THE “REVISED” EDITION OF THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE IS COMING!

 

JULY 2010/DECEMBER 2011

 

THE “REVISED” EDITION OF THE NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE IS COMING!

India’s New Bible Wears a Bindi

By Rick Westhead, South Asia Bureau/Toronto Star November 7, 2009


Father Devassy Athalathil, a priest at the Society of St. Paul in Mumbai, who spearheaded the effort, says he isn’t worried about a backlash.

http://www.thestar.com/living/religion/article/722554–westhead-india-s-new-bible-wears-a-bindi

The Virgin Mother in a sari, Joseph donning a turban. These are just some of the depictions in an Indianized version of the Bible.

The controversy that followed means a toned-down second edition this year

MUMBAI, INDIA– When Mary and Joseph discovered a power-hungry king was hunting their son Jesus Christ, they escaped to the safety of Egypt. But before Christianity’s first family fled, barefoot Mary slipped into a sari and put a bindi on her forehead, while Joseph tied tight his long loincloth and turban.

At least, that’s how their flight is illustrated in a Bible produced for Indians.

Released in India last year by the Roman Catholic Church, the “New Community Bible” became an immediate sensation – and lightning rod for controversy.

Thanks to pictures of Biblical characters in traditional Indian clothing and a commentary that drew references to Bollywood, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible sold out 15,000 hardcover copies within weeks.

Yet amid its success, the New Community Bible also became ensnared in controversy. Right-wing Hindu groups accused the Catholic Church of laying the groundwork for illegal conversions, while Protestant Christian groups alleged it misrepresented original texts.

A year on, a longtime priest at the Society of St. Paul in Mumbai, who was a driving force behind the Bible’s release, is scrambling to release a second edition. This time, Father Devassy Athalathil envisions a print run of 50,000 copies with gilt-edged pages distributed in each of India’s 28 states.

Publishing a second edition has proven vexing since inflaming religious tensions is a constant worry for church officials in India.

But Athalathil says he’s not anxious. “I wasn’t worried before the first edition came out and I’m not worried now,” said the 60-year-old, leaning back in a chair in his second-floor office, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling high stacks of books such as The Eight Beatitudes, My First Catechism and The Picture Book of Saints.

1.

 

“It’s up to people whether they want to follow Jesus. Our job is to put the truth before the people. And these problems that we had weren’t God-made problems, they were man-made … They weren’t real problems.”

Still, Athalathil seems prepared to release a more toned-down version of “the truth” this time around, paring out references to Hindu texts.
Scheduled to be excised from the latest Indian Bible are references to Mahatma Gandhi’s mantra of civil disobedience, and a comparison made between the Biblical Ten Commandments, and 10 basic precepts of the Indian scriptures, which include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth) and brahmacharya (celibacy).

Quotes from the Bhagavad Gita are also gone, as is a narrative from the New Testament book of Luke on resurrection; in the first edition, the Bible’s commentary suggested the Hindu belief in reincarnation might cheapen the value of life.

But Athalathil says some of the key elements of the first edition will remain, including 27 Indian-themed pictures, such as a family living in a slum in the shadow of a skyscraper, and a portrait of Mother Teresa.

Religious experts say there’s little doubt why the church has released its Indian version of the Bible. India’s population is surging and the number of Christians as a percentage of the country is in danger of slipping.

Today, about 2.5 per cent of Indians, or 24 million people, are Christian. It’s worrisome enough that in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the Catholic Church has encouraged Christian families to give birth to more children – even as the federal government urges fewer babies. In some instances, the church has provided treatment to infertile couples and even paid for women to reverse tubectomy procedures.

“The church has always looked at India as fertile ground,” says Mathew Schmalz, who once lived in India and now teaches religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “It tends to lead to a great deal of tension,” he says. “The church will never say it’s trying to win new converts, but it clearly is.”

That approach has often led to violence. In the summer of 2008, in the state of Orissa, Christians were blamed after a Hindu monk and four of his associates were killed. In the ensuing violence, 122 Christians were either killed or went missing, and hundreds of homes and churches were razed.

To be sure, the Christian church sometimes doesn’t do itself any favours in its mission fields. Drivers in New Delhi tell stories of missionaries coming to their villages with free textbooks and medicines. But after a while, there was a catch: some missionaries would continue their good works only if locals agreed to convert.

There are more recent examples of Christian shenanigans in India, which years ago banned foreign missionaries.

A Canadian trade official recently scheduled a meeting with someone he thought was an executive from a U.S.-based food and beverage company. “We sat down to lunch and I had this guy’s card and wanted to talk
business,” the trade official said. “He said to me, ‘You know I’m not really here as an executive, right? I’m a missionary’.”

In his office in New Delhi, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana*, the Holy See’s representative in India, concedes he’s worried about the prospect of a new Bible sparking more violence. He says that when religious fanatics, “put venom to the people, sometimes they create a monster you cannot control.”

And while he doesn’t enthusiastically embrace Athalathil’s bid to publish another Indianized Bible, the 56-year-old Spaniard sounds like he wants to support the effort.

“Conversion is a human right,” he says, fiddling with a large crucifix around his neck. “We cannot refuse to others our beautiful way of life.” *Shortly after this story, Quintana moved to a new assignment

MY COMMENTS:

A diluted, syncretized “Bible” is not going to result in real “conversions”, at least not in producing more Indian followers of the Jesus preached by the Church of the early European missionaries. It will in fact have just the opposite effect.

Fr Devassy Athalathil was for a long time the Director of St Pauls’ Better Yourself Books, many of which can be classified as New Age, in charge of the import and export of books, organizer of the printing of different editions of the Bible, and is at present Director of St Pauls India (import and distribution of foreign books). He was Provincial from 2002 to 2006. It was he who took the initiative to bring out the Indian edition of the Community Bible which was called the “New Community Bible”.

Funny thing is that the leader of an intercessory group that stood by me in the campaign against the NCB was requested by Fr Devassy to intercede that the revised version would be soon released. He was worried over the delay of its second avatar.

Little did Fr Devassy know that I was staying in Mumbai at the home of the leader of the very intercessory group who wanted the NCB stopped as much as I did, and had stormed heaven so that the efforts of my team would be blessed!

On the 2nd of last month, February 2010, I had the privilege of being invited over to the Bandra, Mumbai, headquarters of St Pauls. I spent around four hours there in the company of several of the St Pauls family, priests and brothers. I am not mentioning their names for reasons that are obvious. There were cordial discussions about my ministry over mid-morning tea. Later, I sat at the lunch table along with the Provincial of the Congregation. All the good brothers and priests were keenly aware that I was the visible spearhead of the crusade that had been launched for the withdrawal of the New Community Bible. Some of them knew me from my visits to their bookshops all over India for purchases or to persuade them to remove objectionable [New Age, etc.] books, which, I am happy to report, a few of them did at my request. A couple of priests even thanked me for fighting to get the New Community Bible withdrawn. They are not the first St Pauls priests to do so, though none have done it in writing. Certainly not all of the St Pauls family stands for their New Community Bible.

2.

 

 

During and after our vigorous 2008 crusade to have the New Community Bible withdrawn by the Bishops because of its erroneous commentaries, the following 17 reports were published on this ministry’s web site:

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 01-A CRITIQUE

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_01-A_CRITIQUE.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 02-THE PAPAL SEMINARY, PUNE, INDIAN THEOLOGIANS, AND THE CATHOLIC ASHRAMS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_02-THE_PAPAL_SEMINARY_PUNE_INDIAN_THEOLOGIANS_AND_THE_CATHOLIC_ASHRAMS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 03-A FRENCH THEOLOGIAN DENOUNCES ERRORS IN THE COMMENTARIES

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_03-A_FRENCH_THEOLOGIAN_DENOUNCES_ERRORS_IN_THE_COMMENTARIES.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 04-THE ONGOING ROBBERY OF FAITH

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_04-THE_ONGOING_ROBBERY_OF_FAITH.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 05-THE ANGEL GABRIEL DID NOT APPEAR TO THE VIRGIN MARY

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_05-THE_ANGEL_GABRIEL_DID_NOT_APPEAR_TO_THE_VIRGIN_MARY.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 06-PRESS REPORTS AND READERS’ CRITICISMS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_06-PRESS_REPORTS_AND_READERS_CRITICISMS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 07-UNPUBLISHED LETTERS AGAINST ITS ERRONEOUS COMMENTARIES-THE EXAMINER

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_07-UNPUBLISHED_LETTERS_AGAINST_ITS_ERRONEOUS_COMMENTARIES-THE_EXAMINER.doc     

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 08-LETTERS CALLING FOR ITS WITHDRAWAL

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_08-LETTERS_CALLING_FOR_ITS_WITHDRAWAL.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 09-LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_09-LETTER_TO_THE_CONGREGATION_FOR_THE_DOCTRINE_OF_THE_FAITH.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 10-CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE SECULAR MEDIA, AND WITH PRIEST-CRITICS OF OUR CRUSADE AGAINST ITS ERRORS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_10-CORRESPONDENCE_WITH_THE_SECULAR_MEDIA_AND_WITH_PRIEST-CRITICS_OF_OUR_CRUSADE_AGAINST_ITS_ERRORS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 11-VATICAN HELD RESPONSIBLE, BRAHMIN LEADERS DEMAND ITS WITHDRAWAL

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_11-VATICAN_HELD_RESPONSIBLE_BRAHMIN_LEADERS_DEMAND_ITS_WITHDRAWAL.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 12-LETTERS TO ROME

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_12-LETTERS_TO_ROME.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 13-RESPONSES FROM THE BISHOPS AND THEIR EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_13-RESPONSES_FROM_THE_BISHOPS_AND_THEIR_EXECUTIVE_COMMISSIONS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 14-UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS CALL IT A NEW AGE BIBLE, “EXCOMMUNICATE” INDIAN BISHOPS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_14-UKRAINIAN_ORTHODOX_GREEK_CATHOLIC_BISHOPS_CALL_IT_A_NEW_AGE_BIBLE_EXCOMMUNICATE_INDIAN_BISHOPS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 15-DEMAND FOR ORDINATION OF WOMEN PRIESTS-FR SUBHASH ANAND AND OTHERS

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_15-DEMAND_FOR_ORDINATION_OF_WOMEN_PRIESTS-FR_SUBHASH_ANAND_AND_OTHERS.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 16-CRITIQUE BY DERRICK D’COSTA
JULY 2010

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_16-CRITIQUE_BY_DERRICK_DCOSTA.doc

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 17-EXTOLLED BY CAMALDOLI BENEDICTINE OBLATE
1/5/10 MAY 2013

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_17-EXTOLLED_BY_CAMALDOLI_BENEDICTINE_OBLATE.doc

 

In 2009, the New Community Bible (NCB) sort of went underground. At some Catholic bookstores they were sold surreptitiously. At others, they insisted that copies of the NCB were sold out. At still others, inquirers were informed that there was “some problem” but they could not say what the problem was.

There was a period of around eighteen months when all media information about the NCB ceased completely, the exception being the November 2009 Toronto Star article on pages 1 and 2 of the present report.

The next mention of the NCB appeared in The Telegraph of June 13, 2010. There is no mention of its having been withdrawn for revision and the story below gives the reader the impression that it is a new release:

 

3.

 

EIGHT MONTHS AFTER THE NOVEMBER 2009 TORONTO STAR STORY:

Mary in sari in Indian Bible

The Telegraph
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100614/jsp/nation/story_12563103.jsp

By Cithara Paul, June 13, 2010

Enter, a Bible “by Indians for Indians”, replete with quotes from the Gita to Gitanjali.

The Indian Church is bringing out an “Indianised” Bible next month that will show Mother Mary wearing a sari and even a bindi on her forehead, and her husband Joseph in a loincloth and a turban.

The illustrated Bible will also be annotated with the commentary that runs side by side with the original biblical text making references to Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi and quoting from Hindu texts and Rabindranath Tagore.

“This is a Bible made in India, by Indians and for Indians,” said Fr. George Chathanattil of the Society of St Paul which is in charge of publishing the Bible written in English.

The commentary repeatedly refers to Hindu concepts to convey biblical teachings.

For instance, the Vedic interpretation of light is used to explain the Christian concept of Genesis. Similarly, Jesus’s words about storing “treasures in heaven” in the Gospel of Matthew is compared to the Bhagvadgita’s teaching that “work alone is your proper business, never the fruits it may produce”.

The Bible has verses from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat aplenty. It draws comparisons between the biblical Ten Commandments and 10 basic precepts of ancient Indian scriptures, which include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth) and brahmacharya (celibacy).

Church sources said such “localised” versions of the Bible now existed only in Africa, and that Indian Christians so far mainly read the King James Version of the Bible. The new Indian version is an attempt on the Church’s part to “bring Indians and the Church closer”.

“Our attempt is to make people feel at home with the Bible. When one hears one’s own cultural expressions, it is easier for the Indian Christian community to understand the Bible,” Fr. George said.

The new Bible will have 27 themed pictures that are quintessentially Indian, such as a family living in a slum in the shadow of a skyscraper, with a portrait of Mother Teresa in the background. Sources said many of the figures in the pictures have a slightly darker shade of skin than is usual in western biblical images.

Fr. George said the commentary in the annotated Indian Bible was the product of 15 years of research by a set of 30 Indian biblical scholars. Each of the major divisions of both the Old and New Testaments opens with a brief but comprehensive introduction.

The Society of St Paul had done a test launch last year with a rough, early version of the new Bible.

“The response we got to the trial launch was amazing. People from all walks of life have responded positively to the new Bible and we are happy that the national edition is ready,” Fr. George said.

To start with, the Society plans to print 50,000 copies, to be distributed among all the states.

 

The Telegraph story was reproduced by CathNewsIndia, an agency of UCANews, and was carried in the Bombay archdiocesan weekly,
The Examiner a few days later:

Indian church to bring out Indianised form of Bible

http://www.cathnewsindia.com/2010/06/14/indian-church-to-bring-out-indianised-form-of-bible/
June 14, 2010

Source: UCAN

An Indianised form of the Bible will show Mother Mary wearing a sari and a ‘bindi’ on her forehead and her husband St. Joseph in a loin cloth and a turban. The Indian Church will bring out this Bible in July.

“This is a Bible made in India, by Indians and for Indians” said Fr. George Chathanattil of the Society of St Paul which is in charge of publishing the Bible written in English.

The illustrated Bible will also be annotated with a commentary that runs side by side with the original biblical text, making references to Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi, and quoting from Hindu texts and Rabindranath Tagore. The commentary repeatedly refers to Hindu concepts to convey biblical teachings. It contains verses from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, The Telegraph reported.

“Our attempt is to make people feel at home with the Bible. When one hears one’s own cultural expressions, it is easier for the Indian Christian community to understand the Bible,” Fr. George said.
The new Bible will have 27 themed pictures that are quintessentially Indian, such as a family living in a slum in the shadow of a skyscraper, with a portrait of Mother Teresa in the background.
The Society plans to print 50,000 copies to be distributed among all the states.

The story is also found at
http://catholicactionindia.blogspot.in/2010/06/indian-church-to-bring-out-indianised.html

 

The following denial then appeared in the Bombay archdiocesan weekly,
The Examiner,
June 26, 2010:

A correction in news item ‘Indianised form of Bible’ (June 19, 2010). We reproduce a letter of correction sent by Fr. George Chathanatt whose comments regarding the Indianised form of Bible were quoted in the news item.

 

Sir, I am shocked to read on page 18 of The Examiner, June 19, 2010, a news item from New Delhi entitled ‘Indianised form of Bible’. This news is supplied by UCANews who in turn quotes The Telegraph.

I, Fr. George Chathanatt, the General Manager of St Paul’s and the person “in charge of publishing the Indianised form of Bible” as the news quotes me, am caught unaware of this exciting news! 4.

 

 

The news published in The Examiner says that I am going to publish it in July. I want you, the Editor and all the patrons and readers of The Examiner to know that this news is false. In fact, we published the said Bible in June 2008, and so it is a two-year old news!

I have not spoken to The Telegraph/UCANews of our plan to reprint it in the future, nor have I made any comments as quoted in the report, to any news agency. The news seems fabricated by someone who has some other intentions.

Therefore I request you to rectify this report in the very next issue of The Examiner.

Fr. George Chathanatt, SSP, Bandra [Mumbai]

The News was taken from CathNewsIndia, a service of UCANews dated June 14, 2010 with no explicit mention of it being an old news. We regret the error – Editor (of
The Examiner)

 

The Society of St. Paul is in denial over their secret plans to bring out the revised version of the NCB. But, as we have already seen on pages 1 and 2, the November 2009 Toronto Star report, which came out eight months before this controversy in The Examiner, reiterated that a revised edition was forthcoming. The Toronto Star story even came with a photograph of “Father Devassy Athalathil, a priest at the Society of St. Paul in Mumbai” displaying the NCB which was opened to the page in which Mary is depicted wearing a bindi.

 

So, will there be a “revised” version of the New Community Bible?

You bet there will. St Paul’s is a thoroughly commercial organisation that sells secular books, Hindu religious literature, the occult and New Age. My sources tell me that they have sunk a lot of money into the NCB project. No amount of opposition and criticism* will deter them from bringing out future editions. After all, they have the complete support of Bombay’s archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias**.

 

*The series of 17 reports listed on page 3 contains scores letters from laity and priests, including theologians, opposing the New Community Bible. It was the uproar from the Catholic community and the unfavourable press — and, we guess, the intervention of Rome in response to our communications — that prompted its withdrawal for “revision”. But St Pauls has the audacity to dismiss the concerns of Catholics as “a couple of brickbats“, see the November/December 2011 advertisement for the NCB in the following report:

NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 19-REVISED EDITION PUBLISHED A YEAR AFTER DENIAL

http://ephesians-511.net/docs/NEW_COMMUNITY_BIBLE_19-REVISED_EDITION_PUBLISHED_A_YEAR_AFTER_DENIAL.doc

 

**It must never be forgotten that the NCB was released by none other than Cardinal Oswald Gracias:

New Community Bible Released

An extract from The Examiner
(The Archdiocesan weekly of Bombay)
July 05, 2008

Cardinal Oswald Gracias released the New Community Bible on June 28, 2008 during a concelebrated Mass on the occasion of the commencement of the Pauline Year. Cardinal Gracias in his homily urged the people to familiarize themselves with this Bible which is a revised edition of the popular Christian Community Bible during this year which has been declared as the year of the ‘Word of God’ in the Archdiocese of Bombay.

He congratulated the Paulist brothers and the daughters of St. Paul for their efforts in making this revised edition available to the people in India.


 

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