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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Saturday, August 18, 2007

70 or 70 x 7?

Fr. Neuhaus says - the NAB has problems. To put it mildly. As a reader at daily Mass, I can tell you that I often cringe at having to read some of the ridiculous phrasing in our, ahem, "Americanized" version of the Sacred Scriptures. Of course, we can't really complain, since our bishops' conference wants only the best for the flock. I'm sure that's why it is the ONLY translation that can be licitly used at our Masses. Right?

My time in Ireland this past July reminded me once again just what we American Catholics are missing out on - the use of the RSV Catholic lectionary (often the New Jerusalem is an option too in other parts of the world!). The clarity and cadence of the RSV translation spoken aloud makes it a far more fitting choice for liturgical purposes. Why does every other English-speaking Catholic in the world get to have all these options for their Mass readings? Oh wait, none of the other English-speaking bishops' conferences actually OWN a copyright on the Word of God that they make substantial revenue off of their people for the use of it
("Just count it as part of your tithe!" wink, wink).

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but methinks money-colored glasses might be skewing the vision of some of our leaders...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Father Raymond E. Brown, known by many as the premier biblical scholar of our time, the NAB with the 1987 revision to the New Testament is actually an excellent translation, and is quite suitable for scholarly studies. Prior to 1987 it had a superior translation of the OT but an inferior translation of the NT, but that the NT translation was suitable fixed in a 1987 revision. As it stands today, according to Brown it is a serious candidate for study purposes (see Brown, Introduction to the New Testament).

The RSV is of course also an American translation, but it was not a revision from the existing Greek manuscripts, but rather a revision of the King James Version, which is loaded with inaccuracies due to its reliance upon the Byzantine family of Greek manuscripts, which is the least reliable set of existing manuscripts. The RSV is a far improvement over the KJV, and for some time was the best study Bible available, at least prior to the NJB and the '87 revision of the NAB. The NRSV has fixed some of the Old English of the RSV, but has moved towards inclusive language in a way that at times causes it to lose some sense of literalness, but it still remains a very good edition, and a great improvement over its precedent King James Version.

The New Jerusalem Bible is a fine translation. I actually have the original French translation done by the French Dominicans. The original English translation from it was very poor, but the 1985 edition of the NJB is quite excellent.

Anyway, just wanted to add my own two cents. As I said, Father Brown, who has no personal reason to endorse the NAB, gives it a strong approval after the 1987 revision of its NT translation, and seems to think it is one of the better study Bibles available in English. I know others disagree, but it doesn't hurt to hear another opinion, particularly someone with such an expertise as Father Brown, the only American to ever sit on the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission, and author of several important biblical commentaries, including two New Anchor books.

August 18, 2007 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Fr. Neuhaus's criticism of the usage of "seventy-seven" times is problematic in several areas. One, he fails to recognize the fact that the reading of "seventy-seven" is actually a perfect allusion to Gen 4:24 in the LXX, and thus in this translation Jesus is actually making a finer point than the supposed hyperbole that Fr. Neuhaus is seeking (in that perfect forgiveness offsets perfect vengeance). Also, Fr. Neuhaus complains that the NAB differs from other English translations in this, particularly older translations. This is rather silly, since older translations, unlike the NAB, were not taken from the best available Greek manuscripts. The Douey-Rheims is a translation from Jerome's Vulgate (and there's nothing wrong with that), and the RSV is a translation from an inferior grouping of Greek manuscripts. So while both are valid translations, the NAB not only seems to come from a better original source, it also makes more sense that Jesus would say seventy-seven to counteract the seventy-seven of Gen 4:24. Just a thought to consider.

August 18, 2007 5:21 PM  
Blogger mgibson said...

Thanks for your comments Michael, though I think they should be directed more towards Fr. Neuhaus than myself and this blog. You should really post your comments there. However, that said, I'll still answer you and hope you return again. :)

In many ways I agree with you, as far as Biblical scholarship is concerned. It is fascinating to compare the various sources of the different translations, and to try to decide which one is "best" - a continual job that will not end until the world does, I'm afraid. I also think your view on the use of seventy-seven in the NAB is worth considering.

But, I admit, I'm still a bit confused as to why you posted this in answer to my post. It seems your main reason in doing so is to defend the NAB as being a valid translation - ok. We agree. You see, while I agree with Fr. Neuhaus in my distaste for the NAB monopolyl, my commentary on this blog has very little to do with what the scholars of the day think of the NAB, much less of what the highly-esteemed Fr. Brown thinks. I have read Brown in two of my courses, including his "Introduction to the New Testament" text, and was not particularly impressed, Pontifical Biblical Commission seat and all. It is quite clear that he is very keen on the modern historical-critical method, to the detriment of any other method. As such, I do not see him or his opinions to be of much use to the average Catholic who seeks to be formed in the faith - namely, the majority of people who sit in the pews each day. Likewise, I don't think the NAB is really good for us to use to study either - the vague and banal language on it's own might be forgiven, but the often horrendous commentary in many of the NAB editions is what is most to blame for my dislike of it as a good Catholic study Bible.

The thing is, as far as my blog post was concerned, the key issue here is what Scriptural texts are used at Mass. This is a different kettle of fish than what you are discoursing on.

As far as the LITURGICAL use of Scripture is concerned, my understanding is it has to do with 1) the authentic proclaimation of the Word of God by an appropriate person (ordained man in terms of the Gospel), 2) in a way fitting to the dignity of worship and 3) by the use of a text that the Church, by the authority of Christ, has deemed to be an accurate expression of God's written Revelation to mankind.

As our Holy Father has said time and again, it is NOT just Scripture that we look to as authoritative - we look equally to Tradition. If all we cared about was having the perfect set of Scripture, we'd all have nervous breakdowns and none of us would ever be able to trust that we really knew what God was ACTUALLY saying (as is evidenced by the 20,000 + Protestant denominations today!). Or we'd all become Mormans, since at least they claim that God told Joseph Smith word-for-word exactly what he wanted to say; or Muslims, who are the most consistent of anyone by acknowledging that ALL translation is traitorous, as the saying goes, and ergo forbidding any translation from claiming authoritative status!

Fortunately, as Catholics, we don't just have Scripture, we have Tradition. Now, Tradition might not be enough for the scholars such as yourself - and indeed, perhaps it shouldn't be, as I do not deny that it is a good thing to always seek for more literally accurate manuscripts, or to constantly seek more anthropological and historical/cultural understanding. However, when it comes to eternal salvation, Tradition is inseparable from Scripture in terms of allowing us to be confident that we are indeed truly receiving the fullness of divine revelation. This touches most strongly on the latter half of your first comment, regarding the "errors" of the RSV due to it's source material.

To me, it is helpful to recall our Holy Father's words regarding the Mass. All vernacular missals are translations of the Latin Missal, which is normative, however, the Latin Missal is a sacred text in it's own right and is NOT subject to re-interpretation based on Scriptural studies. For example, it is my understanding that in the Scriptural texts pertaining to the Last Supper, there is incongruity between whether or not Jesus used "for all" or "for many". However, this argument is non-authoritative when it comes to the liturgy according to Pope Benedict. Why? Becuase the Latin Rite is itself a sacred text, and hence all translations of it need to be done SOLELY from it's own language, not from any source that it might be claimed that it is derived from. Ergo, the Holy Father decreed that all future translations of "multis" from the Latin missal MUST be "for many", and not "for all."

Now, moving from the Missal to the readings usesd in the contexxt of that Missal, Tradition has consistently taught that the Latin Vulgate - while you may find it inadequate for your use - does adequately express the Word of God, and the faithful will profit spiritually from their study and prayerful reflection on the text. Likewise, so does the RSV, the NJB, and yes, even the NAB (even with it's annoying inclusive language that offends my feminine intellect). All are approved translations. That's not my beef.

What I've said so far, and what you have stated, deals mostly with the third part of my little outline above. The first part, regarding the appropriateness of the person who is proclaiming the readings, doesn't really apply to this discussion either. So, let's move to the second part - the fittingness of the text for the sacred liturgy.

My beef is, first and foremost, that LITURGICALLY a translation should be used that contributes to, and does not detract from, the dignity of the liturgy and the active participation of the people. The NAB here fails, I think, and so do many others. In the first instance, by it's banality, and in the second by it's inconsistent grammar and unreadable style (downright confusing if you ask me, when I listen from the pews or read from the ambo). In the same ways, the RSV is, I feel, a much more dignified AND clear translation for public proclaimation. The ideas are conveyed more precisely (and literally, which is important particularly in the Psalms where neutering often damages both the cultural understanding and the typology), and the grammatical style is much easier for the average listener to follow - and contrary to the condescending complaints from certain liberals, the more specific vocabularly is by no means too difficult for us to follow easily.

One may argue that this is more of a subjective issue than the other two - and I agree, as you will note by my closing comment on this original post. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. At the same time, if you are a Catholic, then you must pay attention to the thinking and practice of the Church universally. It is quite clear that throughout the Church there has been and is continuing to be a trend towards ensuring that a more ecclestiastical tone be used in the sacred texts, whether they be prayers at Mass, or the Scriptural readings and citations. Likewise, simply by looking at the climate of the other English-speaking countries, you find that clearly the sensibility is of a different type of translation than the casual, banal style of the NAB. Finally, simply look at the coming re-translation of the Roman Missal - Vox Clara would agree with those of us who argue for more options in lectionaries here in the States, I'd wager.

Therefore, my opinion regarding all of this remains unchanged. I still believe that the NAB is an inferior translation to be used liturgically, and that the dictates of the USCCB that it be used solely are suspicious insofar as the USCCB stands to lose out on a lot of money if they were to actually let us choose between translations. Personally, I think there are only two ways in which this will happen - 1) the Pope decrees that RSV is a universally-approved liturgical translation, or 2) 10 years from now there's all new faces at the USCCB and someone bites the bullet and gives up the cash cow.

August 18, 2007 9:14 PM  
Blogger mgibson said...

By the way, for any others reading, Michael has a great blog of his own at http://psalm46-11.blogspot.com/. Do check it out, and pray for his healing and vocational discernment!

August 18, 2007 9:17 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

Fr. Neuhaus says the NAB says 70, but it says 77. This matches its translation of Gen 4:24.

The Douay-Rheims, which says seventy-times-seven in Matt 18:22 ALSO says seventy-time-seven in Gen 4:24! Internal consistency in both translations, although the two translations do not match one another.

August 23, 2007 8:02 PM  

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