Friday, February 4, 2011

Spot Check: NAB(RE) or RSV?

Today’s spot check comes from this coming Sunday's second reading from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. It has become pretty obvious which one is which, but which one do you like best and why?

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.


When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.


Colleague said...

On the whole, I prefer the NAB. The RSV muddles the very first sentence, for example. The translation could almost be interpreted as if to indicate that Paul simply did not proclaim the gospel AT ALL to the Corinthians. It sounds like he came to the Corinthians, but for what? Only know to nothing else but Christ crucified. The NAB avoids this confusion outright.

Also, on the whole, the word choice for the NAB is much, much better: "sublimity" rather than "lofty;" "resolved" rather than "decided;" "persuasive" rather than "plausible." This last one is of particular importance considering the philosophical culture of Corinth. Plausibility was more a concern of empirical science than philosophy and theology, of which Paul is primarily concerned.

I will say that I prefer the RSV's translation of "I was with you in weakness..." since it conveys a more realistic ecclesial meaning of the Christian religious experience.

Anonymous said...

This text could serve as an example of why I think the RSV continues to hold the affections of so many. Though the RSV and NAB are roughly neck and neck when judged on the accuracy of the overall translations, nevertheless the RSV consistently chooses a more beautiful and therefore more memorable turn of expression as well as offering slightly more literal translations at key points. Compare the rhythmic tune of “lofty words or wisdom” with the oddly worded and slightly tongue twisting “sublimity of words or wisdom.” Also, notice the subtle richness of “in weakness and in much fear and trembling” (creating two distinguished groupings) with the straight lined “weakness and fear and much trembling.” The distinction between “plausible words of wisdom” and “persuasive words” is important in the context of Paul’s message and the RSV is much better on this one. Also, the RSV scores on several fronts with its “of the Spirit and of power” as opposed to the NAB’s “of Spirit and power.” Again, taken on its own, the NAB is defensible. But upon comparison the RSV consistently rises above the NAB on multiple levels of accuracy, beauty, English usage, and memorable turns of phrase. All in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, every time I read comparisons between the two, the NAB sounds like a kid in college trying to impress his professor with ill chosen words and a lack of literary style.

The RSV just sounds right in comparison. More direct and flowing. It sounds like a guy who is very talanted literary and probably well educated (like Paul was) but cares only to make his point as best as he knows how, without drawing attention to himself.
The 'wisdom of men' vs. 'human wisdom' of course is like a coup de grace. Why cater to whinny feminists? They dont read the Bible anyway...