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UPDATED: Pope Benedict in Arabic: "May the Lord bless you all!"

Many news agencies have reported that Pope Benedict XVI, fresh off his visit to Arabic-speaking Christians in Lebanon, has added Arabic to the list of languages in which he offers papal blessings.

After the [weekly] address, which dealt with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the pope said in Arabic: "The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all."The Vatican said the addition was made to show the pontiff's concern for Christians in the Middle East and to remind both Muslims and Christians to work for peace in the region. (REUTERS)

Good for him! Our brothers and sisters are suffering, especially in Syria. To hear a papal blessing in Arabic must bring a moment of spiritual respite amid turmoil.UPDATED:At the time I wrote this yesterday, I was relying on the news reports that translated the Pope's Arabic blessing as "May God bless you all," and for which I assumed that the Arabic blessing used the generic word for God in Arabic, Allah. That was a reasonable but, as it turned out, false assumption.After the text of the audience was posted to the Vatican website, it is clear that the blessing uses al-Rab, which would normally be translated into the English as "the Lord."So, no, the word "Allah" did not ring out in St. Peter's square.One peril of blogging is that, with the speed of information flow and analysis, we can get the news wrong based on limited information. But one great feature of blogging is that corrections can be made in a place where people will actually see the corrections!My points about translations of divine names in journalism are still relevant, though. The translations can certainly strive for more accuracy. My guess is that the reporters translated not from the Arabic but from the official Italian translation of the Arabic, which I now see was "Dio," the normal word for God. Although Dio is an acceptable translation of Al-Rab, it would seem that Signore would be more accurate and better reflect Christian Arabic usage. On the other hand, the choice of Al-Rab can signify God for both Muslim and Christian speakers of Arabic, and so the message seems to have been intended for all.  

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



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Agree that it's nice that Benedict should invoke Allah's blessing on Her people.(Allah is the mascullinized form of Al-Lat, one of the Triple Goddesses worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia. The other two Goddesses were Al-Uzza and Manat.)

Forgot to include a link: million leads to information about Al-Lat et al.)

Yay, Benedict! Michael --I think that the Jewish, Christian and Islamic meanings of "God" are much more alike than different. Historically, the scholars of all three religions have depended on the Greeks (Plato and Aristotle especially) to understand the meanings of "Jahweh" and the other names of God in Scripture. And all three agree that their meanings have the same Referent. I think it's safe to say that no one religion will even exhaust the meaning of those words. No picture of God says everything about Him/Her/??.

The Catholic Mass when said in Arabic gives the same meaning to "Allah" that when said in English is given to "God." In Islam, "there is no God but God" would be the appropriate translation of "l ilha ill allh," whereas "there is no God but Allah" suggests a distinction which should neither be implied nor inferred.

And the latest circulating around some blogs:The ring that Obama has been wearing for more than 30 years (and that became his wedding ring) is adorned with the first part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada: There is no god except Allah. (The Shahada is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam.)

If World Nut Daily says that the ring says Allah on it, who are we to argue?

Obama just celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary (with a desultory debate performance). Wonder who he was married to for the first decade. Fine post, Michael. That NYT op-ed from a few years back was excellent.

I am glad Benedict is incorporating Arabic along with other languages. I reviewed the WND link about the Presidents ring Helen provided and wow what nonsense. So the man wears a ring that he has liked for years so what? His step-dad was from Indonesia and probably gave it to him. There are (brace yourself) lots of Muslims there and who knows maybe some Indonesian Muslims might even own jewelry stores. Lions and tigers and bears - Oh my! What sort of cuff links does he have?!There are important matters to debate, but the styling of President Obamas jewelry is hardly important.

It's the One Ring to bind us all! Kenya? Indonesia? Nonsense! He's from Mordor!Or maybe he's Frodo.

unagidon:The information about Obama's ring was passed on to me from a friend who linked me to Fr. Z's website. Z is one who should know about sins against the eighth commandment, but in words he does not indicate such. I, as a member of the laity, am asked to form my conscience and confess such sins. Fr. Z, I will not be breaking down your confession door!

Actually Michael Peppard is in ERROR. Pope Benedict in reaching out to the Arab Christians suffering in the Middle East (throughout the world) did speak in Arabic BUT he DID NOT use the word "Allah" (GOD). If you go to the Vatican website and if you know Arabic, Pope Benedict uses the word "Al-Rab" (LORD). He [the Pope] was sensitive and conscious to the plot and suffering of the Arabic speaking Christian (throughout the world) and used the Christian term LORD. Michael Peppard takes a concept as an English speaker and thinks we all use the word GOD in translating when in fact there are many ways to address God... "GOD" is the common word but Catholic Christians (which the Pope is) normally use the word LORD or Jesus or Christ or Jesus Christ. Michael needs to LEARN TO LISTEN and then report the truth as what TRUTH is and not what he want truth to be! A responsible and professional "reporter" or "blogger" should hold himself/herself to the highest standard of reporting FACTS and the truth and not their personal "spin."

"Michael Peppard takes a concept as an English speaker and thinks we all use the word GOD in translating when in fact there are many ways to address God GOD is the common word but Catholic Christians (which the Pope is) normally use the word LORD or Jesus or Christ or Jesus Christ. "I believe in one God...

Dear FMZ480, THANKS for your MESSAGE. As I SAID in my post, when I wrote the post yesterday SHORTLY after the audience was publicized, I could NOT YET find AUDIO or VIDEO of the text. If the blessing said AL-RAB, then the REPORTERS ON SITE did NOT accurately translate the Arabic into ENGLISH. I have to go TEACH now for MOST OF THE DAY, including one of my many courses in ANCIENT LANGUAGES. Later I will look for the AUDIO and UPDATE the POST accordingly, and then we can both together MOCK the REPORTERS for REUTERS et al. But when we do that, let's please not YELL at each other.

" FMZ840 10/11/2012 - 4:06 am"BUT he DID NOT use the word Allah (GOD). If you go to the Vatican website and if you know Arabic, Pope Benedict uses the word Al-Rab (LORD). He [the Pope] was sensitive and conscious to the plot and suffering of the Arabic speaking Christian (throughout the world) and used the Christian term LORD. ""Perhaps *WE* need to be a bit more inclined to say "God" instead of Jesus/Lord/Christ/etc. Perhaps we are the ones confusing things. If the pope said Al-Rab instead of Allah then maybe he should say Allah next time. We need to make less division as much as anyone else.

Plenty of wishful thinking by the author.1) The God of Christian and Jews is the same; the first commandment+ Summa Theol.of St.Thomas Aquinas (I,1,13: Jahwe(Exodus 3:14)-"ipsum esse"2) the journalist do not have any knowledge on [email protected] methodology of sciences,esp. the philosophy of science, therefore to require of them the linguistic nuances is to blame West Education System as a Structural Sin of stupidity in NT language: the sin of generation (and not an individual)3) Allah in Koran is a just wishful thinking idea that has nothing to do with the God of [email protected] as God acting in history; Trinity in Koran is a version of the sect, Collorydians with 3gods: Allah/God, Jesus, Mary)

Frege's theory of meaning which distinguishes the referent of a word from its sense is applicable here, I think. The "referent" of a word is the thing about which a statement is made. For instance, in the statement "Fido is a dog", the subject word 'Fido' means, stands for a particular being, while the predicate word "dog" gives us some information about Fido. This latter sort of meaning is called the "sense" of the word. Some words have both reference and sense. For instance, the word "God" as used generally has both reference and sense. But note this: while we might agree as to who/what the referent is, we might not agree about the *sense* of "God". When many Christians use the word to refer to the Supreme Being they give it the sense "absolute Love", while a Jew might give it the sense "absolute Justice" and a Muslim might give it the main sense of "absolutely unknowable". These meanings are different but they are *not* incompatible, and at times no doubt the Christians, Jews and Muslims use the different senses I just listed, all the while meaning the one and the same referent.Perhaps most important, the Christians and Muslims, at least, agree that God's whole being is unknowable -- He is beyond our understanding. And different people might understand different aspects of God more or less well. (I don't know whether the Jews think God is largely unknowable. Maybe they do too. But "God" still has the same referent regardless.)

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