A Gorgeous Bible App


At long last, the official Bible translation of the U.S. Catholic Church is available for iPad, BlackBerry, and other hand-held devices — and it was worth the wait. Olive Tree Bible Software has done a great job designing a visually appealing and easy-to-use version of the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). The interface is helpful, and the fact that the translators’ notes pop up within the screen when you click makes them much easier to consult than those in a typical iPad study Bible (which involve a great deal more back-and-forth clicking).

As to the content, the translation is in general an improvement on the last version. The 1970 NAB Old Testament translated Gen. 22:1 as follows:

Some time after these events, God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Ready!” he replied.

“Ready!” he replied? Sounds more like something from the Hardy Boys or a Boy’s Own adventure than the response to an existential challenge from the Ancient of Days. Compare the new version:

Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test and said to him: Abraham! “Here I am!” he replied.

As for the notes, they are generally very helpful to an understanding of the Biblical books: detailed, but not so much as to be overwhelming. Readers of a literalist bent (and others curious about this Bible’s perspective) should be forewarned of their bias toward a particular critical attitude toward the text. Here’s a notorious case, the note on Matt. 16:21-23, which appeared in earlier NAB versions and has been preserved in this one: “Neither this nor the two later passion predictions . . . can be taken as sayings that, as they stand, go back to Jesus himself. However, it is probable that he foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated by God.” Catholic commentator Jimmy Akin, among others, rightly questioned this: “HUH??? Jesus couldn’t actually predict the future? He wasn’t a true prophet? He didn’t know about his death and resurrection? He could only foresee that ‘his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death?’ Sorry, but this is flatly inconsistent with the Christian faith.” I myself would not go as far as Akin — I believe that one can hold the Christian faith without believing that the Biblical text is correct in all details; indeed, millions of people around the world actually do so — but his skepticism about this note is entirely well founded. The writers of the note make the mirror-image mistake of the one they would accuse a literalist fundamentalist of making: a categorical a priori declaration in the absence of argument. They would criticize the fundamentalist for saying the passage must be true, on the purely a priori grounds of Biblical inerrancy, and yet they declare the passage false in an entirely similar a priori way, breezily declaring that the three passages cannot be taken in their current form as going back to Jesus. I’m not a literalist; I believe in Bible scholarship; but I will need a lot more than such a bare assertion to convince me that Jesus could not have said what the text says He did.

I mention this at length merely as a due-diligence caveat for all emptors. Overall I think the Olive Tree NABRE software is terrific, and I find myself using it more often than other Scripture software I have on the iPad. At $15.99, a great bargain, and a heck of a lot lighter than the paper versions. Strongly recommended.

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