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The Jerusalem Bible [unabridged] by…
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The Jerusalem Bible [unabridged] (1966)

by Alexander Jones

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First off, I don't think I actually would recommend reading the Old Testament (or indeed the Bible) through from start to finish as I did. It wasn't written or compiled to be read in that way, and it doesn't do the text any services to read as if it were a novel, a short story collection, or a book of essays and meditations. I chose this approach because I wanted to feel that I had control of what I was reading, and that I was not missing anything, but if you want to get a fair flavour of it, it's probably better to follow one of the many reading guides available online and elsewhere, which are designed both to showcase the good bits and to keep the reader interested.

Second, a lot of it is pretty dull, actually. 2 Chronicles in particular comes close to Mark Twain's description of the Book of Mormon, as "choroform in print". Large chunks of the Pentateuch are lists of laws and, even less exciting, census returns. The historical bits have an awful lot of tediously horrible ethnic cleansing and dynastic struggle, leavened by the occasional good bit (the Saul/David/Solomon succession in particular). The prophets are rather indistinguishable in tone of outrage. I recommend finding some way of skipping the dull bits.

Third, the good bits are indeed good. I've singled out the Book of Job in a previous post; I found the Psalms generally inspiring and uplifting, and I've always been a fan of Ecclesiastes. The narrative histories, which I thought I knew fairly well, still had some surprises for me - in Numbers 12, God smites Moses' sister with leprosy for racism towards Moses' black wife, for instance. There are some fun bits in the prophets - Jonah, and the deuterocanonical addenda to Daniel (Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon). I also rather liked Sirach, aka Ecclesiasticus, which again is deuterocanonical. And 2 Maccabees is a fairly lucid, if brutal, historical note to finish on.

Fourth, there were indeed a few themes running through the entire OT whose importance I hadn't perhaps fully grasped: the importance of God's endowing his people with the land, the importance of the cult of the Temple, and the trauma of the Babylonian exile (which of course shaped most of the text we have very directly). I'm not saying that these are the only or even the main main themes, but that these are the ones whose importance was enhanced for me by reading through the entire thing.

As for the New Testament: it falls rather naturally into three sections. The Gospels and Acts are among the most readable narratives in the Bible; the most striking things are that the three synoptic gospels are so very close to each other, leaving John as the outlier, and that Luke's better Greek prose style comes through in almost any translation of his gospel and Acts. I am also struck every time that the Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle other than the Resurrection reported in all four gospels.

I was much less familiar with the various epistles. They are not as easy to read as the gospels, combining as they do advice on local disputed, personal salutations, declarations about correct practice and belief, and attempts to put words on the ineffable (Hebrews in particular is an attempt at a theological manifesto avant la lettre). I was struck by how hardline Paul is, particularly in the early letters, on the issues that hardliners still stick to today, and also on the question of justification by faith; but there is a significant counterbalance from some of the later letters, especially 1 Peter which seems to be a direct response in some ways. (And the Epistle of Jude seems strangely familiar after 2 Peter ch 2...)

Finally, Revelation is the most Old Testament-y of the New Testament books. (There is nothing like the letters in the Old Testament, and the gospels and Acts are quite different in style from the OT historical books.) Again, Revelation is an attempt to express in words that which cannot be expressed in words; it is clearly not meant to be taken literally, but as one person's attempt to concretise the underlying truths.
  nwhyte | Dec 31, 2012 |
Most poetic translation I've run across since KJ.
  chichikov | Jun 13, 2008 |
My understanding is that when the Jerusalem Bible translation was done, Catholic Biblical scholars were still under canon law which told them how to translate certain passages, no matter what new knowledge and more recently discovered manuscripts might say. So I wouldn't use this translation if I was going for accuracy. However, if you want the Psalms to sing and you want to call the Hebrew God by his name, this is the Bible for you. Not to mention that Tolkien helped with the translation. ( )
  aulsmith | May 29, 2008 |
Without a doubt, one of the best English translation of Holy Scripture available. NOT to be confused with "The New Jerusalem Bible". ( )
2 vote bpdaniel | Jul 7, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385011563, Paperback)

When it comes to Bible translations, readability and reliability are what count; and on both counts, the original JERUSALEM BIBLE stands alone. A product of the age of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), THE JERUSALEM BIBLE (published in 1966) was the first truly modern Bible for Catholics. Using definitive original language texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical scholars of L'École Biblique in Jerusalem produced a meticulously accurate, wonderfully readable French translation of the complete canon of Scripture (La Bible de Jérusalem). From this French original came the English edition, edited by renowned Bible scholar Alexander Jones.

For all the people around the world who are discovering or revisiting the mysteries contained in the Scriptures, only a clear, understandable Bible translation will do. With language as exquisite but more modern than the King James Version, THE JERUSALEM BIBLE is the one they can trust.


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