Chronology: Bible Translations, US Lectionaries
Nov 15, 2012

Chronology: Bible Translations, US Lectionaries

November 2012
Vol. XVIII, No. 8


September 30: Divino Afflante Spiritu (Inspired by the Holy Spirit) encyclical letter issued by Pope Pius XII calls for new vernacular translations of the Bible from the original languages, instead of the Latin Vulgate.


Revised Standard Version is published by National Council of Churches (New Testament 1946, Old Testament Bible 1952, Apocrypha 1957).


Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Translations. The CCD, an agency of the US bishops, sponsors translations by the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) of various books of the Old Testament, published individually. (The CCD translations were used for the 1970 New American Bible.)


January 1: Grail Psalter is published. This translation of the Book of Psalms, produced by scholars sponsored by the Ladies of the Grail in England, is intended to be sung to musical settings composed by Joseph Gelineau, SJ.

December 4: Sacrosanctum Concilium Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council is issued.


November 18: Dei Verbum (Word of God), Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council is issued.

§22. … [S]ince the Word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books.…


Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition is completed (by the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain) and published.


Guidelines for biblical and liturgical translation, Comme le prévoit (French: “as foreseen”), are produced by the Vatican- appointed Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, adopting the principle of “dynamic equivalence” or “free translation”, focusing on ease of reception in the target language, rather than “formal equivalence,” or more accurate translation of the original language.


New American Bible (NAB) is completed by the US Catholic Biblical Association and published by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).


International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) is “committed to inclusive language,” only two years after completion of its translation of the Roman Missal texts, known as the “Sacramentary”.


April 25: Nova Vulgata Editio — new edition of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible is first published.


Nova Vulgata, editio typica altera — revised Neo Vulgate is published.

Revised New Testament of the New American Bible (RNAB) is completed, approved by bishops; published in 1987.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is completed; published in 1990.


November: US bishops’ conference approves Criteria for the Evaluation of Inclusive Language Translations of Scrip- tural Texts Proposed for Liturgical Use, prepared by their Sub-committee for Inclusive Language.


Revised Grail Psalter (inclusive language version) is published.

Revised NAB Psalter incorporating “inclusive language” is completed and approved by bishops; published in 1992.

NRSV – Catholic Edition is completed, approved by bishops in both the US and Canada; published in 1992.

November: US bishops’ conference creates the Ad Hoc Sub-committee for the Review of Scripture Translations to approve Scripture translations submitted to the conference, without involving the entire conference. Members are Bishops Emil Wcela (aux. Rockville Centre), Richard Sklba (aux. Milwaukee), and Donald Trautman (Erie).

The bishops approve the NRSV Bible and the RNAB Psalter for liturgical use, and submit them to the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) for approval.

The bishops also approve the Contemporary English Version (CEV), a paraphrased version published by the American Bible Society (a/k/a “feedbox translation”), for use in a Lectionary for Masses with Children, and submit the list of readings to the Vatican for approval.


April: The Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) sends a letter to US bishops approving the proposal for liturgical use of the NRSV (no Lectionary was submitted) and the RNAB Psalter.

May: Letter from the CDW approves the list of readings for the Lectionary for Masses with Children, and gives the following qualified permission to use the CEV: “On the basis of the assurance given by Your Excellency that the Contemporary English Version of the Bible does not present any doctrinal problems in the sphere of the issue of the inclusive language question at present under study we grant permission for its experimental use, but without granting a formal confirmation.”

June, November: At their plenary meetings, the American bishops approve a new Lectionary incorporating the RNAB New Testament and Psalms and submit it to the Vatican for approval.

December: Lectionary for Masses with Children (based on CEV) is ordered published by Cardinal William Keeler, president of the US bishops’ conference.


June: Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy proposes “Interim Guidelines” for ad lib “inclusivizing” some texts used in the liturgy at the June meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). They are not approved.

November: The 1991 Revised Grail Psalter incorporating feminist language is rejected for liturgical use by the bishops at the NCCB meeting.


June: English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church appears, after a delay of nearly two years because of “inclusive” problems. The Vatican English translation uses RSV for Scripture passages (also a few NRSV citations unaffected by inclusivism).

June: At their plenary meeting, the US bishops appoint a committee to plan a forum on translations.

June: RSV – Catholic Edition is re-published (by Ignatius Press; Scepter Press).

July 27: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) declares that the NRSV is not to be used in liturgy or catechetics. Consequently the CDW rescinds approval of both NRSV Bible and RNAB Psalms by letter to bishops’ conferences.

October 11: Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) at its national meeting adopts a resolution urging acceptance of the NRSV; says rejection by Vatican would set “dangerous precedent.”

October 25: Vatican’s withdrawal of approval from NRSV is revealed by Catholic News Service; US and Canadian conference officials at first deny receiving notice from the Vatican.

November 1: Cardinal-designate Keeler, president of the US bishops’ conference, issues a statement on the Vatican decision to reject these translations.


January: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) holds a consultation on translations of Scripture and liturgical texts.

July: ICEL Psalter and Psalms for Morning and Evening Prayer are published by Archdiocese of Chicago, Liturgical Training Publications, with Cardinal Keeler’s imprimatur granted on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Scripture Translations. But these are never voted on by the full conference, and are not approved for liturgical use.

August: The CDF issues “Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy,” which stress the primacy of fidelity to the original text. The norms are given to translators; not made public.

September 5: Bishop Donald Trautman, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy (BCL), calls The New Testament and Psalms – An Inclusive Version, published by Oxford University Press and based on the NRSV, an “irresponsible translation that offends the doctrine of the Church and revealed truth.”

November: Report at NCCB meeting on progress with planning a bishops’ translation forum.


April: Letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the CDF, to Bishop Pilla, president of the US bishops’ conference, requires withdrawal of the imprimatur from the ICEL Psalter. (This information is not made public, and the imprimatur is not immediately withdrawn.)

December: At the request of the NCCB Administrative Committee, reportedly to expedite approval of liturgical texts, seven US cardinals meet with officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW).


March: CDW gives permission to extend for three more years the “experimental” status of the controversial “Children’s Lectionary” (Lectionary for Masses with Children), as reported in BCL Newsletter, March 1997.

June: Two weeks before their June meeting, the US bishops receive a copy of the CDF’s 1995 “secret norms” on translation.

June 19-21: US bishops vote on Volume I of the Lectionary for Mass (as revised by Vatican officials and three US archbishops). The vote at the meeting is inconclusive, but passes on absentee ballot. (Report in AB: “Enigma Variations”: 0797LiturgyRevisions.html).

July 4: CDF’s norms on translation are published by National Catholic Reporter. The norms are published in AB July-August 1997: “Vatican Norms Reject Inclusive Language”: Trans.html.

November: US bishops authorize use of Lectionary Volume I, to be reviewed in five years.

In 1997, the US bishops’ conference accepted the Vatican-revised and amended Lectionary, not as a “perfect, absolute” translation, but with the provision that it would be reviewed within a few years. Many hoped this review would produce improved translations.

(from “New Lectionary Process Reveals Inclusivizing Influence,” 0605Lectionary.html)


Nova Vulgata Editio, iuxta editionem typicam alteram, is published.

August: US bishops’ conference president Bishop Anthony Pilla withdraws the imprimatur from ICEL Psalter as requested by the CDF in 1996. But publication of this Psalter continues.

November: First Sunday of Advent, Volume I of Lectionary for Mass (based on the NAB, as altered at the behest of the Vatican) is in use for United States; to be reviewed after a period of five years.


January: A letter dated January 14 from the Congregation for Divine Worship to the president of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy insists that the doctrinally flawed ICEL Psalter, in print since 1995, cease publication and be withdrawn from circulation.

November 15: The US bishops vote to endorse “the concept of a Lectionary for Masses with Children” (to be based on an updated translation of the CEV), and “to complete a revision of the present liturgical book, including a response to the concerns of the Holy See, within a period of two years.” (Report in AB February 2001:


English Standard Version (ESV) is published — a revision of the RSV produced by evangelical Protestants. (It is further revised with minor changes in 2007, 2011.)

May 7: Liturgiam authenticam, Fifth Instruction implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium, “on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of books of the Roman Liturgy,” is published.

June 14: Final corrections to Lectionary Volume II are approved by US bishops.

June 29: President of the USCCB issues a decree on publication and use of the Lectionary Volume II: it may be used Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2002, and will be mandatory May 19, 2002.


April: “Benedictine Father Joseph Jensen, executive secretary of the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) and one of the principal translators of the rejected RNAB Psalter, announced the plan to revive the RNAB translations, and posted a rationale and re-revised Psalter on the CBA web site” (from AB June 2005,

May 2002: Revised New American Bible (RNAB) Old Testament is completed.

May 19, 2002: “Nearly ten years after it was first submitted to the Holy See, the new two-volume Lectionary appeared in print. The eventual version as approved (subject to review after five years) has been the only edition of the Lectionary permitted for use in the United States since May 19, 2002, when it became mandatory.” (“Bibles and Lectionaries”, AB February 2004:


March: Revised RNAB Old Testament is still undergoing a process of review by censor. The Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) Newsletter reports, “the Committee reviewed the Sunday Advent readings; at the March 2005 meeting, the Committee reviewed the weekday Advent readings.” The report notes a major evaluation of the Lectionary in 2003 and says the BCL will work on the Advent readings at the June 2005 meeting.

November: Lectionary for Masses with Children, based on a simplified version of the New American Bible, is approved by the USCCB and submitted to the Holy See for required confirmation (recognitio). Its use would be restricted to Masses where the congregation is almost entirely children. However, it has not received recognitio.


RSV-CE 2nd Edition (Ignatius Edition) is published, and a Lectionary based on the RSV-CE2 is adopted for use in the Antilles. (Copyright retained by National Council of Churches.)

November: US bishops hear a report on the Lectionary review of 2003 (mentioned above), and review and approve an “experimental revision” of minor changes in Lectionary readings for Advent (excluding the psalms). No changes will be introduced until entire Lectionary revision is completed.


November: US Bishops approve the revised Lectionary readings for Lent. No changes will be introduced until the entire Lectionary revision is completed.


October 5-26: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, is held at the Vatican.

November: US bishops approve Conception Abbey Revised Grail Psalter for liturgical use in all liturgical books, including the Lectionary as well as the Liturgy of the Hours.


April 23: Pope Benedict XVI addresses Pontifical Biblical Commission on the “Inspiration and Truth of Scripture”.

November: US bishops approve the English translation of the Roman Missal, a project separate from the Lectionary; however, the same translation principles apply to Scripture translation for the Lectionary.


March 19: Vatican approves (slightly amended) Conception Abbey Grail Psalter for liturgical use.

September 30: Post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord) is issued by Pope Benedict XVI.


March 9: New American Bible – Revised Edition (NABRE), as revised by the Catholic Biblical Association, is published. The NABRE version incorporates the recently revised NAB Old Testament books, the 2006 revision of the psalms, and the original version of the 1986 New Testament (not the altered version that appears in the current Lectionary).


June: USCCB Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Divine Worship chairmen report on the status of the Lectionary. Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Doctrine chairman) explains: goal is to produce a single scripture translation for liturgical use; that this will require authorization from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) with the Subcommittee on the Translation of Scripture Texts, who “will undertake a revision of the New American Bible New Testament.… This work will utilize the principles of translation that guided the recent revision of the New American Bible Old Testament, and will follow the norms of translation contained in the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam for the translation of Sacred Scripture that’s to be used in Sacred Liturgy.… ” (Report in AB August 2012).

See related article: “Scripture Translation and the New Evangelization: A Review of the Recent History of Vernacular Bibles, US Lectionary”

The Editors