'For all' vs 'For many'


I am wondering about the proposed new Mass translation. The way I understand it, during the Consecration the words “for all” are being retranslated as “for many”. At least one priest in our area (Detroit) is objecting to the change, saying that of course Jesus died for all.

I was wondering if anyone can give any insight as to why the change is being made. I assume that it’s because what the original Latin says, but if that’s the case, what about this priest’s argument?

Thanks and God bless,

It’s being retranslated to be true to the Latin.

The priest has a point, Jesus did die for all. According to what I’ve read, in the original languages of the Scriptures, the terms used mean ‘all’ and that’s why when ICEL did their translation many years back we got ‘for all’. That wasn’t a faithful translation of the Latin though, which is what we are getting with this upcoming translation.

In other languages we get the meaning of ‘all’ without actually saying all.
In French, for example, “pro multis” is translated as “pour la multitude” which doesn’t say “all” (which would be “pour tous”) but is still not exclusionary.

Jesus did die for all, but not all will have their sins forgiven.

The Holy See and the USCCB have answered this question quite well already; see here and here.

To be technical about it, he died for all that sins may be forgiven, but he died for many unto the remission of sins.

For the many that will accept His mercy…not all will accept.

It is pollus, or ‘many’ in the Greek. It’s not panta (all).

Christ died for all. Christ died for many. Both are true and not exclusive of each other. However, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Christ said “for many”. This did not exclude anyone and it does not have the connotation that it does in English. The new Mass text is striving to be accurate and reflect what was said. If a priest objects to “for many”, he should take it up with Jesus who used the words without regard to the English translation someday.

Or, he could use it as a teaching opportunity on the universality of the Church and the beauty of unity in these prayers. The economy of salvation could be explained and the difference in which Christ died for all and Christ died for many could be taught.

Mark 14:22-24

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Matthew 26:28

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

This is where the words for the Eucharistic Prayers come from; the Church is simply being faithful to the words of the Gospel. The Latin original has “pro mulitis” for many, simply because that is what the Bible says.

The LCMS seminarian comes in with a shot and a goal. While the ELCA uses “for all” in the ELW hymnal.

\According to what I’ve read, in the original languages of the Scriptures, the terms used mean ‘all’ and that’s why when ICEL did their translation many years back we got ‘for all’.\

**This is not true. In the Bible is IS “for many”.

However, the Words of Institution have always been liturgical, rather than direct quotes from Scripture, as looking at the different classical liturgies will show.

I do not believe that “for all” makes the Consecration invalid. Any liturgical formulary that comes with the authority of the Church IS ALWAYS valid, as the Church simply does not promulgate invalid rites.**

Nice write up and info.



ROME, 7 SEPT. 2004 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: A very conservative friend of mine says she cannot attend Mass in English because the translation of the consecration renders the words “pro multis” (for many) as “for all.” She says this is a heresy. Is she right? — J.S., Washington, D.C.

A: Here I will supply the answer which the Holy See gave to a similar question 34 years ago. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments first gave a brief official reply in January 1970 and later commissioned a brief but dense article on the subject by noted Jesuit scholar M. Zerwick, published in the May 1970 edition of Notitiae, the congregation’s official organ (pages 138-140).

The translations from the Latin and Italian were done for personal reasons by a priest friend of mine several years ago. They are an accurate translation but, as is obvious, cannot be considered official.

The official January reply (slightly adapted here) is typically brief and uses the usual form of a succinct query and reply.

The query states:

"In some vernacular versions the words of the formula for the consecration of the wine ‘pro multis’ are translated in the following way: in English ‘for all men’; in Spanish ‘por todos’ and in Italian ‘per tutti.’

Thank you all, I get it now.

God bless,

Actually the words in current consecration are “…FOR YOU and for all…”

This is poor rhetoric and we shouldn’t attribute such to Christ, who chose His words well, whether you choose to believe that He shed his blood for many or for all.

This is another case where English just can’t capture all the subtleties of meaning from the Latin.

“Pro multis” as used in the text implies something beyond the literal translation “for many”. (Think of “many” as being in contrast to the relatively small number of persons for whom the annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was offered.)

But going with the less literal translation “for all” (which is still a pretty good thought for thought translation) has a greater likelihood of introducing error over the long term.

Good analogy. Even in English “many” does not logically preclude “all”. All people are also many people. Many people may or may not also be all people. The implication in English does not exist in other languages.

Right. My understanding is that the whole problem arises from what might be called an Hebraism, an Aramaic or Hebrew idiom: the many, the multitude, which is an idiomatic way of saying all.

Here’s my idea.

*]We could keep the traditional translations, which avoids opening the door to all kinds of dopey stuff.
*]But at the same time we could teach Catholics about various ancient Hebrew idioms (e.g., song of songs, holy of holies, age of ages).

I propose the following name for this advanced, innovative new activity in the Faith Community: Catechism.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

I have a question. Do you know if this is a Hebraism or is this just a possibility? Was this idiom used in the OT? I do not ask for to confront, only to learn.

I’m reading a great book called “Letter and Spirit” reading salvation word,worship,and the mysteries.
I’ll give you a small piece from the chapter: The “ransom for many” the new exodus and the end of the exile

Of the many difficult sayings of Jesus in the Gospels, the famous statment about the Son of Man having come to give his life as a “ransom for many”(Mark 10:45). While it has been traditionally interpreted as somehow referring to an atonement for the sins of humanity, the precise meaning of Jesus’ words continue to remain veiled in obscurity. Moreover the passage has been subject of a long standing debate about wether or not the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah, in particular Isaiah 52-53 are being alluded to in Jesus’ references to the Son of Man “serving” and giving his life for “many”.

What the author is attempting to show is that Jesus’ words about the ransom for “many” fits with the widespread Old Testament hope for the restoration of Israel; that is the ingathering of the scattered tribes-including the ten lost tribes of the northern kingdom-in the new exodus.
It’s all about terminology: He will give his life, in a new kind of Passover, in order to bring about a New Exodus: the long awaited return from exile.

Is that clear as mud? I guess what I’m thinking is we should be thinking not about “all” or “many” but who is the “many”

many, the multitude, which is an idiomatic way of saying all.


To tell the truth, I don’t remember where I read it. :blush: However, my recollection is that it is a point about Aramaic more than ancient Hebrew. (Closely related, right?)

Here’s an excerpt from a blog entry that seems consistent with that:

The Jesuit scholar Max Zerwick’s Philological Analysis of the Greek New Testament is still an unsurpassed authority. On Matthew 26: 28 Zerwick explains that polloi, the Greek for “the many”, translates a Semitic expression that can signify a multitude and at the same time a totality. It means “all (who are many)”.

Caveat: Since the original text of Matthew would have been koine Greek, Fr. Zerwick may have been engaged in a little, ahem, scholarly reconstruction about the original Aramaic words.

Here’s a forum post claiming that the original word is rabbim.

Now, back to polemics: Obviously, if *rabbim *was used by Aramaic speakers to mean “the many,” and if that’s the word Matthew was translating or referring to when he used polloi, we still have a question: What words are appropriate in Roman Catholic Mass?

I, for one, will be glad when pro multis is rendered for many. However, I will talk to my children and students about rabbim, polloi, etc.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

This brings about an interesting possibility. The idea of a Hebraism does not relate to the language used, but rather how one thinks. Hebrews still used the same idioms they learned through the Sacred Scripture, even if they spoke in Aramaic and wrote in Greek. That is why I like the reference to Isaiah.

Today we might refer to the prodigal son. Literally, this might refer to a son that went wrong. Yet often when we use the phrase, we refer to the repentence because that is the emphasis. Thus, the “prodigal” son does not stand in apposition to the good son, but rather the unrepentent son, quite a reverse meaning.

Seeing the tie to Isaiah, it may well be that “for many” was more inclusive that exclusive. In other words, instead of thinking that Jesus died for many as opposed to all, we see that Jesus died for many as opposed to dying for a few.

I still hold to the literal translation being best, but I do think we ought not be hammering on the point and claiming Jesus did not die for all. That does not seem to be the implication here.

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