Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lame duck still waddling

At the Novus Ordo Mass this morning we had a sharp reminder that in England, we still have a lame duck translation to deal with. I am referring to the Jerusalem Bible that remains the most commonly used text for the scripture readings at Mass in English. The first reading was 1 Tim 3.1-13, an important text. In the original, it begins:
Πιστὸς ὁ λόγος: εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται, καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ. δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι [...]
In the Vulgate, this is translated:
Fidelis sermo : si quis episcopatum desiderat, bonum opus desiderat. Oportet ergo episcopum irreprehensibilem esse [...]
The RSV is perfectly good:
The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach [...]
In the USA, daily Mass goers today heard from the NAB:
Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable [...]
This is what we got in England this morning:
Here is a saying that you can rely on: to want to be a presiding elder is to desire a noble task. That is why the president must have an impeccable character [...]
In classical Greek, the word episcopos means an overseer, guardian, watcher, inspector or suchlike. At the Reformation there was controversy over the translation of episcopos. Those who took a strong Presbyterian view, along with those today who reject the idea of Bishop, translated episcopos as something other than Bishop. However, the King James Bible translated episcopos as “Bishop” as did all Catholic translations.

Even apart from this consideration, to use the expression “presiding elder” is wrong on two counts: the word “presiding” and the word “elder.” Episcopos does not mean someone who presides but someone who watches over (not the same thing) and “elder” would be a translation of presbuteros, not episcopos. (The translation also uses the weak and morally ambiguous "want" rather than "aspire to", shies away from translating episcopē, the office of an episcopos, and unnecessarily introduces the word "character" - good examples of the quality of this translation generally.)

Apparently we are to have a new lectionary at some time in the future. We could have had one already if the obvious option had been taken up: namely to use the RSV, as slightly edited by Ignatius Press in accordance with Liturgiam Authenticam. As I wrote in 2006, this version is already used for a lectionary – but it is only approved for use in the Antilles! Had this version been used, the addition of proper readings for England and Wales could surely have been accomplished by now, so that we would have a lectionary ready to accompany the new translation of the Missal.

Instead, I understand that the New RSV has been laboriously edited to correct the aggressive use of “inclusive language.” (In 1995 the CDF rejected the use of the New RSV in liturgical and catechetical texts  – cf. Adoremus article.) The new New RSV was published earlier this year, but there is presumably quite a bit of work still to do before it is ready in the form of a lectionary.

I imagine that the new New RSV will be considerably better than the Jerusalem Bible translation (it would take some effort to produce a worse translation.) However we are left with that lame duck waddling around the texts read at Mass for some time to come.

For priests who are interested, I received an encouraging email today from The Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth. They have just announced the “Concise RSV Emmaus Mass Sheet.” As a concise version, this has fewer options: only the Confiteor for the Penitential Rite, only the Nicene Creed, and only the first acclamation for the Mystery of Faith. It says that the priest “may” say the Offertory prayers quietly (I know that it would be more accurate to say that he "may" say them out loud, but at least the sheet does not imply that he must always say the prayers out loud.) It falls down on “All then make an appropriate sign of peace” (this is not compulsory) but it does not have a rubric telling people to stand for Holy Communion. And it has the RSV readings. (These are still approved for use in England and Wales.)

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to obtain an RSV lectionary and I don’t think that it is overblown liturgical pedantry to want people to read from a decent liturgical book rather than a missalette. However those lucky enough to have an RSV lectionary might find the Farnworth sheet very helpful. I’ve only just ordered the first tranche of Parish Mass Books from McCrimmon, but will see what options open up for early next year.
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