Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Not what I had intended for this evening..

When things are getting me down, and they sure are at the moment on the work front, I tend to take refuge in the Psalms. I usually use the Douay Rheims but tonight I thought I'd look in the KJV. Imagine my horror when I found the psalm I was saying has a completely different meaning in the KJV. I thought I'd better go back to the latin to reassure myself that the Douay Rheims was correct and yes, the Clementine Vulgate agreed beautifully. Hang on, thought I, I'd better check the Nova Vulgata, and yikes, it agrees with the KJV! What's a person supposed to do?

The psalm in question is Psalm 143 (144) Benedictus Dominus. In the latin the Clementine Vulgate has the word "eorum" meaning "their", in the Nova Vulgata this is changed to "nostra" meaning "our".

The Douay version is:
Their storehouses full, flowing out of this into that:
Their sheep fruitful in their goings forth:
their oxen fat.
There is no breach of wall, nor crying out in their streets.
They have called the people happy, that hath these things: but
happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

The KJV and for that matter the New Jerusalem, give the passage the following meaning:
That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets; That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

There is an ocean of difference in meaning between the two versions, and for someone who is struggling financially and having less than her fair share of what she is owed, I'm sticking with the Douay. The idea that it is the rich, successful persons whom God favours, frankly doesn't hold true.

I'd be grateful if any biblical scholars out there could enlighten me as to where the KJV picked up its different emphasis and how the Nova Vulgata happens to be so different from the Clementine Vulgate. The KJV version seems as alien to me as the "Protestant work ethic". It serves me right for looking.

Still, all this took my mind off some difficult decisions I'm going to have to make. Please keep me in your prayers, these are interesting times.


Irene said...

Rita, as I am sure you know, translating the bible is an impossible quagmire filled with quicksand.

The oldest text that we have available is the Septuagint (even antedates the Dead Sea scrolls) -- Vaticainus is readily available, but Sinaticus and Origen's hexapla are not too hard to find either. I will dig out my copy of Vaticainus this evening and see what I can do with the passage.

The Vulgate does provide some additional enlightenment, in that Jerome had access to some older manuscripts that have long since disappeared.

KJV may be noble English, but the OT is based upon late medieval Hebrew manuscripts that were heavily edited by the Masoretes. And the Stuarts had a political ax to grind.

Irene said...

Rita, please excuse the pedantic tone of my first post; I'll try to do better this time.

(1) I think it all becomes clear in Vaticanus. Beginning with verse 11, the author asks for deliverance from people whom the world considers successful -- the Paris Hiltons of the day, if you will -- and he describes their successes in detail.

Then comes verse 15, which turns the whole thing on its head. He states "Men bless the people to whom this (worldly success) belongs, BUT blessed are the people whose God is the Lord."

Obviously, the Douay version is closest to Vaticanus, and I would have no trouble accepting it.

(2) We are always taught (CCC, documents of VII) that scripture must be intepreted in its entirety. You know as well as I do how often in the gospels Jesus condemns materialism and praises the poor who have given up everything (to follow him) -- think St. Francis. Therefore, once again the Douay version is to be accepted.

(3) I dug out an old KJV, 1611 version. It is indeed changed as you stated. Permit me to suggest that the KJV was commissioned by king James I expressly to impose a common English translation that would be favorable to the Stuart monarchy. It is no surprise the "scholars" twisted verses to support materialism; after all, their salaries and their heads depended upon their product.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Don't know about the 2 Latin texts-but I trust crotetchy ol' St Jerome so it's the Vulgate for me and the DR was from the Vulgate-of course the Eng was from the French...
But like you I don't believe the health and wealth Gospel (I'm a crip with no money!!!) All Scripture holds together so the DR seems more accurate in the English to me.

Rita said...

Thanks Ladies for your comments.

I'm sure the DR version has the sense intended by the original author. It links better with the sentiment of Hannah's song (1Samuel 2:1-11) and with the Magnificat for that matter.

What worries me is that the bible Catholics in the UK are supposed to use, the New Jerusalem, is like the Nova Vulgata (Vatican endorsed)and the latin of this gives the passage the opposite meaning; the meaning that the KJV has! Where did it come from? The source texts were obviously around in the 1600s to allow the KJV to pick up that meaning. They were obviously considered worthy enough for the 20th Century Vatican scholars to use in the Nova Vulgata.

I don't want to be a traddie and retreat entirely into the world of the Clementine Vulgate, I just want the truth.......

Irene said...

Rita, God alone knows what the sense intended was, or who the original author was.

The essence of the problem is that we do not have an autograph of a single book of the bible. The closest we come is a tiny fragment of John written within 15 years of his death, so possibly copied from the autograph. Existing manuscripts are not uniform, and scholars never arrive at a consensus of the original text.

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947), the earliest manuscripts we had of the old testament in Hebrew was from the 10th century. Unfortunately, after 135 AD the Jewish scholars had expurgated/edited/altered the passages that Christians viewed as prophecies of Jesus, so these later manuscripts cannot be relied upon.

Everyone once expected the Dead Sea Scrolls to solve all these issues. Unfortunately, the Dead Sea scrolls included multiple copies of several books -- and the copies differed! Many of these copies were closer to the Septuagint than the Masoretic text.

The Septuagint was translated more than 200 years before Jesus was born, so arguably is the oldest witness we have to the OT text. It remained official for the church until the time of Jerome, and was used for the 50 bibles Constantine ordered Eusebius to prepare about 330 AD. Some people think that Vaticanus and Sinaticus are two survivors of these bibles. We have earlier witness to the Septuagint in the Hexepla of Origen, which was prepared before 250.

I don't think it makes you a "traddie" (is that necessarily bad?) if you prefer the (Clementine) Vulgate. Nor does it make you wrong if you prefer another translation.
So since God alone knows the intended sense of any passage, I suggest that you read, pray, and meditate. God will show you the way.

Rita said...

Thank you so much Irene. I am very grateful for the amount of effort you have put into answering this for me.

It is a concern for me though as the Divine Office uses the "modern" KJV-like version. I hadn't even recognised it as the same psalm until I started this blog! I don't want to be praying the office and looking for alternate versions of some of the psalms because I don't "agree" with them.

I'm sure I can eek some truth out of the "modern" version....I just wish we were not faced with this choice!

Mac McLernon said...

Of all the modern versions, I think that the New Jerusalem Bible is the best (not the New Revised JB which has ghastly PC language) but that's not saying much... I heard a talk from one of the editors of the NJB and he was explaining away the Gospels as literary representations (and him a Catholic priest too!) which put me right off.

The Revised Standard Version (not the NRSV) has the nicest language, but even the Catholic Edition is suspect because the translation is based on the King James.

Stick to the Douay-Rheims. It's the English translation of the Vulgate - and St Jerome was closer to the Church's understanding of the Jewish OT than modern "scholars" who are translating word-for-word from the original Hebrew and Greek.

Augustine said...

The Vatican seems to be clear that the Nova Vulgata is the Church's official text. In 2001 it was confirmed as the point of reference for the translation of scripture in the liturgy. I'd go with the New Vulgate.

Rita said...

Thanks Mac and thanks Augustine.

To me it is a matter of obedience. I'm not sure we can just do our own thing so ultimately Augustine is right. However, this won't stop me reading the Douay Bible but I have to ensure a prayerful respect for the New Vulgate.