16 January 2006

More NAB vs. NAB discussion

Over at Bettnet, Dom and Melanie noticed the insipid translation of 1 Corinthians 6 used at Mass the other day.

As I was listening to the second reading at Mass today, something was nagging at me. It just didn’t sound right.

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

Wait a minute, isn’t all sin immorality? How can we say that immorality is a sin of the body? There is immorality that isn’t physical, like things we say or fail to do. Something wasn’t right here.

Then Melanie, who was thinking the same thing, pointed to the Spanish version of the reading. (Our parish has bilingual missalettes.) Now, I don’t read or speak Spanish, but when it uses “fornicar” for the English lectionary’s “immorality” I think I can figure out what the word is supposed to be. When I got home, I picked up my Greek New Testament and sure enough the word is “porneia,” which according to Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament means “fornication, prostitution, unchastity, or every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.”

The keepers and guardians of the New American Bible must have decided that “fornication” is too coarse a word for our tender ears or that it might be too judgmental of those who are, you know, fornicating.

Instead we get some kind of mush that tells people nothing really, and that could even mislead them. “Huh, only things we do with our bodies are immoral. Great! Now I can lie and hate and all kinds of other things.”

Some people say that the Church has a hang up about sex. What about those who have a hard time letting God’s Word talk about it unfiltered?
As mentioned before, I recently rediscovered a 1971 first edition of the NAB which was given to me as a gift before I was received into the church. Of late I've been comparing passages, finding significant differences from today's version. The 1971 version of verse 18 of the passage reads: "Shun lewd conduct. Every other sin a man commits is outside his body, but the fornicator sins against his own body." Quite a change over 30 years.

Our evangelical protestant brethren would not stand for this. They pounce on every new translation and nitpick it to death. I'm really concerned that we Catholics are just sort of drifting along, not paying attention, while the meaning of our liturgy and scriptures are being "translated" (read: twisted) into something quite different from the original meanings.

You would think that those shaping the direction of the Episcopal church these days would be the first to do something like this - subtly retranslate the Word to fit their agenda. They can't, however, because they use the RSV or NRSV, and the Christian community would be all over them in a jiffy. (What they have done is simply omit the "difficult" passages - imprecatory Psalm verses, for example, or teachings against homosexual behavior - from their daily liturgical readings in the Book of Common Prayer. It's sort of amusing, in a sick, sad sort of way.) The situation with the NAB is different. In the first place, most Catholics are not Bible readers in the sense that many Protestants are. Those who are, often abandon the NAB for more mellifluous or accurate translations such as the RSV or the Jerusalem Bible. I am a Bible reader, but then, I was out of the Church for a long time. ;) The NAB these days is the most wooden, awkwardly reading thing I've ever encountered. It's so bad, it's embarrassing. When combined with what's happened to the liturgy and the music at Mass, it's a catastrophe for art. Anyone who disagrees needs to listen to the Mozart Requiem. Get back to me after you've recovered from that experience, and we'll talk.

Seriously: by watering down an important passage like that, a basic Christian teaching is being obscured. I really am concerned. It was deliberately changed to read that way. In charity, we should put it down to cluelessness until proven otherwise. However, when you read the writings of someone like Pope Benedict and look at your neighbors at Mass, you know that the church is not made up of the knuckle-dragging, childlike, preliterate hominids for whom the liturgists and musicians seem to be writing these days. What happened??


~m2~ said...

i have to tell you, this struck a chord with me.

when i began my bible study over two years ago, the priest was using an NAB (circa 1971) whose translation was way more poetic, for lack of a better word, than mine was: i used Psalm 6 as my litmus for every bible i picked up thereafter - his said: "have pity on me, O Lord, for i am languishing," and mine said something like "trembling."

which is more descriptive? to languish or tremble? not that i would *want* to, but i'd take languish any day.

my search took over nine months and one day, as i was leaving daily Mass, there were books on the table in the gathering area and i noticed a bible. as i was known to do, i flipped right to Psalm 6 and the words practically jumped off the page at me!! could it be, after all this time, right here under my nose?

i ran in to see monsignor straight away to ask about the ownership of the bible, and he said "you, penni. it's yours if you want it."

it is, hands down, my favorite translation of all time. i have to say i am in full agreement with you and cannot understand why it has gotten to be so watered-down. is it for political correctness?

::perish the thought::

Lorna said...

I just received a Catholic Bible as a gift today:) Fireside STudy edition

I have the version that Penni loves :) (looking at Ps 6:2)

I have to say that it isn't clear what year of translation, but now that you've given a date of c 1971 I find a n exerpt from the pope (paulus PP VI) dated Sept 18 1970

it's called the 1987-88 edition elsewhere so not that clear (to me at least)

glad I foudn this. but anoel I can't find the post you directed me too. Can you email me or leave a link on stf please:)