Bible Variations

Something quirky for Monday…

Here is the image:

This is not the quirky part.

Here is what is happening in this scene:

“And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19, Douay-Rheims Bible translation)

Now what follows is the quirky part. There are several Bible “translations” out there today that attempt to present the words of Sacred Scripture in language that is more “accessible” and “understandable”. Here are a few of those “translations” (all accessible freely via Bible Gateway). See what you think:

1. Good News Translation: “‘Good for you, Simon son of John!’ answered Jesus. ‘For this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven. And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Fr J: This one isn’t too bad, except for the first part: Good job! *pat on the back* Gosh, I knew you could do it! Well, and also Jesus switches from “Simon” to “Peter” without indicating that he is changing his name.

2. The Message: “Jesus came back, ‘God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.'”

Fr J: Where do I start? “Jesus came back” – “Yeah, right back atcha Simon!”… “And that’s not all!” It’s like he just won the prize on the Price is Right… Another thing: one gets the impression when reading this version that Christ is not God, that He and the Father are not of the same substance. This is a problem.

3. New Life Version: “Jesus said to him, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, you are happy because you did not learn this from man. My Father in heaven has shown you this. And I tell you that you are Peter. On this rock I will build My church. The powers of hell will not be able to have power over My church. I will give you the keys of the holy nation of heaven. Whatever you do not allow on earth will not have been allowed in heaven. Whatever you allow on earth will have been allowed in heaven.'”

Fr J: A little heresy? Christ never promised that the devil wouldn’t have power over the Church – he just said that the devil wouldn’t prevail. That use of the “future perfect passive” tense (will not have been allowed…will have been allowed) is pretty fancy – but perhaps not so “readable”. Also, since when did we call heaven a “holy nation”!? Odd…

4. The Voice: “Simon, son of Jonah, your knowledge is a mark of blessing. For you didn’t learn this truth from your friends or from teachers or from sages you’ve met on the way. You learned it from My Father in heaven. This is why I have called you Peter (rock): for on this rock I will build My church. The church will reign triumphant even at the gates of hell. Peter, I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Fr J: I suppose the reigning triumphant thing is true, but it’s not what Jesus said! And I think it downplays the influence of evil in the world and in the Church: Christ never said that we wouldn’t have difficulty – on the contrary! – but that evil would not prevail.

I think I’ll stick with approved Catholic translations of the Bible! If you don’t like those that have traces of Early Modern English (“thees and thys”), then I recommend the Revised Standard Version – 2nd Catholic Edition (Ignatius Press) or the New American Bible (various publishers).

Happy Monday! Let’s say a prayer for Pope Francis today, asking St. Peter to intercede to Christ for him and his ministry.

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One Response to Bible Variations

  1. SaintlySages says:

    Interesting illustration. That’s why I prefer the literal over the accommodative translations. These days I almost always consult the Vulgate. I like the economy and precision of Latin.

    BTW, if any of your profs were around when the committee was revising the CIC in the 80s, you might ask about the crafting of new Latin phrases to describe things that weren’t there in 1917. In the 80s, when I was in the seminary, I favored using modern English words with Latin endings; others preferred adaptations of classic Latin phrases, which I thought made for a somewhat stilted reading. It made for interesting discussions — taliter aliter. God bless!

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