Thursday, March 3, 2011

New traslation of NAB

Says a lot about America's Catholic leadership.  On one hand, it has wisely changed some of the more deplorably limp renderings of the original texts,  such as parts of Psalm 23.  Though I see they are still preferring a more literalistic translation of the final verse - 'to the end of days' - over the traditional, and emotionally powerful, 'I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'  For some reason there is also much talk about changing the word 'booty' to 'spoils'.  I would think the decision to change 'ass' to 'donkey' would have been focused upon, if indeed it has been changed (I would think that if they changed the word 'booty' because of its contemporary connotations, the translators certainly would have caught the other's alternate meaning in modern discourse!).

And yet, on the other hand, the most controversial of all, is the decision to render Isaiah 7:14 as 'young woman', rather than 'virgin'.  It has long been insisted upon by Jewish scholars, and other critics of the Faith, that the original Hebrew word was misunderstood by the author of Matthew's Gospel, and hence he was wrong about the entire 'virgin shall concieve', which he used from the Old Testament to validate the virgin birth.   Naturally, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth hangs on more than that one passage.  But it is hardly a settled dispute.  Primarily because, idiomatically, the term young maiden may for all intents and purposes still assume a virgin, and therefore the literal translation maybe irrelevant to Matthew's use of the word. 

This is one of those decisions that could have - should have - been solved by leaving the traditionally Christian accepted rendering of 'virgin' in place, with a note underneath explaining that the word could mean young maiden, but the context and usage may not matter after all.  Perhaps even a nod to the Septuagint's usage of the word in its translation to the Greek.  But no.  The new NAB translation will simply opt to change the word to 'youg woman' (not even the usually suggested 'young maiden'), put the word 'virgin' in a footnote, and no doubt cause certain levels of confusion among the faithful. 

As Mark Shea once said many years ago, the Catholic Church has and incorrigible knack of obscuring spiritual truths with confusing terminology.  It also seems to have the knack of taking the least reader friendly approaches to translating the Bible, choosing not ones that help enforce the doctrines of the Faith, but rather seem to give credence to those outside the faith who have long rejected and critiqued those doctrines.  Sigh. 


  1. ah yes, I have heard that for years about "young maiden" vs "virgin". I guess in the end a word that should have the same connotation, but in this day and age can't. It will have to be explained that "young women" of those days would have been expected to be virgins and therefore there is no issue with the virgin birth narrative.

  2. I was shocked to see that. I know it is debated by those more schooled in the subject than I am, but it seems that is taking the critic's viewpoint, not the historic Christian viewpoint.


  3. It just seems so lame. The church is wavering for what purpose. Why is it that the faith that should be able to stand up and say "we are right" just wont' do it.


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