Why has creating an orthodox translation of the Bible been so hard?


#1

Note: There are many traditionalists that dogmatically refuse any translations of the Bible aside from the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate/Gallican Psalter for Latin and the Douay-Challoner for English. Respectfully: I understand your beliefs, and I agree with you on many counts, but this thread is not directed towards you.

The new English translation of the Missal was created under the principles of Pope Bl. John Paul II's 2001 instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which mandated that translations of the Bible be in formal equivalence with the Latin, and always deferring in text choices to the Nova Vulgata. Hebrew and Greek idioms are to be retained in the text and explained through catechesis. The instruction also made it clear that Catholic doctrines should be upheld in thei traditional ways, i.e. Isaiah's "a virgin will conceive" (rather than 'a young woman') and Luke's "full of grace" (rather than 'highly favored one').

It's been twelve years since Liturgiam authenticam was promulgated and nothing's changed! The only thing that most Catholics want is something like the Douay-Challoner that benefits from the since-discovered manuscripts and the archaic language removed, but quite tragically, nobody has been able to provide that. Nobody! The USCCB is still dancing with Rome trying to get the NABRE approved despite having castrated language and heterodox footnotes. Meanwhile there's no international uniformity, what with every country using whatever Bible translation its bishops prefer (though I can't really blame them on that count, considering the U.S.'s nigh-obsession with the NAB despite its obvious and many failures). So we're stuck with the Revised Grail Psalter (which honestly is a quite good translation) as being the only common ground between English-speaking Catholics worldwide.

Why do we keep getting heartbroken like this? Why can't there be one translation that everybody can use; or, barring that, why can't Rome intervene to clean up a few of the problems with a mostly-good translation like the RSV:2CE (why can't Pilate say "Behold the man"; I mean really, what was the problem with that translation? why does every committee on Bible translations have to mess up that traditional quote?) and then promulgate it as the official English translation of the Bible for the Catholic Church.

For the life of me, can anybody tell me why the Church isn't throwing the NAB, NJB, NRSV, etc. into the dumps? I mean that as absolutely no insult whatsoever, but I have not heard a single bishop give a scholarly defense for these translations being upheld over the D-R, or a new universal and orthodox translation being produced.


#2

I am one of those to whom this thread is apparently not directed, but I think that makes me all the more qualified to give you the short answer to your question.

And that is:

Because the attitude to post-conciliar Biblical translation is much the same as the attitude to post-conciliar liturgy: "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."


#3

I suppose there are several factors at work.

One is that there aren’t that many people sufficiently competent in the original languages and the different manuscripts and so forth to produce a good scholarly translation, so we have to rely on those few who are capable of it whatever their faults.

Another is the almost superstitious assumption that whatever secular ideas about the Bible are in style this season must be better than the passé theories that were in vogue last fall. To do anything other than lick the feet of atheist sensationalists on a subject like the Bible would be seen by the world as anti-intellectual, or at least that seems to be the fear. Of course since we are lately in the business of accepting or imitating fashionable theories rather than generating them we tend to be a season or two behind anyway, thus defeating the purpose and just making us look ridiculous.

Still another factor is that no one wants to admit when their time and money has been wasted. After all the effort the US bishops have put into the NAB for decades who can humanly expect them to just trash the whole thing as a failed experiment?

Finally, I assume the Vatican does not want to appear heavy-handed. Micro-managing the Church, including in matters like translation into local languages which theoretically ought to be best accomplished at the local level, would not be a desirable leadership model. But there again we seem to be failing, since what has been produced is often so terrible the Vatican has to step in and look tyrannical anyway.


#4

That's an excellent question. As is, I restrict myself to the KJV, D-R, and DRC for the most part (finding them to be the most orthodox translations available,) using them whenever I can, and using the NRSV when it is mandated in academia. So this thread is not for me.

Now, if you're talking about a good Orthodox (as in Russian or Greek) translation of the Bible in to English, there are many reasons - as many as there are poor translations, such as the Panayiotis Septuagint.

It's been twelve years since Liturgiam authenticam was promulgated and nothing's changed! The only thing that most Catholics want is something like the Douay-Challoner that benefits from the since-discovered manuscripts and the archaic language removed, but quite tragically, nobody has been able to provide that. Nobody! The USCCB is still dancing with Rome trying to get the NABRE approved despite having castrated language and heterodox footnotes. Meanwhile there's no international uniformity, what with every country using whatever Bible translation its bishops prefer (though I can't really blame them on that count, considering the U.S.'s nigh-obsession with the NAB despite its obvious and many failures). So we're stuck with the Revised Grail Psalter (which honestly is a quite good translation) as being the only common ground between English-speaking Catholics worldwide.

Amen. If only we could have a variety of orthodox Bibles! Ones that use archaic and hieratic English, or ones that are written in the vernacular. Ones that are based on Latin, and ones based on Greek; one based on the critical Greek text, and the other on the Byzantine Majority Greek text!

The Protestants have this, in having a wide range of Bibles that are all more or less orthodox (to the Protestant creeds). They have versions in hieratic English (the KJV); they have modern-language versions based on the critical text (the ESV), and modern language versions based on the inspired traditional text (the NKJV), and modern-language versions based on the critical text with the traditional text noted, or vice versa (the NASB and NKJV respectively). They have relatively orthodox versions in simple vernacular English, such as the NIV or NLT - not to mention that most of the qualities can be found in a variety of translations ranging from dynamic to literal!

Catholics have two English Bibles that abide by the canons of orthodoxy - the DRC and Confraternity, both of which use archaic English - and two others that come close: the RSV-2CE and the Knox (which is very free), and, if heavy modifications would be allowed - so many as to amount to a new translation - the original Jerusalem Bible. And then there is tripe like the NABRE and NRSV-"CE" marketed as Catholic with the imprimatur.


#5

I have the NAB. The introductions mainly support modern scholarship, which generally rejects direct authorship. Many of the footnotes disbelieve or discredit miracles, sometimes say "this is symbolic" (Revelation).

I'm grateful that the Scriptural text is mostly honest, but I hate the "young woman" language as opposed to the long-standing "virgin" translation. They explain in comments that the manuscript's word is closer to "young woman" rather than virgin, but it sidesteps or almost denies the Virgin Birth by doing this IMO. Sometimes they use the word "virgin" and sometimes not. Whatever. It bothers me.

I just get the impression that the American Translation was done by people who don't believe in miracles or Sacred Tradition. And it shows, at least in the commentary.


#6

You know, I wonder the same thing. The NRSV (used here in Canada) really gets me mad sometimes with all the inclusive language additions. Just from a literary perspective alone, if the text said "Brothers", then it should say "Brothers". It's like asking us to change Huckleberry Fin or To Kill a Mockingbird to make it more "PC"; it is a form of limited censorship. It was written a certain way, and it should be kept that way.

Sure, translation does require a little interpretation sometimes (that's the nature of it), but it should be done with the least amount of interpretation needed.

[quote="EphelDuath, post:1, topic:333861"]
Why do we keep getting heartbroken like this? Why can't there be one translation that everybody can use; or, barring that, why can't Rome intervene to clean up a few of the problems with a mostly-good translation like the RSV:2CE (why can't Pilate say "Behold the man"; I mean really, what was the problem with that translation? why does every committee on Bible translations have to mess up that traditional quote?) and then promulgate it as the official English translation of the Bible for the Catholic Church.

[/quote]

The RSC:2CE is a translation I really like. The archaic language can really be distracting at times, so the removal is very nice.

(by the way, if you mean John 19:5, "Here is the man!", then it is functionally equivalent)


#7

[quote="Aelred_Minor, post:3, topic:333861"]
I suppose there are several factors at work.

One is that there aren't that many people sufficiently competent in the original languages and the different manuscripts and so forth to produce a good scholarly translation, so we have to rely on those few who are capable of it whatever their faults.

[/quote]

This is what, literally, scares me.

Now: I understand both Italian and French sufficiently to know that the "captions" used to translate what is being said (in movies) are often just plain incorrect, not a real translation at all. AND, I also know that certain phrases and words really have no translation into English, per se. So the same holds true for the Bible.

This worries me. Coming up Catholic and in Catholic school in the 50s and 60s, no one read the Bible. No one owned a Bible. We were actively discouraged from READING the Bible. When I finally heard the Word being preached, I was in my 30s and I heard it from an Assembly of God pastor, so guess what, that's where I went. Now, back Home, I still use the NIV study Bible. I know it is frowned upon because it lacks the Apocrypha, but there are excellent notations explaining the differences in translations - one word can change an entire meaning. What, exactly, are we reading? I like the NKJ also but, again, no Apocrypha. Why wouldn't the Church have the scholars and resources to create a true translation, at least of the NT? Doesn't make sense to me.


#8

[quote="ellzeena, post:7, topic:333861"]
This is what, literally, scares me.

Now: I understand both Italian and French sufficiently to know that the "captions" used to translate what is being said (in movies) are often just plain incorrect, not a real translation at all. AND, I also know that certain phrases and words really have no translation into English, per se. So the same holds true for the Bible.

This worries me. Coming up Catholic and in Catholic school in the 50s and 60s, no one read the Bible. No one owned a Bible. We were actively discouraged from READING the Bible. When I finally heard the Word being preached, I was in my 30s and I heard it from an Assembly of God pastor, so guess what, that's where I went. Now, back Home, I still use the NIV study Bible. I know it is frowned upon because it lacks the Apocrypha, but there are excellent notations explaining the differences in translations - one word can change an entire meaning. What, exactly, are we reading? I like the NKJ also but, again, no Apocrypha. Why wouldn't the Church have the scholars and resources to create a true translation, at least of the NT? Doesn't make sense to me.

[/quote]

I get much the same reaction from my adherence to the KJV, believing it to be the best version available in English (it's even available with the apocrypha!); it's slightly less doctrinally correct but much better written than the DRC. I also like the NKJV.

A translation's orthodoxy is defined by what's written in the book, not by the circumstances that produced it.


#9

True, but (and I’m thinking you won’t disagree with me here):

Regarding the superstition point, yes, but who cares, honestly?

Regarding the NAB, which I am not terribly familiar with… the 1998 Missal “translation,” product of at least two decades of work, was forcefully scrapped by decree of Rome. Well, rather, by decree of the Prefect of the CDWDS with the prior knowledge that LA would be coming out three years later. If such a project can be scrapped, surely another one can be, if it is as horrible as people say it is. (I am not one to doubt popular criticism on these issues.)

Finally, in an absolute sense, in an ideal world, yes, these things would be taken care of at the lowest level. But since when has the Church ever been able to manage both “best in the best of all possible worlds” leadership and liturgico-Biblical uniformity at the same time? Has that ever been the case?


#10

[quote="BTNYC, post:2, topic:333861"]
I am one of those to whom this thread is apparently not directed, but I think that makes me all the more qualified to give you the short answer to your question.

And that is:

Because the attitude to post-conciliar Biblical translation is much the same as the attitude to post-conciliar liturgy: "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."

[/quote]

I whole-heartedly disagree.

The attitude and what Bible translators attempt to do is to make the message understandable in the vernacular. To do this, one has to try to relate the message in modern language without losing the original context. This, especially given the time, cultural, and linguistic differences, is very hard to do.


#11

This is a very interesting thread, with some very in depth intellectual discussions


#12

Idk why either. For me, DRB is the only Bible translation I prefer. The RSV-CE is good if you don't want to read through the archaic language but I have a few big beefs with the RSV

[LIST]
*]It's based off of the Protestant bible (ie not original)
*]John 19:5 (Ecce Homo = Behold the Man...not "Here is")
*]The "thees and thous" that everyone hates actually serves a purpose...it signifies a close relationship. Something modern English sadly lacks today
*]"Stop no more of this!" (Luke 22:51) terrible translation compared to the superior "Suffer ye thus far"
[/LIST]

So basically I don't think it's possible for there to be a "modern" orthodox translation because there is nothing in modern English to signify the difference when someone speaks to a stranger and a loved one. :(


#13

[quote="BTNYC, post:2, topic:333861"]
I am one of those to whom this thread is apparently not directed, but I think that makes me all the more qualified to give you the short answer to your question.

And that is:

Because the attitude to post-conciliar Biblical translation is much the same as the attitude to post-conciliar liturgy: "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."

[/quote]

:rotfl::rotfl::rotfl:


#14

What about the people who don’t speak Latin or English, i.e. those who are the majority Catholics in the world?


#15

[quote="bzkoss236, post:10, topic:333861"]
I whole-heartedly disagree.

The attitude and what Bible translators attempt to do is to make the message understandable in the vernacular. To do this, one has to try to relate the message in modern language without losing the original context. This, especially given the time, cultural, and linguistic differences, is very hard to do.

[/quote]

Ah yes, the "vernacular," that nebulous, pie in the sky platonic ideal of the post Conciliar miasma... just what the doctor ordered for the evils of the Douay Rheims, and its fuddy-duddy "archaic" language (that Bill Shakespeare guy was a big offender in this area too).

Isn't that how we ended up with soul-enriching gems like "And also with you" and "free us from all anxiety"? Mmm-mm, vernaculicious!

Continuing the carrying of erroneous premises to their logical conclusions, here's some "Vernacular" for y'all headz to peep:

amazon.com/word-street-ebook/dp/B000FC2KGU

Let's slap an imprimatur on this sucker ASAP... (@CardinalMahony?)


#16

[quote="thistle, post:14, topic:333861"]
What about the people who don't speak Latin or English, i.e. those who are the majority Catholics in the world?

[/quote]

Well is there a problem with other translations?

Idk everytime I get stuck in a Spanish Mass by accident...I'm always reminded why on Earth did the Church think that going from a universal language (Latin) to a myriad (vernacular) was somehow going to be better?


#17

[quote="BobDanners, post:16, topic:333861"]
Well is there a problem with other translations?

Idk everytime I get stuck in a Spanish Mass by accident...I'm always reminded why on Earth did the Church think that going from a universal language (Latin) to a myriad (vernacular) was somehow going to be better?

[/quote]

How would I know if there is a problem with all the language translations there are? I raised the point because the OP seems to be implying that the Bible should only be available in Latin and Old English which if that is the OP's intent what about the majority of Catholics in the world that don't speak either. Are you saying they should not be allowed to read the Bible in their own language?
Also what about the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches who have never used Latin or English.


#18

[quote="thistle, post:17, topic:333861"]
How would I know if there is a problem with all the language translations there are? I raised the point because the OP seems to be implying that the Bible should only be available in Latin and Old English which if that is the OP's intent what about the majority of Catholics in the world that don't speak either. Are you saying they should not be allowed to read the Bible in their own language?
Also what about the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches who have never used Latin or English.

[/quote]

I think you're pumping a dry well on this supposed controversy. I think the OP is specifically speaking to an English-only audience. I think he is not concerned with the other translations of the Bible.


#19

[quote="thistle, post:17, topic:333861"]
How would I know if there is a problem with all the language translations there are? I raised the point because the OP seems to be implying that the Bible should only be available in Latin and Old English which if that is the OP's intent what about the majority of Catholics in the world that don't speak either. Are you saying they should not be allowed to read the Bible in their own language?
Also what about the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches who have never used Latin or English.

[/quote]

Huh? When did I say that the Bible should only be translated into Latin and English? I'm specifically talking about a problem in the English-speaking Catholic community, to which those are the two relevant languages. If the same problem exists also for Greek, Spanish, Arabic, et al., then my confusion as to Rome's (seeming?) inaction is even vaster.


#20

[quote="EphelDuath, post:19, topic:333861"]
Huh? When did I say that the Bible should only be translated into Latin and English? I'm specifically talking about a problem in the English-speaking Catholic community, to which those are the two relevant languages. If the same problem exists also for Greek, Spanish, Arabic, et al., then my confusion as to Rome's (seeming?) inaction is even vaster.

[/quote]

Thanks. That was the reason for my question. Your OP was not clear to me otherwise I would not have asked.
Now I'm clear on that am I correct in saying you don't want any English Bibles to be in the English we speak today but you want to confine English speakers to Old English which is not used today?


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