Search This Lamp

Comments Policy

1. Be courteous.
2. Don't make it personal.
3. Keep it Clean.
4. Don't be a troll.

See more about the comments policy here.  

Note to Spammers: All comments on this blog are moderated. This means that when you post comments linking to your imitation designer handbags, you are wasting your time because I will not approve them. Moreover, I will report you, and your IP address will be banned from all Squarespace sites.

Recent Comments 


Powered by Squarespace

Entries in REB (4)



In my reading of the Revised English Bible, I've come across an interesting translation choice that I thought I'd quickly share. 

I admit that personally, I don't use the word hotfoot in everyday conversation. Yet, I have heard the word used occasionally, usually from an "older" individual. 

The word occurs in three places in the complete Revised English Bible. In all of the texts below, there is some reference to "feet" in the original along with a word that suggests speed. The REB combines this idea into one word: hotfoot.


Job 31:5

I swear I have had no dealings with falsehood and have not gone hotfoot after deceit.

Here, Job is defending himself against the accusations of his friends. The REB's use of hotfoot conveys the Hebrew חוּשׁ/ḥuš, which by itself simply means "to hurry," as applied to Job's foot. Other translations: my foot has hurried (NIV), my foot has hastened (ESV), my foot has rushed (HCSB).


Proverbs 1:16

they hasten hotfoot into crime, pressing on to shed blood. 

In this context the writer of Proverbs is referring to the sinful. The text says literally that their feet run (רוּץ/ruṣ) to evil. The NIV employs rush here with "their feet rush," making perhaps an rough attempt at approximating the sound of the Hebrew with an English word. The ESV and HCSB both translate the phrase as their feet run.


2 Esdras 1:26

when you pray to me, I shall not listen. You have stained your hands with blood; you hasten hotfoot to commit murder. 

At the beginning of the apocalyptic 2 Esdras, God is making his case against Israel for their coming judgment. This text, although originally written in Hebrew, only survives in Latin. The NRSV offers a fairly literal translation to the last phrase: "your feet are swift [pedes vestri impigri] to commit murder." The Latin impiger simply conveys the idea of swift, active, or diligent.


Although hotfoot is not a word used often by myself or in my circles, I actually like what is communicated by the REB in these verses. All three instances have to do with hastening toward some kind of sinful activity. The use of hotfoot suggests that the offender is not merely moving toward the sin quickly, but moving toward it quickly with desire and anticipation--with eagerness as the definition at the top of the post suggests. The offender simply cannot get to the offense quickly enough!


[Edit: I meant to include this earlier, but it should be known that the REB retains the NEB's earlier use of hotfoot in its text.]

As always, your thoughts, questions, comments and rebutalls are welcome below.


"Sin is a demon crouching at the door" (Gen 4:7, REB)

A crouching gargoyle from Notre DameHaving not read through the mostly British-used Revised English Bible (1989 revision of the 1972 New English Bible) in a while, I thought I was slowly go back through it as part of my morning Bible readings. Since the REB, like the NEB before it, often has a bit more literary flavor than other, more mainstream, translations, I decided to take a few notes as I read through it this time in regard to renderings and phrases that stand out. As time allows, I'll offer brief posts here about the more interesting examples. 

This morning in Genesis 4, I noticed the insertion of the word demon in v. 7--

"If you do well, you hold your head up; if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door; it will desire you, and you will be mastered by it" (emphasis added).

The context of the verse has to do with the conflict between Cain and Abel. After presenting their gifts to Yahweh, Abel's gift is approved and Cain's is rejected. The REB reads that "Cain was furious and he glowered" (4:5). Glowered is such a descriptive word here: "have an angry or sullen look on one's face; scowl: she glowered at him suspiciously" (New Oxford American Dictionary). Yahweh responds to Cain with the questions, "Why are you angry? Why are you scowling?" (4:6), and then he states the words in v. 7 that I quoted above. 

I thought this was an interesting phrase. Without the word demon, Sin is simply personified as a generic enemy in hiding, waiting to trip us (perhaps literally) up. The REB's addition of a demon is still a personification of sin, but now it takes a much darker, malevolent tone. 

Here is a comparison of the verse in Accordance with the phrase highlighted in both the REB and Hebrew. Note also the double red underline which will apply to part of the discussion below. 

I was curious to see if there was any textual basis for adding the word demon to the text, but I initially saw nothing in the Hebrew or in any variant that would lend itself to add the word demon. Although I did not do an exhaustive search, I could not find the word demon in any mainstream translations other than the earlier New English Bible, on which the REB is based. I did, however, find it in the translation created by Speiser in the 1983 Anchor Bible Commentary on Genesis:

"Surely, if you act right, it should mean exaltation. But if you do not, sin is the demon at the door, whose urge is toward you; yet you can be his master."

Speiser defends his use of demon in Gen 4:7 in his comment on the passage (p. 33): 

Now the stem rbṣ in Hebrew signifies "to couch." A pertinent noun is otherwise unattested in this language, but is well known in Akkadian as rābiṣum, a term for "demon." These beings were depicted both as benevolent and malevolent, often lurking at the entrance of a building to protect or threaten the occupants. Phonologically, rābiṣum, both noun and participle, would be matched in Hebrew by rōbēṣ. The adjective is independently attested. The noun is not; it would have to be regarded in the present instance as an early loanword from Akkadian. There can be no inherent objection to such a derivation, especially in the narrative before us, the locale of which is still in the vicinity of Eden, with the principle character settling eventually "east of Eden." It would thus be the rōbēṣ whose "urge" is directed toward Cain, but with whom Cain could still thwart if he would control his jealous impulses—all expressed with faultless syntax. 

John H. Walton (ZIBBCOT, Genesis, p. 38) offers a more brief explanation and summary of the above facts, but also offers this alternative meaning of administrator before leaning in the direction of demon:

An alternative is available if we access earlier Akkadian texts where the rabiṣu is not a demon but an important administrator who served a judicial function. In Ur III texts he was responsible for preliminary examination at trials. By the mid-second millennium, texts from Amarna and Ugarit showed the role of the rabiṣu respectively as local ruler and important witness of documents or at trials. The fact that the text mentions the desire to master Cain favors rabiṣu as a demon.

I polled a few other commentaries and found that a number of them also give credence to the possibility of a direct reference to the rābiṣum, or "crouching demon," or at least an allusion to it. Although I'm sure that certain religious groups would thrill to have an extra demon to reference in this passage, the fact remains that if this is a reference to the crouching demon, the overall idea is still used as a personification of sin by the writer of Genesis. He's telling us that Sin is like that old croucher, Rābiṣum, hiding unseen, waiting to trip us up when we don't expect it. Therefore, we have to be alert so that we master him before he masters us! I'm really surprised that more translations don't pick up on this idea. Personally, I think that would really preach!

As always, your thoughts, questions, comments, and rebuttals are welcome below.


Horrified! ἐκθαμβέω and ἀδημονέω in Mark 14:33 HCSB

Last Sunday, I taught from Mark 14:32-50, which details Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane and his subsequent arrest. Our curriculum uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible which is one of my favorite English translations. In fact, about six months ago, I returned to using it exclusively on Sunday mornings. Occasionally, the HCSB breaks with the norms of tradition when it comes to translation, opting for accuracy over what sounds familiar.

So, it caught my eye when I saw that according to the translators of the HCSB, Jesus was "distressed and horrified" (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν) in Mark 14:33. It's this latter word, horrified, that really caught my attention. Was Jesus horrified in the Garden? Distressed, yes. Troubled, yes. But horrified? I mean, when I hear the word, horrified, I think of Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream. Thus, I wondered if the HCSB translator's simply over-translated here.

Honestly, even though I'd translated through this section in Mark at least twice in the past, I'd never given much extra thought to these two descriptors of Jesus' mental and emotional condition here, thinking of them as not much more than synonyms. Most translations make some variation on the words "distressed and troubled" sometimes even switching the two English words. Consider other translations of the phrase: "deeply distressed and troubled" (NIV/TNIV/NLTse), "greatly distressed and troubled" (RSV/ESV) , "to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy" (KJV), "to be distressed and agitated" (NRSV), "to be very distressed and troubled" (NASB), "troubled and deeply distressed" (NKJV), "very troubled and distressed" (NET). In my scan of translations using Accordance (I did not consult the 80+ translations on my bookshelf), I could find only two other translations besides the HCSB that used the word horror: "filled with horror and deep distress" (NLT1) and "Horror and anguish overwhelmed him" (REB).

My initial label on the whole issue was simply over-translation. I figured the HCSB translators were guilty of over-translating the text here. If that was the case, I supposed that a more traditional reading would be found in the updated 2009 text of the HCSB.

Not so. It read the same. This led me to the lexicons I have in Accordance. But even before I could do that, I had to consider the fact because troubled and distressed were interchangeable in many translations, and because the NLT1 and the REB placed horror in the first position, I wasn't really certain whether I was dealing with ἐκθαμβέω or ἀδημονέω in the HCSB. The use of the conjunction καὶ would technically allow for either order in an English translation.

Context does not help that much. These are both infrequently used words (I admit up front that I didn't have them in my working vocabulary for the NT, but I suppose I do now). ἐκθαμβέω occurs four times in the NT (Mark 9:15; 14:33; 16:5–6) and ἀδημονέω occurs three times (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33; Phil 2:26). ἐκθαμβέω occurs once in the LXX (Sir 30:9), but there is no use of ἀδημονέω in the LXX.

  ἐκθαμβέω ἀδημονέω
BDAG to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of someth. causing great surprise or perplexity, be very excited be in anxiety, be distressed,
& Nida
to be greatly astounded,
with either positive or negative reactions — "to be amazed, to be
astounded, to be alarmed"
to be distressed and troubled, with the probable implication of anguish — "to be troubled, to be upset, to be distressed"
& Scott
to be amazed to be sorely troubled
UBS be greatly surprised or alarmed; be greatly distressed be distressed or troubled
LEH to amaze, to astonish NA

As you can see, there does seem to be a bit of overlap between these two words; they carry aspects of synonymous meaning. However, there seems to be more heightened emotion in the first word, ἐκθαμβέω than in ἀδημονέω. If word order prevailed in the HCSB, did the REB and NLT1 switch the order for sake of translation? I only have one copy of an HCSB text with Greek tagging, and that is in WORDsearch (although I've heard it's coming for Accordance). I double-clicked on horrified in the WORDsearch HCSB, and as I anticipated, a window appeared tying the word to the second word, ἀδημονέω.

Regardless, I was still back to my original question about the HCSB's use of horrified, although it was now extended to the REB and NLT1 as well. Usually when there's a significant difference in a translation of a word or phrase in a more recent version of the Bible, there's been an influential commentary or article that's influenced the change. In this case, I don't know what that article or commentary is. I looked in the Word Biblical Commentary on Mark as well as the New International Greek Testament Commentary since both of these are often a bit more technical. Neither had any specific discussion of this issue.

I did find a note, however, in the lesser technical New American Commentary on Mark by James A. Brooks that might have had some bearing since both the NAC commentaries and the HCSB share the same publisher. Brooks writes:

Mark’s description of Jesus is shocking. Mark employed words that express the strongest possible anguish. The NEB does a better job than the NIV, NASB, and RSV in bringing out their meaning: “Horror and dismay came over him.” The REB has, “Horror and anguish overwhelmed him.” Matthew softened the statement, and Luke’s text is most uncertain.

So cheers to the NEB/REB, NLT and HCSB. I'm certain some influential article is out there, but we at least know this rendering goes back at least to the NEB. In the long course of translation history, the NEB continues to emerge as a greater influence in translation than is often thought. And as I've often noted, the NLT1 took more risks than the more conservative NLTse which came after it. And once again, the HCSB will break with traditional renderings for the sake of accuracy.

But there's one more thing...

Why is it that I would question Jesus' reaction of horror to the events that were before him to begin with? Could it be that a horrified Jesus didn't mesh well with the narrow-minded view of Jesus I sometimes have? Do I prefer the "Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" over the "Take this cup away from Me" when I think of Jesus?

Am I guilty of picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane like the one in that painting that was on the wall of my Sunday School room as a child? You know the one. The one with the light-haired stoic Jesus. The Jesus in the brightly colored robes looking confident and resolutely skyward as his father in heaven radiated his glory down upon him.

I talked about this with the class I was teaching at church. The Jesus in that painting really looks nothing like the Jesus described in Mark's account. I really can't imagine the Jesus in that painting saying "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death" (Mark 14:35). I don't really see that Jesus saying "Take this cup from me."

In the parallel passage written in Luke's gospel, we're told that "Being in anguish, He prayed fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

I knew a manager years ago who was told by the owner of the company to fire a particular individual. The manager didn't feel that she deserved being fired. He knew of some difficulties in her life that would be compounded by the loss of income. He stressed over having to fire her so much that he burst blood vessels in his face. I've never seen anything like that before or since. But I can't help feel that based upon the gospel writers' descriptions, Jesus' stress level was well beyond this—it would have been off the charts.

Jesus looked ahead to the events that were to come—his betrayal by a close friend, his arrest, his beatings, his crucifixion, his taking upon himself the sin of all humanity, his ultimate alienation from God the father, and then his death—and Mark tells us he was horrified.

What other word works here? Distressed? Troubled? I don't think so. Yes, I think horrified is the right word, the only word. Horror unlike anything ever experienced before or since. Horror over our sins would be enough, but the rest, too? I cannot imagine his total pain. If anything horror is not word enough.

But it will have to do.


The Revised English Bible (Top Ten Bible Versions #6)

NOTE: This review of the Revised English Bible was originally published at the original This Lamp blog, which is no longer online. I have attempted to reproduce the post here, but there may be mistakes or broken links that I did not catch. Please let me know of any corrections in the comments section. I also have the original comments for this post in a rather large XML file for my old website. If I can figure out a way to include the original comments, I will add these at a later date. 

I would like to suggest that if you consider yourself an aficionado of Bible translations, and do not have a copy of the Revised English Bible (REB), then your set is not yet complete.  

When I wrote my review of the New American Standard Bible, I noted that it would be my desert island Bible. Well, the REB would be a strong contender for that position, too, but for different reasons. When the REB was first published in 1989, I was a junior in college majoring in English. Having been exposed to so much good literature by that point, I immediately noticed the quality of style for which the REB would become recognized. In my opinion--and I am not alone in this sentiment--the Revised English Bible has the best overall literary quality of any modern English translation--the best since the King James Version. When I was working on my M.Div in the early nineties, one of the Old Testament professors at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary required the REB as his main text in his OT intro classes. He believed that the REB best reflected the Hebrew text in modern English, especially regarding the poetic sections. 

There are a handful of biblical passages I like to refer to when trying to get a feel for a particular translation. Three are reproduced below as they read in the REB:

Proverbs 1:8-19
Matthew 6:1-8
Romans 7:14-25

Attend, my son, to your father's instruction
and do not reject your mother's teaching;
they become like a garland on your heard,
a chain of honour for your neck.

My son, if sinners entice you, do not yield.
They may say: 'Join us and lie in wait for someone's blood;
let us waylay some innocent person who has done us no harm.
We shall swallow them like Sheol though they are alive;
though in health, they will be like those who go down to the abyss.
We shall take rich treasure of every sort
and fill our houses with plunder.
Throw in your lot with us and share the common purse.'
My son, do not go along with them,
stay clear of their ways;
they hasten hotfoot into crime,
pressing on to shed blood.
(A net is spread in vain
if any bird that flies can see it.)
It is for their their own blood they lie in wait;
they waylay no one but themselves.
Such is the fate of all who strive after ill-gotten gain:
it robs of their lives all who possess it.

'Be careful not to parade your religion before others; if you do, no reward awaits you with your Father in heaven.

'So, when you give alms, do not announce it with a flourish of trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Truly I tell you: they have their reward already. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing; your good deed must be in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

'Again, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in synagogues and at street corners for everyone to see them. Truly I tell you: they have their reward already. But when you pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

'In your prayers do not go babbling on like the heathen, who imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard. Do not imitate them, for your Father knows your needs before you ask him.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am not: I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not even acknowledge my own actions as mine, for what I do is not what I want to do, but what I detest. But if what I do is against my will, then clearly I agree with the law and hold it to be admirable. This means that it is no longer I who perform the action, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me--my unspiritual self, I mean--for though the will to do good is there, the ability to effect it is not. The good which I want to do, I fail to do; but what I do is the wrong which is against my will; and if what I do is against my will, clearly it is no longer I who am in the agent, but sin that has dwelling in me.

I discover the principle, then: that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach. IN my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct. Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death? Who but God? Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord! To sum up then: left to myself I serve God's law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

As essentially a British translation, the REB has never had much of a following in the United States. In fact, the only time I've ever heard it read in public was at an aunt's funeral in 1989 when her associate pastor specifically mentioned that she was reading the 23rd Psalm in the newly released (at that time) REB:

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I lack for nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

    he leads me to water where I may rest;

3 he revives my spirit;

    for his name's sake he guides me in right paths.

4 Even were I to walk through a valley of deepest darkness

    I should fear no harm, for you are with me;

    your shepherd's staff and crook afford me comfort.

5 You spread a table for me in the presence of my enemies;

    you have richly anointed my head with oil,

    and my cup brims over.

6 Goodness and love unfailing will follow me

    all the days of my life,

    and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

    throughout the years to come.

The Revised English Bible is an update to the New English Bible, originally completed in 1970. The decision to form a joint committee to revise the NEB was made as early as 1973 with the initial goal of publication in 1980. However, the modest goals of the committee grew more extensive overtime. The full revision resulting in what would be the REB was not completed until 1987 and did not see publication for another two years.

I've noticed a trend in Bible versions that as they are revised, they become more conservative. Inclusive language issues aside, the TNIV is more literal in places than the NIV. The second edition of the NLT is much more traditional than the first edition. Both aspects are true for the REB over its predecessor, the New English Bible (NEB). If anything, the REB, while perhaps never gaining as much attention and prestige as the version it replaced, is a much more mature translation than the NEB.

According to the book New Light & Truth: The Making of the Revised English Bible by Roger Coleman, the revision committee had two main goals for updating the NEB: (1) update the formal "thee" and "thou" language (used only for addressing deity in the NEB) to non-formal equivalents and (2) address criticisms and suggestions made for the NEB. 

Another significant change had to do with the REB's use of inclusive gender for humans when warranted by the context. The REB was one of the early Bible versions to employ this along with the New Jerusalem Bible (1985) and the New Revised Standard Version (1989). From the Preface:

The use of male-oriented language, in passages of traditional versions of the Bible which evidently apply to both genders, has become a sensitive issue in recent years; the revisers have preferred more inclusive gender reference where that has been possible without compromising scholarly integrity or English style.

The last issue, English style, often becomes the most difficult aspect of gender neutrality. This led to a compromise in the REB. Masculine universals are removed such as "man" and "mankind." Whereas Gen 1:26 in the NEB read "Let us make man in our image...," the REB renders it "Let us make human beings in our image." However, 3rd person masculines are still retained in the REB in verses like Luke 9:23 and Rev 3:20. Adelphoi is consistently translated as "friends" (less preferable to simply "brothers and sisters" in my opinion).

Interesting point of trivia: according to Coleman's book, evidently there were a number of punctuation errors in the original NEB (I've never used the NEB enough to point to a specific one). These errors were caused from a lack of communication between the translators and the publishers. The translators felt that issues of punctuation could be left to the publishers. However, the publishers held the task of Bible translation in such esteem that they felt it inappropriate to change anything the translators gave them, not realizing the assumptions made by the committee.

The NEB had been the first major Bible version to employ dynamic equivalency as a translation method. While the REB still retains this approach, less traditional renderings in the NEB were made more traditional in the REB. Consider Genesis 1:1-2:

Genesis 1:1-2
New English Bible
Revised English Bible
In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth, the earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a vast waste, darkness covered the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water.

The NEB entry on the Wikipedia notes a number of other controversial renderings in the NEB besides Gen 1:2 included above. Below is a comparison of these verses with the the text from the REB:

New English Bible
Revised English Bible
Psalm 22:16
(note rendering for the more familiar "have pierced my hands and feet" )

The huntsmen are all about me;
a band of ruffians rings me round,
and they have hacked off my hands and my feet.

Hounds are all about me;
a band of ruffians rings me round,
and they have bound me hand and foot.
Isaiah 9:6
(NEB rendering "is both interpretational and non-traditional" )

For a boy has been born for us, a son given to us
to bear the symbol of dominion on his shoulder;
and he shall be called
in purpose wonderful, in battle God-like,
Father for all time, Prince of peace

For a child has been born to us, a son is given to us;
he will bear the symbol of dominion on his shoulder,
and his title will be:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Hero, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Nahum 1:12-14
(note verse order in NEB which is said to "render the promises of God interpretively" )
13 Now I will break his yoke from your necks
     and snap the cords that bind you.
14 Image and idol I will hew down in the house of your God.
     This is what the LORD has ordained for you:
     never again shall your offspring be scattered;
     and I will grant your burial, fickle though you have been.
12 Has the punishment been so great?
     Yes , but it has passed away and is gone.
     I have afflicted you, but I will not afflict you again.
12 These are the words of the LORD:
     Judah, though your punishment has been great,
     yet it will pass away and be gone.
     I have afflicted you, but I shall not afflict you again.
13 Now I shall break his yoke from your necks
     and snap the cords that bind you.
14 Nineveh, this is what the LORD has ordained for you:
     No more children will be born to you;
     I shall hew down image and idol
     in the temples of your gods:
     I shall prepare your grave,
     for you are of no account.
Acts 20:7
(traditional "first day of week" is rendered "Saturday night" in both versions)
On the Saturday night, in our assembly for the breaking of bread, Paul, who was to leave next day, addressed them, and went on speaking until midnight. On the Saturday night, when we gathered for the breaking of bread, Paul, who was to leave the next day, addressed the congregation and went on speaking until midnight.

The NEB's infamous "she broke wind" in Josh 15:18 is rendered "she dismounted" in the REB. However, it should be pointed out that later editions of the NEB had already changed the phrase to a much more vague (and much less fun) "she made a noise" which seems to beg for a redactional insertion of "Let the reader understand."

One can still see the influence C. H. Dodd, who served as Vice-Chairman and Director of the Joint Committee for the NEB, in Rom 3:25 of the REB by referring to Jesus as "the means of expiating sins." The only major translations to use the theological term expiation are the NEB, REB, and RSV. More traditional translations often employ propitiation (KJV, NASB, ESV, HCSB). Many translations in the last few decades have opted to use some form of the the less divisive sacrifice of atonement (NIV, NRSV, TNIV. NLT).

The NEB had been known for its reader-friendly single-column text. Further, verse reference numbers were moved to the margins so as not to create unnecessary mental breaks while reading, although it was often difficult to determine where a verse began and ended. Most editions of the REB use a two-column text and verse numbers are restored to their traditional placement.

As with any translation, the REB is not without it's criticisms. In his 1993 JETS review of the REB, Donald Williams wrote

...the REB is, like its predecessor the NEB, a fluid and interesting rendering and a delight to read from a stylistic point of view. But it is not among the most reliable translations from the standpoint of accuracy. Its revisions create an impression of movement in a conservative direction from the NEB that is not always borne out in detail. Less daring than NEB, less willing to depart from time-hallowed KJV patterns in phraseology, REB loses some of the distinctiveness of the earlier version. You might call it NEB homogenized. The result seems more to blunt the virtues of the earlier volume rather than to ameliorate its vices. It remains worth having on the shelves for comparative purposes but would unfortunately be inappropriate as a primary study Bible.

Elegance versus accuracy should not be a trade-off we accept as inevitable: KJV was both as accurate as its time could have made it and unsurpassable in elegance. But perhaps once in a language is the most we can ask for a miracle like that. For now we must choose between such versions as NASB, accurate but stiff and wooden at times; NIV, fairly accurate but bland; and NEB, elegant and exciting but really too loose. 

The criticism regarding accuracy is an interesting one. It may be warranted in a few specific examples, but at least the REB can't really be faulted for ever being too wooden, too bland, or even too loose as the other translations mentioned above. It makes for a stimulating read-through of the scriptures. I personally don't believe it would be inappropriate to use the REB as a primary study Bible, but I imagine not many American readers would adopt it for such. The original NEB had been criticized for too often having what were called "britishisms"--that is, words that reflect peculiar (meaning "belonging exclusively to," not "odd or strange") British usage that many American readers might not understand. While the large majority of these were removed in the REB, an occasional odd phrasing remains such as "he will get nothing but blows and contumely" (Prov 6:33). Contumely, by the way, is an older word meaning "insolent or insulting language or treatment."

The REB is only published by Oxford and Cambridge University Presses. In the United States REB Bibles are often more easily found in a bookstore chain like Borders or Barnes & Noble than independent Christian bookstores. Most of the editions are primarily text editions, and available either with or without the Apocryphal/Deutero-canonical books. There is a version of the Oxford Study Bible adapted for the REB, but as far as I know it is only published in hardback editions. This is the only study edition of the REB available to my knowledge. Cambridge Press publishes a rather nice text edition in Morocco leather. I can't really justify purchasing this for myself, but I believe if I ever had purely discretionary funds (ha), that would be the edition to own (I simply use a hardback text edition). I was surprised to find that the REB is not available as an add-on for most Bible study software programs, but it is available for Accordance. If someone knows of other electronic offerings, please post the information in the comments.

The Revised English Bible is a great selection for reading and study, especially for the person who appreciates literary quality. I personally have never taught directly from it, but I find it very enjoyable for personal reading and comparing with other translations. It would also make an appropriate choice to give to the person who has high literary tastes but generally avoids reading the Bible. 

For Further Reading:

- Roger, Coleman. New Light & Truth: The Making of the Revised English Bible. London: Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

- Bible-Researcher webpage for the Revised English Bible

- Wikipedia Entry for the Revised English Bible

- Ken Anderson's Page on the Revised English Bible

- Better Bibles Blog webpage on the Revised English Bible


Revised English Bible at 

Redacted: 7/20/2006


Up Next: The New Jerusalem Bible