Posted by: L. E. Barnes | March 4, 2011

No More “Booty” in the Bible!

There’s about to be a new New American Bible. The NAB, currently used in Catholic parishes in the US, has undergone some revision–a process that began in 1994–to reflect changes in language as well as to achieve greater accuracy and clarity for today’s readers. A Reuters news report explains:

A new edition of one the most popular English-language bibles will offer substitutes for words such as “booty” and “holocaust” to better reflect modern understanding, a Catholic group said Wednesday.

Nearly 50 scholars from all faiths and a committee of Roman Catholic bishops have labored since 1994 over the first fresh edition of the New American Bible since 1970, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

The annual best-seller to be issued by a dozen publishers beginning next week on Ash Wednesday “is a beautiful translation — it’s a new way to look at an old love,” said Mary Sperry, who oversees bible licensing for the bishops.

Of course, all living languages gradually change over time, with some words disappearing from use and others changing meaning, or at least connotation. Therefore, the New American Bible Revised Editions will make some word substitutions:

For example, the word “holocaust,” which for most people refers to the World War Two genocide of Jews , was changed to “burned offerings,” which clarifies the original, positive idea of making offerings to God.

“Booty,” which has come to have a sexual connotation, was changed to “spoils of war;” and “cereal,” which many think of as breakfast food, became “grain” to reference loads of wheat.

For the sake of accuracy, the new NAB will substitute young woman for virgin in Isaiah 7:14, though it has been emphasized that “[t]he bishops and the bible are not signaling any sort of change in the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus.”

You can read the full article here.

For my private Bible reading, I prefer the Douay-Rheims. (For some reason I just love the way it sounds.) Or if you don’t care for either the NAB or the Douay-Rheims, you can always follow the admonition of a sign I once saw in the back of a fellow’s car (a fundamentalist, I’m sure) that read, “The King James Version: God’s Only Bible.” Yes, after all, if the King James Version was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it should be good enough for us! šŸ˜‰

What do you think of the changes in the NAB? And what’s your preferred English Bible?




  1. Evan, I recently bought The Catholic Prayer Bible, the Lectio Divina edition, which I love. It is the NRSV. The translation is good, I think – it is new to me – but the prayer starters in there are great. My other bible is NAB. I bought it years ago because the lectionary was NAB and our bible study at church was using NAB.

    • I’ve used the NRSV before, and it’s apparently well accepted by both Catholics and most Protestants. I’m not familiar with the Catholic Prayer Bible, but lectio divina is a practice I really should cultivate. We have a load of Bibles at our house, in a wide variety of translations (mostly Protestant). But as I said, I’ve come to like using the Douay-Rheims.

  2. RSV-CE most of the time; Douay-Rheims, KJV next; and NAB for its readability. Preference has a lot to do with how each one translates Hebrew or Greek on a verse-by-verse basis.

    • Exactly. Choosing which translation to use depends on what you’re looking for. Are you going for as literal a translation as possible? Or are you more interested in readability, or one that focuses on conveying the idea of the original more than on literal accuracy? And of course, translating is always an act of interpretation.

      • Most of my Bible-reading is Catechism-related, so I tend toward whatever translation in each case makes teaching Catholicism more straightforward.

  3. “For the sake of accuracy, the new NAB will substitute young woman for virgin in Isaiah 7:14, though it has been emphasized that ā€œ[t]he bishops and the bible are not signaling any sort of change in the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus.ā€

    I don’t find this more “accurate” in the least; although I understand what they intend.

    • When I was attending a divinity school (a charismatic evangelical one), we talked about this verse in class. Being theologically conservative, the school (and the professor of the class) believed strongly in the virgin birth of Christ. However, it was said that the Hebrew word in the verse from Isaiah really meant “young woman” rather than necessarily meaning a woman who was still a virgin. Anyway, translating the word as “young woman” doesn’t do any damage to the doctrine of the virgin birth, so I don’t see that there’s a problem.

  4. I would rather they had stuck with the Septuagint. Those translators were about 2100 years closer to the Hebraic sources than we are; and I think they may have been guided by the Holy Spirit to sharpen Isaiah’s prophecy into something miraculous. I don’t have a reason to think, except for the Septuagint use of the word parthenos/virgin, that it would have occurred to anyone to wonder if Jesus was born of a virgin or not.

  5. I should add that while I’m usually not fond of the NAB’s readability, I am a great fan of the footnotes, comments. and cross-references on each page.

    • Ditto!

  6. I just remembered I did a post on this stuff:

    • Thanks for link. And I appreciate your input on the issue. (I like it when discussion gets generated about a topic!)

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