Thursday, March 17, 2011

NABRE: Genesis 3:15-16

One of the verses which which will likely get a fair amount of discussion is Genesis 3:15-16, the protoevangelium. Here are these verses, as translated by the NABRE, followed by the note:

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel."

**They will strike...at their heel: the antecedent for "they" and "their" is the collective noun "offspring," is, all the descendants of the woman. Christian tradition has seen in this passage, however, more than unending hostility between snakes and human beings. The snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24, Jn 8:44, Rev 12:9, Rev 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because "the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the protoevangelium. Irenaeus of Lyon (ca. AD 130-200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19 and 4:4, to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, "she", and is reflected in Jerome's Vulgate. "She" was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent."**

A couple of questions:

1) Is using "they, their" justified in this translation?

2) Do you think the note does a good job with explaining and interpreting Gen. 3:15-16?

3) Does any other English translation follow the NABRE on this one?

By the way, I did choose this verse in honor of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes out of Ireland. Also note, that in the NABRE, they translated the Hebrew word nachash as snake. The previous NAB went with serpent.

18 comments:

rolf said...

The REB has virtually the same translation as the NABRE;
'I shall put enmity between you and the woman, between your brood and hers. They will strike at your head, and you will strike at their heel."

Shazamaholic said...

This is actually quite frustrating. I really want to like the NABRE because it is the only modern translation to use "amen I say to you" in the Gospels. But then there's these poor translation choices, ie, no "gates of hell", no "hail full of grace", no "peace to those of good will", now using the plural in Gen 3:15-16, like the NEB. Plus, what seems questionable to me, is in passages where the "brothers"/"brothers and sisters" of Jesus are mentioned, no revision was made to clairify the passage by using the more accurate word "cousins" or "relatives". Yet the editors feel the need to change "gates of hell" and "hail full of grace" to make it easier to understand? And using the plural in Gen 3:15-16 just makes the passage seem too generic. I'm very glad I did not pre-order a copy of the NABRE, and I doubt I will get a copy in the near future. I'm content with my Douay-Rheims, Knox Bible, Confraternity NT, and JB paperback (plus I still have an original 1970 edition NAB).

Theophrastus said...

Did you transcribe this verse correctly? "Their heel" (singular) strains grammar in English -- "their heels" (plural) is the alternative suggested in the previous NAB notes.

Timothy said...

The NABRE is "their heel".

Theophrastus said...

This translation is almost identical to the NJPS translation:

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers,
They shall strike at your head,
And you shall strike at their heel.


The forms used in the Hebrew here are singular forms, but the theory here is that singular forms are meant to be representative of a larger group. Hebrew can do that more easily than English, so this is a valid translation, but somewhat at odds with the stated goal of the NABRE to be a formal translation.

I wonder if the switch to plural was in part to avoid the issue of gender-specificity in the formal translation "he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."

The result is a bit unsatisfactory, and the notion of a collective (but singular) "heel" takes away the plain meaning of this verse and makes it only understandable at the symbolic level.

If the translators wanted to use the plural, perhaps they should have followed something like Everett Fox's translation. Fox gives a version which respects English grammar:

I put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed:
they will bruise you on the head, and you will bruise them in the heel.

Jonny said...

This does resolve the question of "is Genesis 3:15 referring to Mary, or is it referring to Jesus?" Of course, the woman had enmity with the Devil is our blessed Immaculate Mother, and through her Son Jesus, Satan's "head will be crushed" when he is thrown into the pool of fire for all eternity at the end of the world.

When Christ (the head) and his body (the saints who make up the church) obliterate Satan and his followers, it will be most appropriate to say that "they crushed his head with their heel."

Anonymous said...

What does the note on this verse say about Our Lord and Blessed Mother?

- Giovanni

Hieronymopolis said...

Here is the Annotation in the Douai of 1609/10 (Note that this one note probably cites more Church Fathers than the entire NABRE, New and Old Testament, combined. In fact, as I have shown in a previous post, The NAB's "Gospel according to Matthew" has one inconsequential remark from Eusebius and then absolutely no patristic commentary whatsoever. Actually, there is not one citation of any Saint, Doctor, Pope or Council prior to Vatican II.)

15. she shal bruise] Protestants wil not admitte this reading, ipsa conteret, she shal bruise, lest our Blessed Ladie should be said anie way to bruise the serpents head. The Latin text defended against Kemnisius and other Protestants. See Card. Bellarmin. li. 2. c. 12. de verbo Dei. And Kemnisius amongst others saith, that al ancient Fathers read, ipsum,not, ipsa. But he is conuinced of lying by Claudius Marius Victor. lib. 1. in Gen.Alcimus Auitus lib. 3. carm. c. 6. S. Chrisostom hom. 17. in Genes. S. Ambrose lib. de fuga sæculi cap. 7. S. Augustin lib. 2. de Genesi contra Manichæos, cap. 18 & lib. 11. de Genesi ad literam cap. 26. S. Gregorie lib. 1. Moralium cap. 38. And after them S. Bede, Eucherius, Rabanus, Rupertus, Strabus, and Lira vpon this place, S. Bernard ser 2. super Mißus est. And manie others, who read ipsa as the Latin text now hath.

But whether we read, she shal bruise, or, her sede, that is her sonne Christ, shal bruise the serpents head, we attribute no more, nor no lesse to Christ, nor to our Ladie by the one reading, then by the other: for by the text, I vvil put enmities betvven thee and the vvoman, betvven thy seede, and her seede. Both readings yeld the same sense. It is clere, that this enmitie and battle pertained to the woman and her seede on the one partie, and to this diuel, that spake by the serpent, and al the wicked, on the other partie, and that the victorie should happen to mankind. VVhich being captiue by Adams sinne, occasioned by a woman, should be redeemed, both sexes, though in farre different sorte, concurring therto. As Adam was the cause, and Eue an occasion of mans captiuitie: so Christ is the true cause and his mother an occasion of our restauration. And so it is most true, that Christ by his owne proper powre, and his blessed mother by her most immediate cooperating to his Incarnation (and consequently to other Misteries) did bruise the serpents head, breake and vanquish his powre. S. Ireneus li. 3. c. 33. & lib. 5. circa med. S. Epiph. Hær. 78. S. Ieron. ep. 22. ad Eustoch. S. Aug. (or S. Fulgent) ser. 18 de Sanctis. de fide & Symb. de Agone Christiano. Ser. 2. super Missus est. As manie ancient Fathers do excellently discourse: namely S. Bernard, writing vpon these wordes in the Apocalips. cap. 12. A great signe appeared in heauen, a vvoman clothed vvith the sunne: Albeit (saith he) by one man and one woman we were greatly damaged: yet (God be thanked) by one man and one woman al losses are repaired, and that not without great increase of graces. For the benefite doth farre excede the losse. Our merciful father geuing vs for a terrestrial Adam Christ our Redemer, & for old Eue Gods owne mother. Moreouer as the same S. Bernard sheweth, this blessed Virgin in singular sorte bruised the serpents head, in that she quite vanquished al maner suggestions of the wicked serpent, neuer yelding to, nor taking delight in anie euil moued by him. Our B. Ladie resisted al euil suggestions.

Hieronymopolis said...

To follow up on my previous post :

After a perusal of the commentary of the entire four "Gospels" in the NAB, this is all I have been able to find in terms of Tradition. Eusebius is the only one actually quoted. Jerome is mentioned in passing twice. "The Fathers" are vaguely referred to once and the "Greek Fathers" twice. The Council of Trent is mentioned twice, and the First Vatican Council once.

Matthew 24:16 The tradition that the Christians of Jerusalem fled from that city to Pella, a city of Transjordan, at the time of the First Jewish Revolt is found in Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 3, 5, 3), who attributes the flight to "a certain oracle given by revelation before the war." ...

Mark 16 : 9-20 This passage, termed the Longer Ending to the Marcan gospel by comparison with a much briefer conclusion found in some less important manuscripts, has traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent. Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark. ... this ending was known to Jerome in the fourth century.

John 2:4 My hour has not yet come: the translation as a question ("Has not my hour now come?"), while preferable grammatically and supported by Greek Fathers, seems unlikely from a comparison with...

John 5:4 Toward the end of the second century in the West and among the fourth-century Greek Fathers, an additional verse was known...

John 20:23 The Council of Trent defined that this power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance.

John 21:11 Jerome claims that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish.

John 21:15-17 The First Vatican Council cited these verses in defining that Jesus after his resurrection gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock.

I do not think there are any others.

As William Rainolds once said in his masterful defense of the Rhemes New Testament of 1582 against the Protestant Heretics called A refutation of sundry reprehensions, cavils, and false sleightes, by which M. Whitaker laboureth to deface the late english translation, and catholike annotations of the new testament, and the booke of discovery of heretical corruptions he writes :

"When we treat of scriptures, we give them unto thee sincerely and perfectly without any cutting or paring away of this or that books, or this and that piece of such a book, & all expounded uniformly by excellent Saints, by most learned Doctors, by general Councils, by the most approved practice of the Catholic Church in all antiquity. They give thee scriptures so piecemeal and patchedly, that they cut off at the least the third part of them, sometimes sentences, sometimes pieces of chapters, commonly entire books. And as for the exposition of them, contemning all Saints, Doctors, & Councils of antiquity...they reduce the final scope and determination of all, to This is my opinion, & this is my judgement, and, the Doctors may not take away from us our liberty to judge of them, &c."

Anonymous said...

The Clementine Vulgate is 'ipsa conteret ...' and the Nova Vulgata is 'ipsum conteret ...'

Either way, both are singular. But, that is because it is referring to 'semen' which is singular. So, the verb should be singular.

The other option is that the 'their' is not plural, but the singular their. Which is used to represent a non specified individual (gender inclusivity has brought it back, but it is not a creation of gender inclusion). That would explain the 'their heel' and would mean that offspring is singular (it can be a singular or plural word)

Dom Kilian, Can.Reg.

Hieronymopolis said...

To conclude my previous posts :

After the Gospels I have since looked at the rest of the New Testament and to my horror, no Apostolic Fathers, Church Fathers, Ecclesiastical Writers, Doctors, Saints, Theologians, Popes, or Councils are even so much as mentioned in the NAB’s Notes to the Book of Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, I Peter, I John, II John, III John, and Jude.

II Cor. 5:3 has the word “Tertullian” in it.

Ephesians 3:9 vaguely mentions “Fathers”

II Timothy 4:21 mentions 4th century Apostolic Constitutions


The Introduction to Hebrews alludes to the 2nd century church of Alexandria in Egypt and “the letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians”


The Introduction to the "Catholic Letters" mentions the “writings of Apollonius of Ephesus, a secend century apologist, known only from a citation in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.” and names Eusebius again.

The Introduction to II Peter names Origen.

II Peter 3:10 vaguely refers to “Fathers”

And the Introduction to the Apocalypse lists some Fathers, but only in regard to their disagreement over whether or not the Apostle John wrote it.

So in the New American Bible’s entire annotative treatment of the New Testament we have ONE quotation and that an inconsequential one from Eusebius : “a certain oracle given by revelation before the war.” Excepting the Introduction to the Apocalypse the only other writers who are even given passing mention are Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, and Apollonius of Ephesus.

The NAB’s much vaunted “modern” critical apparatus, is in fact one long contrived exercise in divorcing the Church’s Biblical Exegesis from Patristics.

Is there any evidence to the contrary?

Theophrastus said...

Dom Killian -- the explanatory text of the footnote explicitly excludes an interpretation that "their" is singular.

The singular they is at best a controversial point in formal English. While I have not yet seen the full text of the NABRE, I would be surprised if it anywhere used the singular they.

Jonny said...

Hieronymopolis:

CCC

It seems you think the Church revolves around one English language Bible translation.

I respect your opinion about the NAB notes, but to make a claim against the Church based on this seems unfair and unreasonable.

Otherwise, thanks for your research.

Alan Aversa said...

This NABRE translation of Gen. 3:15 is definitely not Catholic.

To answer your questions:

(1) No, "they" or "their" is not justified. The Latin Vulgate (which the Council of Trent authoritatively approved) has "ipsa conteret" = "she [singular] shall bruise".

(2) Somewhat. See what the Original Douay-Rheims Bible says about Gen. 3:15:


she shall bruise] Protestants will not admit this reading, ipsa conteret, she shall bruise, lest our Blessed Lady should be said any way to bruise the serpents head. And Kemnisius amongst others saith, that all ancient Fathers read, ipsum, not, ipsa. But he is convinced of lying by Claudius Marius Victor. lib. 1. in Gen. Alcimus Auitus lib. 3. carm. c. 6. St. Chrysostom hom. 17. in Genes. St. Ambrose lib. de fuga sæculi cap. 7. St. Augustine lib. 2. de Genesi contra Manichæos, cap. 18 & lib. 11. de Genesi ad literam cap. 26. St. Gregory lib. 1. Moralium cap. 38. And after them St. Bede, Eucherius, Rabanus, Rupertus, Strabus, and Lira upon this place, St. Bernard ser 2. super Mißus est. And many others, who read ipsa as the Latin text now hath.

But whether we read, she shall bruise, or, her seed, that is her son Christ, shall bruise the serpents head, we attribute no more, nor no less to Christ, nor to our Lady by the one reading, then by the other: for by the text, I will put Enmities between thee and the woman, between thy seed, and her seed. It is clear, that this enmity and battle pertained to the woman and her seed on the one party, and to this Devil, that spake by the serpent, and all the wicked, on the other party, and that the victory should happen to mankind. Which being captive by Adams sin, occasioned by a woman, should be redeemed, both sexes, though in far different sort, concurring thereto. And so it is most true, that Christ by his own proper power, and his blessed mother by her most immediate cooperating to his Incarnation (and consequently to other Mysteries) did bruise the serpents head, break and vanquish his power. As many ancient Fathers do excellently discourse: namely St. Bernard, writing upon these words in the Apocalypse. cap. 12. A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun: Albeit (saith he) by one man and one woman we were greatly damaged: yet (God be thanked) by one man and one woman all losses are repaired, and that not without great increase of graces. For the benefit doth far exceed the loss. Our merciful father giving us for a terrestrial Adam Christ our Redeemer, & for old Eve Gods own mother. Moreover as the same St. Bernard showeth, this blessed Virgin in singular sort bruised the serpents head, in that she quite vanquished all manner suggestions of the wicked serpent, Never yielding to, nor taking delight in any evil moved by him.


(3) What Bible Should You Read? by TAN Books has a section on Gen. 3:15 (pp. 23 ff.). Out of the following translations studied in the tract:

Catholic
Douay-Rheims Bible
New American Bible
Catholic Revised Standard Version
Jerusalem Bible

Protestant
King James Version
New King James Version
New International Version
New Revised Standard Version
New American Standard Version
New English Bible

Only the Protestant New English Bible translates it using the plural pronouns like the NABRE.


I highly recommend the Douay-Rheims Study Bible or any Douay-Rheims-Challoner Bible as the best English Bibles.

Jonny said...

Alan,

There was a time, when translating the Bible with a bias towards tradition was beneficial.

Now, tradition is firmly established in many official Church documents, especially the Catechism, and it is more important for the Bible to be translated accurately from the original languages, as far as that is possible.

Many factors have contributed to this change in Church policy, including the Protestant reformation and the discovery and understanding of ancient manuscripts.

I also like the D-R, and am not totally impressed with many of the modern translations that have been approved by the Bishops. Since the release of the document Liturgiam Authenticam, these have been improving significantly. Have you seen the NABRE Psalter or the Revised Grail Psalms? The RSV-2CE is also excellent, although I use the NOAB RSV more often simply because it has a lot of helpful resources.

For personal devotional use, the D-R will always be in my rotation. But I must admit, the archaic english and awkward phrasing therein is sometimes a hindrance to understanding the text, even for those who read it regularly.

Alan Aversa said...

Yes, a common criticism of the D-R is that it's a translation of the Latin Vulgate compared to the original languages, not a translation of the original languages themselves.

But, as Dore (Literary Lineage of the KJV, pp. 316-17) notes: "In some places the Douai Bible more accurately hands down the very words of the inspired writers than any English translation then existing. This is owing to the Latin having been taken from earlier MSS, than were accessible to later translators."

The RSV-2CE and the '66 edition of the RSV-CE translates Gen. 3:15 very confusingly: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

Obviously, "the woman" according to this translation is Eve, because how could Satan bruise Mary, who is Immaculate? And Eve bruises Satan?

Compare to the DRC: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."

The RSV-CE has some other issues, too, as What Bible Should You Read? documents.

Another problematic passage of the RSV-CE: "How can this be, since I have no husband?" (Luke 1:34). This is simply silly. She was married at the time of the Annunciation. The RSV-2CE changes it to: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?", which agrees with many Protestant translations.

The DRC: "And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?"

Saying "shall" instead of "can" shows that Our Lady did not doubt God's omnipotence one bit.

Also, it's strange that one of the RSV-2CE headings (see here) considers Genesis 2 "another account of creation."

I just now noticed you have an ad to the Knox Bible! Yes, that is definitely the best 20th century English Bible. (In part because, like the D-R, it is translated from the Latin and compared to the original languages.)

Timothy said...

Alan,

Thank you for your comments. I am quite fond of the Knox Bible, which has encouraged me to re-look at the Douay. Since you are clearly a supporter of the Douay, would you consider doing a future 'guest post' here on my blog analyzing and comparing it to the modern translations? If so, send me an email and we can talk. mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com

Jonny said...

Alan,

Check out a post I did for this blog a while back:

http://www.catholicbiblesblog.com/2012/12/fine-tuning-icsb-and-rsv-2ce-guest-post.html

You will find I agree with you whole-heartedly regarding the un-traditional renderings in some modern Bibles. I agree, the Knox Bible is excellent, and more transparent in that it shows some of the discrepancies between the Latin and the original languages.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!