Monday, April 11, 2011

A Virgin No Longer: The NABRE continued

I'm trying to follow up, as promised, on the newly released NABRE.

Of course, the change that has garnered the most attention has been the alteration of the translation of Isaiah 7:14, to which my post title alludes.  I want to cover that issue in depth, probably in my next post on this subject.

For now, though, I would like to concentrate on what I see as good features and improvements of this edition.

After ripping open the packaging and checking the translation of Genesis 1:1-2, the next passage I checked was Psalm 8.

I have been carping about the NAB's rendering of Psalm 8 for years.  The key line is verse 4, which runs quite literally, "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

The old NAB rendered this, "What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?"

There are multiple problems with this "dynamic equivalent" translation, like the shift from singular to plural, and gratuitous introduction of the concept of "mortality," which is not an emphasis of the Hebrew text.

But worst of all, the old translation obscured the messianic sense of the psalm.  Given Jesus' favored self-ascription as "Son of Man," the New Testament authors were quick to understand the "son of man" in Psalm 8, who is "crowned with glory and honor" as a reference to Christ.  This is clearly the case in Ephesians 1:22 and Hebrews 2:5-9.

Imagine my delight, then, when I opened the NABRE to Psalm 8:5 and read:

"What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?"

This is much more faithful and literal, allowing the English reader to "hear" the Christological typology.

In my opinion, the revisers are to be congratulated for this "fix."  This is worth at least two, possibly three cheers!


jdmccullough said...

It might be worth commenting on the difference between the OT retranslation and the different approach taken with the Psalms--it seems to have been a rather focussed group of bishops had a strong hand when it came to the them.

memra said...

Please read the Psalm 8 in it's totality; you will then see that it has nothing to do with Jesus or a Messiah but with mankind. Check out the commentary in Robert Alter's book "The Book of Psalms"
or some other commentaries.
Your Christian coloured glasses are seeing things that are not there. Look for truth, don't keep on deluding yourself.

Moonshadow said...

Definitely a fan of Alter's book, memra. And if I'm reading this correctly, the NABRE kept the same numbering for the psalms!

Micah said...

memra, the Scriptures have more than one sense in which they may be read. Consequently, a single passage may have multiple meanings. Psalm 8 is a refence to all humanity AND to the Messiah.

memra said...

Micah: The four senses of biblical exegesis - historia, allegoria, tropologia, and anagogia have their uses but also have their misuses. This Psalm 8 issue is one of many examples of misuse, indeed, pure folly and invention.
The Hebrew Scriptures were not written to be an oracle for Christians trying to prove or expand on their religious ideas.

Apologist said...

Psalm 8 - 'son of man'. Did the Jews accept the idea of Messianic Prophecy in the Old Testament especially the Psalms? – the answer is certainly yes. The Midrash Tehillim (Hebrew: מדרש תהלים) or Midrash to Psalms (a haggadic midrash – a homiletic and non legalistic exegetical text, and known since the 11th century but incorporating earlier opinion) reveals that the rabbinic community accepted that some psalms contained messianic prophecy, and that this was true even in the 1st Century. Whatever the origin of a text, it could be way of interpretation take on a new meaning. It is said that Christianity was born with a Bible in its cradle. It is also true that with the scriptures at its nascence, Christianity also inherited scriptural exegesis from the same source.
It is false to assume that biblical exegesis itself is essentially a post-biblical phenomenon. We have in the Old Testament from some authors a, reminder of an obligation to meditate on, recite and rethink the law (Psalm 1:1-2, Joshua 1:7-8). It was probably a midrashic process that was partly responsible for the formation of the later legal codes, the Deuteronomic and the Priestly. Again the same process can be seen to have influenced post-exilic literature, i.e. Chronicles and Daniel. Post biblical midrash is to be distinguished from the biblical only by an external factor; canonisation. It could be argued that the rise of Christianity was partly responsible for the close of the Palestinian canon, with their use of the Alexandrian Septuagint.
Also as the rabbinic community settled on a standard text, the Christian use of texts appears to have been factored in, and many of the variant readings of the Septuagint (used by the Church), where they differ from the Masoretic text, were rejected. Defending this position changed with the discover of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient manuscripts, where the variant Septuagint readings are supported by ancient Hebrew Manuscripts, which will have been the source followed by the translators of the Septuagint.
So in the same way, in the Jewish Tanakh Translation "son of man" in Psalm 8 is rendered "mortal" introducing an emphasis not in the Hebrew. But to render it "son of man" is to play into a phrase which favours Chritsian messianic exegegis. Also Robert Alter's "The Book of the Psalms" will not have a Christian take!
So the charge "Christian coloured glasses" needs to understand that there are "Jewish coloured glasses" - and a variety of other coloured glasses!
Isaiah 7:14; the word Almah means "Young Maiden" and not a young woman; i.e. a virgin. There is no passage in the Old Testament where almah is not a virgin. Nowhere in the Bible or elsewhere does almah mean anything but a virgin. In Genesis 24:43 Rebekah is an "Almah". To have offered anything but a virgin for Isaac would have been an insult. It is equal to bethulah in v. 16 (also a description of Rebekah), and so the Septuagint translates both terms in vv. 16 and 43 with parthenos - or virgin. As the Septuagint was transalted by Jews - and before Christ, it is a good indication of how Jews of the period read Almah - 'a virgin'! The matter is dealt with in; "What Does Almah Mean?" by Professor Dr William F. Beck, The Lutheran News, 3rd March 1970 (