18 July 2019, The Tablet

The Word made comprehensible: is it time to revise the Lectionary?


How the publication of a new Bible translation could present an opportunity to revise the Lectionary

The Word made comprehensible: is it time to revise the Lectionary?

The Bible: Timeless words in the language of our time
Photo: CNS/Catolico, Karen Callaway

 

The translation of the Bible that Catholics in England and Wales and Scotland hear read at Mass has not been revised for more than 50 years. Now a readable and accurate new version of the Scripture texts used in church provides an opportunity for a smooth transition

Few issues have been as contentious in recent years as liturgical translation. Liturgical terrorists and GIRM warfare (that’s the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) may be the butt of jokes by Church insiders, but it is hard to imagine anything more serious than the quality of the texts used in our liturgies. It directly affects every parish and every Catholic worshipper. Readers of The Tablet will be familiar with the unseemly political manoeuvring that resulted in our current 2011 translation of the Roman Missal, and the heated controversies over the quality of the texts. Indeed, analysis originally published in these pages has been expanded and published as Lost in Translation: The English Language and the Catholic Mass by Gerald O’Collins SJ and former Tablet editor John Wilkins.

Many readers will also be familiar with the saga of the search for a revised English-language Lectionary: the readings from Scripture to be used in the Liturgy of the Word through the Church’s year. Although two translations of the Bible are approved for use in parishes in Ireland and in England & Wales – the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the Jerusalem Bible (JB) – the overwhelming majority of parishes use the JB version, which is also used in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Other English-speaking countries use other translations. In the United States a modified translation of the New American Bible is used in the Lectionary, Canada uses a modified version of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and many of the English-speaking African countries use a Lectionary based on the RSV. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has recently adopted a modified version of the English Standard Version (ESV), a revision of the RSV, for use in their new Lectionary.

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