Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sunday Knox: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23

Knox Bible:

"A shadow’s shadow, he tells us, a shadow’s shadow; a world of shadows! 

What, should one man go on toiling, his the craft, his the skill, his the anxious care, leaving all to another, and an idler? That were frustration surely, and great mischief done.  Tell me, how is a man the richer for all that toil of his, all that lost labour of his, here under the sun? His days all painfulness and care, his very nights restless; what is here but frustration?"

NAB Lectionary:

"Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property. 
This also is vanity and a great misfortune. 
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun? 
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest. 
This also is vanity."


Amfortas said...

Proof that Knox sometimes got it wrong.

Eric Barczak said...

Msgr Knox certainly had a way with words. I just checked out a copy of his Bible translation from the Library, and I'm thinking I might need to add one to my library.

losabio said...

@Amfortas Yeah, it's pretty tough to mess with "Vanity of vanities". The NJB reads "Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile!"

I think that Ecc 2:21-23 is pretty good in the Knox here, although it seems quite dense to me. Ecclesiastes has a sparse, plaintive feel to me, and I wonder if it would have that same mood if it were full of dense Knox renderings.

Timothy said...

If you take a look at the link below from Bible Gateway, you'll notice that there is a spectrum in how that second verse of Ecclesiastes is translated:

Eric Barczak said...

BTW, I was looking around the Ronald Knox Society web blog and found that the Knox Bible is published online over at When I went there and clicked on the Bible link, it looks like it's in parallel with the Greek as well as the Latin.

Since I read neither Greek nor Latin it isn't very interesting to me, but thought someone else might find it so.

Biblical Catholic said...

The word 'vanity' is surely the best rendering here, it is both poetic and clear.....modern English speakers certainly have no difficulty know what what is meant by 'vanity' here, or by someone that something was done 'in vain'......I don't know where 'vanity' originated (although I would bet dollars to donuts that it was with Tyndale assuming he ever translated this book) but it shouldn't be changed, not else works quite as well

Jason Engel said...

I disagree that "vanity" is currently the best choice. I prefer it, personally, because I understand what it is trying to say, and it is familiar and poetic. But "modern English" does not currently look at "vanity" as being related to something being "in vain". Vanity, now, has more to do with mirrors for checking your make-up and hair, has more to do with narcissism (being vain as opposed to in vain).

I think the NJB and the REB have a better modern English word: Futility. Futile.

Pointless and meaningless are close. Useless is not quite right. "Smoke" (used in MSG) is a great word from creating an image of the meaning, but you need more context to complete the image.

Shadows, though, seems to miss the mark. It might be close to Smoke, but the modern context carries too many sinister overtones.

The EXB is interesting in that, like the Amplified Bible, it gives a lot of possible variants in order to better convey the meaning.

And then it gets more complicated as some translations apply adjectives such as Perfectly or Utterly or Absolutely or Completely (maybe I would choose Utterly, but there are so many positive connotations to Perfect, Absolute, Complete, that those adjectives don't feel right to me).