Elizabeth Bumiller, in the February 6 issue of the New York Times , reports on a speech made by President Bush. We are told that he “declared once again that his foreign policy was in part based on an ‘Almighty’ whose gift to the world was freedom.” It is the indefinite article that intrigues. Among the Almighties, Bush appears to have a favorite whom he conceives of as a power with a personal disposition toward humanity. Ms. Bumiller’s tone is that of someone fascinated by the odd way this president thinks and talks. Her choice of language is similar to the way in which one might describe Jimmy Stewart’s taking counsel from a “Harvey.” It is curious and somewhat amusing, but also frightening in the case of a president who allows his belief in an “Almighty” to influence his policies. As with Elwood P. Dowd, something has to be done about this fellow.
The subject is Bible translations again, and Scott Carson, who teaches philosophy at Ohio University, writes :
It is the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition that Fr. Richard Neuhaus favors, and that edition is not all that different from the RSV with Apocrypha, though the differences that do exist are not to be ignored. Where Fr. Neuhaus and I have begun to diverge, though, is in this very strange phenomenon: I have begun to favor—the Authorized Version !!! Yes, that’s right folks, the very version that was “authorized” for use in the liturgies of the Church of England by King James I and, hence, also known as the “King James Version.” Editions with the Apocrypha do exist, so it is just possible to use this version without losing too much in the way of Inspired Scriptures. But the Inquiring Mind wants to know: what is the appeal in this version? The English is antiquated, the texts have been superseded, and gee whiz it was subsidized by schismatics! . . .
It is true that the language of the AV is somewhat antiquated, but certainly no more so than Shakespeare and surely no one would argue that it’s not worth taking a little trouble to read Shakespeare, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that you should only read Shakespeare in some contemporary “translation”, though such things do exist . . . Given the great beauty, ancestry, and overall maiestas of the AV I am happy with my current preference. I can’t pretend to be a real “Scripture scholar” in Neuhaus’ sense, but when I want to be I’ll read the Greek anyway, and try to figure out the Hebrew. Failing that, I’ll rejoice in a text that has delighted generation upon generation of English-speaking Christians, and I’ll give thanks that I find myself a part of that great Company that still gives praise to God after a fashion that is worthy of Him.
Exclamation points notwithstanding, I’m not surprised at all. Contemporary biblical scholars such as Robert Alter have much to say in favor of the KJV. In his book, The Prophets , Norman Podhoretz makes an extensive argument for the KJV, contending that it captures the rhythms and nuances of the Hebrew much better than other English translations.
For regular liturgical use, however, the KJV has too many archaisms that require a translation of the translation. The Revised Standard Version or English Standard Version are to be preferred.
One pastor writes me that he has found a way of getting out from under the bishops conference imposition of the wretched New American Bible (NAB) translation. He says that there is another translation that is permitted—the Latin. So at Mass in his parish, he says, the prescribed lessons are read in Latin, followed by their being read in the Revised Standard Version. I think he may be putting me on, but it’s an idea with interesting possibilities.
A reader tells me that there are more Catholic churches in Las Vegas than casinos. When the offering is received at Mass, it is common for people to put casino chips rather than cash in the baskets. The several parishes send the collected chips to a neighboring Franciscan Monastery, where they are sorted and then cashed in at the casinos they came from. This weekly task is undertaken by those who are called the chip monks.
I apologize. That is really awful. But I needed one more short item for today’s posting. I promise it will not happen again.
In addition to which :
Avery Cardinal Dulles has this to say about the new book by Father Richard John Neuhaus:
"It would be difficult to find a guide so knowledgeable, so theologically astute, and so engaging as a writer. Father Neuhaus presents the ‘high adventure’ of a Catholic orthodoxy that stands firmly against the winds of adversity and confusion."
The book is Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth and is just out from Basic Books. It can be ordered from Amazon by clicking here .