Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Odd things about the Nova Vulgata

The Nova Vulgata is the official Latin text of the Bible. It was published in the 1970s after decades of work intended to make the Latin text correspond more closely to the current state of textual criticism than the original Vulgate of St. Jerome. It is used in the translation of the Liturgy.

In many places it is significantly different from St. Jerome's text. One of the most famous examples is the alteration of Ps. 43 (42), which is part of the prayers at the foot of the altar for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy. In St. Jerome, the line says, Et introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam, which means, "And I will approach the altar of God, who gives joy to my youth." The Neovulgate says, Et introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum laetitiae exsultationis meae, which means "I will go to the altar of God, to the God of joy of my exsultation."

There are, however, some oddities in the NV, some of which are holdovers from the Vulgate of St. Jerome. For instance, the use of christus in the Old Testament to mean "anointed." Psalm 2 says, Astiterunt reges terrae, et principes convenerunt in unum adversus Dominum et adversus christum eius. "The kings of the earth stand up, and the princes come together as one against the Lord and against his anointed." The word christum is used in both the NV and the Vulgate. This is not a Latin word, but rather a Greek one. Since Ps. 2 is translated from the Hebrew, rather than the Greek, it is not a transliteration. Of course, it makes the Christological interpretation of Ps. 2 more obvious.

Some of the oddities only occur in the version of the NV that appears in the Latin edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. For instance, in today's reading from Revelation, the NV of the office has Habent super se regem angelum abyssi, cui nomen Hebraice Abaddon et Graece nomen habet Apollyon, Latine habens nomen Exterminans. This is the same as St. Jerome's Vulgate. The NV on the Vatican web page doesn't have Latine habens nomen Exterminans. Nor does the Greek text of the Apocalypse.

My favorite example, though, is from Habakkuk 3. In English we have "Yet will I rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God." The Latin in the Vulgate was Ego autem in Domino gaudebo; et exsultabo in Deo Jesu meo. The word Jesu is the Greek tranliteration of the Hebrew word for "savior" The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew word for "savior." So, to use Jesu isn't to translate at all. The reason St. Jerome did this, of course, was to make the connection between the text of Habakkuk and Jesus. The NV on the Vatican web page has salvatore rather than Jesu, This is a translation of the Hebrew word which means "savior." In the Office, however, when the text of Habakkuk is used during morning prayer, the word Jesu is used.

Why do I bring all this up? First of all, it fascinates me. Second, it points to the fact that translation is always interpretation. And that interpretation can and often does take into consideration the overall theological and liturgical meaning of the biblical text. I don't think that is wrong. For instance, I think the translation of the Hebrew of Is. 7:14 with the Greek parthenos, "virgin" is justified, even though the Hebrew could literally mean "young woman" and in context probably referred to a woman that both the prophet and King Ahaz were familiar with. God has made it clear to us, through tradition, that there is more going on in the text than the literal concern of Isaiah or Ahaz at the time.


robert said...

"there is more going on in the text than the literal concern of Isaiah or Ahaz at the time."

Amen! Let's hear it for the Sensus Plenior. My final SHST paper is a plea for more of it...

Robert Gotcher said...

Which course?

Joe said...

I always liked how Ronald Knox translated it as "maiden." I think it is just the kind of ambiguous word that allows for the Sensus Plenior.

robert said...

I LOVE the Knox Bible. I use it in class to follow along. It is interesting how he anticipates the more modern translations.

From what I understand, his translation was from the Vulgate, but he compared it to the LXX and Hebrew-- so it is a kind of hybrid. It was used in the 60's and 70's for liturgy in the UK.

Dr. G: the class is one in which the paper will probably not be persuasive.

Robert Gotcher said...

I see.