Thursday, March 31, 2011

Christ Died For All

The Roman Missal, Third Edition, is scheduled for implementation on Sunday, November 27, 2011, the First Sunday of Advent.

This missal is a new translation of the prayers we use at Mass. One of the changes is the response of the congregation to the presider's greeting. He says, "The Lord be with you." The congregation's new response will be "And with your spirit."

The theory behind the new translation is called "formal equivalency," or the Vatican's insistence that the English translation should more closely reflect the Latin words.

The translation we have been using, "And also with you," is described as a "dynamic equivalent," or how we would normally respond in English rather than a word for word rendering of the Latin expression "Et cum spiritu tuo."

Everyone who translates knows that a translator must also be an interpreter, that literal translations from one language into another can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication. In English we we can say that a person who has died "has bought the farm" or "kicked the bucket" or "passed away." Making literal translations from English into another language may well distort the meaning and halt the communication.

I don't know if this example is really valid, but I like it very much. According to the story, the biblical quotation in English was "The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

When a translator rendered it literally in Russian, the meaning was considerably changed: "The booze is OK, but the meat is rotten."

In the new edition of the missal, the words used during the consecration of the wine at Mass will change from "It will be shed for you and for all" to "which will be poured out for you and for many."

Critics of the change ask whether people will begin to think that Christ's blood was shed for many but not for all. Since the way we pray affects the way we believe, the criticism has some validity.

On the other hand the New American Bible translations of the Last Supper accounts in Matthew 26-28 and Mark 14:24 speak of Jesus' blood being shed for many. In both instances the original Greek term is pollus, which is usually rendered "many."

Some Scripture scholars, however, note that the Greek word pollus is a translation of a Hebrew expression which really means "all." The New American Bible notation for Matthew 20:28 (where it says that Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many) explains, "Many does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who will benefit from the service of the one, and is equivalent to 'all.'"

Other scholars think many refers to the community of believers, even though the Greek does not say "the many."

Scholars Albright and Mann accept both interpretations, clarifying the matter in these words: "Generally speaking it seems to be assumed that the community is in some sense a synonym for all, else how explain the Pauline assumption that the sacrificial death of Jesus was of potentially universal efficacy?"

No wonder the Italian novelist Umberto Eco famously said, "Translation is the art of failure."

If the way we pray is the way we believe, we will have to be careful not to interpret the many of the institutional narrative in a restrictive way. For clearly the New Testament and the Church's magisterium affirm the universality of Christ's redemption. He died for all.

No comments:

Post a Comment