Yet another NAB bible translation error

The NAB bible translates Romans 1:20 (Douay-Rheims: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. His eternal power also and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” Vulgate: “Invisibilia enim ipsius, a creatura mundi, per ea quæ facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur: sempiterna quoque ejus virtus, et divinitas: ita ut sint inexcusabiles.”) as

Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.

It uses “in” in the phrase “in what he has made,” as though God is in the things of the world (pantheism). Why? Is this a translation error? The Vulgate says “from,” the preposition “a” in “a creatura mundi.” There are many more errors in the NAB and non–Vulgate-based translations.

Well, obviously “in” is not the best word - “from” or “through”, as most translations render it, capture the meaning better. But it’s important to make the distinction that even if you use the word “in”, it does not say that God is in the things He created, but that God is “understood and perceived” in them. The NAB translators are guilty of far worse than this, although it does once again point to their incompetence. And it was also a good catch by you. :thumbsup:

The NAB was translated from the Vulgate. It was translated from Hebrew & Aramaic (the OT) & Greek (the NT). The ancient versions can be useful, as the LXX is for the OT; but that does not make them the basis for the translation.

It could be that the Greek text followed by the translators of Romans 1.20 differs from that which underlies the Vulgate :shrug: The Vulgate itself has plenty of textual variants. Whatever the reasons for the difference noted, a difference between resulting translations of a text does not automatically imply error on the part of the translators of either: nor does it imply incompetence, unorthodoxy, or any other objectionableness. The burden of proof that the translators are in error here is on those who say so.

As for Romans 1.20:
*]Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse;
[/LIST]The explanation for the difference ? In the phrase translated, what “in” means here, is “by”. It’s a dative plural, not a preposition (as the Greek of it would need to be, if the meaning were pantheist), so it is therefore part of a phrase: “in what he has made”; or, in the Greek, tois poiēmasin. “In his poems” is nice and literal, but is unnatural English, because in English “poems” means something very different. A more natural translation, that makes Paul’s meaning far clearer, is “in what he has made”; the verb is supplied, because the sense requires it. Any translation that is not to be slavishly literal, & quite possibly misleading as a result, of any literary text of that period and others, undergoes the same sorts of operation as the Greek of the NT does. That word X in translation Y does not match an older translation of the same word, is not a sufficient reason to condemn the new or the old as wrong. And difference =/= error. To privilege any one translation as alone to be used, unless it be so privileged for reasons unconnected with its value as a translation, is to fall into KJV-Only-ism, Catholic version.

Translators of the Bible have an unenviable task: they have to satisfy religious, text-critical, and translational standards, and they also have to make the result readable in the receptor-language. Quite apart from deciding whether the translation is intended for liturgical, academic, devotional or other use. Not to mention the difficulty that the use of English is fractured today in away it was not, a few centuries ago: an academically excellent translation is no good, if the English used is unintelligible - which is one of the reasons many translations render a phrase twice, putting the literal one in the margin, & something more immediately intelligible to the non-specialist in the body of the text. Mgr. R. A. Knox devoted a book “On Englishing the Bible” to the topic of translating the Bible - & he was working from the Vulgate. There is so much more to translation than converting one item from a dictionary into an item from another. All that most people see is the result of the process.

Here are a whole lot more reasons to scrape the NAB:

Actually, the subject of that clause is “his invisible attributes” in the NAB translation, “the invisible things of him” in the Douay-Rheims version, or “Invisibilia ipsius” in the Vulgate (literally “invisibles of him”). From where does the NAB’s “attributes” originate? Is it His “attributes” or the “invisible things of him” that we see “from the things which are made,” the “invisible things of him” being—since He is divinely simple—His being or essence, and His “invisible attributes” being, e.g., that He is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, etc.?

So what is the bible of choice

In English? Definitely the Douay-Rheims

if you want to debate a translation error in NAB you will have to present the relevant original passage in Hebrew or Greek, and debate that translation, since the NAB was not translated from the Vulgate, this entire line of reasoning is irrelevant. Since the language of the Vulgate, Latin, is not the original language it is at best the purest and best translation into Latin of the original, but it is not in itself the inspired original, it is still a translation.

I will also add that any of us who are not experts in the original biblical languages and in biblical theology do not become experts by randomly browsing the web. It is inaccurate to say “my bible of choice is . . .” rather I should say "my favorite translation for personal study is . . . for personal prayer and devotion is . . . for use in apologetics debates with Protestants is . . . for catechesis and evangelization is . . . "

Since my ministry of catechesis and evangelization is conducted in communion with the Church through commissioning by my bishop, I accept the translations she has given me, through our bishops. Should God see fit to elect me bishop–which is unlikely given my gender and married vocation–I will have authority to pronounce on bible translations, but now I do not have that authority.

The NAB is a paraphrased translation of the Bible and it is written under the constraints of copyright law and not infringing on the translations of others. (That is why it takes decades to put out a new translation of scripture which claims any fidelity to the original texts.)

I wouldn’t have tripped up on the meaning, as is suggested in the OP.

I wouldn’t recommend the Douay-Rheims. The translation uses VERY outdated language and sometimes it is confusing and very difficult to understand. If you are sticking to Catholic translations, I would go with the NAB or the Catholic Public Domain Version (, which is a new translation of the Clementine Vulgate. If you don’t mind outdated language, you might give the Confraternity New Testament a go-round. Or, you could use the Jereseleum Bible, which is used in liturguy outside the US.

But, seriously, Douay-Rheims is amazingly hard to read and, if you’re not used to that kind of language, is very hard to understand.

While one’s preference for Bible translation is his or her choice, it is wrong to say that the NAB is a paraphrased translation. The NAB NT is clearly on the formal/literal spectrum of Bible translations, only slightly less formal than translations like the RSV/NRSV/ESV. The NAB OT tends more on the functional/dynamic end, somewhere near the NIV. The NAB Psalms are a whole different story for various reasons, but fortunately they are currently being revised along with the NAB OT for future publication. Translations that are “paraphrase” translations are the original Good News Bible and The Message.

If you are interested in books that deal with current Bible translations, I would recommend:

Gorman’s “Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers”

Schultz’s “The How-to Book of the Bible: Everything You Need to Know But No One Ever Taught You”

Fee’s “How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions”

Dewey’s “A User’s Guide To Bible Translations: Making The Most Of Different Versions”

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