Bible translations
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I read somewhere that Rome is trying ot encourage people to read Bible more. I know it's not my position to have a concern for this, but when I went to a Bible study a couple of month ago, I found that there are some problems in modern Catholic Bible. For example, our text book,The Names of Jesus, quoted Mathew 1:18 -25 for the dicussion. It says [Joseph] had no marital relations with her 'until' she had borne a son. Our group was very puzzled by the word 'until' What's that mean? Joseph didn't have marital relations only until she had Jesus? what after that? It can be understood in many different ways.

    Another problem was in Luke 1:26 -31 [Angel Gabriel] came to her and said "Greetings, 'favored one!" Not any more 'Full of Grace" (someone pointed out how the modern Bibles lowered the role of Mary by saying this, instead of saying full of grace, She is nothing but full of grace! This may be very subtle, but I think it's very important for catholics to know the difference.(Of course when I was a Protestant, I didn't know, or didn't care to know the difference.) We cheked all our own Bibles, and I think there was only one Bible said 'Full of Grace.' Of course, we all had approved Catholic Bibles. This Bible study was run by our priest, and this was only second time I went to a catholic Bible study. (I did a lot when I was a Protestant) The first one I went to was run by a small private group, and it wan't bad, but there were many questions unanswered. (Another questionable translation was "YHWH," 'I am who I am,' instead of "I am who am." I think this is already discussed somewhere in another thread.)

    Reading Bible is of course very important and a good thing to do. But it can be very confusing. I feel that we get to know the Word of God, (and get understanding from the homily) if you go to daily Mass. In our parish there are many Bible study groups, but not enough learning about Liturgy.

    Of course I cannot read the whole Bible in Latin, but I think it's good to know some Latin so you can refer to Latin Bible, St Jerome's, which our Church declared as flawless, when there's a question.

    If I'm wrong about this matter, I'd truly like to know.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Mia, you should learn New Testament Greek, and then your problem is solved! ;-) I did this after the 60's when the translations seemed to be changeing every year, and I wanted to know what the Angels REALLY said to the shepherds. Anyway, your instincts are good.

    Matthew 1:18 actually says "before they came together, she was found to have conceived by the Holy Spirit". So it's not a causal relationship, and doesn't imply that they did "come together".

    Luke 1:26, the phrase is transliterated "chaire, kecharitomene" which literally means, "Hail, engracified one". So "full of grace" is a very good translation.

    I forget the term that was in favor for translating the 'intent' rather than the actual words, but it's a slippery slope, and we're better off getting the words and learning the exegesis behind them if necessary, IMHO.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    gregp - Can you shed some light on the "I am Who am" quote? I don't know how that can be derived from the Latin. "Sum qui sum" would better be translated as "I am who I am" but that phrase lacks the 'mystery' quality. So was the mystery deliberately induced by earlier translators or is there a more distant Greek usage involved?
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Hebrew I don't know - in the Septuagint (Greek version of the OT), the phrase in Exodus 3:14 is transliterated "ego eimi ho own", from which we get Jerome's "ego sum qui sum". I would guess that the reason we translate that into English as "who am" rather than "who I am" is that the Greek is more ambiguous than the Latin - "ho own" could mean "that which is", as well as several other things.

    Anyway, I'd want to know what the Hebrew said before being any more certain. I'm sure there are libraries written about that phrase.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I was told by one of our priest that "I am who AM.'" is correct, emphasizing the "ever-present," outside of time frame, of Almighty.
    Greek is very helpful, but it can be a bit confusing for us, too. In the preface of Douay-Rheims Bible, it says that St. Jerome was perfect in Greek and Latin, and also Hebrew and Aramaic nearly as well, which made him a much better judge of the exact meaning of any Greek or Hebrew word in the Scripture. Nobody even now can translate them better than he did. So I'm a bit hesitatant to try Greek my own. The Church declared his translation, Latin Vulgate Bible as the official one and declared as free form any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals. So I feel more safe to refer to Latin Vulgate.

    But most English translations of the Cahtolic Bibles are very vague, and do not seem to help to foster our catholic faith as much as it should. Someone said in the Bible group that it got very influenced by Protestant. So , I'm concered that if catholics are encouraged to read the Scripture, the translations have to be reexamined. We cannot just read those translations and interpret in so many different ways and add another problem of individualism in our church.
  • WGS
    Posts: 244
    Gregp,
    I believe the expression for interpreting "intent" rather than the actual words was "dynamic equivalent".
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Ja, that's right. My favorite story about Jerome concerns the Lord's Prayer. The Greek word which is translated in English as "daily" occurs nowhere else in Greek literature, Classical or Ecclesiastical. In the original Vulgate, this was translated into Latin as "quotidianum", which means "daily". Jerome thought it meant more, so he essentially coined a new word which he used instead: "supersubstantialem", meaning essentially, "that which is beyond substance". Fortunately or unfortunately, it didn't stick, and we have "quotidianum".
  • 'Supersubstantialem'! Wondrous to know, and so pregnant with extra meaning and intent. What is the Greek word which Jerome thus rendered into Latin? I already now feel that our familiar Our Father is deficient here.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    It's "epiousios", and the creation of "supersubstantial" has a certain logic to it:

    epi- = super-
    ousia = substantia

    There's an article on Wikipedia about the word: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiousios
  • VickiW
    Posts: 36
    EΠIOYΣION (epiousion). Looks like the Latin is a literal rendering of the Greek.
  • St. Jerome remains one my favorite early church fathers, and I have a very, very high esteem from him. I really believe that if he had the opportunity to know all we do now linguistically, he would change a lot of his translation, starting most definitely in the Hebrew Bible. For instance, there are dozens of words whose meanings had been lost even when the Septuagint was translated over five hundred years before Jerome (Judah suffered an enormous cultural diminishment during the Babylonian captivity in the 500's BC). When Ugaritic, a northwest Semitic language like Hebrew, was deciphered in modern times, a great deal of light was shed on the meanings of words. Jerome was a stickler, and he absolutely would have included new meanings if he had known them. One of the most enlightening things I learned from a Hebrew Psalms class I took in graduate school was that where our modern translations say, "meaning of Hebrew uncertain," it's almost anybody's guess what the word means.

    When it comes to how God announces to Moses his name, it is not clear whether he says "I am who am" (who being the subject) or "I am who I am" (who being the predicate nominative/complement), as the pronoun "I" is expressed in the verb's prefix and not by a pronoun in this line. The Septuagint translaters took it the former way, which may have been the understanding of contemporary Jewish scribes. I think the former is probably right, since the latter choice in meaning could have been shown explicitly to be the intended one by adding the pronoun amounting to "I" to the relative clause thereby showing the relative pronoun unambiguously to be the predicate nominative, whereas there is no other way of expressing the former idea. But, this is a coulda shoulda argument and obviously not airtight. Maybe it's just that "I am who I am" sounds like Popeye speak.

    I have to admit that I can't get worked up over "full of Grace" vs. "favored one." Latin gratia/Greek charis simply means favor. Shame cultures like most cultures in the ancient Mediterranean were hyper-sensitive to favoritism. Charis was not a particularly religious word in ancient Greek, and to translate it with the word "Grace" that has acquired so much theological baggage over time doesn't strike me as the best way to translate, espcecially when a perfectly good translation without the baggage is available. Of course, a good homilist will talk about God's favor and how this manifests itself in our doctrine of Grace.

    Re: epiousion, nobody knew what the Greek word was supposed to mean. What I love about Jerome was that he believed that it meant a certain thing even if it meant creating a word and thumbing his nose at what others would say (including sometimes St. Augustine). It is clearly an adjective derived from the verb epeinai, which has several meanings including "to be upon", "to be present", "to be on imminent," "to be in one's possession, ""to be over and above" (meanings found in LSJ). Whether it must have something to do with the noun ousia (being, essense), which is derived from einai (to be) is less clear. I tend to pray the Lord's prayer in Greek when I'm by myself. The verbal aspects of the imperatives are hard to translate from Greek into Latin as well.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    So, Ioannes, where do you come down on "alla rhusai hemas apo tou ponerou"? Abstract noun or person?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    There are so many different people see this in different ways; grammars and implications. We don't know why St. Jerome translated in certain ways. I'm glad we have our Church who can clear out the confusion. It seems these days the confusion is becoming more complicated among the individuals holding all the different Bibles and with different levels of knowledge and faith. I hope our Church steps up and helps us out.

    Maybe we might have someone like St. Jerome in America who can translate the Bible into English as flawless, as Latin Vulgate Bible, which was "declared by the Church as the official one and declared as free form any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals." (Pope Pius XII)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Today's Gospel had "full of Grace." The lectionary Bible use the word Grace. I asked our priest after the Mass. He said the exact same Greek word used in St. Paul's writing. So if you use 'Favor' instead of 'Grace,' we have to change St. Paul's writing too. New American Bible is used for the reading in the Mass, with some changes, he said. And the word grace instead of favor is one example.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,518
    Not long ago, I bought a Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. It was revised according to Liturgiam Authenticam, 2002. It seems accurate and it reads well. I like it and enjoy reading it.
  • Mia,

    I agree, Bible translation is very important. I have read several. The ones I prefer are the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (NOT the New RSV) and the Jerusalem Bible (again, NOT the New Jerusalem). The originals adhere to more traditional language and scholarship, while the new ones attempt to become more inclusive and modern and thus, in my opinion, lose something. A Catholic Bible Commentary, such as the Jerome Biblical Commentary, may also be a help. Keep in mind that not all Catholic teaching is found in direct language in the Scriptures. Scripture is a very important part, but only a part, of the Church's Tradition and teaching. All of these great things, Scriptures included, are not ends in themselves, but rather serve to point to God, who is the object of our worship and our destiny.

    TPM
  • P.S.

    The RSV keeps the "full of grace" language, and the Jerusalem has a little known fact: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Book of Jonah. By the way, I don't know that you can find a rigorous translation of Luke that proves Mary's perpetual virginity. That may fall into the realm of extra-Scriptural Church Tradition, but I'm not sure about that.

    TPM
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    My question is that does our Church have control over the catholic Bibles that can and should agree with our faith and tradition? What I don't understand is that even the lectionary Bible has to make an adjustment from its source. Why our Church cannot team up and make a truly catholic Bible that is standard, and that evey Catholic can read safely. Of course, the Scripture is very complicated and explanation is needed. But most average people don't need to go too far in details, unless they want to. They can go to Bible studies and so on for a better understanding. But we are reading all different Bibles, and the Church is keep asking us to read it more, and we don't seem to have a right tool.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    The association Adoremus covers the subject of Scripture and liturgy translations fairly thoroughly on their web site at http://adoremus.org/Transtoc.html and answers a reader's question about choosing a Catholic Bible at http://adoremus.org/0705ChoosingBible.html.
  • "So, Ioannes, where do you come down on 'alla rhusai hemas apo tou ponerou'? Abstract noun or person?"

    I come down on the fence. There's no way to know. Certainly a substantivized neuter "what is evil" can include evil people as well. What really irks me in the English translation of the Lord's prayer is the translation of opheilemata, "debts."

    "So if you use 'Favor' instead of 'Grace,' we have to change St. Paul's writing too." I still see that as a legitimate option. Gratia was simply the Latin translation of Greek charis. Jerome's translation "gratia plena" is quite elegant and simple, as there was no perfect passive participle of a Latin verb that would correspond to the Greek perfect passive participle. I will grant that when St. Paul talks about "charis", he is discussing a refined theological idea, but the word that he uses as his vehicle for the idea is not a refined theological idea but a very common, culturally conditioned word. It seems to me that if dynamic equivalence is the tendency to translate "intent" rather than words in a literal way, "grace" would be more of a dynamic equivalent solution (since it's trying to capture the complete theological concept that Paul is discussing) and "favor" more of a literal one.

    I would caution against the desire for a single "a truly catholic Bible that is standard." Reading various earch Church fathers, one can tell that they were not always in agreement. I alluded earlier to disagreements between Jerome and Augustine. Is one more Catholic than the other? There is a fair amount of room for disagreement even among Orthodox Catholics on a variety of not-dogmatic topics. Did Fatima really happen? I certainly distance myself from the dynamic equivalence crowd, but even among literal, Orthodox translators, there are many different translations that can be considered "safe." I can't see how "I am who I am" is more "dangerous" than "I am who am", though maybe I'm reading too much into the objection.

    To the extent that this is a forum on music, a very important question is the extent to which singability should be a determining factor as to how the Bible should be translated. When the USCCB approved the latest Grail psalter, they said they did so based both on the accuracy of the translation and to how well it lent itself to singing. Was accuracy compromised for the sake of music, or were they able to have their cake and eat it to? Lit. Auth. says, "...the texts should be translated in a manner that is suitable for being set to music. Still, in preparing the musical accompaniment, full account must be taken of the authority of the text itself." I think I read somewhere that the latest Grail psalter was already approved for some other country, so I guess the Vatican concurs that "full account" was taken.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I believe St. Augustine had a different talent from St. Jerome's. Their writings are in different areas and a bit for different readers. The Church picked St. Jeromes' as the official one for a good reason. I'm sure different transaltions can lend to different purposes, for more scholary studies, psams for musical settings etc. (altough the intellectual studies in different areas, advanced sciences, elaborate music, all should yield to our Church's teaching. If we insist that our limited knowledge is better than the Church's teaching, it would be same as idolizing our knowledge, which is easily found in our modern culture. ) But I see that geneal average catholics don't really have good ideas about which Bible is better and with our faith. We tend to get whatever it says catholic Bible, approved. (In someways, it's like today's Hymnals. It says the hymnal is approved by the American bishops. But there are many songs in there that are not agreeing with our faith. And most people think because they are in the catholic hymnal, they are safe.) The individaulism is pervasive in our caholic church in different areas these days, including Bible readings, singing in Mass etc... I'm hoping our Church helps us to unite the faithful into one faith, not just a Christian faith but the true catholic faith of 2000 years by providing us pratical tools. I also pray for our Pope Benedict's health and a long life for his endeavor on uniting our church. (This tread is in the catagory of General discussion: Catholicism, not necessarily confined to music, although our faith and catholicism are our basics to make good music.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    It's odd: some Mass chant texts must predate St Jerome, 'cause they don't match the Vulgate.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    The Vulgate was read for more than 1500 years, but it became the Church's official Scripture by the Council of Trent.
  • I consider Fr. Richard John Neuhaus to be like St. John the Baptist in this regard. He seems to be the lone voice crying out in the desert about these horrid translations that we have in the Mass today. He has written about this issue both in First Things and in Adoremus. I believe he is rather authoritative on the subject becasue, as a former Lutheran minister, he knows his Bible quite well and knows a solid translation when he reads it. He, too, brought up the issue of
    "full of grace" as opposed to "highly favored one."

    Here is what he wrote in "Bible Babble", which appeared in a 2006 edition of Adoremus:

    "Everyone who has sung or listened to Handel’s “Messiah” knows the words: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6, KJV) Magnificent. Here, as of this week’s amended Missalette, is the New American Bible: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests. They name Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace”. Try singing that. Whether under the rules of literal accuracy or of what, taking liberties, translators call “dynamic equivalence”, that is no more than a pedantic transliteration of the Hebrew. It is not a translation. It is a string of possible signifiers. It is not English. To be fair, the passage is not representative. Most of the NAB is English, albeit of a down-market variety.

    One has to wonder what those in charge of Catholic translations thought they were doing since the NAB project was launched. An answer commonly given is that they wanted to produce the most literally “accurate” translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts. It is usually said that Catholics are not biblical literalists, but that appears not to hold in this instance. Even literalism does not explain the many eccentricities introduced in the NAB. Probably the best known of all psalms is Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd”. In the KJV and the RSV, the psalm concludes with, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. Readers of the Douay-Rheims express the confidence that they will “dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days”. That is very open-ended and may be very much like “forever”.

    Even the more recent and trendy New Revised Standard Version invites me to believe that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”. My whole life long will, please God, be life eternal. Then comes the NAB: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come”. For years to come? It inevitably prompts the question of how many. Ten? Twenty? Fifty? Whatever the answer, it would seem to be far short of forever. Note that there is nothing in the Hebrew that requires or even suggests such a change. But what’s the point of doing a new translation unless it is different from earlier translations?"

    I have two Bibles: the dog-eared Douay-Rheims version that my grandmother left me and the Ignatius edition of the RSV-CE 2nd edition. I consult these two versions of the Bible before I am going to proclaim the readings because the new Lectionary (new is used loosely) seems to like to use long, drawn out sentences for many of St. Paul's epistles. Some of these sentences go several lines. I find that when I consult my two trusty Bibles, I have a good idea of where to break and breathe when tackling these huge sentences. And yes, the Ignatius edition that I have is in compliance with Liturgiam Authenticam.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Just use the Book of Common Prayer for the Psalms, the King Jimmy at home, and put in ear plugs for the readings (and homily!) at Mass. Problem solved :D
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Did we (catholics) always have so much problems, music, Bible translations, homily (with emphasis on creative and 'impressive'), even when we just had , faith comes from 'hearing' the Word ?
  • IMO truly beautiful English has a number of names: Tudor, Elizabethan, Cranmerian, Shakespearian, "the King's". If any of all of these are considered inappropriate now, it is a sad statement about our times and culture. There are arguments among historians as to Shakespear actually being a covert Catholic. If that is the case, then this style language is even more-so a patrimony of the entire English speaking Church. Even without that argument, it is the English that so many generations of Catholics grew up speaking - and UNDERSTNDING! Just an aside, go watch the Disney produced "Pirates of the Caribbean". Is that contemporary English they're speaking? Did you not understand every word, every phrase, even the subtle humor? Then the whole argument about American Catholics being unable to understand "archaic" English becomes totally specious! It IS our language just as much as it is the language of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches who still use it! How arrogant can contemporary American Catholics be? It's not about "US" - and it hasn't been since we turned the last page of the last Kalendar of the horrible 1960s!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    On a serious note, I hear there will soon be an English Standard Version (ESV) Bible with Apocrypha. I love the ESV, it has the dignity of the KJV, but it's easier to read. It's basically the RSV without the bad theology.
  • In terms of translating, it seems to me that the best translations convey information, first and foremost, neither adding or subtracting information. After that, it is important to translate from one linguistic register into a corresponding linguistic register. For instance, if Vergil uses archaic vocabulary or grammatical structures to create his poetic style, it seems preferable to translate Vergil into a poetic style in English that uses archaic English vocabulary and grammar. But most of the Bible is not written in the lingusitic register that translations such as the Douay-Reims and the King James would suggest. St. Jerome knew this. His translation is plain, simple, unadorned when the original language is plain, simple, and unadorned, which is most of the Bible. If ones doesn't know Latin well, one might not realize how pedestrian the Vulgate is. There's a reason why Latin teachers show their students the Vulgate when they are trying to keep their students' morale up. The language of the Vulgate is much simpler than contemporary Latin authors for whom style was a significant concern. I have to admit that I often find the NAB wordy and awkward, whereas the Greek of the NT is often concise to a fault. In fact, some of the Greek in St. John's Gospel is of an almost ungrammatical register. However, the NAB translators succeeded in not using beautiful or sophisticated language where the original language did not contain similar language. I understand that there is a desire to appropriate the Bible in such a way as to manipulate it do serve our pre-conceived purposes, but I don't think of that as honest, literal translating.

    BTW, the literal translation of the end of the Psalm 23 is "for length of days," which the D-R nails. Compare the same phrase at Ps. 21:5, where it seems to be a synonym for "eternal life."
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    Ioannes Andreades: "To the extent that this is a forum on music, a very important question is the extent to which singability should be a determining factor as to how the Bible should be translated."

    We have a sense that when something is translated, something of the meaning is left behind.

    Look at what else might have been left behind ...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzanne_Haïk-Vantoura
  • Would be an interesting work to look it given copious free time. I've wondered about the antiquity of those cantilation symbols. For a long time linguists were not convinced of the antiquity of the pausal forms in Hebrew, which are indicated by accent marks. I am told that such pausal forms are found in some dialects of Arabic and therefore of great antiquity, perhaps to a time before the Semitic languages separated. If the accent marks reflect archaic pronunciation, I don't know why the other symbols can't. I do have to admit to scepticism that the syllabification and vocalization of words in the Masoretic edition is 100% in keeping with pronunciation at the time the composition of the texts. Certainly the Septuagint suggests otherwise.