RNJB Bible readings for Advent and Christmas

I have already posted on PrayTell advising that those countries that now use the Jerusalem Bible in their Lectionary consider adopting the newly translated Revised New Jerusalem Bible for the revised edition.

I imagine that some people are tired of hearing me on this topic. However, after experiencing the adoption of the current Roman Missal translation, where change for change’s sake seems to have been a translation criterion, I think that, from a pastoral point of view, this current translation of the Missal was a poorly thought out translation and I think we should be careful that any new edition of the Lectionary is prepared with a better pastoral awareness.

I was disappointed to hear that some people are proposing the English Standard Version. Ultimately I don’t have anything against the ESV per se. I bought a copy of it a few years ago and find it to be a nice enough translation, even though I do prefer the Second Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version that Ignatius Press publishes (and I don’t see anything wrong with the New Revised Standard Version either). My main issue with the ESV is that today we are 50 years out from the liturgical renewal of the Council and in many countries we have been using the Jerusalem Bible for all of this time. From the point of view of pastoral continuity, I can’t justify adopting a translation from any other family. The current 1981 edition of the Lectionary for Mass in use is basically a slightly edited version of the original 1960 edition. US and Canadian readers have much newer Lectionaries. In Ireland and the other countries using the JB, we basically have had only one Scripture translation since the Council. So at this stage it needs to be renewed, but I think the RNJB offers the best possible way forward.

My main criterion is pastoral continuity. The bishops of these countries are not starting from scratch. If they were, many Catholic editions could be considered and their pros and cons could be discussed. But that is not the situation we find ourselves in, therefore I think that only a very serious deficiency could justify the adoption of another translation.

Obviously, I am not proposing that the Revised New Jerusalem Bible is absolutely perfect; it is not. There are passages that people won’t like. However I think that fairness demands that we not simply look at our favorite passages. With that in mind I helped Darton, Longman and Todd (the publishers) to prepare a small booklet that was distributed with last week’s London Tablet to their subscribers in the UK. This contained the text of the selection of readings from the Lectionary for the Sundays of Advent this year. It also included an introduction by Dom Henry Wansbrough (the translator of the RNJB) and an afterword of my own. The idea was that those interested could take it for a “test drive” during Advent and see how it reads for the readings that we hear in the liturgy.

I offer the booklet here in pdf form for those readers of PrayTell who might be interested.


  1. Thank you for taking the time/effort to post this and really was interested in your AFTERWORD – excellent.

    1. After 2019 we have some very good Catholic editions of the Bible which must be considered for use in the liturgy. Questions will arise, and one question is: why the change is needed? In 1966 except Douay Rheims Bible there was no other formal equivalent Catholic Bible published solely for the Catholic Church. Now there are New Amererican Bible Revised Edition, and Revised New Jerusalem Bible. Both of these editions have been produced solely for the use in Catholic Church. RSVCE, NRSVCE, RSV2CE, and ESVCE are all modern revisions of the Protestant King James Bible (1611), English Revised Version (1885), American Standard Version (1901), and the Revised Standard Version published in 1952. There is also New Community Bible, published by Saint Pauls, India, which is the revision of Christian Community Bible. It also is a beautiful edition, accepted by the Australian Catholic Church and has been widely used by the faithfuls there. But NCB is a functional Equivalent Bible. The Catholic Church now has two completely Catholic and formal equivlent editions as NABRE and RNJB, which are best for study, teaching, in sermons and disputations, alongwith the Douay Rheims Bible.

      1. The problem is not about how many approved translations that exist for Catholics to use, but about the production of a new Lectionary for use in the Celebration of the Eucharist. Thank God we have many different Catholic Bibles. This variety is great and different editions have different features that compliment each other and much can be gained from comparing different editions.

        However, the problem that I am addressing is the issue of a new Lectionary for those countries that today use a lectionary taken from the Jerusalem Bible. I personally would prefer the option of having 2 or 3 lectionaries that worshipping communities could chose from. But for very practical reasons publishers (as well as the Vatican) prefer one Lectionary per language per country.
        Nearly everyone agrees that the Jerusalem Bible is not the best option today. But at a minimum it needs to be reprinted (although re-typesetting it would be a good idea). Many parishes have old lectionaries that are falling to pieces.

        But it is mainly a pastoral question, if we decided to have only one edition of the Lectionary, which translation should it be based on? Today Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland use the Jerusalem Bible as the base text for their Lectionary. I believe that the RNJB would be the best option for these countries in preparing their new lectionary. However, it is for the bishops of these countries to decide. It is possible that the different countries will opt for different translations. This booklet was designed to give some idea of how a RNJB Lectionary would sound (taking a selection of prescribed texts, to avoid the temptation for people to cherry-pick the passages they think sound best or worst) , to outline some of the translation philosophy of the RNJB and to provide some points for reflection on its suitability for adoption as the version used in a new Lectionary.

      2. The Knox version of the New Testament was authorised for Catholic public use in England&Wales in 1944 (on the feast of St Jerome), the Old Testament followed in 1949. The schools edition was published by Macmillan in 1957, in London, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Melboune, Toronto, and New York, and b Burnes, Oates & Washbourne in London. When I expressed my hope that CBCEW would switch to an RSV edition, to Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool (retired 2013) he said he still preferred Knox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.