Taking your (Greek) bible to Church

It is a regular practice for protestants to take not only their hymnal but also their bibles to church with them on Sunday – although these days there are usually “pew bibles” (ie. copies of the bible in the pews already) provided. They are likely to look up the readings for the day and to read along as the lector is reading the lessons. Catholics on the other hand get everything in their missals (except the hymns, but I’m not going there just now), or at least on their bulletin sheets, so, even if they do read along with the reading instead of just listening to it (that is another question too, which we will deal with another time), they don’t really ever get the readings in context. Often too, they are not even aware of where it comes in the bible.

All that being as it is, my issue here today is that I have decided that in the future I will take my Greek New Testament along to mass, because I have become very suspicious of the tranlstion in our missal. We are stuck with the current translation – which I understand are a modified version of the Jerusalem Bible – for at least the next twelve months, when – again as I understand it – we will get a modified version of the New Revised Standard Version instead. That should be an approvement, depending on the level of modification. But it will surely be a relief to leave the JB well and truly behind.

All this is prompted by last week’s gospel, on the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:9-14. Here is how the missal has it:

Gospel Lk 18:9-14
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
The publican returned to his home justified; the pharisee did not.
Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

I have highlighted a word-stem that occurs three times in that story, and (in the missal) once in the short summary of the Gospel at the beginning (which isn’t read aloud). The word-stem is the Greek “dikai-/dikoi-“ stem. I am teaching Romans at the moment for Anima Education, and so my ears are very attuned to this word and its translations. The word can basically be translated in two directions, either as “righteous” or as “just”, from which we get “justification” and “justify” as well. The confusion abounds in the above translation which translates “dikaioi” in verse 9 as “virtuous” (instead of “righteous”), “adikoi” in verse 11 as “unjust”, and “dedikaiomenos” in verse 14 as “at rights with God”. For good measure, the initial summary translates “dedikaiomenos” as “justified”. Reading (or, even more, listening) to this parable told in the Jerusalem Bible translation obscures the fact that the central question of the story is: Who is “Righteous”?

And that of course, requires the preacher or homilist to explain to the assembly what “righteous” actually means – for the one thing it certainly doesn’t mean in the New Testament is “virtuous” (as suggested in this translation). It wasn’t a question for the Pharisee whether he was “virtuous” or not. The point was that he kept the Torah. And keeping the Torah demonstrated that he was among God’s elect, that is, one of the “Righteous”. Not like that other bloke over there who was one like the rest of mankind, like the Gentiles, ie. “a-dikoi”, “UN-Righteous”. (Cf. for comparison Jesus’ directions in Matt 18:17 – “treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector”, ie. not one of the “Righteous”, not one of God’s “elect”). The surprising thing in Luke’s parable is that Jesus says it was this tax-collector, and not the Pharisee who was “shown to be Righteous” (“dedikaiomenos”). It fits amazingly well with the use of the “dikai-” stem in Paul!

But all that is obscured by the Jerusalem Bible translation. The other translations are only marginally better. The NIV uses “righteousness”, “evildoers” and “justified” (in that order), the NRSV uses “righteous”, “rogues”, and “justified”. The RSV is probably best with “righteous”, “unjust” and “justified”, but that is still obscured by the different English stems (“righteous” and “just”) to translate the single Greek stem (“dikai-“).

Of course, all this I only suspected while at Mass last Sunday. I had to wait to check it up when I got home. In the future, I will be taking my Greek bible to Church!

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “Taking your (Greek) bible to Church

  1. Weedon

    Once a Lutheran…

    • …now an N.T. Wrightian.

      • Peter Golding

        Apparently a great man.
        Cardinal Pell is a big fan.

        • Whatever may be said for Wright’s theology as a whole, on the matter of what “righteousness” means in St Paul, he is pretty well spot on. I have only one quibble with him, as he usually argues that “the righteousness of God” IS “his covenant faithfulness”. This assertion has attracted a lot of reaction from among his evangelical brethren. I think he would have been wiser to argue that God’s Righteousness is SHOWN by his faithfulness to the covenant (and to his creation, etc.).

  2. But, surely David, ‘virtuous’ fits right in with a Catholic theology of justification? (tongue only partly in cheek).

    I sat behind Matthew Harrison once at an installation and midway through the sermon he pulled out his pocket Greek NT to check something the preacher was saying. Ever since I’ve thought it good practice to do the same [when I’m not preaching, of course ;0)]

    • You are right in saying that an (uncritical) reading of traditional Catholic writing on “justification” could give the idea that righteousness = virtue. Unfortunately, this is part of a much wider problem that I one day hope to address with a whole doctoral thesis. I think that the way in which Catholics AND Lutherans have approached the doctrine of justification is in fact with the idea that “righteousness” is a moral category. The JDDJ still works with this idea a bit. I think Wright’s reading of Paul undercuts the whole 16th century debate and would propose a new way forward for the dialogue.

      • Well, I would really love to read that thesis when it is written, David. Sounds fascinating, and could lead to a genuine breakthrough if indeed it holds true. Before you embark upon it though, have you engaged with any of those critical of Wright from the Protestant side? There is a growing chorus agin him.

        • oh yes, of course. That’s the key to really get a handle on it all. For my money, their criticisms are excellent at showing how right Wright is!

  3. Father John Fleming

    I love this. So, David, please give us your translation, ie how the thing would actually read if it were better translated.

    • Okay, here is my attempt:

      Also he spoke this parable against some who were in themselves confident that they were “[the] Righteous”, and despised the rest:

      “Two men went up to the temple for prayers, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men—grabbers, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

      “And the tax collector, standing afar off, did not wish so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be propitious toward me, a “Sinner”!’ [nb. the word is hilastheti “propitiate” not eleison “have mercy”! Note also that the opposite category to “the Righteous” was “the Sinners” cf. Galatians 2:15]

      “I tell you, this man returned to his home “righteous” rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    • Also, I just had a look at the Vulgate, and Jerome gets it all perfectly right! (except, of course, he used the only possible latin term for “zadik” which is “iustus” and that was the start of all the later trouble of seeing “zadik” = “virtuous”):

      9 dixit autem et ad quosdam qui in se confidebant tamquam iusti et aspernabantur ceteros parabolam istam
      10 duo homines ascenderunt in templum ut orarent unus Pharisaeus et alter publicanus
      11 Pharisaeus stans haec apud se orabat Deus gratias ago tibi quia non sum sicut ceteri hominum raptores iniusti adulteri vel ut etiam hic publicanus
      12 ieiuno bis in sabbato decimas do omnium quae possideo
      13 et publicanus a longe stans nolebat nec oculos ad caelum levare sed percutiebat pectus suum dicens Deus propitius esto mihi peccatoridico vobis
      14 descendit hic iustificatus in domum suam ab illo quia omnis qui se exaltat humiliabitur et qui se humiliat exaltabitur

  4. Peregrinus

    Interesting.

    Reading your comments, it strikes me that, apart from the JB, all the versions you consulted translated the third term as “justified”. And this, I think, is because there isn’t an English word to describe the condition attained through righteousness. (Though the term coined by the JB translators isn’t a bad attempt, I think,)

    You suggest that the dikai-/dikoi words can be translated “in two directions”, employing either righteous and related words, or just and related words. But here already I stumble; as far as I’m concerned I agree with my dictionary which tells me that rightous means “acting or disposed to act rightly or justly; conforming to the precepts of divine law or accepted standards of morality; upright, virtuous”, and that just means “That does what is morally right, righteous; righteous in the sight of God; justified.” In other words, these are not really two different directions. Pretty much the same direction, in fact. And words like virtuous and moral don’t seem to be too far off the mark either.

    Of cousre, both righteous and just have connotations which distract. Employing righteous imports associations with self-righteousness. And, for an American congregation (and we must remember that the English lectionary is for Americans too!) it evokes the use of the word in some US circles to mean “genuine, authentic, wonderful, cool”, or simply to act as an intensifier (“complete, utter, out-and-out”). That, couples with the fact that there is no word for the condition attained through righteousness, makes me think that just is probably a more promising tool for the contemporary translator, even though it too has unwanted implications (that “the just” are somehow involved in judging, and in administerting justice).

    I would question your claim that in the NT righteous doesn’t mean virtuous. I suppose it depends what we think virtuous means, but if righteous, for the Pharisees meant keeping the Torah, observing the commandments, conforming one’s life to the will of God for oneself, isn’t that pretty close to at least some classic Christian understandings of virtuous?

    • Father John Fleming

      Peregrinus, you say: “You suggest that the dikai-/dikoi words can be translated “in two directions”, employing either righteous and related words, or just and related words. But here already I stumble; as far as I’m concerned I agree with my dictionary which tells me that rightous means “acting or disposed to act rightly or justly; conforming to the precepts of divine law or accepted standards of morality; upright, virtuous”, and that just means “That does what is morally right, righteous; righteous in the sight of God; justified.” In other words, these are not really two different directions. Pretty much the same direction, in fact. And words like virtuous and moral don’t seem to be too far off the mark either.” But you simply can’t do Biblical Theology by reference to the COD. Try the Jerome Biblical Commentary. Righteousness is more a judicial concept in Hebraic thought, that is one who obeys the law. The virtuous man is one who goes much further than mere legal prescription. He, for example, acts kindly to all and not just to members of his own community. Which is where Aristotle’s idea of virtue and Christ’s injunction to go well beyond mere (and limited) legal prescriptions are in harmony. Do not commit adultery, and if you don’t, then you are innocent before the law. But the virtuous man is the one who does not look at a woman with adultery in his heart (eg mentally undressing her).

      • Which is where Aristotle’s idea of virtue and Christ’s injunction to go well beyond mere (and limited) legal prescriptions are in harmony.

        First century Jews (except perhaps Philo) did not use “dikaios” in Aristotelian terms of virtue. It was not a philosophical idea, but a religious idea. It had specific reference to those who were the heirs of the covenant, ie. who would inherit the land and share in the age to come. This was not a vague idea of “virtue” (about which one could have argued what was and was not “virtuous”) but about Torah observance, which worked as the badge identifying you as a child of Abraham.

        • Father John Fleming

          Well, goodness me, isn’t that the point I am making? The synthesis between faith and reason upon which Aquinas relied means that Aristotle’s reason or philosophy is in harmony with the teachings of Christ (revelation). I said harmony and harmony does not mean the “same thing” as!

          • Father John Fleming

            And if I might add, David, that synthesis was developed over centuries. Which is why virtue has become a very sophisticated developed idea in Catholic moral theology.

            • Yes, and I am not rejecting that centuries old tradition and synthesis in any way. The problem comes when this synthesis is read back into the exegesis of the scriptural passages, thus missing an important element in the understanding of the passage (nb. I am not saying that the passage cannot be legitimately understood in other ways, but that we must have appreciation for how it sounded to the first readers). When it comes to the Lutheran Catholic dialogue, it is quite appropriate to argue about “infused grace” or “imparted righteousness” over against “imputed righteousness” and “forensic justification”, as long as we understand that this was not Paul’s argument. And that is important, because the Lutheran argument is that Catholic doctrine is “unscriptural”, not “untrue”. The fact is that Lutheran doctrine is “unscriptural” too, because the scriptures they quote to support their position doesn’t address their position any more than it addresses the Catholic position.

    • Reading your comments, it strikes me that, apart from the JB, all the versions you consulted translated the third term as “justified”. And this, I think, is because there isn’t an English word to describe the condition attained through righteousness. (Though the term coined by the JB translators isn’t a bad attempt, I think,)

      I agree that the phrase coined by the JB translators is fairly good “at rights with God”. N.T. Wright often speaks of God’s Righteousness showing itself by the way in which he “sets Israel, the Gentiles, and the whole creation to rights”. It is possible to translate the dikai- stem solely by using the term “righteous”. “Justified” then becomes “shown to be righteous”, in the sense of “vindicated” as belonging to God’s elect.

      as far as I’m concerned I agree with my dictionary which tells me that rightous means “acting or disposed to act rightly or justly; conforming to the precepts of divine law or accepted standards of morality; upright, virtuous”, and that just means “That does what is morally right, righteous; righteous in the sight of God; justified.”

      The dictionary term does not help us understand what it meant for the first century Jew to be “zadik”, ie. one of “the Righteous”. This is the problem with the word in English, as it carries a dominant moral or ethical overtone. Functionally, for the first century Jew, it was about who was a true child of Abraham, hence one of the Elect, who would, on the Day of the Lord, be declared to be among the Righteous.

      I would question your claim that in the NT righteous doesn’t mean virtuous. I suppose it depends what we think virtuous means, but if righteous, for the Pharisees meant keeping the Torah, observing the commandments, conforming one’s life to the will of God for oneself, isn’t that pretty close to at least some classic Christian understandings of virtuous?

      Yes, but for the Pharisee “righteous” was a word that distinguished Torah observers as a group from non-Torah observers, such as gentiles and tax collectors. And low and behold, that is exactly the paradigm that this parable is working with!

      • Peregrinus

        Gentlemen,

        Thanks you both.

        Fr Fleming: “Righteousness is more a judicial concept in Hebraic thought, that is one who obeys the law.”

        David: “Functionally, for the first century Jew, [righteousness] was about who was a true child of Abraham, hence one of the Elect, who would, on the Day of the Lord, be declared to be among the Righteous . . . [F]or the Pharisee “righteous” was a word that distinguished Torah observers as a group from non-Torah observers, such as gentiles and tax collectors.”

        OK, that helps. And it stands against Jesus’ use of a dikai-stemmed word to describe the humble tax-collector; Jesus is offering us an entirely different concept of righteousness, founded on repentance and the hope of future mercy, rather than on the assumption of assured divine favour arising from viewing the Covenant as a “done deal”.

        Fr Fleming: But you simply can’t do Biblical Theology by reference to the COD.

        David: The dictionary term does not help us understand what it meant for the first century Jew to be “zadik”, ie. one of “the Righteous”.

        Yes, the dictionary can only take us so far. On the other hand, when we’re talking about translating the scriptures into English, we do in fact have to work with English words and what they actually mean – as in, what English speakers understand them to mean – and the dictionary is undeniably helpful here.

        The thing is, the concept of righteousness which David describes is not really a concept current in any English-speaking culture, and therefore English doesn’t have a word which neatly describes it. Whatever word the translator uses here is going to need some explication before the speaker of demotic English correctly understands it.

        And this might point towards employing righteous or some cognate word to describe the Pharisaic concept. It’s an old-fashioned word, almost archaic; it points to the need for some kind of unpacking before it can be properly understood.

        But maybe this also argues against using the same word for the rival concept offered by Jesus. The state of heart and mind exemplified by the tax-collector and commended by Jesus is not to be presented as something archaic and old-fashioned..

        For the first century Jews for whom the Gospel was originally written, the Pharisaic concept was familiar and it was Jesus’ concept which was unfamiliar and difficult to grasp; for the twentieth century anglophone Christian, the reverse is the case. If the translator uses righteous for both concepts, maybe that will work to suggest that what Jesus is offering is as obsolete as Pharisaic righteousness is, instead of suggesting what would have been suggested to the original audience, that it was as relevant and necessary as Pharasaic righteousness was understood to be. There may therefore be a case for using different words to make clear that Jesus is offering a radically different standard, and leaving it to the exegete to explain how this was presented to the first-century readership.

    • Pere,
      How about “rightwising”?
      Probably pretty archaic now, but otherwise I think it has a lot going for it.

      • Peregrinus

        Well, my dictionary (down, Father, down!) tells me that, etymologically, righteous “apparently” comes from right plus either

        (a) the word wise (in the sense of ‘wisdom’), so that a person is righteous if he acts both well/correctly and and wisely; or

        (b) the suffix -wise (in the sense of ‘in the fashion of’), so that an act or a person is righteous if he acts in a good/correct fashion.

        But I don’t know about “rightwising”. This word isn’t so much archaic as non-existent. The OED doesn’t know about it.

        The earliest citiation for righteous in the OED is from a Mercian Old English translation (from the Vulgate) of the Psalter, in which Ps 11, 8 . . .

        Quoniam iustus Dominus, et iustitiam dilexit

        . . . is rendered as . . .

        for don rehtwis dryhten & rehtwisnisse lufad.

        (Those are not ‘d’s in don and lufad. The’re a letter form called “eth” which is no longer used in English. But never mind that.)

        This suggests that the noun from rightwise would be rightwiseness. Somehow I don’t see this as a flyer for a contemporary English translation!

        • Alas, Pere!

          Meanwhile, Fr Fleming has put David into a tight corner. I’m waiting to see if he can escape.

          • Should have said: What’s wrong with a neologism, then?
            Anyway, ‘rightwiseness’ and the verb ‘to rightwise’ are probably the closest English equivalents to what Paul meant.
            But yes, I agree, they don’t fly in contemporary English.
            Perhaps best simplified, then, as ‘right (with God)’ and ‘to set right (with God)’ then? Prosaic, but as accurate as can be.

            • And it means just a little more than that. “Right with God” in respect to what? Sin? Yes, indeed, but also with respect to judgment. Note Jesus’ saying in John 16:8ff, where he actually distinguishes between “sin”, “righteousness” and “judgment”. Were these primarily personal moral categories in 1st Century Judaism (ie. to do with “virtue”), or were they in fact perceived as legal (in the sense of nomic or Torah) categories? I believe Wright is correct to say they are the latter.

          • Hm? Has he? I didn’t think so. Did I answer it to your satisfaction above? Basically, Fr J. is right, there has been a synthesis over the many centuries between the Greek view of “virtue” and the Hebrew view of “righteousness”, and, to the extent that the Church’s search is always for that which is TRUE (and NOT necessarily always that which is “scriptural”, granting that there do exist categories of things which are “true” and are not witnessed to directly in the scriptures as such) that is a perfectly legitimate synthesis of knowledge.

            That being said, the “synthesis” had not yet occured at the time of the writing of the New Testament, and we must at least be aware that when we read the result of the synthesis back into the Scriptures, we are in fact doing so, and not listening directly to what the Scriptures themselves say. (I do acknowledge that the extent to which we are ABLE to do this is limited by a number of considerations, not least the fact that we are not first century Jews!)

            But since the argument between Catholics and Lutherans has always been on the basis of scripture, my suggestion is that we let Scripture speak for itself as much as possible at least in the initial stage of the dialogue on this matter, and only bring the results of the “synthesis” in afterwards. In part, the JDDJ got this methodology correct when it started with “the Biblical witness”, but unfortunately, this section of the declaration was fairly inadequate for the task and was soon left behind in the discussion.

            • Father John Fleming

              I certainly did not mean to say that I put David into a corner. But I must say that I really do disagree with him, not at all on his Biblical exegesis per se, but on the way he uses that exegesis more broadly. For example, David says: “The problem comes when this synthesis is read back into the exegesis of the scriptural passages, thus missing an important element in the understanding of the passage.” This is really to misunderstand the whole thing about the synthesis which is that we have to use philosophy (reasoning) to make sense of the Scriptures. David does it in the process of exegesis. And the truth is, I believe, that the profundity of difference between the accepted notion of righteousness by pious Jews in the first century AD and what Christ teaches us about righteousness, is very suitably explicated by the use of Aristotle as the Angelic Doctor says. And as the then Cardinal Ratzinger put it so well, that there was nothing new in the encounter by the Church with Greek culture. It “had already developed within the writings of the Old Testament, above all when they were translated into Greek.”

              Second, David says: “But since the argument between Catholics and Lutherans has always been on the basis of scripture, my suggestion is that we let Scripture speak for itself as much as possible …” Well, that is just plain wrong, in my opinion. Luther rejected the synthesis, was nevertheless a nominalist, and brought his personal doctrinal preferences to Scripture, even wanting to purge certain books and Letters out of the Canon because they did not accord with his personal philosophical interpretation of the Scriptures. Philosophy always has been, always will e, involved in exegesis. Which is my point.

              • No, you are using the word “exegesis” incorrectly, Fr John. Exegesis is the process of determining what the text says. After that comes interpretation (determining what it says in terms of the teaching of the Church) and application (to our situation now many centuries hence). The place of the synthesis is in the latter, not the former. Of course we use philosophy in drawing out the full implications of any given Scriptural text, but that isn’t the starting point of exegesis. You are correct in saying Luther rejected the synthesis. I am not doing that, I am only saying we should not read the texts in an anachronistic way. This is, to take an obvious instance, what happens when certain Christians do when they read the first chapters of Genesis – they try to use it in a “scientific” way, thus seeing Genesis 1 in conflict with holding an scientific evolutionary view of origins.

                • Father John Fleming

                  Well, NO, David, I am not using the word “exegesis” incorrectly. And the sentence you quote from me makes that clear and proves you wrong. I agree with your exegesis but not with the way you use it as you move from exegesis to interpretation without really acknowledging that is what you are doing. And the reason for this is, I suspect, that most Biblical scholars do not themselves make a clear demarcation between the two activities. And the reason for this in turn may well be that it is difficult to draw the line between the two.

                  • This is becoming a little unseemly, but re-reading what you wrote, both here and above, I think I am beginning to understand what you are trying to say.

                    Does it clarify matters if I say that I agree exegesis is about the literal sense of the text, and that other valid readings of the text (traditionally, the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses) are to build upon that? Does it also clarify matters if I agree that one’s philosophical point of view certainly cannot but influence how one reads the text “literally” in the first place?

                    I believe there are many tools available to us today that can strengthen our ability to exegise the scriptural text. Some of these are more helpful than others. Source-criticism and textual criticism, for instance, have only be useful to a certain degree. More helpful, I feel, are linguistic, literary and historical (including socio-historical) tools.

                    While of course one’s personally held philosophy affects one’s exegesis (one’s Weltanschauung, for instance) yet the real philosophical tool for understanding the text would be to attempt to grasp the philosophical Weltanschauung of the author, and of the author’s culture, rather than our own. Keeping proper distinctions then would be making use of our own philosophical standpoint at the interpretation stage and being as clear and as conscious about this as possible (which may not always be to a very great degree, admittedly).

                    But first things first. Start at the beginning – the text and its author and its time and its original readers (to the extent that we are able) – and then follow through to all the other senses in which the text may be legitimately read.

                    And of course, this only applies where the literal exegesis of the text is made the foundation for an argument. There are some readings of texts, for instance in the mystical tradition, which owe very little to the original exegesis. This does not make their application in this sense invalid, but we need to be aware of what is happening here.

                    An eg.

                    I recently heard a debate on the question of whether or not the doctrine of the Assumption of our Lady was “revealed” where the protestant debator rejected the use of scripture in Pius XII’s solemn definition of the doctrine. One needs to agree, I think, that on the basis of literal exegesis, these texts would not be seen to be speaking directly about Mary. St Anthony’s use of Isaiah 61:13 comes to mind. But this does not make this “spiritual” reading of the passage invalid. It simply must be said that this is not the “literal” (ie. exegetical) meaning of the text in its original context. The Church is quite free to make a new “spiritual” or “moral” application of the text, as for instance Matthew did with Isaiah 7:14, or Luke with Ps 109:8 (acts 1:17).

                    • Father John Fleming

                      Not at all unseemly! I enjoy all of your contributions. And, I completely agree with ‘literally’ everything you have just said.

                      The Angelic Doctor made the same sort of point some centuries ago. (St Thomas Aquinas 1a, 1, a 10)
                      For St Thomas, God is the author of the sacred texts and uses human instruments for his purpose. So, as you say, we need to know exactly what the words mean, ie what do the words literally say, ie as pieces of literature, as distinct from understanding in a literal way.
                      What kind of literature am I reading?
                      What literary devices are being used? What is the context, what figures of speech etc. So we are in total agreement as I thought we would be. My concern with many Biblical theologians is that they do not make the distinctions you make, and exegesis morphs into interpretations based upon a pre-existing but unacknowledged philosophical prism through which they view the texts. All of this is why I found your original post so important, taking us back to the Greek text, and recognising where there may not be an exact contemporary English single word which would do justice to the inspired author.

                      So if I have prodded you to enunciate clearly and more fully for us all just what is the approach you are taking that is good. And especially when this is exactly the approach that the Church teaches us we should be taking. Very Catholic, very sensible, and very helpful. So thank you, and apologies if you thought I was being too provocative or too aggressive.

                    • Not at all, Fr John. Once again, dialogue reaches understanding and clarity!

  5. Tony Bartel

    You can always come to my Church and hear it in the original Greek every Sunday (and in English too).

    • Peregrinus

      Problem solved!

    • Do you really have the readings in Greek in your Church, Tony? I thought you were Russian Orthodox?

      • Tony Bartel

        Russian Orthodox Churches are a bit short on the ground in Albury. I am an active member of our local Greek Orthodox Parish and am learnign some Byzantine chant.

        A few weeks ago, though, we were in Meblourne and heard the readings in the God inspired original Church Slavonic (and in English).

        Mostly though when we are in Melbourne we attend Good Shepherd Orthodox Church at Monash University where the services are in English.

        For an Australian convert I don’t think it matters so much whether you are a part of the Greek, Russian, Serbian or Antiochian etc traditions. They are really not that different. The important thing is Orthodoxy.

  6. Christine

    As I recall the original Jerusalem Bible wasn’t all that bad, the “revised” version is the problematic one. And isn’t the JB the Bible that uses the tetragrammaton,”Yahweh”, to reference the Lord — that has been banned for liturgical use in an attempt to be sensitive to Jewish concerns. I imagine Oregon Catholic Press is doing a lot of revising of their songs in order to make that purge.

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/yahweh_not_to_be_used_in_liturgy_songs_and_prayers_cardinal_arinze_says/

    The passage you quote, David, is unappealing to say the least.

    I don’t much care for the JB, I’ll take the RSV and even the NRSV over it any day (but acknowledge the value of the Vulgate).

    • Both the JB and the NJB use “yahweh”. I don’t know of anything specific in the NJB that is worse than the old JB, and there is much that is better. Of course, the JB and the NJB regularly use the “iustia” (justice) language to translate “zadik” and “dikaios”, following the Vulgate.

  7. Christine

    Hi David,

    According to one source:

    The New Jerusalem Bible uses more gender inclusive language than the Jerusalem Bible, but far less than many modern translations such as the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition which changes “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”, throughout the New Testament. . . it has become the most widely used Catholic translation in English-speaking countries.

    Like the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible makes the uncommon decision to render God’s name, the Tetragrammaton, in the Jewish scriptures as Yahweh rather than as LORD or Jehovah.

    It was also stated, however, that generally the NJB is a better translation than the old.

    The Vatican has taken this position:

    The Vatican has ruled that the Name of God, commonly rendered as “Yahweh,” should not be pronounced in the Catholic liturgy.

    The Vatican directive will not require any changes in the language of liturgy, since the Name of God is not spelled out in any authorized translation of the Roman Missal. However some hymns may be deemed inappropriate for liturgical use.

    The Congregation for Divine Worship, in issuing the new directive, reminds bishops that in the Hebrew tradition, which the early Christians adopted, the faithful avoided pronouncing the Name of God. The Vatican directive explains that “as an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable.”

    In place of the Name of God, pious Hebrews used the four-letter tetragammaton YHWH, or substituted the terms “Adonai” or “the Lord.” The first Christians continued this practice, the Vatican notes.

    I’m puzzled as to why it is okay to use Yahweh in a Catholic Biblical translation but not in a liturgical context?

    • Peregrinus

      I’m puzzled as to why it is okay to use Yahweh in a Catholic Biblical translation but not in a liturgical context?
      The Tetragrammaton appears in the Hebrew scriptures. There’s never been a tradition against reading or writing the Name; only against speaking it.

      • Wrong, Peregrinus. The fact is that until the JB came along, NO ENLGISH TRANSLATION ever used the word “Yahweh” for God. The Tetragrammaton is indeed in the Hebrew scriptures, but every translation since the Septuagint has used “LORD” for this this, not some made up form of the Tetragrammaton.

        • Peregrinus

          I should perhaps have said that there has never been a Jewish tradition against have the Tetragrammaton written in the scriptures; to this day, modern editions of the Hebrew scriptures produced by Jewish organisations and instutions use it. It’s not to be spoken, but it can be and is printed.

          I think the problem facing the translators of the Septaguint, the Vulgate and later translations was this: there isn’t a word in any of these language which corresponds to the Tetragrammaton. Theos, Deus, etc can refer to any god, including a false god; they are not unique to God. But they’re a close as you can get, especially when you don’t know how the Tetragrammaton was pronounced, making a transliteration impossible. So they either use “God” or its equivalent, or the translate from the pointing of Adonai (“Lord”) rather from the letters of the Tetragrammaton, because they have no way to translate the Tetragrammaton itself. Tyndale and the AV both used “Jehovah” And of course pretty well all bible translations retain the Name in the expression “Alleluia”.

          Unless I’m mistaken, the recent directive from the Vatican refers only to the use of Yahweh in the liturgy; that’s why it matters to hymns. It doesn’t say anything about scripture generally. As you know, the JB has been used for lectionary purposes in most of the English speaking world, with the substitution of “Lord” for “Yahweh”. There’s no reason why this couldn’t continue. (That’s not to say that translators might not prefer not to use Yahweh; but the Vatican directive doe not require this. The next edition of the JB will not use Yahweh, but this decision predates the Vatican directive.)

    • Well, it isn’t “okay to use Yahweh in a Catholic Biblical translation”. The point is that the JB and NJB predated this clear ruling from the Vatican – unfortunately!

  8. Christine

    But they’re a close as you can get, especially when you don’t know how the Tetragrammaton was pronounced, making a transliteration impossible.

    Yes, I think that’s generally known. But to see how badly it’s become mangled in English translation one only has to think of the “Jehovah’s” witnesses and their unorthodox
    “New World” bible translation.