The New Jerusalem Bible
The original Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966.
It was produced by Roman Catholic scholarship. Yet within three years
the Anglican Church authorized its use for services within the Church of
England. This was
the first Roman Catholic translation to be approved
for Anglican use since the Reformation. The New Jerusalem Bible,
Article No. 73 of the Trinitarian Bible Society, 3
The significant characteristic of this original
Jerusalem Bible was that it was freely sprinkled with notes, many of
which supported Roman Catholic doctrine. The revision known as The New
Jerusalem Bible, published in 1985, reduced the number of Roman Catholic
notes but did not, by any means, meet the perception of one reviewer who
claimed to have found
the elimination of any pro-Catholic bias. The
Times, London, October 4, 1985, quoted in ibid.
The new translation further introduced notes
conforming to the concepts of higher critics. Let us examine a number of
these as reported by the Trinitarian Bible Society.
Matthew 8:28: Where Matthew refers to two
demon-possessed persons, and only one is referred to in Mark and Luke,
the NJB comments that "the doubling of persons appears to be
characteristic of Matthew’s style," with the implication that
Matthew’s additional narrative detail is simply a result of literary
Matthew 14:13ff: Concerning Matthew’s separate
record of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the Feeding of the Four
Thousand, the NJB remarks that "this duplication, certainly very
ancient, presents the same incident according to two different
traditions." A similar note appears at Luke 9:10. The suggestion here
is that the gospel account of two separate miracles is unhistorical,
and that Christ never actually spoke the words which are attributed to
Him at Matthew 16:9-10, referring to these miracles as separate
Matthew 17:27: The NJB comments that "this
miraculous find of a precious object in a fish’s mouth, which is not
essential to the episode, has several parallels in Jewish and Greek
folklore," implying that this event did not actually take place, but
was derived from popular legend.
Matthew 19:9: Regarding Jesus’ teaching on divorce,
the NJB suggests that probably "one of the last editors of Matthew"
added the exceptive clause (on fornication) in response to a rabbinic
problem, so that "in this case we would have here an ecclesiastical
decision of temporary and local application." The implication here is
that Matthew’s account interweaves the teaching of the early church
with the teaching of Jesus, attributing to Jesus some words which He
did not speak.
Matthew 26:68: The NJB comments that "Matthew’s
editing is awkward," inviting the conclusion that Matthew’s
presentation of his account was imperfect.
Mark 2:27: Regarding Jesus’ teaching that the
sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, the NJB states
that "this verse, lacking in Matthew and Luke, must have been added by
Mark when the new spirit of Christianity had already reduced the
importance of the sabbath obligation," with the implication that Jesus
did not actually say the words which Mark attributes to Him.
Luke 1:46: On the Magnificat, the NJB notes that
"Luke must have found this canticle in the circles of the ‘poor,’
where it was perhaps attributed to the Daughters of Zion. He found it
suitable to bring into his prose narrative and put on the lips of
Mary," thus suggesting that Mary did not use the words which Luke
records her as saying.
Luke 1:67: On the Benedictus, the NJB similarly
notes that "like the Magnificat, this canticle is a poem which Luke
has drawn from elsewhere to put on Zechariah’s lips," suggesting that
Zechariah did not actually use those words.
Luke 2:29: On the Nunc Dimittis, the NJB this time
notes that "unlike the Magnificat and Benedictus this canticle seems
to have been written by Luke himself, using especially texts from
Isaiah," implying that Luke’s account of Simeon’s words was simply
Luke 9:32: On the account of the Transfiguration,
the NJB suggests that the "irresistible sleep of the disciples,
occurring only in Luke, recalls that of Gethsemane, which is more
natural and from which it could be derived," meaning that this part of
Luke’s account of the Transfiguration is unhistorical.
Luke 22:63: Concerning the details of the men who
mocked Jesus, the NJB declares that "on all these points Luke’s
account may well be more historical than those of Matthew and Mark."
Acts 1:19: The NJB comments that in this account
the manner of Judas’ death "mirrors the death of many a criminal in
folk legends," implying that the recorded details in Acts were not
literally true. Ibid., 5-6
It must be understood that Rome is well served by
casting doubt upon Scripture, for it reinforces its claim that the
source of faith is "the one true church."
That The New Jerusalem Bible failed to rid itself of
all Roman Catholic bias can be readily detected. In its note on Matthew
16:19 The New Jerusalem Bible states:
Peter has the keys. It is his function, therefore,
to open or close to all who would come to the kingdom of Heaven
through the Christian community. . . . Of the household of God Peter
is the controller. . . . In that capacity he is to exercise the
disciplinary power of admitting or excluding those he thinks fit; he
will also, in his administration of the community, make necessary
doctrinal and juridical decisions. The verdicts he delivers and the
pronouncements he makes will be ratified by God in heaven. Catholic
exegetes maintain that these enduring promises hold good, not only for
Peter himself but also for Peter’s successors. This inference, not
explicitly drawn in the text, is considered legitimate. Ibid., 7
Roman Catholic Mariology is freely supported in the
Bible notes. For example, The New Jerusalem Bible, in commenting upon
John 19:26-27, claims that Christ’s dying words concerning His mother
a declaration that Mary, the new Eve, is the
spiritual mother of all the faithful.
This assertion is also supported in the note
concerning John 2:4. This note claims that Mary is
the new Eve, "mother of the living."
This edition further claims that Mary plays an
important role in salvation. In the note related to Luke 2:34, it is
As the true Daughter of Zion, Mary will hear the
sorrowful destiny of her race. With her Son she will be at the centre
of this contradiction, where secret thoughts will be laid bare, for or
Mary’s perpetual virginity is asserted, contrary to
biblical evidence. In the note on Matthew 1:25, The New Jerusalem Bible
admits that Mary’s perpetual virginity is not proved by the verse, but
nevertheless asserts that this false doctrine is "assured by the
remainder of the Gospel and by the tradition of the Church."
The text in question states:
And knew her not till she had brought forth her
firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. Matthew 1:25, NJB
The very words indicate that Mary’s virginity was not
maintained after the birth of Jesus. The New Jerusalem Bible
mistranslates this text to overcome this objection by ignoring all
reference to Jesus as her firstborn.
He had not had intercourse with her when she gave
birth. Matthew 1:25, NJB
Where Scripture refers to Jesus’ brothers and sisters
(Matthew 12:46-47, 13:55-56; Mark 3:31-32, 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John
12:12, 7:3; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19), The New Jerusalem Bible in some
notes dismisses the relationship as merely that of cousins.
The notes also uphold the blasphemy of the Mass
commenting upon Genesis 14:18 where Melchizedek offered bread and wine,
the relevant note claims this act to be
an image of the Eucharist and even a foreshadowing
of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
In a note on Matthew 19:12 which states, in the KJV,
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from
their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made
eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves
eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive
it, let him receive it.,
the editors of The New Jerusalem Bible conclude,
without justification, that
Christ invites to perpetual continence as an
expression of total consecration to the kingdom of God.
Such a viewpoint upholds the false doctrine of
In December 1985, Russell and his wife, Enid,
observed a papal audience in the Vatican. At the conclusion, Pope John
Paul II bestowed "absolution" for all sins upon all present and even the
relatives of those present. Such sacrilege is staggering. Yet this dogma
of priestly absolution is implied in the note on Matthew 18:18 which
One of the powers [to forgive sins] conferred on
Peter is here conferred also on the community.
While this is a modification of the note in the
original Jerusalem Bible, which commented
One of the powers conferred on Peter is here
conferred on the Church’s ministers, to whom this discourse is
it still removes from Christ the sole right to
absolve our sins and in practice permits priests to usurp Christ’s
The sacrament of extreme unction, the sacrament by
which dying people are promised by the Roman Catholic Church final
remission of sins, is upheld in the note in respect of James 5:14 which
states that in the verse
the Church has seen the earliest form of the
sacrament of Anointing the Sick.1
The damnable doctrine of purgatory which has
terrified many devoted Roman Catholics and enriched their church, as
desperate relatives have sacrificed to have loved ones relieved of the
supposed punishment of purgatory through Masses and offerings, also is
upheld in a note, in this case related to 1 Corinthians 3:15. This note
Purgatory is not directly envisaged here, but this
text is one of those on the basis of which the Church has made this
The Apocrypha is included in this Roman Catholic
Bible, and the note on 2 Maccabees 12:44-45 claims that
the text expresses the conviction that prayer and
expiatory sacrifice are efficacious for the remission of sins for the
Yet another false doctrine, that of original sin and
its removal by christening, is upheld. In a note on 1 Peter 3:21, it is
the baptism by which a person is reborn can have no
limits to its efficacy.
The note related to Romans 6:12 records that
baptism has destroyed human sin.
It has been pointed out that The New Jerusalem Bible
contains some significant doctrinal errors.
Some errors of translation in the NJB have a
definite doctrinal significance. One example is found in the treatment
of the subject of temptation. In the Lord’s Prayer, "lead us not into
temptation" becomes "do not put us to the test" (Matthew 6:13). At
Mark 14:39, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation" becomes
"Stay awake and pray not to be put to the test." Similarly at James
1:13, in the NJB, we are told that God "does not put anybody to the
test." Yet at Genesis 22:1 we are told in the NJB that "God put
Abraham to the test," and at James 1:2 that "the testing of your faith
produces perseverance." The Scriptures teach that, while God does not
tempt people, He does indeed test their faith, and faith is thereby
strengthened. This series of mistranslations is likely to lead people
to misunderstand this important truth, and those who use the NJB form
of the Lord’s Prayer will find themselves praying for something which
is contrary to God’s purpose. The Trinitarian Bible Society, Article
No. 73, The New Jerusalem Bible, 4
Of course, it does not require emphasis to record
that this Bible relies upon the corrupted Greek manuscripts. Thus it is
an unsafe Bible made even more dangerous by the liberal use of the notes
designed to bias the student of God’s Word against truth.