The Jerusalem Bible is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible which first was introduced to the English-speaking public in 1966. As a Roman Catholic Bible, it includes not only the deuterocanonical books, but numerous notes and introductions, although for the most part they appear to be only marginally influenced by Roman Catholic Church doctrine. In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter on biblical studies in which he gave permission for an English version to be done by Roman Catholics on the basis of the Greek and Hebrew texts rather than upon the Latin Vulgate, as was traditional up to that time.
The Jerusalem Bible derives its name and its character from an earlier French version, called La Bible de Jérusalem. This French version, published in 1956 and revised 1961, was prepared by the faculty of the Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem, on the basis of the Hebrew and Greek. The Jerusalem Bible was translated from the French version. In 1985, the English translation was completely updated. This new translation — known as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) — was freshly translated from the original languages and not tied to any French translation (except indirectly, as it maintained many of the stylistic and interpretive choices of La Bible de Jérusalem).
The translation from the Hebrew and Greek is literal with the notes and introductions reflecting the “higher criticism” approach. This method led the translators to come to some unfortunate conclusions, notably that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (a theory discredited by Jesus Himself.
“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” Mark 12:26
The translators adopted a “mid-Atlantic” method of translating syntax in order for it to sound neither overwhelmingly British nor particularly American in nature. The famous author of the “Lord of the Rings” series, J.R.R. Tolkien, contributed the translation of the book of Jonah. Tolkien also consulted on one or two points of style and criticized some contributions of others.
Overall, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are good English translations of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the translation. The “higher critical” approach the translators took is troubling, but actually makes very little impact on the translation itself. With Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism as the foundation, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible should not be used as a primary Biblical translation.