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Online Edition - February 2006
Vol. XI, No. 10

“Youth Bible” Problems Persist

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

The “Catholic Youth Bible”, an edition of the New Revised Standard Version with additions and comments aimed at high-school-aged youngsters, has been intensely promoted for use in Catholic schools since it was published by St. Mary’s Press in 1999 -- and it is still causing concern among Catholic parents. Several parents have recently asked for aid in evaluating this Bible. First, in December 1999, Adoremus published a review of the Catholic Youth Bible, “Selling Bibles to Generation Y”.

Although there is a serious need for a reliable Bible that includes sound and clear commentary in a convenient one-volume edition, this, regrettably, is not it.

A fundamental problem is that the Catholic Youth Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). But the purpose in producing the NRSV was to incorporate so-called “inclusive” language, as the translators’ preface to the standard edition of the NRSV makes explicit. This is also stressed in the introduction to the Catholic Youth Bible, in which Father Alexander DiLella, OFM, states:

“... [the NRSV] offers the fruits of the best biblical scholarship in the idiom of today while being sensitive to the contemporary concern for inclusive language when referring to human beings”. - p xxi (emphasis added)

However, revising Scripture to reflect “contemporary concerns” conflicts with the Holy See’s authoritative 2001 Instruction on liturgical translation, Liturgiam authenticam. Concerning ideological influences (such as feminism), this Instruction states that these considerations “are not to be considered reasons for altering either a biblical text or a liturgical text” (LA 29), and even lists common devices used for gender-neutering Scripture and other liturgical texts that are to be avoided (LA 30-32).

The NRSV (hence the Catholic Youth Bible) is not consistent with these directives. In 1994, the Holy See decreed that the NRSV is not to be used in Catholic liturgy. If the NRSV is not suitable for Catholic worship, is it reasonable to give to kids?

The Catholic Youth Bible’s editors have added their own comments and texts interspersed throughout the text (in sidebars or introductions).

Following are a few highly problematic examples of these additions:

  • “God, loving father and mother” prayer - page 1049

  • Sweat Lodge “Great Spirit” ceremony advocated - p 1005

  • The Book of Jonah is called a “fictional short story”, a “biblical satire” and is ridiculed: “the reader is giggling at the goofiness of pigs...” - p 1072

  • The Gospel of Matthew is presented as fictionalizing Jesus: “The author of Matthew wanted to show how Jesus broke with certain Jewish beliefs.... So in the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel has Jesus giving new interpretation to Jewish laws.... Such incidents probably reflect the experience of the author’s community with Jewish leaders as much as Jesus’ own conflicts”. - p 1120

  • A Native American sun worship prayer is included. There is no warrant for including such material from a completely pagan source. - p 1258

  • The explanation of Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist is seriously defective, and undermines Catholic teaching on transubstantiation:

    “... [Jesus’ disciples] share the loaf of bread that he identified as his body given for us and the cup of wine that he identified with the New Covenant sealed by his blood”. - p 1237 (emphasis added)

  • The text advocates celebration of Kwanzaa, the recently invented African-American winter holiday. - p 187

  • Comments about African-Americans (p 7 and p 735) are inexcusably condescending: Much is made of different “shades” of “blackness”, kinky hair, etc.: “Whatever shade they are, it is good. And if you are one of them you are black and beautiful”. - p 735

  • God as Father avoided: “The God whom Jesus called Abba is the parent of all nations...” - p 940

***

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