From Fr Wojciech Szypula SVD, Department of Theology, St Augustine College,
Sr Judith Coyle IHM, Senior Lecturer & Coordinator: Pastoral Theology
Recently there have been articles in The Southern Cross preparing us for the coming revision to the scripture readings at Mass, including Chris Busschau’s history of biblical translations that led up to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) that will now be used.
His history, however, stopped short of the more recent revision of the RSV, now entitled the NEW Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
This is a loss on two counts. First, the NRSV is a revised and updated translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament made in light of the significant recent discoveries of Masada and the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as numerous other ancient manuscripts.
These ancient texts brought us much closer to the original text written by the inspired authors than was possible in the 1940s when the RSV was produced. Significant changes have also been made to the New Testament Greek text due to almost a century of intense textual studies.
As early as 1974, the RSV’s own translating committee saw the need of revision and update. The NRSV was a response to that need. It is therefore surprising and perhaps even irresponsible to forgo a translation from the most reliable original text to date and opt instead for a textually and stylistically inferior version of the Word of God.
A second consideration in the NRSV, as a member of the committee notes, was because “many of the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text”.
The decision to go with the RSV, rather than the NRSV, can only further the suspicion that behind the entire exercise of the new missal (including the rejection of the 1998 ICEL translation) was the attempt to ensure that inclusive language is kept far away from the Catholic Church, and that women are never directly addressed by the word of God.