If you are a frequent reader of The Catholic Man Reviews, you may know by now that I have reviewed a number of Bibles, and today is another review of a Bible: The Jerusalem Bible, Reader’s Edition published by Doubleday.
You may have heard and read about the New Revised Standard Version (Catholic edition), the New American Bible Revised Edition, the Douay-Rheims Bible (that I reviewed last month)… but today, I am reviewing a Bible containing a beautiful Catholic translation, the Jerusalem translation. It is Bible translation published in in 1966. It uses the term “Yahweh”, rather than “the LORD”. I believe the translation that I think preserves the nature of the ancient languages of Scripture, and advertised on the back dust jacket as “an English translation that is as close as possible to the literal meaning of the ancient texts”. The Jerusalem Bible was once the official translation of the Lectionary in Canada (now it is the NRSV-CE). However, it is still used in countries such as English and Wales, and Australia. This review, however, is not about the Theological sense of the translations. I am reviewing the Bible itself, not going deep into the background of the translation. There are people who can critique this translation better than me. I am only giving the perspective on this specific Bible in comparison with Bibles I have already reviewed on The Catholic Man Reviews.
Now, I think it is worth talking about the Bible itself: a hardcover book with a dust jacket. There are parchment endpapers, but unfortunately, no ribbon markers. Opening the Bible, I notice that there is something a little weird with the text. I spent some time comparing it with another Bible and found that this Jerusalem Bible seems to have been photocopied, scanned – something that I did not expect with a nice modern cover, so it is true when people say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Ironically, just last week, I found an older, paperback edition of The Jerusalem Bible while residing at Toronto’s Newman Centre residence. That copy was also published by Doubleday. The text seemed a little clearer than that one. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture or note the publishing year. Is that paperback copy the “original” print of this newer Reader’s Edition? It could be. However, I was a little disturbed when I saw that the text of some of the letters of St. Paul seemed a little darkened than the others (see image in gallery).
The verse referencing in this Bible is something worth discussing. Honestly, it took me sometime to navigate through this Bible. I am used to having the verse number start off the specified verse, with a large number marking the start of a chapter, or a clear chapter heading. This edition of The Jerusalem Bibleseemed to take another approach that I never encountered before: The verse number is located in the margin. Then, a (DOT) will mark the start the verse indicated in the margin. It took me some time to figure that system out, and I am sure new users of The Jerusalem Biblewill find the same. There are pros and cons to this type of Bible verse referencing. It is truthfully, more aesthetically pleasing. The hand illuminated St. John’s Bibleused this verse referencing, probably because it is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, especially since the Bible is illuminated, and making superscript and subscript numbers may be a little of challenge, I assume. But in that case, I have no problem. But for a Reader’s Editionof The Jerusalem Bible, I was not too keen on this type of verse referencing. I find it is a less efficient when referencing a verse. But please note that, that is just me… other people may find this “verse number in margin” method more efficient.
A let down I have to make clear here is the lack of notes. The third page of the Bible said that the Bible would come “with Abridged Introductions and Notes”. I thought that the notes of The Jerusalem would be similar in length to that of the New American Bible Revised Edition. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The notes for short like the ones in the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, similar in length to that of the Canadian Bible Society. However it was my fault for not reading the dust jacket before hand which mentioned, “limited footnotes where necessary to clarify only the literal meaning of the text.” The introductions to some books in the Bible are indeed brief, but very easy to understand. I like the introductions used. These “abridged introductions” are can range from 1/2 a page to a full page. However, for some books, there are no introductions, especially for the prophetic books. They are all introduced all together at once in the beginning of the section.
Speaking about the dust jacket, I would like to note how the publishers mentioned that the Bible is “a portable 5 1/2” x 8 1/4” trim size”. While this edition of the Jerusalem Bible is more portable compared to Oxford’s Catholic Study Bible”, it is certainly not a Bible I would want to carry around. It’s size and style (with dust jacket) makes a perfect Bible for a Catholic resource library, but not one for everyday use. The personal size gift edition of the New American Bible Revised Edition by Catholic Book Publishing is better to carry around than this edition of The Jerusalem Bible.
Unlike other Catholic Bibles I have reviewed on The Catholic Man Reviews, there are not any “extra” features, such as an appendix, glossary or maps. The Bible simply stops at the end of the book of Revelation, with a couple of extra blank pages which I would use for notes. I have seen editions of the Jerusalem Bible with maps, but I think those were found in study editions.
On The Catholic Man’s Scale: ★★★1/2 3.5/5
So it seems like I have mixed opinions on this Bible? Yes, certainly. I like the Jerusalem Bible translation, but this edition is honestly more of Bible for home study, for those who want to read and use a Catholic translation with a separate commentary. I do not think these notes suffice for a Catholic Study Bible. This Bible is suited more for Scripture scholars and those who really want to learn more about different Catholic Bible translation. This is certainly not a Bible for beginners (those who want to read the Bible with intention and learning). I hope to do a post on “Best Bibles for Beginners” in the near future. With that said however, The Jerusalem Bible, Reader’s Edition is a great addition to the library of anyone who wants to discover Scripture through a different lens. Though, I hope that Doubleday will publish a newly typeset edition of this Bible for the years to come.