Sunday, September 27, 2015

Knox vs. The Message: Numbers 11:25-29

It has been a few months, but I have decided to resurrect the old "Knox vs. The Message" Sunday post.  If you like it, I may continue with it into the future.  Each week I will pick one of the Sunday readings to compare between the two translations.  While done in different ways, I think both Knox and Peterson desired to make the Bible more accessible to the average reader.  Let's see if they were successful.

And when the Lord came down, hidden in the cloud, to converse with him, he took some of the spirit which rested upon Moses and gave it to the seventy elders instead; whereupon they received a gift of prophecy which never left them. This same spirit rested even upon two men, Eldad and Medad, who were still in the camp; their names were enrolled among the rest; but they had never gone out to the tabernacle. There in the camp they fell a-prophesying, and a messenger ran to bring Moses tidings of it. At this, Josue the son of Nun, that was Moses’ favourite servant, cried out, My lord Moses, bid them keep silence. What, said he, so jealous for my honour? For myself, I would have the whole people prophesy, with the spirit of the Lord resting on them too.

The Message:
God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied. But they didn’t continue; it was a onetime event. Meanwhile two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were listed as leaders but they didn’t leave camp to go to the Tent. Still, the Spirit also rested on them and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ right-hand man since his youth, said, “Moses, master! Stop them!” But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”


Jason P said...

What I find most interesting is the fact the Knox reads "the gift of prophecy never left them". The MSG reads it was a one time event. This difference is glaring in these dynamic translations - the DR and NAB make it not quite so obvious.

So what is going on here? What does the underlying Latin and Hebrew read like?

Was this a Vulgate translation error? How does the Nova Vulgata read? Or is this one of those LV/LXX variants? How do the DSS read here?

Is there a way to make an apologia to reconcile both readings?

Jason P said...

Numbers 11:25 it appears in the Hebrew Masoretic Text to read “ולא יספו” which can be transliterated as “u lo isphu” which can be transcribed as “u loh yawsaf”. The u can be ignored, it simply means and here. So we have to determine what “loh yawsaf” means. St. Jerome translated it into Latin as “nec ultra cessarunt”, which becomes in English from the DR “nor did they cease afterwards”. The King James translators also interpreted loh yawsaf to mean “and did not cease”. Now is when we run into slight issues however. A literal concordant translation of u loh yawsaf means “and not they added”. Strong’s concordance H3808 lo' lo

or lowi {lo};

or loh (Deut. 3:11) {lo}; a primitive particle; not (the simple or abs. negation); by implication, no; often used with other particles (as follows)...,(can-), for) not (out of), of nought, otherwise, out of, + surely, + as truly as, + of a truth, + verily, for want, + whether, without.

And yacaph yaw-saf'

a primitive root;

to add or augment (often adverbial, to continue to do a thing).

To complicate matters even further, the Greek Septuagint translators interpreted this as “ετι προσεθεντο” which can be transliterated “ouketi prostithemi” which Brenton translated in his English Septuagint as simply “and ceased”.
Other modern translations read “but not again” (Jerusalem Bible) and “but did not continue” (NABRE).
In conclusion, it seems that the best thing to do would be to translate it literally in the way the Latin translated it, as “nor did they cease afterwards” and to relegate to a footnote that “Hebrew is obscure, can also be translated and ceased, but did not continue, etc.”. Our Catholic Bibles, in cases of questionable translations like this, should, IMO, always stick to our Latin patrimony and reference the Vulgate Latin textual tradition. And I believe this is what Liturgiam Authenticum was trying to say in cases like this.
And lastly, an apologia I thought of was this – the Spirit remained in them, so the gift of prophecy was still there, but they never expressly prophesied again – therefore both translations are valid. They ceased prophesying but the Spirit and gift of prophecy remained.

CWBuckley said...

Great analysis Jason. You're spot on when you point out the Church mandate to align disputed readings with the Vulgate tradition in Catholic Bible translations.

Interesting to note:
-Douay Rheims-Challoner renders it "nor did they cease afterward." - consistent with the sense of the Vulgate
-RSV-2CE renders it "But they did so no more" - consistent with the likely rendering of the obsure original Hebrew

As you can tell from my recent posts, and from my forthcoming guest post on Knox, as a non-cradle Catholic, I'm learning to appreciate the Vulgate as a trusted source. This is a perfect example.

Reading a lot from Knox and the DRC lately, I'm coming to appreciate the Vulgate as an authoritative guide to the original sense of scripture... not JUST because the Church said so in Trent, but for critical reasons:

1) Jerome was more than 1,000 years closer to the original manuscript tradition than any modern translator, no matter how complete the textual basis. Any Hebrew or Greek texts he read alongside the Church's old Latin are clearly superior to anything we have today.

2) Both the Vulgate and the Septuagint (notice they align in this instance) arguably preserve the contemporary interpretation of Scripture in their chosen renderings. The Greek Septuagint gives us a good sense of what Jews and Christians, especially the Apostle Paul, understood scripture to mean through the first century. The Vulgate gives us a good understanding of what they understood Scripture to mean through the Fourth Century.

As an academic Protestant, I would have called this "textual corruption." As a Catholic, I now understand they help us understand the original interpretation of Scripture precisely BECAUSE they differ from the original languages. [That's how we have "virgin" at Is 7:14 in both the Septuagint and the Vulgate - even first Century Judaism seems to have read that passage as referring to a miraculous birth as the prophet's sign, and possibly in connection with the Messiah. But you wouldn't know that if all you had to go on was the original Hebrew. Reading contemporary translations like the Septuagint gives you a much clearer understanding of what the ancient world thought it meant.]

That's given me a new appreciation of the Douay Rheims-Challoner, in particular, which seems to have taken a more "rabbinic" approach to rendering the Vulgate into English. A parallel reading shows that the English renders the Latin almost word for word, in order as well as sense. In the introduction to my DRC, I've read that the translators purposefully opted not to clarify obscure Latin, but merely to render it word-for-word. No matter how confusing, it was better in their minds to capture the mystery of the Scripture and not try to clean it up for a likely reading, lest they translate out possible meaning yet to be revealed. Even Knox, translating the same Vulgate, took tremendous interpretive liberties by comparison to create the most literary and readable result.

So the real question becomes: which approved Catholic translations can be shown to conform their English rendering to the Latin Vulgate when an obscurity in the original language can be read consistently with the Latin?

Clearly the DRC, and also the RSV-2CE. Any others?

Jason P said...

The Douay Rheims is, unfortunately, the only reliable formal equivalence English translation of the Vulgate we have. The 1941 Confraternity is solid too, but it is NT only. The OT is simply the 1970 NAB.

The Knox is good and literary, but not a formal translation so much as dynamic. Dynamic translations are useful for reading and comparison, but for a primary study Bible formal equivalence is really best.

One little thing Christopher - the LXX agrees with the modern translations. It is interesting though that the Vulgate interpretation was followed by the KJV translators.

I am a big fan of the Douay Rheims.... I think it is the gold standard of English Catholic Bibles. I would love to see a modern English Bible use the DRC as a base, and cross check it with the UBS Greek and BHS MT and Nova Vulgata.

In the meantime I will continue using my DRC, Didache NABRE and CTS JB in conjunction with eachother, and pray that the 2025 NAB will be a good update

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your excellent language analysis. However, I cannot whole heartedly agree with you (and Chris’s) view that the Vulgate should be the arbiter in translation disagreements; and after that the D-R or D-R Challoner. First the D-R, D-R Challoner and also the Knox are translations of a translation (Vulgate). These books are all scholarly and provide great incite in understanding scripture. However, so do commentaries which are also of great value. In regards to the Vulgate as a translation, the view of the Church has changed or rather has evolved. In Divino Afflante Spritu the church indicates that there is no error in faith and morals in Jerome’s Vulgate. However, in both Dei Verbum and Divino Afflante Spiritu, the sentiment regarding translation, that the original texts be used, is best captured by paragraph 16 of Divino Afflante Spiritu.
“16. Wherefore let him diligently apply himself so as to acquire daily a greater facility in biblical as well as in other oriental languages and to support his interpretation by the aids which all branches of philology supply. This indeed St. Jerome strove earnestly to achieve, as far as the science of his time permitted; to this also aspired with untiring zeal and no small fruit not a few of the great exegetes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although the knowledge of languages then was much less than at the present day. In like manner therefore ought we to explain the original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern; this can be done all the more easily and fruitfully, if to the knowledge of languages be joined a real skill in literary criticism of the same text.”
Further, it should be noted that the text of Dei Verbum is even weaker then Divino Afflante Spritu regarding support of the Vulgate, as it only gives the Vulgate along with the Septuagint a “place of honor” (Chapter 22). Personally, I don’t like the term “place of honor” as it connotes retired; as it was useful in the past but no longer needed.
In my mind, a great source of confusion is the position of the Church regarding “original text” of the Old Testament. In my reading when I ask the question to the church: Is the Hebrew text or the Septuagint the original text? The answer I get is: Yes.


CWBuckley said...

Thanks Jim-

Yeah, I'm fully aware of the newer emphasis from Divino afflante spiritu and Dei verbum on including the original languages in modern translations.

But note, the Church is NOT saying that we chuck the Vulgate IN FAVOR of the original languages alone. It's a misconception to think that the Vulgate is merely "a translation," and that we must default to the original languages when they are in conflict.

The Church's stance, as I understand it, is quite different.
-The normative Bible for the universal Church, by decree of the Council of Trent, remains the Latin Vulgate. Both its contents and the meaning it captures are to guide Catholic doctrine, as they capture the intended sense of Scripture preserved by Apostolic tradition.
-While we are to be guided by textual analysis of the original languages, when a reading conflicts with the Latin Vulgate or is obscure and can be read validly in the sense of the Vulgate, then the Vulgate tradition must govern the translation, especially for texts used liturgically.

In Liturgiam authenticum, the Church specifically clarified its guidance around this point.

See esp:

23. In the translation of texts of ecclesiastical composition, while it is useful with the assistance of historical and other scientific tools to consult a source that may have been discovered for the same text, nevertheless it is always the text of the Latin editio typica itself that is to be translated.

27. ...In translating biblical passages where seemingly inelegant words or expressions are used, a hasty tendency to sanitize this characteristic is likewise to be avoided.

37. If the biblical translation from which the Lectionary is composed exhibits readings that differ from those set forth in the Latin liturgical text, it should be borne in mind that the Nova Vulgata Editio is the point of reference as regards the delineation of the canonical text.[32] Thus, in the translation of the deuterocanonical books and wherever else there may exist varying manuscript traditions, the liturgical translation must be prepared in accordance with the same manuscript tradition that the Nova Vulgata has followed. If a previously prepared translation reflects a choice that departs from that which is found in the Nova Vulgata Editio as regards the underlying textual tradition, the order of verses, or similar factors, the discrepancy needs to be remedied in the preparation of any Lectionary so that conformity with the Latin liturgical text may be maintained. In preparing new translations, it would be helpful, though not obligatory, that the numbering of the verses also follow that of the same text as closely as possible.

41. The effort should be made to ensure that the translations be conformed to that understanding of biblical passages which has been handed down by liturgical use and by the tradition of the Fathers of the Church, especially as regards very important texts such as the Psalms and the readings used for the principal celebrations of the liturgical year; in these cases the greatest care is to be taken so that the translation express the traditional Christological, typological and spiritual sense, and manifest the unity and the inter-relatedness of the two Testaments.

Jason P said...

What Christopher said.

DAS, DV and LA all point to that. We ought to use the Hebrew MT and Greek NT as our base text - when variants are observes between those and the ancient versions, the Vulgate is to be consulted to settle disputed readings - especially in texts which will be used liturgically.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting me on to Liturgiam authenticam. What follows is only from a rather quick reading. Thus, what I write does not come from a lot of confidence. I think we are perhaps approaching Biblical translation from two very different directions. The 2001 Liturgiam authenticam is essentially a handbook for translations from Latin to the vernacular of the liturgies. It seems to largely refer to the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Word (the Lectionary). The new Mass (2012) appears to follow this pattern. (Now I understand why the Collect prayer at Mass is now so difficult to read aloud: From Liturgiam authenticam 27. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals; thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression.)
Dei Verbum approaches Bible Translation from a view of Biblical study not of the use of the words in the liturgy and the lectionary. The purpose of these Biblical translations in the vernacular is for purposes for private use and study. The NABRE, as an example, cannot be used in the Lectionary as it does not pass the criteria in the Liturgiam authenticam. The exception is the Psalms in the NABRE; which when finally approved, caused a delay in the publication of the NABRE by three or four years. The primary criteria for Lectionary conformance is that it closely follows the Nova Vulgata Editio. To my knowledge, we do not have a translation of this version into English. Thus, unless we are Latin scholars, it will be difficult to use as a reference tool. As its title says this is a new Vulgate; it is not the Vulgate that progresses from Jerome; but rather a new translation from the ancient languages with deference to Jerome. We cannot ignore that with 1600 years of use the Magisterium/Tradition has absorbed Jerome’s words.
My bottom line is that when we look at translations in the context of Biblical study we should look to Dei Verbum for guidance; when we look to the development of liturgy the focus is different as we are looking to get to as close as possible “one Mass for the World.”
After reading Liturgiam authenticam I think the goals as promulgated by USCCB of the revised NABRE New Testament are not achievable (Specifically that it will be used in the liturgy.) It will be achievable; (however, not desirable) only if the translators simply spend their time translating the Nova Vulgata Editio into English. Further, this new NABRE, if used for liturgical purposes will have no notes as paragraph 29 indicates that explanation is the job of Homilists and Catechists.
Christopher I share your goal in reading and studying the Bible in the best way possible. When I find myself questioning how to read something in the Bible I look at every resource possible including the Doughy Rheims; all the translations in BibleGateway, the Jerusalem Bible the New Jerusalem Bible. I am just not sure in every situation that I should defer to one translation. When truly in doubt as the meaning of a passage as it refers to Faith, Morals and Catholic teaching I think we all have to leave the Bible and go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


CWBuckley said...

You're right, but this document has become very important to translation of Scripture now too, insofar as it effects the use of Scripture in the liturgy.

The entire reason the RSV-2CE exists seems to be because Ignatius Press was required to make changes to its RSV lectionary in order for it to comply with the requirements of Liturgiam authenticum, and then proceeded to apply those same changes to the remainder of the Bible.

Similarly, full Bible translations that seek approval for use in liturgy as well as private study and devotion (like the NABRE, or the French La Bible - Traduction officielle liturgique) must seek to comply with LA, balancing their readings between scholarship in the original language as well as the meaning preserved in the Vulgate tradition.

A narrow bridge to be sure.

As if that weren't constraining enough, an additional directive from the Vatican in 2008 now also issues three directives guiding future Biblical translations when used in Liturgy:

-The first directive states, “In liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced.”
-The second directive says that in modern translations of the Bible “destined for the liturgical usage of the Church,” the tetragrammaton should be translated with an equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios, such as “Lord” in English, “Señor” in Spanish, etc., which has long been the practice of most biblical translations. -The third directive specifies that when Adonai and YHWH are used together in the Bible, then the translation (again for liturgical use) should be “Lord God,” following the practice of the ancient Greek and Latin translations of the Bible.

Again, this has little bearing on purely scholastic translations of the Bible that will never be used in liturgy.

However, most significant Bible translation projects, like the CCD's NABRE, the French La Bible - Traduction officielle liturgique, or even the Jerusalem Bible revision ("The Bible in Its Traditions), are attempting to make Bibles that are common texts in worship and study. As a former Protestant, that's an important step. We lack a lot of credibility among detractors because we can't read the same Bible we hear in mass, and the Lectionary texts we hear proclaimed in mass is not available as a stand alone Bible (except, perhaps, for the RSV-2CE used by Ordinariate parishes and in the Antilles).

Hopefully, the future NABRE NT revisions will close that gap in English so the Bishops will adopt it for use in the Lectionary once and for all.

CWBuckley said...

I always like comparing translations in features like this, so I hope you'll keep it Tim.

I also hope, though, that you'll consider including the Catholic Living Bible: just as clear as The Message, but unlike the Message it's fully approved and fully Catholic.

And the Lord came down in the Cloud and talked with Moses, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied for some time. But two of the seventy - Eldad and Medad - were still in the camp, and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied there. Some young men ran and told Moses what was happening, and Joshua (the son of Nun), one of Moses' personally chosen assistants, protested, "Sir, make them stop!" But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I only with that all of the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!"

rolf said...

I agree with Christopher, I would like to see this post continue. I like comparing these translations to other translations that I have, which of course makes us dig into God' word a little deeper! Its funny that Christopher mentioned the 'The Living Bible, Catholic Edition' because this is the very first Bible that I had ever bought. I was not Christian or even Catholic but I bought this Bible as a present for my wife (who is Catholic) in the early 1990's. After these posts I started looking for it to use for comparison but I think I may have given it away years ago for a church rummage sale. But never fear ebay is here! I found the exact same Bible in like new condition and ordered it.