Thursday, April 23, 2015

In Praise of Paraphrase by William Griffin

This article dates back to 2002, before Griffin was given the task to translate the Deuterocanonical books from the Nova Vugata for The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition. Thanks to Russ for the link.

Among his mail one foggy Oxford morning, C. S. Lewis found a letter-cum-manuscript from J. B. Phillips, vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd in London. He didn't know the man, but the vicar had said some nice things about his books and broadcasts.

As for the enclosed manuscript, well, with bombs falling and sirens wailing and buildings collapsing all around, London wasn't so unlike first-century Rome, at least from the Christians' point of view. Paul's epistles seemed right to the point.

Trouble was, the young people in Phillips' parish couldn't understand the Authorized Version. What they needed was something just a little easier to read. Hence, his own attempt at Colossians. What did Lewis think?
Immediately he put the translation to the test.

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," read the eighth verse of the second chapter in the Authorized Version.

"Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense," read Phillips' rendition of the same passage. "Such stuff is at best founded on men's idea of the nature of the world, and disregards Christ!"

Lewis thought he knew Colossians pretty well, but this Paraphrase, for that's what it was, seemed to hit the nail right on the head. He then read the Phillips version from beginning to end. "It was like seeing a familiar picture after it's been cleaned," he wrote to the good vicar.


Christopher Buckley said...

Had the Catholic "Message" been granted an imprimatur?

CarlHernz said...

No, but this is because it was not submitted for one. This seems to be due to a misunderstanding on the part of Peterson and the publishers that since it is a paraphrase and not intended to replace any official translation but to be read alongside a Catholic Bible that it doesn't require such approval.

According to canon law it indeed requires ecclesiastical approval even for this type of private use, and an inquiry made with the USCCB confirmed that The Message is not approved by Chrich authority for use by Catholics.

However, despite some instances where it seems to wander off the Catholic path it remains a very good opus. While I think Peterson misses the mark in several places, he usually does an excellent job most of the time at presenting Scripture in a fresh and dynamic way, employing modern idiom to wake you up in effective ways. If it got approved it would be welcomed (and some of these instances I speak of may not need to changed as I am offering my opinion on them, and it is only that). I think we need an approved work like this on Catholic bookshelves.

I don't know if its failure to be approved means it is forbidden for use, however. If any one knows what the Church's official stand in this situation is and where I can examine this stance I would greatly appreciate it. There are occasions when I must turn to a translation that has not received approval, such as the JPS, due to my ethnicity and particular circumstances that arise from thus. Is that incorrect?

In my opinion, reason dictates that as a reference any book and translation can be used, including The Message, as long as one remembers that they cannot rely on an unapproved version to give you the official Catholic understanding on a text and that one risks coming across renditions that the Church could view as incorrect. My hopes is that Peterson will eventually submit his work for formal approval as it has not been since the publication of The Living Bible that Catholics have had an approved paraphrase in common with our separated brethren.

Biblical Catholic said...

The Message could not possibly get an imprimatur without radical changes, changes which would basically amount to a re-translation of the entire text.

rolf said...

Of course not having an imprimatur will not slow down the usage of 'The Message' in Catholic circles (especially dealing with the youth and teenagers). Just as the lack of an imprimatur hasn't slowed down Catholics from using ecumenical translations (REB, non Catholic NRSV, ESV, etc) or Study Bibles (such as NOAB, NISB, etc). I wonder today how many Catholics even know what an imprimatur is? Not to minimize its importance, especially when using translations in official Catholic functions. Just thinking out loud.

CarlHernz said...

Mary Elizabeth Sperry wrote the following for the USCCB:

“The first step in selecting a Bible translation is making sure that you have a Catholic edition….To be used for teaching or private reading, a Catholic Bible should have an imprimatur or canonical rescript. This official notice is usually printed on the back of the title page. Latin for “let it be printed,” the imprimatur indicates that Church authorities have reviewed the text and found that nothing in it is contrary to the doctrine and morals of the Church. It does not necessarily mean that all the experts and bishops involved in the review agree with every decision made by the translators. It simply means that the text of Scripture is translated accurately and that nothing included in the text or notes is contrary to the teaching of the Church. A canonical rescript expresses a similar judgment.”

This article goes on to explain that such approval is required of all types of translations, including paraphrase.—“Do Translations Matter?,”

Sarah Kate said...

I want to become a technical writer so any one tell me how to paraphrase a paragraph because i got a project related to paragraph writing.