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Biblical illiteracy and Bible Babel


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One of the disappointments of the post-Vatican II period has been the glacial pace of the growth in Catholic biblical literacy the Council hoped to inspire. Why the slow-down? Several reasons suggest themselves.

The hegemony of the historical-critical method of biblical study has taught two generations of Catholics that the Bible is too complicated for ordinary people to understand: so why read what only savants can grasp? Inept preaching, dissecting the biblical text with historical-critical scalpels or reducing Scripture to a psychology manual, has also been a turn-off to Bible-study. Then there is the clunkiness of the New American Bible, the pedestrian translation to which U.S. Catholics are subjected in the liturgy: there is little beauty here, and the beauty of God's Word ought to be one of its most attractive attributes.

But it was not until I read "Our Babel of Bibles" by Baylor University's David Lyle Jeffrey, published in the March/April 2012 issue of Touchstone, that I began to understand that the proliferation of modern biblical translations and editions is also part of the problem. Not only are there a plethora of different translations from which to choose; as Dr. Jeffrey points out, there are now "niche" Bibles:

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