Tags: Catholic | Bible | virgin | Isaiah

New Catholic Bible Subs 'Young Woman' for Virgin in Isaiah

Wednesday, 02 Mar 2011 02:50 PM

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One of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ tweaks to the Bible may evoke giggles from a back pew of 12-year-olds, but another one could provoke an outcry from traditionalists if they interpret it as a dilution of a cornerstone of Catholic theology. The new translation replaces the word “booty,” which often has a sexual connotation these days, with “spoils” in a passage involving victors’ plunder during a war, USA Today reports.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ordered the new translation, which turned out to be a 17-year-project, in the interests of accuracy, user-friendliness, and poetic tone. The translation team included 50 scholars, linguistic experts, and theologians, and five bishops. The fruits of their labors are scheduled to be out on Ash Wednesday, March 9.

The potentially controversial change involves an Old Testament passage foretelling Jesus Christ’s birth to a virgin. The 1970 version of the New American Bible chronicles Isaiah 7:14 as noting that "the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." The new version refers to “the young woman” rather than a virgin.

The translation notes that “the original Hebrew word, ‘almah,’ may, or may not, signify a virgin,” USA Today explains.

Bishop Richard Sklba, Catholic, Bible
Bishop Sklba
The switch-out doesn’t signify a change in Catholic theology, Bishop Richard Sklba told USA Today. Sklba, who is the retired auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee, and was part of the review and editing team, said the overall changes were made because "we needed a new translation because English is a living language."

However, Mary Elizabeth Sperry of the bishops conference acknowledges that dropping the virgin may rankle some, telling USA Today: "Some people will be gravely distressed, and others will be absolutely ecstatic and some will just say, 'I liked it the old way.' "

A couple of other changes of note:
  • The word "holocaust," which generally has become reserved for World War II genocide, is replaced with "burnt offering."
  • Proverbs 31:10, which riled many women because it detailed the image of "The Ideal Wife" from a man’s worldview, now is called a "Poem on the Woman of Worth."
"Women will like this: being measured by their own accomplishments, not in terms of a husband's perspective," Sperry says.

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