Thoughts on the NLT Catholic Reference Bible and a Request to Tyndale

As many of readers may suspect, I greatly enjoy the New Living Translation and I make use of the Deuterocanonical books in certain aspects of my studies and in daily readings. Recently, I purchased a copy of what Tyndale billed as the Catholic Reference Edition (I’ll call it NLT:C), which was geared towards Catholics.

No, I’m not a Catholic, but like the wide majority of people who claim the name of Christ, I like the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha for various reason. (The Anglicans, Protestants for now, actually use it in their liturgy.) For me, I have yet to fathom a 400 year span in which God was silent, so reading some of the books currently hidden, is refreshing and indeed, adds greatly to the New Testament.

Back to this edition of the NLT. It is still sold, in some places, and on line, but it didn’t meet with praise from the Catholic Church. Nor was it given approval by either Rome or the U.S. Catholic Bishops, which is needed in Catholicism. This lack of approval no doubt contributed to the lack of acceptance of this edition.

Of course, so did calling it ‘Catholic.’

Let’s me honest, it is difficult for Evangelicals, which is what the NLT is geared to, to pick up something called ‘Catholic’ and since it didn’t have official Catholic approval, few Catholics picked it up as well. They both missed out on a solid translation of the Deuterocanonical books. (I’ll post examples later). Can something, should something, be done about?

I hope that Tyndale will, based on the success of the Mosaic, see that it is a good thing to reach across the traditional audience of Tyndale to a greater worldwide audience and as Rick Mansfield has noted, contrary to popular opinion, Tyndale is serious about the NLT as a scholarly translation.

As I pointed out in my “Rise” post, the creation of an NLT-dedicated commentary series such as the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series, the tying of the translation to the original languages through the newly formulated “Tyndale Strong’s Numbering System,” and the publication of an NLT Study Bible at least on par with–if not slightly more academic than–the standard NIV Study Bible, all point to Tyndale’s repositioning of its flagship translation as a translation intended to be taken very seriously.

The link to the Tyndale Strong’s Numbering System in the paragraph above will take you to a post on the NLT blog asking if the NLT, as a dynamic translation, is suitable for word studies. The newest post on the NLT Study Bible Blog asks “The NLT: Good for Study?

If you haven’t already guessed–YES, Tyndale is serious about this.

One of the ways to widen the reach of the NLT, and to make it more scholarly, is to include the Deuterocanon. In a weekend conversation with a fellow blogger in which I was describing this post, I asked about an ‘ecumenical’ NLT and if it would be beneficial,

Sure. The NLT as adynamic equivalence’ should lend itself naturally towards ecumenical thinking. The thing that gets Catholic backs up is bias (Reformational) in translation. The New American Bible has thus solidified itself as a translation of choice. There are one or two others that enjoy approval (Nihil Obstat) (eg RSV CE, New Jerusalem). I have seen the old Good News (with Deuterocanonical books) and the CEV used too. It might work, though your Reformed lot will reject it (shortsightedly) and may even rubbish the whole idea (the ESV is the new KJV I’m afarid). So that puts you in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Target audience? Anglicans, Methodists (perhaps), and Orthodox. Catholics (hopefully) though, can’t say. The rest (Protestant Churches / Pentecostals ect.) highly unlikely. Still, might be worth a try (and suggestion)… Though, as in all good things, expect some opposition my friend…

The NRSV has an ecumenical version which includes the books of the Western and Eastern Canons. (I would like to see an inclusion of the Psalms of Solomon of course). Further, an ecumenical NLT (instead of a ‘Catholic’ Version) would be more compatible across the denominational spectrum and help to show that the NLT is scholarly and liturgical.

Regarding the Greek text of the Deuterocanon to be used? I like that which is available in the New English Translation of the Septuagint (Rahlf’s), which is close to what the KJV translators used in 1611. While the footnotes in the NLT:C include the ‘missing’ verses, it is entirely possible to elevate them into the text and bracket them.

According the Bible Study Magazine, the exclusion of the Deuterocanon is almost a uniquely American idea.

The bibles used by many European Protestants, as well as the Anglican Church, still include the Apocrypha. Most other English-speaking Protestant churches have bibles without the Apocrypha.

So, if Tyndale wants to broaden the reach into more hands and scholarly circles, why not an Ecumenical NLT?

First, Tyndale needs to correct the Protestant Myth of the Council of Trent (found in the introduction). Further, remove the listing of Popes, but perhaps include a listing of Saints common to the West, East and Protestantism, such Chrysostom, Ignatius, Polycarp. They could also include Augustine, Cassian, Francis and others that might not be widely held. Also Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Frankly, if they focused only on the translation and removed everything else, I would be okay.

In the end, Tyndale needs to move beyond segmented Christianity and show that the New Living Translation deserves a place in the Christendom, in Scholarly applications, and in Liturgical Use.

I have the hard cover of the Catholic Reference Edition, and I am already missing the leather bound type. The binding is cracked (yes, I bought it used) and cracks more and more. This has nothing to do with the quality of printing, but a sad fact of hard cover bibles. The Deuterocanonical books are set according to the Catholic Canon – which might have to be changed, and like Protestant Bibles, separated. There are cross references inside and out of the DC books which provides some ability to actually measure the DC books against those of the Common Canon. (Even the KJV 1611 had these). Like most NLT’s, the DC books have section headings. The introductions are not as conservative as you will find in the rest of the bible, but they are not expected to be.

The DC books were translated by Philip Comfort, J. Julius Scott, and James A. Swanson. They are very much in line with the translation styles of the 1996 edition of the NLT (which is what the Catholic Reference Edition comes in). Some of this might need updating, of course, to make it more in line with the translation style of the 2007 edition, which is more literal. Further, more cross references, if possible (no need to stretch them, as their are plenty), located in the DC books to the rest of the test.

Part of the goal should be to great a liturgical-like atmosphere, perhaps including, as William Tyndale did in his 1534 New Testament, a liturgical calender. Even he used the DC books, which of course, gave way to the present day use by the Anglican Communion. While adding a Liturgy for every Faith Community would be nearly impossible, I would suggest selecting two or three.

I am obviously mixing scholarly and ecumenical, but I cannot get around it. The NLT, as the commentator noted above, should be a natural for ecumenical dialogue, but there is a need to up the ante a bit.

This will be followed by two more posts – Psalms 151 in Dynamic Equivalence and Examples of the NLT:C Deuterocanon.

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21 Replies to “Thoughts on the NLT Catholic Reference Bible and a Request to Tyndale”

  1. I agree totally, Joel. I’d be a buyer for an ecumenical NLT, as I’m a big reader of the deuterocanon. What’s more, once it’s done, I think some of the ‘spin-off’s, such as the Mosaic, would benefit greatly from the inclusion of the deuterocanon.

    1. Damian, thanks for the input. I hope to raise some fervor with this, so maybe more bloggers will say that they are in favor as well

      1. I think you’re definitely right with the NLT being a great option for liturgical use, especially in Anglican, Lutheran and english-speaking Catholic liturgies. I think that Catholic approval should be something that the NLT should strive for – after all, it simply indicates a lack of reformational bias, and great translations such as the NRSV have Catholic approval. The NLT reads very well, and is easily understood – perfect for liturgical use.

        1. I couldn’t agree more, Damian. I think that approval can be received (although I still wouldn’t call it Catholic for various ingrained biases) and then could be used to really expand the base of the NLT. I think that the success (I think it’s a success) of the Mosaic shows that Evangelicals and be more accepting of Traditional Christian Worship.

  2. Another problem with Catholic acceptance is use of inclusive language. That’s now taboo in Catholic translations even though it had appeared in some of them earlier.

    But I’m in agreement about removing the introductory materials and simply publishing it as a whole. Don’t aim it at any particular group.

    Right now in Evangelical circles, we have and ESV, NET and GWT apocrypha. It’s not longer a “forbidden” collection for Protestants.

    One minor quibble though. I don’t consider any of them inspired on the same level as the rest of the canon. The 400 years of silence isn’t an issue any more than 1900 years after the closing of the canon is either.

    1. While I would like the canon arranged something like the OSB, I would settle for an appendix. For me, it’s difficult at best to see the inspiration of Judith in comparison to the other books. I do think, however, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. After all, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch were all used as inspired material during the Christological debates.

  3. I recently posted a look at Apocrypha study materials at my blog and noted my fondness for the NLT-C. I have the leather like edition, but I’m not sure how well it would hold up to regular use. The binding doesn’t inspire confidence. It feels cheap even though it was not.

    Church approval for a translation is a confusing thing, from what I’ve read. My impression is that it can change over time and editions. Perhaps the closest thing to a genuine ecumenical edition for Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox all is the 1977 RSVA. But even there I believe the RCC prefers a fair number of NT changes.

    You can’t please everyone, which keeps bible publishers in business.

      1. That’s the very post. Links galore for apocrypha translations and studies. And I’m sure I still missed a lot.

        I’ve never had a book rebound, though I reglued a binding or two.

        I want a NET with Deuterocanonicals, but I’m not holding my breath. It would be a very large bible, for sure.

  4. I was first a Protestant theologian and now a Catholic theologian and have read many bible translations over the years.
    I found the NLT Catholic Edition to be a very fine translation and one I now like to use daily for light devotional reading.
    It is really a shame that Tyndale did not get a proper Imprimatur/Nihil obstat for this translation, but none the less I wish more Catholic’s would have at least given this translation a chance because it really does bring the bible more to life then most current translations on the market.
    I should also say that one of the reasons many Catholic Bishop’s and the United States Counsel of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are not giving more translations their approval is because of money.
    The USCCB owns the copyright on the “New American Bible” (NAB) {a rather poor to bad translation in my own opinion} hence they get a kick-back every time a copy of the NAB is sold which is another reason why the NAB is the only current “approved” translation for the Church liturgy in the USA.
    However, none the less- the NLT-Catholic Edition is a wonderful translation and one I recommend highly especially for those who are just looking for a Bible to read and enjoy.

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