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A Quick Question on the Lectionary

January 12, 2014

As I was studying the readings for today, I noticed a translation difference between the Lectionary and the NIV for today’s psalm, Psalm 29.  This led me to poke around and I discovered that there were substantial differences between the Lectionary and the translation given in the NAB (revised edition).  As given in the Lectionary, it reads (Ps 29, 1-2, 3-4, 9-10)

Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

The NAB (revised edition), on the other hand, reads

Give to the Lord, you sons of God,
give to the Lord glory and might;
Give to the Lord the glory due his name.

Bow down before the Lord’s holy splendor!
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,

the Lord, over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is power;
the voice of the Lord is splendor.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer dance
and strips the forests bare.
All in his Temple say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned above the flood!
The Lord reigns as king forever!

The change that caught my attention was in the first stanza, where the original “might” or “power” (NIV) becomes “praise”.  None of the changes are earth shattering:  the overall sense of the Psalm is maintained, and the text is now somewhat better for singing or reciting in English.   But the differences are a noticeable departure from the original.

A bit of poking around revealed that the Lectionary is not the same as the NAB.  There is a brief discussion at  EWTN about changes to the Lectionary because the Vatican did not approve of some of the translations  in the revision of the NAB.   Wikipedia also has a discussion that touches on the lectionary.   Though I was aware of the revision process for the NAB, I had somehow overlooked or forgotten the divergence between the NAB and the Lectionary.  So my quick question, honestly asked, is this:  in the Lectionary, which translation of the psalms is used?  Does it still use the older, 1970 version of the Old Testament, or is it a special revision/translation for the Lectionary?  If the latter, what principles guided the translation to result in a text that differs from the actual text to such a degree?  I decided to ask this question publicly since I figured that others were not aware of these issues, and a brief discussion and clarification by the cognoscenti among us would be edifying.

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10 Comments
  1. January 12, 2014 10:59 am

    My understanding (which could be wrong) is that the current Lectionary uses the older NAB for Old Testament and Psalms (hence the divergence in the case you note) and the new NAB for New Testament readings; but that the latter are modified to conform to requirements and expectations of ICEL and the CDF (most famously, although also most minorly as far as divergence from the original goes, the elimination of inclusive language in certain theological contexts). Given that the latter were determined by a long ‘consultation’, and given what ‘consultation’ usually means in this context, I’d be surprised if there were any principles of translation governing the set of differences for the NT readings. And, given that the NAB-RE has a reputation for arbitrariness in translation, i.e., making bold choices on a weak or controversial (among biblical scholars) basis, I’d actually be surprised if there were any consistent principles of translation governing the divergence in the OT cases, as well.

    • January 12, 2014 11:33 am

      given that the NAB-RE

      Sorry — that should have been “given that the NAB has a reputation for arbitrariness”; while the NAB-RE does have a reputation for inconsistency from book to book, it has a reputation for being a more reasoned interpretation than the translation it replaced. My intended point was that the divergence will often be from the original NAB making unusual translation choices.

  2. January 12, 2014 2:58 pm

    The psalter used in the lectionary for the US is a heavily modified version from the Vatican directly for the lectionary. It is not part of any other edition, it was made for the lectionary specifically. This article discusses how Cardinal Ratzinger “meddled” in these matters in the 1980s and 1990s. This might answer your “What principles?” question:

    http://www.adoremus.org/Psalter998.html

    The Revised Grail Psalter is going to be the edition approved now for all future liturgical books, but apparently even the recent books with the new translation of the Mass have not started using that yet. When the Lectionary is revised, then the Revised Grail Psalms will be used (they are already permitted for singing, I believe). Until then it is a “heavily modified” (basically, a new translation) version from the Vatican. I believe even some of the other readings are modified form the NAB for the lectionary here and there, but the biggest example is definitely the psalter.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      January 12, 2014 3:23 pm

      Thanks for some more details, though I have to admit I found the Adoremus article long on heat and accusations and not very detailed.

    • January 12, 2014 5:51 pm

      Here’s some stuff about the complicated history of the NAB (and psalter): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_American_Bible

      I was looking at the Grail site, and the Psalter must be re-revised. The Breviary I have (Daughters of St. Paul Edition–I bought it in the early 90’s, but I think the copyright is mid-70’s) has the 60’s version of the Grail Psalter, which is really good. I took a class on the Psalms in the late 90’s, and they used an updated edition of the Grail Psalter, and that version stank. The version I’m seeing on the website isn’t the one I saw in the late 90’s, so they must have done yet another edition–and the one on the website, just from cursory viewing, seems to have corrected the problems with the 90’s version.

      OK–I see what the deal is: http://www.giamusic.com/sacred_music/RGP/GrailHistory.cfm

      That’s good; the 1993 version was awful. Now if they’d just pitch the NAB and replace it with the NRSV or the New Jerusalem….

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        January 13, 2014 10:18 am

        Thanks, though I thought I had linked to that article in Wikipedia! (I better go check.) Also thanks for the info about the Grail psalms.

        With regards to the NRSV: this is approved for use in Canada, but something I read suggested that this was over strong reservations by the Vatican who will not approve it for anywhere else. I agree though that the NJB should be used instead of the NAB. It is a much livelier translation.

        • January 13, 2014 10:22 am

          You had already posted the Wikipedia link, and I overlooked it–sorry! What’s weird about the NRSV is that they actually used that (with adjustments in which the inclusive language was removed) for the English translation of the Catechism. Given that, I don’t get why they don’t want it for the Lectionary. The NAB seems to be a case of continually patching, tinkering, and tweaking when they should just give it up and go with something else.

    • Liam permalink
      January 14, 2014 2:11 pm

      FWIW, under GIRM 61 in the US, translations previously authorized for liturgical use will continue to be licit to use for *sung* responsorial psalms; the RGP will (eventually) have exclusive purchase on recited responsorial psalms, as it were. The grandfathering is actually commonsensical: it’s harder to ditch entire repertoires of licit psalm music than it is to simply change what you’re reciting. (This assumes one is indeed using translations previously approved.)

  3. January 13, 2014 11:56 pm

    Yeah, but the CCD owns the copyright to the NAB…

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