Wednesday, May 9, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter: Liturgy of the Word Comparison (w/ Fr. Neil)

First reading

Original Jerusalem Bible 1966 as found in the Current JB edition of the Lectionary

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48 (no changes to Biblical text in Lectionary)

25 As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. 26 But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘I am only a man after all!’
            34 Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, 35 but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’
            44 While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. 45 Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, 46 since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, 47 ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?’ 48 He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.



Revised New Jerusalem Bible 2018

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48 (no changes to Biblical text in Lectionary)

25 As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, fell at his feet and worshipped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up, I am only a man, too!’
34 Then Peter began to speak to them, ‘I understand that truly God is impartial, 35 but that in every nation one that fears him and does what is righteous is acceptable to him.
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those hearing the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on gentiles too, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and proclaiming the greatness of God. Then Peter said, 47 ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ 48 He then gave instructions that they should be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay on for some days.

In V.25 the use of “worshipped him” in the RNJB is probably a better translation of the Greek proskyneŇć, although it could possibly mean do homage. In V.34 the JB’s translation “‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites,’” is a little long-winded. The new translation is more succinct, as the Greek original. In v.44 the RNJB gives a better translation when it speaks of people listening to the “word.” One should never build an advanced theology on a translation (any serious theology must build on the original Greek), but for amateur theologians it is easier to understand that pagans hear the word (logon) than listeners of Peter in general [although neither translation literally renders the first use of the other Greek word for word (rhemata) at the start of the verse]. The RNJB’s translation of “circumcised believers” and “speaking in tongues” are to be preferred to the original JB renderings in Vv. 45-46.


Second reading

Original Jerusalem Bible 1966 as found in the Current JB edition of the Lectionary


1 John 4:7-10 (no changes to Biblical text in Lectionary)

7 My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
8 Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
9 God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
10 this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

Revised New Jerusalem Bible 2018

1 John 4:7-10

7 My dear friends,
let us love one other,
since love is from God
and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
8 No one who fails to love knows God,
because God is love.
9 In this, the love of God was revealed among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world
that we might have life through him.
10 Love consists in this:
not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

In V. 7 the RNJB’s translation of “is a child of God,” is clearer and easier to proclaim than the original translation “is begotten by God.” Other than that I find the RNJB to be a clearer and tidier translation.



Gospel

Original Jerusalem Bible 1966 as found in the Current JB edition of the Lectionary


John 15:9-17 (additions to Biblical text in Lectionary are underlined)

Jesus said to his disciples:
9 ‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
11 I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
12 This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
13 A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
15 I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
16 You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
17 What I command you
is to love one another.’


Revised New Jerusalem Bible 2018

John 15:10-17 (additions to Biblical text to match the original JB Lectionary are underlined)

9 As the Father has loved me,
so have I loved you.
Remain in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept
my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
11 I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment,
that you should love one another,
as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
15 I shall no longer call you servants,
because the servant does not know
what the master is doing.
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have heard from my Father.
16 You did not choose me,
but I chose you,
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
so that the Father will give you
whatever you ask him in my name.
17 These are my commands to you,
that you should love one another.

In V.15 the translation of “heard” in the RNJB rather than “learnt” in the JB is a more correct translation.


I’m afraid (or perhaps consoled) that there are no major revelations in the comparison this week.  In my mind it is clearer every week that the RNJB is a worthy successor to the JB. It is fundamentally a revision of the original JB, but time and time again it is more precise, clearer as regards translation and sensitive to modern requirements for an “inclusive” translation (without doing any violence to the language and using man, him, etc. when needed).

Neil Xavier O'Donoghue is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. He currently ministers in the Archdiocese of Armagh, Ireland, where he serves as vice rector at Redemptoris Mater Seminary. He has studied at Seton Hall University, the University of Notre Dame, and St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctorate in Theology from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

4 comments:

Cabra North said...

Father:

You mention inclusivity on the grounds of 'modern requirements'. What do you mean by 'modern requirements'? Required by whom? Also, when you speak of 'violence to the language', in what sense do you mean? Does the original text remain unviolated (are clear and precise masculine pronouns, for instance, translated faithfully and rendered literally), or are you simply saying that gender-neutralizing occurs, but is refrained from in obvious instances in which a male/female is referred to or is subject/object of/to the action specifically?

Thanks.

Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue said...

Sorry (as usual) I have written too much for a single comment it will be divided into three sections.

Part 1 of 3

Dear Cabra,

I am talking about what is often called “inclusive language.” I know the term is like a red flag to a ragging bull to some people. However, although I wouldn’t class myself as liberal, I think it is a concern. I believe that the Church needs to speak in a language that is understood by people. There is a certain vocabulary that is understood within the context of the faith community and it is only by being initiated into the Faith that people will come to understand it. E.g. how do people understand such terms as “Cross” or even “love.” They are interpreted in a different way within the Church.

This in-house language must be balanced with the fact that, at least in our context, we are speaking English. This is not a language controlled by the Church, and, as every other language, it is in constant evolution. Whether we like it or not certain words change meaning. To give an extreme example we simply can’t use an old translation of a hymn that has the word “gay” in it without taking the more modern nuances and meanings that the secular world gives to that word.

The same holds true of our biblical translations, and other liturgical texts. The six-million-dollar question is what do the words “men” and “brothers” mean to regular English speakers? Are these meanings the same as a contemporary speaker of Biblical times would give to the Greek or Hebrew words they traditionally translated in scripture? E.g. when you ask me how many brothers I have, I would naturally tell you two, if you ask me how many brothers and sisters I have, I would tell you three. Many people, particularly of the younger generations simply understand men to men only masculine people and not to include women. I am not referring to certain radical feminists, who want to do violence to the language by replacing “women” with “womyn” (so as to avoid the word “men” contained within), etc.

Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue said...

Part 2 of 3

I believe this to be common contemporary English usage. The next question to be answered is whether our Scripture translations are meant to be understood only in house, by committed practicing Catholics, or should they be intelligible to someone who is not in the Church, who has been met through evangelisation or outreach? Should we need to give grammar classes for a subset of normal English to members of our RCIA classes?

I envy certain branches of Orthodox Judaism where every member of the congregation understand Biblical and Prayer Book Hebrew. I would love to be in a Church where every member was conversant in Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek and Liturgical Latin. But that is simply not the case. The Church has seen that it is best to translate our texts. After Vatican II, the vernacular became the preferred option for Roman Catholic liturgies. Today well over 99% of Catholics worship in the vernacular.

I believe that the vernacular form of liturgical English should be an elevated, poetic language, but also as close to regular spoken English as possible. Therefore I agree with the moderate inclusive language that is used in the RNJB. E.g. I think Wansborough made the right call to use the word “man” in the RNJB’s translation of Jn 10: 12 “The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, as soon as he sees a wolf coming, abandons the sheep and runs away.” But I also think that the RNJB’s translation of 1 Jn 5:5 is better than the original JB’s translation 1 Jn 5:5 JB “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (the original JB translates this as “Who can overcome the world. But the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”). These two examples are from the comparisons that I have posted on this site. I don’t believe that the RNJB is inspired or that it made the correct decision for each and every judgment call. There are many other fine translations and, please God, we will see many more.

Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue said...

Part 3 of 3
The main question is which translation should be used in the liturgy. I’m afraid this is sometimes a quest for the least worst translation. It is impossible to please everybody. My goal in these posts is to examine whether the RNJB would be a good replacement for the lectionary translation in those countries currently using the JB. I personally believe so. But my opinion is simply, what I consider, to be a well-informed opinion of a priest and a scholar. Ultimately the issue rests with the various bishops’ conferences. My goal has been to simply chart out how a RNJB Lectionary would look taking the Sundays of the Easter season as an example.

Today the Church has a very counter-cultural world-view. People coming into contact with Catholicism already have to struggle with a radically different understanding of love, sex, contraception, homosexuality, gender, marriage. I personally think that this is enough to wrestle with and that they shouldn’t have to learn a radically new form of English, that the Scripture translation used in the liturgy should be easily understood (at least at the level of pure language) by any fair-minded English speaker.