The Bible and its Traditions

 When I was in the seminary (just after the dinosaurs became extinct), a new French translation of the Bible sponsored by the École biblique in Jerusalem began to appear, first in individual fascicles and then as a single volume that would later be translated into English and published as The Jerusalem Bible. It was distinguished by its introductions and notes that were based upon the latest historical, textual, and literary scholarship but also reflected the Christian tradition of biblical interpretation.

The other day I discovered that the same École biblique de Jerusalem is sponsoring a very interesting and exciting new undertaking designed (1) to establish a critical original text, (2) to provide a faithful translation, and (3) to relate the text to other biblical and extra-biblical texts, including ones that illustrate the reception of the text in Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim traditions.

The home website of the project is here.  A fascinating history of the original Bible de Jerusalem can be found here. An outline of the new project is here. And as illustrations of what is intended: the passage on the anointing of the sick in the Epistle of James here and, so far only in French ten other biblical texts, including the story of Abraham and Isaac here.

I must say I do like the principles they set out under the Under the heading: “Translation: making it possible to taste an ‘original’ flavor:

Like the reception of other sacred texts, that of the biblical writings occurred very early with a real concern for the text as text. The linguistic material is itself significant, with its “rustling” and its apparent incoherencies, providing the stones [pierres d’attente: toothing stones] for re-readings and later developments. This can already be noted in the intra-biblical rewriting and allusions. Thus, the translator of The Bible in its Traditions upholds two simultaneous exigenciies:

First, for the translation itself, the translator definitely takes the side of the text as it is and gives primacy to the figures of speech that are present in the source language rather than ease in reading it in the target language. His and her motto is: “neither more obscure (!) nor (above all) more clear that the original.”

Second, the translator offers philological notes ranging from grammar to prosody, and points out the most important literary facts (which served as supports for the previous interpretations. He or she indicates the best results coming from the methods of literary analysis that have fortunately been invented or reinvented by contemporary biblical exegesis under the influence of the humanities. [Translation slightly altered in accord with the French.] 

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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