with the forces of conservatism.  The papacy especially opposed toleration of other religious communities within Catholic countries.  Liberal governments tended to dis-established the church, the national unifications of Italy and Germany created direct conflicts with the Church, and finally, the new Kingdom of Savoy (Italy) deprived the papacy of its extensive territories in central Italy (1870).  
The papacy’s reaction reached a climax in the famous (infamous) Syllabus of Errors (1864).  The Syllabus condemned eighty propositions advocated by political and religious liberalism, especially toleration by the state of any religion except Roman Catholicism, and the idea that “the Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile and harmonize himself with progress, with liberalism, and with modern civilization.”  (Quoted in Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, rev. ed., Doubleday, 2005, p. 315.)  
In one of the ironies of history, the Ecumenical Council meeting at the Vatican in 1870 (Vatican I) had just proclaimed the infallibility of the Pope when the Kingdom of Italy deprived the papacy of its last earthly territories, except the small confines of the Vatican itself.  (The papacy refused to recognize this fait accompi until a deal was made with the Italian government under Mussolini in 1929.)  By hindsight, of course, the loss of territories in central Italy was the gateway to a new unprecedented global prestige and influence for the papacy.  
The Roman Catholic Bible:  Vatican I (1870) to Vatican II (1962) 
Under Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) the Roman Church turned to the social and economic realities of the modern world, especially the impoverishment of the laboring people of Europe.  “Social Catholicism” was born from the encyclical Rerum novarum (“of new things”; 1891).  
The Modernist Debacle (Thomas Bokenkotter’s title).  On theological and Biblical matters, however, Leo XIII and his curia remained medievalists, insisting on the sufficiency of the scholastic Thomas Aquinas.  This was the time in which critical methods of research were revolutionizing the study of Church History and the Bible in Protestant countries, as well as among some Roman Catholic scholars (Renan in France, Acton in England, Doellinger in Germany).  Under the impact of the new historical methods, a Catholic “Modernist” tendency developed.  (It was never coordinated enough to really be a “movement.”)  
Historical-critical methods and their results were condemned in the papal encyclical Providentissimus Deus (“most provident God,”1893).  
A perverse device has been introduced, to the bane of religion, under the pretentious title of “the higher criticism.”  According to it, the source, soundness, and authority of any book in the Bible is established only from internal evidence [as opposed to Church tradition]... [This approach allows] the foes of religion to challenge and ravel out the authority of the sacred books, and the higher criticism now so praised would reduce itself to a matter of each critic’s preference or bias in interpreting the books.  (Translation in Gary Wills, Why I Am a Catholic, Mariner Books [Houghton Mifflin], 2003, p. 202.)  
In 1902, the Pope created the Pontifical Biblical Commission, “which for decades would police Catholic thought on the Bible, threatening and punishing any exegetes who departed from its directives” (Wills, ibid.; Wills titles his chapter about this period, “Reign of Terror”).  Restrictions on the new approaches increased until a complete condemnation of ideas and publications was issued under Pius X in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis (“Feeding the Lord’s flock,”1907).  This was accompanied by a decree from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Inquisition) entitled Lamentabili sane exitu (“A lamentable departure indeed”), which was another list, like the old Syllabus, condemning sixty-five propositions about revelation, the Bible, and related matters – a list guaranteed to eliminate Modernist teachings from the Church.  
The description of this period by the Catholic historian Thomas Bokenkotter is grim.  
To extirpate Modernism, the Pope [Pius X, 1903-1914] called for measures that smacked of the worst features of the medieval Inquisition.  Vigilance committees were to be set up in every diocese to detect any sign of Modernist doctrines.  In addition, each diocese was to have a body of censors who were to watch over all literature in any way connected with the Church.  These agencies were to observe strict secrecy in all their proceedings [shielding accusers from accountability].  Seminarians were to be indoctrinated in the Scholastic system—in its Thomist form—as the basis of all sacred studies.  And finally, all priests and teachers were required to take an oath against Modernism.  (Concise History of the Catholic Church, pp. 352-53.)  
Modernism was indeed successfully stamped out, but at a tremendous price; the Catholic intelligence was inoculated against error, but the dosage was almost fatal.... Many of the Church’s most brilliant thinkers were silenced or driven out of theology and into a kind of spiritual schizophrenia.  Catholic seminaries remained medieval ghettos until the middle of the twentieth century, and future priests were taught a biblical fundamentalism ...  (Ibid., p. 354.)  
Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943.  After one world war, the territorial settlement with the Italian state, and the escalation of dictatorships in Europe, the Vatican was a tiny island of neutrality in an Axis state while an even vaster world war raged.  Just as the Italian government was dismissing Mussolini and making peace with the Allies (September 1943), the Pope sent out this circular letter that would revolutionize Catholic Biblical studies.  
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), who issued this encyclical, has been called “the patron of Catholic Biblical studies.”  His pontificate “inaugurated the greatest renewal of interest in the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church has ever seen.” (Raymond Brown in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy; Prentice-Hall, 1990, “Church Pronouncements,” p. 1167.)  The encyclical announced to Catholic scholars that, 
the time for fear was over and that Catholic scholars should use modern tools in their exegesis.  The stress on the use of the principle of literary forms [form criticism] to solve historical problems and the encouragement to make new translations of the Bible from the original languages (rather than from the Vulgate) were an invitation to Catholic scholars to begin writing freely again and to catch up with Protestant scholarship which had greatly outdistanced them during the preceding years of “trials and struggles.”  (Ibid., pp. 1167-68.)  
Divino Afflante Spiritu set in motion the work that produced, just over a decade later, the original Jerusalem Bible.  It is to be noted that the original French version of the Jerusalem Bible was published six years before the convening of the Ecumenical Council called Vatican II.  Vatican II did not make the Jerusalem Bible; it was more nearly the reverse!  
Some intricate developments led from Divino Afflante to Vatican II, but the bottom line is that Vatican II sustained and reinforced the instructions of the encyclical.  In a summary review, after Vatican II, Raymond Brown wrote:  
We may assure our non-Catholic brethren that the modern Catholic biblical movement inaugurated by Pius XII and confirmed by Vatican II and the PBC [Pontifical Biblical Commission] under Paul VI is now too much a part of the Church to be rejected, no matter what temporary setbacks or obstacles may lie in the future.  
(Raymond E. Brown, “Church Pronouncements,” Jerome Biblical Commentary, [1st ed.]; Prentice-Hall, 1968, Vol. II, p. 626.) 
Two Scholars Under the Modernist Ban:  Loisy and Lagrange
Two prominent Catholic scholars of the early twentieth century illustrate developments that led to secular historical treatment of the scriptures on one hand, and on the other to obedience to the wisdom of the Church that eventually produced the Jerusalem Bible.  
Alfred Loisy (photo from umass.edu)
Alfred Loisy is an example of a scholar who tried to stay in the Church during the Modernist purge, but who refused the ultimate compromises that that would have cost him.  Born in 1857, he was ordained a priest in 1879 and showed promise as a teacher and scholar.  He was influenced by the historical work of Ernst Renan and Abbé Duchesne before turning to the advanced German scholarship of the time.  Teaching Hebrew scriptures, he recognized that the opening chapters of Genesis, about creation and the flood, were similar to recently-discovered Babylonian religious texts of the same type and could not be read as literal history.  When a superior of some of his students withdrew them from his classes because of such teaching, Loisy wrote, 
It will some day be cause for astonishment, even in the Church of Rome...that a Catholic University professor should have been judged highly reprehensible for having said, in the year of grace 1892, that the narratives of the first chapter[s] of Genesis are not to be taken as literal history.”  (Alfred Loisy, The Gospel and the Church, ed. Bernard B. Scott; “Lives of Jesus Series,” Fortress Press, 1976, quote from Scott’s essay, “Loisy and Modernism,” p. xix.)  
Loisy went on to develop a view of the origins of Christianity that accepted out front and conspicuously that the Faith had developed.  There was a development from Jesus’ apocalyptic message of the coming Kingdom of God to the gradual establishment of a Church with rituals, sacraments, and church orders.  Loisy’s most famous quote is, “Jesus announces the kingdom, and it is the church that appears” (Ibid., p. xxxvii).  And for Loisy, “this statement is not only one of fact, but of necessity; the church had to come if the preaching of Jesus were to survive” (Ibid., p. xxxviii).  Loisy thought this understanding was a great apologetic advance for the Church in modern times.  
Loisy sought to be a champion of the Church in opposition to Protestant liberal theology, publishing in 1902 a book-length reply to Adolf Harnack’s Essence of Christianity (English title, What Is Christianity?), a widely popular statement of Protestant liberalism.  He wrote, however, from his historicist viewpoint, and the book was condemned by Church authorities in 1907.  
In 1908 Loisy was excommunicated from the Church, and went on to a distinguished career at the Collège de France from 1909 to 1931 as a historian of religions.  In those years he produced major commentaries on the Gospels, which were widely used by liberal Protestants, and wrote histories of the origin and development of Christianity.  He died in 1940.  
Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange was another scholar who was faced with the choice of bowing to Mother Church’s restrictions protecting orthodoxy or going on his own.  Before the crack-down of the 1900s, he had founded an important institution of Catholic research, the École biblique in Jerusalem (1890).  That continuing institution has a biography of Pere Lagrange on line:

Albert Lagrange was born on the 7th of March, 1855, in Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain). He got his doctorate in law before entering the Dominican Toulouse Province. There, he was given the name of Marie-Joseph. We are in 1879, and brother Marie-Joseph will be ordained priest in 1883.

He arrived at the École biblique [actually at the monastery of St. Stephen] in 1889, and from then on Father Lagrange was not idle: foundation of the École in 1890, of the Revue Biblique in 1892, of the Études bibliques series in 1898, development of archaeological research. All these “creations” become reference points which put the École in contact with scholars all over the world.

Father Lagrange began to run into difficulties from the time of his lectures about the “historical method,” delivered in 1902 in Toulouse; this is the beginning of what the historians will call the “Modernist Crisis.” During this time of suspicion, which will last up to the 30s, including one year of exile in 1912, and which will lead him to give up his Genesis Commentary, Father Lagrange always stayed absolutely faithful to the Church.

Father Lagrange died on the 10th of March, 1938, in Saint-Maximin (Var). After the publication of the encyclical letter Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) and World War II, the work and the personality of Father Lagrange came to be considered as exemplary. His remains were transferred to the choir of Saint Stephen’s Basilica [in Jerusalem]. The beatification process was begun in 1988, and everyone hopes that a recognized miracle will lead him soon to the altars.
It was Pere Lagrange and the École biblique that ultimately created the Jerusalem Bible.  Here is the story of the École, and the origin of the Jerusalem Bible, as told on its own website (www.ebaf.edu/en):  
The École Biblique is the oldest research institute in the Holy Land. It was founded in 1890 by Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, OP (1855-1938) within the framework of the Dominican Monastery of St Stephen, Jerusalem, which had come into being in 1882. In order to highlight its specific methodology Lagrange called the new institution L’Ecole Pratique d’Etudes Bibliques, ‘The Practical School of Biblical Studies’. The Bible was to be read in the land in which it was written. It was to be studied in the physical and cultural context that gave it birth.... 

Lagrange had the extraordinary talent of spotting genius in very young scholars. Within ten years he had selected and formed a group of collaborators that was envied by every university faculty.... [The years and specialties of five such scholars are given.]  

During the fifty years of their intense interdisciplinary collaboration (1890-1940) the members of this small team published 42 major books, 682 scientific articles, and over 6200 book reviews. The articles and reviews were published in the periodical Revue Biblique, which was founded in 1892, and the books in the monograph series Etudes Bibliques, launched in 1900.

Beginning in the 1930s new faces appeared at the École Biblique. The second generation carried on the high tradition of serious scholarship started by their colleagues. Bernard Couroyer (1990 [read 1900]-1992) published widely in Egyptology while teaching Coptic and Arabic. Roland de Vaux (1903-1971) combined great competence as an exegete of the Old Testament with the skills of a field archaeologist. Raymond Tournay (1912-1999) produced the best modern translation of the Psalms. Pierre Benoit (1906-1987) and Marie-Emile Boismard (1916-2004) made highly original contributions to the study of the New Testament.

These scholars of the second generation were responsible for the famous Bible de Jérusalem (1956), which brought Lagrange’s program to fruition. It was revolutionary in concept and design. Specialists in each book of the Bible translated it from the original language. Detailed introductions and notes reflected the best in contemporary biblical scholarship. Poetry was printed as poetry, and prose as prose. It set the standard for all modern bibles. The latest English translation, the New Jerusalem Bible, was published in 1985.  
The Editions of the Jerusalem Bible
At all stages of the creation of the Jerusalem Bible the work was designed, executed, and/or supervised by the Dominican fathers of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.  The work had the following evolution:  
1) Between 1948 and 1955, forty-three fascicles (booklets) were produced, each giving a translation, introduction, and annotations of a Biblical book or books.  These were translated from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, not the Vulgate.  
2) In 1956 these fascicles were extensively revised to produce a one-volume work entitled La sainte Bible, traduite en francais sous la direction de l’Ecole biblique de Jérusalem, published by Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Paris.  The general editor at this stage was Father Roland de Vaux.  This edition was quickly nick-named La Bible de Jérusalem.  
3) The one-volume edition was modestly revised in 1961.  It was this edition that was translated into English.  
4) The Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966.  Alexander Jones, general editor, and a team of “collaborators” in the UK produced the translation.  It was a translation of the French introductions and notes, but with substantial consulting of the ancient languages in the translations of the Biblical texts.  
5) A “Reader’s Edition” of the Jerusalem Bible was prepared in 1968, significantly abbreviating the introductions and almost eliminating the notes.  It appeared in a particularly handsome edition in 1970 with illustrations by artist Salvador Dali. 
6) A new edition of the Bible de Jérusalem was published in 1973, with Father Pierre Benoit as general editor.  
7) The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985, was a translation of the French introductions and notes of the 1973 edition, with some updating by the English editor.  The Biblical text of this English edition, however, was entirely new and was translated directly from the ancient languages.  The general editor was Dom Henry Wansbrough – like Jones, a former pupil of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.  Wansbrough also worked with a team of collaborators in the UK.  
8) A third edition of the French work was published in 1998, but no new English translation has been made.  
9) A major revision is in the works under the title La Bible en ses traditions (BEST), “The Bible in Its Traditions.”  In addition to the present BdJ format, it will have expanded notes giving brief histories of interpretation of the respective Biblical passages through the ages.  
There are now on the new or used market many popular editions of both The Jerusalem Bible and The New Jerusalem Bible.  Most of these, however, have very abbreviated notes or no notes at all.  For example, The New Jerusalem Bible, “Standard Edition,” was published in 1999 (Doubleday), containing “The Complete Text of the Ancient Canon of the Scriptures,” giving only the NJB translation, no introductions or notes.  In this kind of terminology, the full scholarly edition of the NJB is called the “Regular Edition” – the 1985 version discussed in this review.  
A Protestant Estimate of the Original Bible de Jerusalem
In 1958 a Protestant Francophone Biblical scholar, Georges A. Barrois, published an article in Theology Today entitled “Reflections On Two French Bibles.”  One of the Bibles was the Bible de Jerusalem of 1956.  Barrois fully recognized the “historic” character of this new Roman Catholic publication.  
I do not think we have anything quite like this on the American market.... [The Oxford Annotated Bible of 1962 had not yet appeared.] The text is accompanied by substantial, compact notes, which include not only the usual cross references to key words, but also, at a deeper level, to things, events, or patterns of cultural and religious significance.  In many cases these notes yield as much relevant information as would a more bulky commentary, and they leave the reader all the more free from the kind of subjective indoctrination suggested by commentators eager to make, or stretch, a point.  The aim of the editors was to present non-specialists with a self-sufficient, self-explaining Bible.  [Nice definition of a “study Bible.”] They have succeeded.  
...The introductions and notes of the Bible de Jerusalem are remarkably free from narrow dogmatism.  It would be difficult to trace the various brands of theology professed by the religious families to which the editors belong, whether Dominicans, Jesuits, Benedictines, Sulpician Priests, or others.... 
Scripture is scrutinized by the editors of the Bible de Jerusalem for the objective value of its testimony, instead of being used as an arsenal of proof texts for the defense of dogma.... Scripture studies in the Roman Church are coming into their own or, to put it bluntly, Roman Catholic exegesis is tending to become more Catholic than Roman [!].  (Theology Today, XV, (1958), 212-13.)  
The Jerusalem Bible (1966)


The Big-Picture Rationale.  General Editor Alexander Jones set the entire Jerusalem Bible enterprise in context by defining the world historical situation of Christianity:  
The form and nature of this edition of the Holy Bible have been determined by two of the principal dangers facing the Christian religion today.  The first is the reduction of Christianity to the status of a relic—affectionately regarded, it is true, but considered irrelevant to our times.  The second is its rejection as a mythology, born and cherished in emotion with nothing at all to say to the mind....  Now for Christian thinking in the twentieth century two slogans have been wisely adopted:  aggiornamento, or keeping abreast of the times, and approfondimento, or deepening of theological thought.  This double programme must be for the Bible too.  Its first part can be carried out by translating into the language we use today, its second part by providing notes which are neither sectarian nor superficial.  (“Editor’s Foreword,” p. v.)  
The Jerusalem Bible thus presents a very new and original translation, directly from the ancient languages (though sometimes via the French to the English) but intended for contemporary English speech.  Such a translation should eliminate archaisms and “old fashioned” speech, however beloved by past usage.  But the translator may not “substitute his own modern images for the old ones:  the theologian and the preacher may be encouraged to do this, but not the translator.”  Similarly, the translator cannot “impose his own style on the originals:  this would be to suppress the individuality of the several writers who responded, each in his own way, to the movement of the Spirit” (Ibid., p. vi).  
This translation introduced the use of “Yahweh” as the personal name of the God of Israel, instead of substituting “the Lord,” as most English translations since the Reformation had done.  This innovation will be commented on more fully below.  
The appreciation and evaluation of the JB translation is a task in its own right.  It is passed by here in order to give more attention to the New Jerusalem Bible version.  The two are quite different, and both translations continue to be widely available, but we will focus our attention on the NJB.  
The Introductions and Notes of both the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are mainly taken from their respective French editions, and much of these remain the same across editions, both French and English.  As Jones’s overview statement indicated, these notes are to provide the theological depth of the Church’s presentation of its faith in the modern world.  They should explain both what happened in Israel and the early Church, and how those ancient experiences are illuminating for contemporary people of faith.  
Clearly, as Jones’s comments indicate, the Jerusalem Bible in all its forms was to present the Biblical basis of Christianity in its best historical light – for the teaching, apologetic, and pastoral needs of the [updated] twentieth-century Church.  

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) 

The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) was planned simply as an updating of the Jerusalem Bible (JB).  As work went along, it became more.  General Editor Henry Wansbrough later gave the following example of his work:  

[A] good deal of the Old Testament had received a preliminary re-translation by Alan Neame, who had worked on the 1966 edition.... I worked through the whole translation, making a minimum of a thousand or two changes to every book.  Some books (e.g. the Psalms) I translated afresh from the Hebrew and Greek.  Other books needed considerable revision, as they had been translated for the 1966 edition almost entirely from the French...  (Wansbrough’s account is on line at http://www.tyndale.org/tsj06/wansbrough.html .)

Wansbrough states that he was guided by five “main principles” in revising the JB: 

1.      To improve the accuracy of translation, introductions and notes.  
2.      To remove elements which were narrowly Roman Catholic [such as references to the liturgy].  
3.      Where possible to use the same English word throughout for the same Hebrew concepts [to facilitate word studies].  
4.      In the synoptic gospels and other parallel sets of texts (e.g. the Books of Kings and of Chronicles) to show the differences between the text [to facilitate redaction critical studies].  
5.      Where possible to go some way towards using inclusive language.  (“Bruce Metzger was kind enough to write to me to say that NJB solutions had been most helpful to the Committee for the NRSV in the closing stages of their work.”) 

It is clear, then, that in The New Jerusalem Bible we have a thoroughly revised, even re-translated, version of The Jerusalem Bible.  Both these editions, however, give English dress to basically French scholarship on behalf of the renewed Roman Catholic Church. 

Contents of the New Jerusalem Bible

While the Jerusalem Bibles translate from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, the contents of the Bible are still determined by the Vulgate, the canon of scripture established by the Council of Trent.  The Table of Contents of the NJB (pp. viii-ix) lists 70 Biblical books, 43 in the Old Testament and the familiar 27 in the New.  There is no separate cluster of books called “Apocrypha.”  Rather, Tobit, Judith, and two Books of Maccabees come in their approximate historical position after Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; Wisdom and Ben Sira follow the Song of Songs in the wisdom books; and Baruch, the prophetic book, follows Lamentations. 

This Contents lists only one book each for Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles – which is how these books appear in the Hebrew canon.  In the body of the book, however, the usual 1 & 2 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are separated (as they were in the old Greek translations of the Jewish scriptures).  Thus, there are actually 46 books in the NJB Old Testament.  (There is a Preface that explains the relations of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, p. xi.) 

There are “Supplements” at the end of the book, including a 20-page “Chronological table,” which lists in detail events, rulers, and literature in Biblical times with parallel columns showing what was happening in the rest of the world at the same time.  This table is as close as the NJB will get to a survey history of peoples, literature, and religion.  Historical topics are treated in notes as they come up in the Biblical books. 

The “Supplements” also contain a 20-page “Alphabetical Table of the Major Footnotes,” which is as close as we will get to a theological survey of the Bible.  This index often has good sub-topic breakdowns – for example, “baptism” with subs of “John’s,” “of Jesus,” “Christian,” “of Spirit and fire,” etc.  There are some peculiarities, however:  There is no entry for “God,” only for “gods” with no sub-topics.  The entry for “Jesus Christ” lists half a page of sub-topics.  As a study tool, this index can provide useful starts for topical studies. 

The overall approach of this study Bible is:  Get down to cases!  There is no general article on the Old Testament; rather we start right out with “The Pentateuch.”  This 12-page introduction has sub-headings on the composition, history, and religious significance of this basic part of the Bible, and well represents the overall approach of the Jerusalem Bibles to the Scriptures. 

The Pentateuch:  Traditions, History, and Moses

Having accepted the force of historical-critical approaches to the scriptures, the Jerusalem Bibles needed to find a way to interpret the Pentateuch historically but also maintain the basic authority of the revelation to Moses. 

First is the issue of the composition of the Pentateuch.  The classic “Documentary Theory” developed in the nineteenth century by Protestant scholars is reviewed.  But as Protestant scholars in the twentieth century have also recognized, that theory was unrealistically artificial about scissors-and-paste concepts of ancient literature.  What really existed were traditions, not documents.  Traditions lived attached to sanctuaries, on-going religious communities, and memories of ancestors.  They were modified, combined, and reformulated as time passed, becoming quite diverse and varied in language and style.  Only at relatively late stages were they written down – not as new compositions, but as preservations of authoritative recitations. 

Despite the characteristics distinguishing them, the Yahwistic and Elohistic traditions substantially tell the same story:  the two traditions thus have a common origin.  The tribal groups of south and north shared a common tradition marshalling the people’s memories of their history:  [the events are listed from Patriarchs to conquest]...  This common tradition had taken shape in oral, and possibly even in written form, during the period of the Judges, that is to say, when Israel was already beginning to exist as a nation.  (NJB, p. 9.) 

The Pentateuch can thus be recognized as a composition made up of Yahwistic, Elohistic, Priestly, and Deuteronomic traditions – now interwoven in complex ways to form the Law of Moses that Ezra brought to the post-exilic community in Judah around 450 BCE. 

And what of the history behind the traditions?  There are three separate issues:  the primeval history, the patriarchs, and Moses. 

The Primeval History.  One of the permissions of Divino Afflante Spiritu (the papal encyclical of 1943) was to take into account the literary genres of scripture as a preliminary to historical evaluation.  This means we do not have to confuse genuine folk lore for factual historical reports. 

The first eleven chapters of Genesis...give a description in popular style of the origin of the human race; in a simple, pictorial way suited to the mentality of unsophisticated people, they declare the fundamental truths on which the plan of salvation rests.  These truths are:  the creation by God at the beginning of time, God’s special intervention in the making of man and woman, the unity of the human race, the sin of our first parents, the fall...  All these are truths which have their bearing on theological doctrine and which are guaranteed by the authority of Scripture; but they are also facts, although we cannot know their nature, as they are presented to us in a mythological form consistent with the mentality of their time and place of origin.  (NJB, p. 11.) 

That is, when it comes to the narratives in the Primeval History, theological truth, as given for example by the apostle Paul (original sin), determines what are the truths of Scripture.  The narratives are like parables or allegories:  they portray a teaching that is the real point.  A story of creation authorizes the confession of God as creator.  Doctrine is definitely guiding interpretation here.  

Patriarchs.  The genre of the patriarchal stories is “family history.”  Such history “lingers over personal anecdotes and piquant details, making no attempt to situate its narratives in a wider historical context.”  The stories are also sacred history:  they are composed “to demonstrate a religious thesis:  there is one God, he has trained one people and given this people one country; this God is Yahweh, this people is Israel and this country is the Holy Land.”  (NJB, p. 11.)

One aspect of the patriarchal stories is now outdated.  “The old suspicious attitude towards these narratives [doubting their historicity] has had to be abandoned under pressure of recent discoveries made by historians and archaeologists of the Near East,” referring to various parallels between customs in Near Eastern texts and the patriarchal narratives.  The scholarly estimation of these parallels has dramatically reversed in the last 30 years, and the “historicity” of these narratives in any strict sense is better left unmentioned. 

Moses.  If we have a multitude of later traditions about Moses, what can be said about the man?  The basic answer is along the lines, If there was no explosion, how do you explain this huge crater? 

If we deny the historicity of these facts and of the person of Moses, the subsequent history of Israel, its loyalty to Yahwism and its attachment to the Law, defy explanation.... [It is true that the] historical reality behind the biblical figure of Moses remains shadowy.  [Nevertheless,] Israel, having become a people, thus enters world history and ... what the Bible says about it is in broad agreement with what texts and archaeology tell us about invasions of Egypt by groups of Semites, about Egyptian administration in the Delta, and about political conditions in Transjordan.  (NJB, p. 12.) 

Religious (Christian) significance.  The Jerusalem Bibles firmly insist on both the historical character of the Bible and on its permanent relevance for the religious life. 

The religion of the Old Testament, like that of the New, is a historical religion:  it is based on a divine revelation made to definite individuals at definite times and in definite circumstances, on the intervention of God at specific moments in the development of humanity.  The Pentateuch, tracing the history of God’s relationship with the world, is the foundation stone of the Jewish religion...

The Christian [on the other hand] is no longer under tutelage [by the Law, as Paul put it, Gal 3:15-29], but is freed from the observances of the Law, though not from its religious and moral teaching....  [As for the ceremonial law,] it is true that the one sacrifice of Christ has abrogated the Temple ceremonial, but Leviticus also insists on purity and holiness in those who serve God—and this is a lesson for all times.  (NJB, pp. 14-16.) 

The Psalms – and Yahweh. 

I have long regarded the NJB translation of the Psalms as the version that most often catches the punch, rhythm, and conciseness of the Hebrew in English.  In reviewing Psalm translations for the lectionary readings I always admire the smoothness and music of the NRSV, but when I read the Hebrew beside it, the NJB is again and again a more compelling equivalent.  (Subjective, indeed!  But I’ve been at it a while.)  One off-hand example:  Psalm 100:1, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands...” (RSV); “Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth...” (NJB).  The length and the stresses match those of the Hebrew.

According to his own report, this English is the final work of Henry Wansbrough himself – though certainly building on two generations of French scholarship and his JB predecessors. 

The name Yahweh.  This example raises the issue of using “Yahweh” instead of “the Lord” in English translations.  The NJB follows the innovation of the Bible de Jérusalem and the Jerusalem Bible in this usage. Conservative commentators often remark that the pronunciation of Yahweh is not “certain.”  That’s an excuse; the pronunciation is as sure as such things can reasonably be.  It is based on ancient transcriptions into Greek and Latin letters of how the name was pronounced.  (Incidentally, contrary to the often-heard sound of YAH-way, the correct pronunciation is Yah-wéh, first vowel short and flat as in “pat,” strong stress on the second syllable.) 

Using “Yahweh” undoubtedly puts a certain distance between the hearer/reader and the Lord God of our faith.  None of us learned to pray or sing to Yahweh.  When we really mean God, we don’t say Yahweh.  Only ancient Israelites did that.  (Possible exceptions may be those young enough to have grown up with the Jerusalem Bible.) 

Realistically, “Yahweh” is for scholars and people who want to hear the Hebrew scriptures more or less as Israelites heard and uttered them.  For such, Yahweh is definitely the right translation.  The Israelites – meaning anyone down past Ezra’s time – not only uttered the divine name Yahweh, they repeated it in public again and again.  They couldn’t say it enough in their prayers and prophecies.  The Name was God’s fame, reputation, and banner to the nations, and it was the name pronounced, shouted, hallelu-ed – most especially by the Yahweh-Only religious movement that gave us the great body of the Hebrew scriptures.  Yahweh is definitely the pronunciation for those who want the Israelite scriptures themselves. 

After about 300 BCE (beginning of the Greek period), monotheism had permeated religious awareness enough that the very idea of a personal name for THE God had altered pious sensitivity and we got the Jewish ban on the pronunciation of the Name.  The Greek translations of the Jewish scriptures (beginning around 250 BCE) followed the scribal practice of pronouncing “my/the Lord” wherever Yahweh appears in the Biblical texts.  The Hebrew text was not changed; only what one read when seeing the four letters YHWH.  And so we monotheists have continued to do ever since. 

About the psalms themselves, the NJB Introduction has the usual discussions of the literary forms:  hymns, “entreaties” (laments), thanksgivings, and “exceptional” psalms that don’t fit general categories.  The NJB discussion of “Royal psalms” is developed beyond that of the JB.  A Christian reading of the Bible has to get two things about the Messiah out of the Hebrew scriptures:  the Anointed One in Glory, and the Anointed One who suffers.  What are usually called the Royal psalms present the Anointed One in Glory. 

They concern a king of their own period, and Ps 2, 72, 110 could have been enthronement psalms.  The king is said to be son of God, his reign to be endless and stretching to the ends of the earth; he is to make peace and justice triumph and to be the saviour of his people.  The expressions may seem extravagant, but they do not go beyond what other neighbouring people said of their sovereign and what Israel hoped of theirs....

[A] number of these ancient royal chants, still in use after the fall of the monarchy... fostered the expectation [of a Messiah] on the eve of our era, and Christians saw the realisation of this hope in Christ (a title which signifies Anointed in Greek, as Messiah does in Hebrew).  (NJB, 1985 ed., p. 812.) 

On authors and dates, NJB allows that some psalms at least came from David himself, but most were later.  Many “go back to the monarchical period, in particular all the royal psalms... The Psalms of the Kingship of God, on the other hand, with their many echoes of earlier psalms and of the second part of Isaiah, must have been written during the Exile...” (p. 814). 

The Servant in Isaiah

The NJB has one long Introduction to the Prophets (pages 1157-1189) that covers both prophecy in general and all of the individual prophetic books – not a very convenient arrangement for studying separate prophets.  The Introduction includes sections on the nature of prophecy, the history of the prophetic movement, the teaching of the prophets, and the prophetic books – before discussing each book separately. 

In the JB, “the Teaching of the prophets” was grouped under Monotheism, Morality, and Messianism.  The NJB gives up the alliteration and titles the third section “Future salvation,” and rewrites it substantially.  It is in this Messianic future that we find the suffering Servant. 

[D]espite disappointments and the bad behaviour of most of David’s successors, we find the hopes of the prophets Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah still centred on an individual king, in the near or in the distant future.  The Messiah (for at this point in history, the capital letter is appropriate) would be of Davidic descent ... [and several traditional Messianic passages are listed].  (NJB, p. 1165.) 

A summary passage about the Servant in Isaiah in JB was substantially rewritten in NJB: 

Embedded in the book [of Isaiah] are four lyrical passages...[that] depict a perfect servant of Yahweh—re-gatherer of his people and light of the nations—one who preaches the true faith, who expiates the people’s sins by his own death and is glorified by God....The identify of the servant is much disputed, being regarded by many as a personification of the community of Israel...  The characteristics of the servant are, however, very strongly drawn; hence other exegetes, today the majority, consider the servant to be a historical person, either of the past or of the Second Isaiah’s own times.  From this point of view, the most attractive suggestion is to identify the servant with Second Isaiah himself and to suppose that the fourth song [in which the servant dies] was added after his death.  A third theory synthesizes both these interpretations by holding that the servant was indeed an individual [such as a king] who in some way embodies the destiny of his people.  (NJB, pp. 1169-70.) 

Composition of the Synoptic Gospels

The Western Church from Augustine on had regarded Matthew as the earliest of the Gospels.  Mark and Luke had simply made different selections from the large pool of apostolic tradition, and John had written his “spiritual” Gospel to supplement what the others had done.  The priority of Matthew has been maintained by Roman Catholic scholars, in contrast to Protestant scholars who, by the late nineteenth century, mostly saw Mark as the earliest of the Gospels. 

In the Jerusalem Bible, the Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels follows, without naming him, the French scholar L. Vaganay (Le Problem Synoptique, 1954).  Vaganay defends the priority of Matthew by making the original Matthew an Aramaic document, subsequently translated into Greek, used in an early stage by an early-stage Mark, which was later in turn used by the writer of the final form of the Greek Matthew – thus achieving an original dependence of Mark on Matthew, then an ultimate dependence of Matthew upon Mark.  All of those hypotheses were needed to find a way of integrating detailed scholarship with the Church’s tradition.  Much too complex and hypothetical to be historically credible. 

NJB shifted to another French scholar, also not named in the text, M-E Boismard (Synopse des quatre evangiles, 1972-77), whose theory was even more complex, assuming three stages of documents leading to the final Gospels.  The NJB makes a valiant effort to explain these complexities for a general reader, and the narrative of how things went from early oral transmission to first documents is clear and interesting (NJB, p. 1601 bottom to 1602 middle).  Then the various documents, in various languages, with various interdependencies set in, and most readers would abandon the effort and just get on with the actual Gospels! 

The point of these theories was to find a place for every small detail in the Gospel texts as a part of a master scheme in line with Church tradition.  It is very much a case of trying to salvage Ptolemy’s theory of the universe.  The equivalent of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory here would be to abandon the priority of Matthew.  (On these and other Gospel composition theories by Catholics, see Frans Neirynck, “Synoptic Problem,” New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, 1990, pp. 587-595.) 

Perhaps it is significant that when the Introduction begins to discuss the individual Gospels – it begins with Mark rather than Matthew! 

John and the “coming” of Christ

The Gospel According to John should be congenial to Catholic tradition because it presents one major way of keeping the divine presence in the world for the Church after Jesus’ departure.  The NJB description of this theological shift is well done. 

In the Synoptic Gospels the revelation of Christ’s glory is associated primarily with the eschatological ‘coming’, his return at the end of time, Mt 16:27seq.  The basic elements of traditional eschatology:  the expectation of the ‘Last Day’... of the ‘coming’ of Jesus ... of the resurrection of the dead ... and of the last judgement ... are all found in the fourth Gospel, but in it this eschatology receives a new and double emphasis:  not only is the End here and now—it is also an inner principle and not an external event.  In this way, the ‘coming’ of the Son of man is interpreted primarily as the ‘coming’ of Jesus to this world through the Incarnation, his ‘lifting up’ on the cross, and his return to his own disciples through the Holy Spirit.  In the same way the ‘judgement’ is presented as something already taking place in human hearts, and eternal life (John’s counterpart of the synoptic ‘kingdom’) is made to be something actually present, already in the possession of those who have faith.  (NJB, p. 1739.) 

This transition from the apocalyptic message of Jesus to the religious life of the early Christian communities is the greatest issue in modern scholarship about “the historical Jesus.”  Perhaps wisely, the NJB has no place that it directly addresses these issues.  There is no discussion of the historical Jesus as such in the entire volume.  The introductions to the Gospels confine themselves to unfolding the structure and message of each work.  There is no summary of the overall teachings of the Gospels. 

Only in the discussion of the Gospel of Mark do we get a succinct statement of the history of Jesus: 

All the same, this outline [of Mark’s Gospel], broad as it is, does trace for us an important development which is both factually and theologically significant.  The general public received Jesus warmly at first but their enthusiasm waned as they found that his gentle and other-worldly conception of the Messiah did not fulfill their hopes.  As a result, Jesus left Galilee to devote himself to the instruction of a small group of faithful followers, and the profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi showed that he had secured their faith.  This was a decisive turning-point:  after it Jerusalem became the focus of attention, and it was there that further opposition continued mounting, only to end in the drama of the Passion and in the final triumph of the resurrection.  (NJB, pp. 1604-05.) 

This basic outline is taken up and expanded in major ways by Matthew and Luke.  For them, as well as for us, this sketch is the framework for the Jesus of history. 

Paul the Man and His Letters

If the Gospel of John is particularly congenial to Catholic tradition, Paul is certainly a special interest of Protestant tradition.  The NJB has one long Introduction to the Letters of Paul, all of them, including Hebrews.  However, as with the Gospels, there is no section summarizing Paul’s thought or theology.  The topics are the Chronology, Paul’s Character, his Preaching, and his Journeys and Letters (which contains introductions to each separate letter).  At the critical points bearing on Justification by Faith, the notes enter into no dialogue with Protestants, but simply give solid expositions of what Paul actually says.  (See, for example, the long note h on faith, at Romans 1:16.  Also the references for “Justification” in the Table of Major Footnotes, p. 2089.) 

Perhaps surprising may be some of the statements about “Paul as Preacher.” 

Paul does not seem to have had a very vivid imagination, to judge from his sparing and pedestrian use of imagery:  the sportsground, 1 Co 3:6-8; Ph 3:12-14; and the sea.  Two images, farming, 1 Co 3:6-8, and building, Rm 15:20; 1 Co 3:10-17, are so basic that he often mixes them, 1 Co 3:9; Col 2:7, compare Col 2:19.  His genius was much more intellectual than imaginative, his enthusiasm was never divorced from the rigid logic with which he explains his teaching and adapts it to the needs of his audience.  It is to this intellectual need to adapt his teaching to the occasion that we owe the remarkable theological analysis to which he repeatedly submits the kerygma.  (NJB, p. 1852.) 

Some Evaluative Remarks

My evaluation of the NJB is mainly positive.  I think the original Jerusalem Bible was a great achievement for its “historic” moment, and the NJB is an excellent recreation of it in English.  It’s now getting out of date, as far as scholars are concerned, but most of its virtues are enduring: 

The NJB is ecumenical.  The assessment of the original French Bible of Jerusalem by the Protestant George Barrois (see above) is certainly applicable also to the English versions.  There is little that is parochially Roman Catholic in this very scholarly study Bible.  This work stands as a rigorous but reverent presentation of the Christian Bible.  Most of all, it engages in no polemics against or disparagement of other traditions, and is quite gentle in its manner of departing from old (pre-critical) ideas about scripture.  The Jerusalem Bibles represent a new beginning; old divisions within Christendom are basically disregarded, and the common Biblical foundation of the faith is what is presented. 

The NJB is historical-critical.  The papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu opened modern methods of Biblical study and interpretation to Roman Catholic scholars, and the Jerusalem Bibles embody their mastery of those methods.  Contrary to the old “Modernist” tendencies, historical methods do not have to be, overtly or covertly, anti-Church or destructive of faith.  In God’s wisdom, even rigorous historical truth is not only reconcilable with faith, but opens new insights and understandings that the old fixed traditions could not recognize.  This is certainly the affirmation and commitment that this Biblical work presents on behalf of the Church. 

This commitment means that the Pentateuch and the Gospels are recognized as having been shaped over periods of time, with successive human custodians of the traditions.  That does not somehow contaminate or invalidate these writings.  “This process of editing itself took place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who directed the community and its spokesmen both in the preservation and in the selection and arrangement of the material” (NJB, p. 1604).  Great hassles about “authorship” of Deuteronomy, Daniel, or Ephesians are unnecessary.  This openness to the historically-conditioned character of the traditions frees Biblical interpretation of many of the boxes a literalistic Evangelical reading often creates. 

In general, the approach of the Jerusalem Bibles is:  the history was real, and the human experience was real.  By “history” is now meant the basic core of facts recovered from the traditional texts, but also real was the religious experience that produced the texts as we read them. 

The NJB is scholarly.  As Protestant Biblical studies show, commitment to historical-critical work means the scene is constantly changing.  Each scholarly generation (approximately 20 years) brings out new discoveries, new theories to explain both the old data and the new, new methods that produce quite different readings of old texts.  Scholars have to (or get to) keep up with these developments – and this is one reason study Bibles are revised every generation. 

The NJB reviewed here, published in 1985, presented Biblical scholarship essentially as it was in the French edition of 1973.  That means the NJB is not now up-to-date, by scholarly standards.  For example, the discussion of the relationships of the Synoptic Gospels would probably be different now (see above).  For the general reader, however, this is a minor issue.  The basic historical approach together with a respectful attitude toward the faith expressed in the texts does not change quickly. 

The NJB waits upon Theology.  The NJB fully develops the commitment of the Church to historically-informed readings of the scriptures, but it does not impose more than necessary on the territory of Christian theology.  It does not give a systematic discussion of the relation between historical events and faith affirmations; it does not discuss as a theological issue “the historical Jesus”; it does not give a systematic exposition of Paul’s theology; it does not discuss critically New Testament texts impugning Judaism.  These require different formats of discussion and different approaches than those specific to Biblical study.  The NJB offers Biblical foundations for theologians without preempting their work. 

The NJB is quiet about anti-Judaism.  In the places that current New Testament interpreters usually talk about the anti-Jewish attitudes in the text, there is little notice of the issue in the NJB notes.  At Matthew 27:25 (“his blood be on us and on our children”), for example, we have only this:  “Traditional OT phrase, 2 Sam 1:16; 3:28-9, cf. Acts 18:6, by which they accept responsibility for the death they demand.”  There is no discussion in the Introduction to John of the complex use of the expression “the Jews” in that Gospel.  Nor are there comments about Christian views of “supersessionism” in connection with Matthew, Acts, or Romans 9-11. 

This became a hot-button issue in the late twentieth century, as it probably was not for French scholars in 1973.  It would probably receive rather different treatment in a new version of the Jerusalem Bible. 

The NJB presents a New Translation.  The original Jerusalem Bible of 1966 gave a new and rather free translation into English.  It translated the “meaning” somewhat more than simply the words of scripture.  It has proved enduring – still in print, still selling in used book markets.  It has remained the usual version quoted by Karen Armstrong in her many Biblical writings.  The translation in the NJB pulled back some on the free-ness of the translation, aiming more at a word for word treatment of important theological terms than did the JB (see Wansbrough’s statement quoted above). 

The jury is probably still out on the use of “Yahweh,” at least in liturgical readings and songs.  (See a Catholic News Service press release of August 12, 2008, on removing Yahweh from hymns.)  

Historians of religion certainly appreciate having a widely-known English version that tells about Israel’s great God as he was really known: 

“so that these too may know that I am Yahweh,” Ezekiel 12:20, NJB.