Jerusalem Bible

Tolkien once contributed as an editor of The Jerusalem Bible (published 1966), contributions in question are possibly the Book of Jonah and the Book of Job, but it seems not quite clear to which extent he contributed and which of his contributions survived in the printing (in fact there are contradictional statements about that issue)...

In a letter of 1967 to Charlotte and Denis Plimmer he stated:

Tolkien... is among the 'principal collaborators' of the newly-translated Jerusalem Bible.

Naming me among the 'principal collaborators' was an undeserved courtesy on the part of the editor of the Jerusalem Bible. I was consulted on one or two points of style, and criticized some contributions of others. I was originally assigned a large amount of text to translate, but after doing some necessary preliminary work I was obliged to resign owing to pressure of other work, and only completed 'Jonah', one of the shortest books.

Letters 294

Carpenter's Biography lists:

Contribution as translator to The Jerusalem Bible (London, Carton, Longman & Todd; New York, Doubleday). [Tolkien is named as an editor but his only contribution was to make an original draft of translation of Book of Jonah, which was extensively revised by other hands before publication.]
JRR Tolkien-A Biography

Hammond in his Bibliography has:

The Jerusalem Bible' (London: Darton, Longman & Todd; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966). Tolkien served as an editor of this version in a capacity nowhere definitively described. According to Tolkien himself, in a letter to Charlotte and Denis Plimmer of 8 February 1967, he was originally to have translated a large amount of text, but under pressue from other work, completed only Jonah ('one of the shortest books'), and otherwise 'was consulted on one or two points of style, and criticized some contributions of others'. According to Anthony Kenny, A Path from Rome: An Autobiography' (London: Sidgewick & Jackson, 1895), Tolkien was asked to translate Judges and Jonah, but in the end contributed only a revision of the latter. According to Carpenters Biography, Tolkien's only contribution was the original draft of a translation of Jonah, which was extensively revised by others before publication. But it was reported in the Tolkien Society bulletin, Amon Hen, no. 26 (May 1977), that according to Darton, Longman, & Todd Tolkien also worked on the Book of Job, providing its initial draft and playing an important part in establishing its final text.
JRR Tolkien-A Descriptive Bibliography

and recently M. Martinez (in part) quoting Wayne Hammond in rec.arts.books.tolkien:

Since writing the _Bibliography_ I've seen the letters written to Tolkien by the General Editor of _The Jerusalem Bible_, Alexander Jones, preserved in the Tolkien Papers at the Bodleian. Jones first wrote to Tolkien in January 1957, asking him to contribute to the Bible project, on the strength of _The Lord of the Rings_ with which Jones was very impressed. He hoped that Tolkien would translate several books of the Old Testament, but held out Jonah (only three pages in the finished printed Bible) if Tolkien was pressed for time. Tolkien quickly sent a sample translation from Isaiah, and then a draft translation of Jonah. After that he was indeed too pressed for time to do much more. He did, however, discuss points of translation with Jones, including what to do about archaisms (a potentially very interesting subject, especially in relation to his comments on archaisms in _The Lord of the Rings_; unfortunately, copies of Tolkien's letters to Jones are not at the Bodleian), and Jones solicited Tolkien's opinions on a first draft of most of the Book of Job. Tolkien passed a final revision of Jonah only in 1961.

So, Tolkien did translate Jonah, which others revised (in the _Bibliography_, p. 279, "revision of the latter [i.e. Jonah]" should read "version of the latter"), and the evidence strongly indicates that this was the only book that he translated in full. He certainly did not translate Job -- one of the letters from Jones makes it clear that this was done by someone else -- though he may have given his advice about it (Jones's letters at the Bodleian end at the point at which he sent Job to Tolkien), and this may have led to some confusion on this point at Longmans.

Jones wrote in his foreword to _The Jerusalem Bible_: "In the case of a few books the initial draft was made from the French and was then compared word for word with the Hebrew or Aramaic by the General Editor and amended where necessary to ensure complete conformity with the ancient text. For the much greater part, the initial drafts were made from the Hebrew or Greek and simultaneously compared with the French when questions of variant reading or interpretation arose." That the work was never simply a translation from the French was made clear to Tolkien by Jones in an early letter: reference by the General Editor to Hebrew and Greek was always a given. Nor was Jones overly concerned to recruit translators who were fluent in French: obviously they had to have some facility with it, but he was concerned in the first instance with their command of English. Thus he wanted Tolkien on board, and others such as Roy Campbell (who died before completing his work).

M. Martinez quoting Wayne Hammond in rec.arts.books.tolkien on 24.4.2004


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