02 January 2006

The New American Bible

In 1970, my dear mother, knowing that I was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church, gave me a wonderful Christmas present: a beautifully bound first edition of the New American Bible.

I was reading it the other day, and it "sounded" different from what I remembered in readings at Mass. I thought to compare it to the most recent version. I used John 15:12-17.

1970:
12 This is my commandment:
love one another
as I have loved you.
13 There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one's life for one's friend.
14 You are my friends
if you do what I command you.
15 I no longer speak of you as slaves,
for a slave does not know what his master is about.
Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.
16 It was not you who chose me,
it was I who chose you
to go forth and bear fruit.
Your fruit must endure,
so that all you ask the Father
in my name
he will give you.
17 The command I give you is this,
that you love one another.

1986:
12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This I command you: love one another.


The new version is undoubtedly as correct as it can be, given the pitfalls inherent in translation; but its reading is pedestrian and labored, with short, stubby sentences and a "see Spot run" feel. I feel sure it's meant to be accessible to all English speakers, meeting them at their level. However, isn't there a place for beauty of expression?

Therein lies a long argument, one which will never be settled. For the record, I come down on the side that says it's good for people to have to think a bit; we do not have to spoon-feed people. They are not zombies. They have brains; and the patterns of beautiful words will stay with them, even if the meaning doesn't sink in right away.

It's the difference between loveliness in a church, and the utilitarian approach of bare walls, felt hangings, gray carpet, and a hidden tabernacle.

Thank God there's an approved alternative. ;)

The New Jerusalem Bible:
This is my commandment:
love one another,
as I have loved you.
No one can have greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know
his master's business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me,
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
so that the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
My command to you
is to love one another.

Ahh. That's better.

2 comments:

see-through faith said...

12 This is my commandment:
love one another
as I have loved you. 1970

12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 1986

I prefer the latter - it says to me that the love is ongoing - for eternity, no beginning and end

Lorna said...

a question for you

can you find a quote in the Catholic Bibles - something like "finger to finger with God" I heard it as a university student but cannot find it.

I think its a psalm but it's a LONG time ago.

if you find it email me or leave a comment on stf. PLEASE :)