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SIDIC Periodical I - 1968/1
Biblical Studies (Pages 07 - 08)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Ecumenical Editions of the Bible
A. K. Willet


«But since the word of God should be available at all times, the Church with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. And if, given the opportunity and the approval of Church authority, these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them ».
Dei Verbum, No. 22

In recent years the ecumenical movement and biblical renewal have occasioned close collaboration between Christians and Jews. Their efforts towards Bible translations acceptable to all have produced varying results.

In the United States, in 1964, the now famous Anchor Bible was announced. When completed, this edition will contain 49 volumes, each treating one or several books of the Bible, commented on by an individual author.

In the editorial of each volume we read:

... The Anchor Bible is a project of international and interfaith scope: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish scholars from many countries contribute individual volumes. The project is not sponsored by any ecclesiastical organization and is not intended to reflect any particular theological doctrine....

Though it is said to mark « a new era of cooperation among scholars in biblical research » several commentaries give the impression that the traditional, anti-Jewish attitudes have not been avoided as, for example, in the Acts of the Apostles, pages LXIV and 21. The cooperation would seem to have fallen short of its objective.

The Planete edition, produced several years ago in France in three volumes has as basic text that of La Bible de Jerusalem. It boasts of separate introductions by Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Jews. A correspondent from France has called it a luxury edition destined as a show-piece, rather than a really ecumenical edition of the Bible.

A translation to appear this year is the Bibbia Concordata. This project, conceived in Rome before the convocation of Vatican II, has as contributors representatives from Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and Judaism. These meet to discuss translations and when all are not in agreement, footnotes give the viewpoint of the other three faiths. Since the New Testament does not directly concern the Jews they have refrained from commenting on it.

« Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox in France have combined recently on a project to publish not merely a common text of the Bible, but an edition supplied with a brief commentary phich all accept » (Herder Correspondence, June 1967, p. 167). Since this series is to appear under the name Ecumenical Bible, it was thought best to limit the collaboration to Christians only. To date, one book, the epistle to the Romans, has been published.

A further venture was made in 1962 in Hot-land, appearing in the form of the Phoenix Bijbel Pockets, a series of 30 paper-back editions. This ecumenical undertaking of translations and commentaries, realised by Christian and Jewish exegetes, is marked by a complete absence of apologetic tendencies or aggressive disagreement. Each collaborator read the manuscripts of the others, and could request and obtain changes where deemed necessary. The final text was phrased so that each could respect the opinion of the other, without, for that matter, compromising the author's faith. Though Christians alone are responsible for the New Testament translations, the Jewish scholars complemented these with commentaries, bringing nuances from the Jewish background.

Also worthy of note is the approval of the Holy See of Catholic-Protestant cooperation in translating the Bible. The Roman Church is now collaborating with the United Bible Societies which have a long history of translating, publishing, and distributing the Scriptures in the vernacular within the price-range of all, especially in underdeveloped countries. Father Walter Abbott, assistant of Cardinal Bea, has been appointed by Pope Paul VI to oversee Catholic collaboration with the UBS in various parts of the world.

In connection with Jewish-Christian collaboration in Bible translations, we can provide the following survey of the world situation.

In many countries joint work on translation with Jews is impossible because of the complete absence of, or small, Jewish population as in Kenya and Ceylon. Elsewhere, cooperation is rendered impossible because of political reasons. In still other areas collaboration is desired but not yet realised as, for example, in Lithuania where it was said, « We would be happy should the higher Church authorities sanction a version in common with the Jews », and in Wales, « Jews competent in Welsh are unknown to me; they would no doubt be welcome ». Lastly, as was shown earlier in this report, in several countries real collaboration has been realised.


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