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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The New Community Bible: A Review

The New Community Bible is a translation with a difference.  Where most English bibles are tailored for the American and British markets, the NCB has strong ties with the developing world.  This Catholic bible, based on Bernado Hurault's earlier Philippines-based project, the Christian Community Bible, has been produced primarily in India.  An international edition however was published in Australia by the Society of St. Paul at the end of 2012, and is currently being promoted in Catholic parishes there.

Catholic translations are better than most when it comes to reading scripture aloud, an essential quality where lectionary texts form an important focus in the church service.  And of course this is the way they were originally intended to be heard, given widespread illiteracy in the ancient world.  Here the NCB makes a strong showing, though perhaps not with the power of either the Jerusalem Bible or New Jerusalem Bible.  The NCB, as all Catholic bibles do, includes the deuterocanonical books, which are also becoming increasingly common in non-Catholic bibles, and were clearly influential in the formative years of the church.  More importantly, though it carries its own agendas, it is sound in its scholarship, and includes introductions to each of the books that are in tune with the current consensus about their authorship and origins, a task on which evangelical versions often prevaricate, or even mislead.

One significant change in this major revision of Hurault's work is the substitution of "the LORD" for Yahweh.  This seems a backward step given the associations Lord has with male gender and hierarchic thinking.  The reason lies in a 2008 Vatican directive that declared Yahweh unacceptable in Catholic prayer and music, citing sensitivity to Jewish scruples over the name of God.  Another emphasis in this translation, particularly in the footnotes, is an open approach to readers whose background in is other world religions, clearly a significant matter on the Indian sub-continent.  The notes to Matthew 6, for example, mention Hindu and Muslim fasting practices, Gandhi and parallels in the Bhagavadgita.

Artwork by Christopher Coelho
A further defining feature of the NCB however has nothing to do with the translation itself, but its artwork.  Both the Indian and international editions include calligraphy and illustrations by Christopher Coelho.  The benchmark for black and white artwork in modern bibles was set by Horace Knowles (appearing in various editions of the New English Bible and the Revised Standard Version) and later by Annie Valloton with her line drawings in the Good News Bible.  Overall the NCB seems less successful in this regard, and it seems strange that the very competent artwork in the Christian Community Bible was not used.

Here's Psalm 1 in the NCB.
The Two Ways
How blessed is the one
who does not follow the counsel of the wicked,
nor takes the way that sinners take,
nor sits where the scoffers sit;
instead, he finds delight in the law of the LORD
and meditates day and night on his law.
He is like a tree planted beside a brook
yielding its fruit in due season,
and its leaves never withering.
In all he does, he succeeds.
But it is different with the wicked, quite different,
they are like chaff driven away by the wind.
The wicked will not stand their ground when judgement comes,
nor will sinners be admitted into the assembly of the just.
Fot the LORD guards the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
 Overall the NCB makes a valuable addition to the range of English translations available with its developing world perspective and a concern to communicate respectfully with non-Christians.  Non-Catholic Christians may also find it intriguing.  It would be a shame though to see Hurault's CCB disappear.

3 comments:

  1. I would sure love to buy this Bible. Does anyone know if this is possible? I live in Canada.

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  2. The New Community Bible [NCB] is highly controversial in India. It has been described as a "New Age" bible and a "Hindu-ised" bible. When it was introduced in 2008, there was a Catholic outcry against its commentaries and drawings. It was withdrawn by the Bishops' Conference of India and a "Revised" edition was brought out in 2011. The revised edition is not much less syncretized than the first. Its commentaries smack of relativism and religious pluralism.
    It is not clear from Gavin's analysis whether the Australian edition is the withdrawn Indian edition or the "revised" one as in both cases Matthew 6 has the same references to Gandhi as well as the Bhagavad Gita. One wonders if the unsold Indian copies were shipped off to Australia to be off-loaded on the unsuspecting Catholic public. The Australian edition cover is different from both of the Indian editions.
    Maybe someone can get back to me with the details of the year of publication and the names of the bishops who gave the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. The 2011 revised edition does NOT have a Nihil Obstat.
    18 Catholic criticisms of the NCB may be read at www.ephesians-511.net.

    Michael Prabhu michaelprabhu@vsnl.net

    Catholic apologist INDIA March 7, 2013

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  3. Both the NCB and the CCB are available at http://www.stpauls.us/ for about $20 and are also on the Australian site at http://www.stpauls.com.au/. I love the CCB and look forward to the NCB I just ordered. Having references to link cultures and other religions only helps expand the fruit of God's Spirit through the Church - the one God of Grace who give to all without partiality.

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