Monday, October 10, 2016

Guest Post: Why I Use Multiple Translations

Thanks to Jason P for this guest post!
Some people wonder why it may be better to use multiple versions of Scripture rather than just a single one.  Different Bibles use different textual sources, different translation methodology, and are created by different groups of editors.  All of these things mean that some Bibles will more clearly illustrate certain aspects of Scirpture.  I will give a series of examples to illustrate why I believe it is important to read from several different Bible versions.

First, let's take Messianic Prophecy for example.   Certain Bibles highlight this much better in the Old Testament than other Bibles.  For one of my favorite examples, let's compare the Jerusalem Bible (JB) which was influenced heavily by the Greek Septuagint versus some other Catholic Bibles that lack the LXX (Septuagint Greek influence).

Numbers 24:7-8a,
 Jerusalem Bible:  "A hero arises from their stock, he reigns over countless peoples.  His king is greater than Agag, his majesty is exalted.  God brings him out of Egypt, he is like the wild ox's horns to him."

A hero arises from the stock of Israel, and he reigns over countless peoples!  This is powerful Messianic prophecy!  But how does the New American Bible: Revised Edition (NABRE), Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) and Douay-Rheims-Challoner (DR) word this same passage?  
Let's see...

NABRE - Water will drip from their buckets,
their seed will have plentiful water;
Their king will rise higher than Agag
and their dominion will be exalted.
They have the like of a wild ox’s horns:
God who brought them out of Egypt.

RSV-CE Water shall flow from his buckets,
and his seed shall be in many waters,
his king shall be higher than Agag,
and his kingdom shall be exalted.
God brings him out of Egypt;
he has as it were the horns of the wild ox.

DR Water shall flow out of his bucket, and his seed shall be in many waters. For Agag his king shall be removed, and his kingdom shall be taken awry. God hath brought him out of Egypt, whose strength is like to the rhinoceros

Water flowing or dripping from the buckets of Jacob, and the seed of it being in many waters... this could be interpreted in a Messianic way, but not nearly explicitly as the JB.  The reason why?  The text underlying the JB is based, here in this spot, on the Greek Septuagint.  The other three translations are translating directly from the Hebrew Masoretic Text, although the DR does it by proxy through the Latin Vulgate.  The Douay-Rheims is kind of in between the LXX and MT, but it's still not nearly as strong as the JB.  The JB clearly wins here in the Messianic sense of this passage.

This is an example of textual tradition influencing the translation.  Another great example of teachingxtual tradition influencing the translation is in the Douay-Rheims explicitly mentioning Jesus and Christ in the Old Testament.  I will here show the Douay-Rheims translation compared with the RSV-CE and NABRE.

Psalm 2:2, 
NABRE Kings on earth rise up
and princes plot together
against the Lord and against his anointed one

RSV-CE The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying

DR The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against his Christ.

Lamentations 4:20
NABRE The Lord’s anointed—our very lifebreath!—
was caught in their snares,
He in whose shade we thought
to live among the nations.

RSV-CE The breath of our nostrils, the Lord’s anointed,
was taken in their pits,
he of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”

DR Res. The breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord, is taken in our sins: to whom we said: Under thy shadow we shall live among the Gentiles.

Habakkuk 3:13,18 
NABRE You came forth to save your people,
to save your anointed one.You crushed the back of the wicked,
you laid him bare, bottom to neck.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.

RSV-CE Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people,
for the salvation of thy anointed.
Thou didst crush the head of the wicked,
laying him bare from thigh to neck.
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

DR Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people: for salvation with thy Christ. Thou struckest the head of the house of the wicked: thou hast laid bare his foundation even to the neck.But I will rejoice in the Lord: and I will joy in God my Jesus.

This is one of my favorite verses in the DR OT.  God went forth for salvation with his Christ, and the Prophet rejoices in God, our beloved Jesus.

This sense is completely gone in the NABRE and RSV-CE.  Not that those translations are wrong, but the translation methodology and underlying text is different.  Instead of translating the Old Testament in a Christological and Typological manner, the Old Testament is translated using a historical-critical methodology.  It's not wrong; just different.  


Jason P said...

I was glad to write up this short blog post for such a great blog.

I hope to do more in the future.

God bless the Catholic Bibles Blog and our Holy Mother the Church!

JDH said...

Thank you for this post, Jason! I agree with you completely about the value of using different translations. In fact, one of the catalysts that often leads to me gaining a new insight into a passage is noticing substantive differences in translation. That leads me to seek out an explanation, which is always a fruitful exercise.

Christopher Buckley said...

Thanks as always-

Great insight on messianic prophecy. Devil's advocate though on the Septuagint influence: in the Latin West it's the Vulgate tradition that is normative. Arguably that difference in emphasis is precisely what the Church in its Magisterium wants to capture.

Anonymous said...

Well I have to say that it is only in English where we see the great difference.

In Greek, the difference is only between an uppercase and a lowercase chi:
"Christos" (Christ) and "christos" (anointed).

The Hebrew is more enigmatic here since Hebrew has no upper or lowercase letters.