Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Translation

Yes, yes, it's completely exciting that we're getting a New (and unlike New Coke, improved) Mass in English, which will make catechizing the little pagans much easier, and which I'll post about in more detail later. In the meantime, get ready for whining from the pews and desks about having to, like, learn new stuff, y'know?

Just to show ya how old this Anglophone complaint is, let's look at the Preface to the 1611 King James Bible, which followed hot on the heels of the Douai-Rheims Bible, which was the English translation done under the auspices of the Catholic Church. In trying to stay faithful to the source text (St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate), the D-R translators borrowed some Latin words (some of which had first been borrowed from Greek) into their English Bible. The KJV translators, however, objected to putting such scholarly, unfamiliar words into a book which the common man should be able to understand, and said as much.

First, unlike the Puritans, they aren't gonna fiddle with what already works:

"Lastly, we have on the one side avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who leave the old Ecclesiastical words, and betake them to other, as when they put WASHING for BAPTISM, and CONGREGATION instead of CHURCH..."

That is, Greek words such as 'Baptism' βαπτίζω are ok when everybody already knows them, and there's no point in replacing them with plain Anglo-Saxon stock such as 'Washing.' Which makes me wonder about those Puritans: 'washing' wouldn't translate 'baptize' all that well for the full-immersion-no-sprinkling crowd. And sturdy Anglo-Saxon 'Church' beats the Latin-sourced 'Congregation' any day. English people are familiar with Baptism and Church...leave well enough alone. (I wonder why they didn't try to translate Shakespeare into English? That's a little joke.)

Nor will they get hoity-toity like the Catholics across the Channel:

" also on the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the Papists, in their AZIMES, TUNIKE, RATIONAL, HOLOCAUSTS, PRAEPUCE, PASCHE, and a number of such like, whereof their late Translation is full, and that of purpose to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood. But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar."

And to some extent they are right: who knows what azimes are? But then again, tunic, rational, and holocausts have been regular English words for a long time now, and thank ya Douai-Rheims for them; I suppose the KJV translators roll over in their graves every time an Englishman says "rational." Even Paschal is standard Church vocabulary on both sides of the Atlantic. Regarding praepuce...well, this isn't a blog about plumbing, and even to mention it is to say too much.

So the little effort it'll take to get acquainted with the new Mass in English should be worth it, and I can already assure you, neither azimes nor praepuce makes an appearance, thank goodness. We sure don't need no stinkin' azimes: if English was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me.

This article has also been posted at Amazing Catechists.