The Truth?

Michele Somerville is the author of a December 1 article in the Huffington Post, “The Truth Behind the Godawful New (Old) Roman Catholic Missal.” She writes her “Truth” in a “cynical” style, which is a drawback for the good comments she does give. She is sarcastic, as for instance calling the translation a “tasty treat for the lockstep sheep and papist throwbacks.” She talks about the “boys in the Vatican” wanting our money, and about “bishop-facilitated child-rape.” Priests are made out to be “marionettes,” with “every Catholic in the U. S. dutifully holding “pew cards.” Serious readers may agree with the nugget of some points, but casting them in stand-up comic language does not help point us to the truth.

There are factual errors of which Somerville seems blithely unaware. I am no linguist but examine Somerville’s statement that since “Catullus was a contemporary of Caesar Augustine, the Latin in which he wrote would have been about the same as that used by Romans during the time Jesus lived on earth”. Even though this author is herself a poet she does not seem able to distinguish between poetic speech and everyday talk. It is hard to imagine ordinary Romans speaking in hendecasyllabic or elegiac couplets. And are we suggesting that Jesus spoke Latin?

Somerville alleges that the “Eucharistic Prayer may not be a poem in a technical sense, but it functions as one.” There may be a good point buried here, but what kind of poetic function is she talking about? I would have thought that the EP should instead consist of a ritual language, i.e., one that expresses (repetitively) truths that are already deep within the assembly—which includes the people in the pews, and therefore must “come across the footlights”, as the theater world say. As far as I can see this form is therefore quite different than most poetry.

That said, I do agree with some main points of Somerville. The new language does seem “stiff and unwieldy,” as she says. And I think it is silly for Church to say that, in the United States, the word “men” today still means men and women. This is quickly becoming a dead usage, and it certainly is out of place in a time when women are at last being recognized as equals to genetic “men”. I would agree that “chalice” is an awkward substitution for “cup.” It caters too much to the monarchical phase of the Church. And finally, I believe that the reversion to “for you and for many” is simply trouble-making. Again, I am no scholar in this, but those who pleaded with the Pope to allow at least “the many” as making good and proper sense in English were right. Somerville unfortunately labors the obvious but unthinkable interpretation that Jesus died for one group of people but not for any others. If anyone sees a valid reason for such wording, I hope we hear from them below.

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65 comments

    1. As will countless clergy who I expect will be using this translation in whole or in part in place of the 2011 missal.

  1. I like the statement above, that some wanted “for many” to be translated as “for the many”. Even if not permanently done, maybe a transitional period of several years, a gradual transition from “for all” to “for the many” to “for many”, would probably have been a better way to preserve the idea that many equates to all.

    If for the last 40 years people have been hearing that Jesus died for all, and now, suddenly, Jesus died for many, people are going to come to the conclusion that there are some that He didn’t die for. Very few people are going to come to the conclusion that “many” means an unbounded many, and even fewer would ask.

    Using “the many” for a number of years before going to “many” would establish the understanding of an “unbounded many” rather than establishing a perception that some must have been automatically excluded from salvation because a 180 degree shift from all to many has suddenly taken place.

    1. They ought to get that impression, because it’s correct. The Sacrifice of Christ is OFFERED to all. But some will reject it (if common sense doesn’t tell you that, Luke 13:24 does), which means that the precious blood is poured out for some group less than all—a group conveniently denoted “many” in English.

      If this shift is perturbing, the fault lies in the 1973 mistranslation, not the 2011 correction.

      1. Christ died for ALL. Whether all accept that is another thing, and certainly not up to us to judge. The 73 translation got it right.

      2. Simon, the 1973 version is not a mistranslation. It is a valid translation according to the translation guidelines laid down by the Consilium for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy established by Pope Paul VI.

        In calling the 73 version a “mistranslation” you undermine episcopal and papal authority and invite people to ignore the 2010 version under the pretext that it too is a mistranslation according to some future pope’s hoped-for changed rules.

        Both 1973 and 2010 are equally valid translations: which is better is a matter of vast opinion.

      3. Graham,
        As to pro multis specifically, refer to Jeffrey Pinyan’s December 1, 2011 – 9:21 am comment, below.

        As to the 1973 missal generally, isn’t a translation at all—it is, as was well-said by Anthony in a cmoment here—the ICEL’s attempt to “create a living, meaningful vernacular langauge inspired by the Latin, based on it, but not tied to it absolutely.” And for the reasons that I explained there, citing Comme le prevoit just won’t help, because that document sets rules for translation, not “creat[ion of] a living, meaningful vernacular langauge inspired by the Latin, based on it, but not tied to it absolutely.”

        In criticizing the 1973 missal, I do not “undermine episcopal and papal authority and invite people to ignore the 2010” translation, because the issue in both instances is the authority of the Holy See. Use of the 1973 missal is valid and licit because Rome approved it, not because it’s a good translation; refusing to use the 2011 missal is impermissible because even if it wasn’t a good translation, Rome approved it.

        As to legitimizing dissent, well, see the comments above by Joe and Dunstan. So far as I understand it, celebration according to the 1973 missal is now illicit, and celebration according to the 1998 ICEL draft was never licit, so we are obliged (Redemptionis Sacramentum c.7) to have a quiet word with a priest who does so, and a quiet word with his bishop should he persist.

      4. Simon

        Though it should be noted that the 1973 translation has not been abrogated as such. Summorum Pontificum, whatever one thinks of it, established a norm of observing the niceties in that regard; that is, apparently, abrogation does not arise from merely issuing new editions and instructing that they the ones to be used henceforth. Before that MP, one might have thought abrogation would be reasonably implied from such an action, but no more.

      5. Karl, I think that’s a really dicey analogy. You’re assuming that what’s true for a new Missal is also true for a new translation of a Missal. We deal here not have a new Missal but simply a new edition with technical corrections (specifically, the translation); I suppose that you could argue that technically 2003MR is a new missal, but then the analogy to SP would look like this: “It is … permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI in 1969 and never abrogated” (emphasis added). If your SP analogy does any work, it merely establishes that the 2003MRET doesn’t exclude the use of the 1969MRET—and perhaps even less: SP, after all, is legislation, so it’s far from clear that without an SP-style authority it would be possible to use the 1962MR. I doubt we’ve heard the last of the idea you’re suggesting, but I don’t think it works.

  2. Vincent Twomey, wellknown Ratzinger-Schueler, defended the new translation in the Irish Times and quoted it as saying “for the many” — so this suggests that a little tweaking in that direction is not off the cards. Meanwhile the 1998 option, though “illicit,” is more attractive all the time. Anyway, salus animarum suprema lex — something our bishops would have been well advised to remember.

  3. I found particularly loathsome her suggestion that people withhold donations to their parishes as a form of protest. I’m sure it made her feel all cool and fight-the-powerish, but in fact it simply indicates that she is somewhat disconnected from parish life. It’s not like the money you put in the collection basket is put in a big box and shipped off to Rome to buy the Pope Prada shoes. Apart from the cathedraticum, which is sent to the chancery, not the Pope (and is not all that much in any case), the money in the basket goes to paying the light bill, the salary of the director of religious education, the parish’s outreach ministries, etc.

    If you hate your parish, by all means stop giving. If you hate the Vatican. . . well, it’s a lot like hating the rain in Seattle: you are going to have to find a way to cope with something you can do little or nothing to change.

    1. In the US I believe that about 10 to 15% of parish collections go to the chancery. On the one hand, most of what you give stays at the parish level and supports your parish. On the other hand, I think that most of the chancery’s income comes from the parishes, so that’s what gives your bishop the power to influence regional politics. So, when you donate to your parish, whether you like it or not, you are the supporter behind your bishop’s voice.

      If you don’t want your bishop to speak in your name in politics, but you do like your parish, then you should make in-kind donations instead of money.

      1. In my parish, which may or may not be representative of the diocese as a whole, it’s 25%. It was 40% of a capital campaign a few years ago. That campaign I know for a fact was tailored by parish – some gave a much smaller fraction to the diocesan campaign – but I’m less certain of the weekly tax..

    2. Withholding your money is relatively ineffective, since pastors and bishops will just ask others especially wealthy donors to make up the difference.

      Redirecting one’s money may make a difference, i.e. contributing to a particular ministry or cause that you wish to support. In our diocese such one time gifts are not subject to the bishop’s tax. They empower you and people you support rather than the pastor and the bishop.

      Personally I like targeted gifts of $1000. It puts you on the radar screen and tells pastors and pastoral staff what you support.

      If you want to support your local lay ministers, Christmas is a good time to give gift cards in appreciation of their gifts. Priests have long benefitted from gifts, e.g. cars, vacations etc from wealthy donors.

      1. Siobhan Maguire

        If you want to support your local lay ministers, please, please, please make regular weekly donations. This pays the light bills, salaries, funds the annual budget for music, hosts, wine, paper, bulletins, coffee, toner cartridges, heating bills, furnace repair, etc.

        I appreciate the Christmas gifts of course; I am humbled by the notes, gift cards, kind words on Christmas morning. But I cannot pay my mortgage with a Starbucks card. Nor can I administer a music budget with a Christmas ornament in the shape of a treble clef. And I really, really, really cannot live a dignified life as the recipient of tips and vacations (vacations? really, somebody is giving priests vacations?).

        I show up every Sunday (and 5 out of 6 weekdays). Please, please, please do the same.

    3. What other methods do the PIPs have to make their voices heard?

      FWIW – the parishes in my diocese are assessed by the Chancery – if the people do not donate enough directly to the Bishop’s Appeal, then the funds come out of the parish budget. Parishes that fail to meet the quota find themselves on the chopping block.
      The bishop has sole control over Chancery funds. I suspect that some of that money does indeed, end up in Rome, whether it goes to the Pope or some Vatican bureaucrat.

      1. Having a say in the parish through one’s contributions of time and money is a complex matter.

        My first principle is that my money goes where my time goes; I support things in which I am involved so I know where the money goes. When I was a voluntary pastoral staff member at a parish, I tithed. If a parish does not need my talents, it does need my money.

        Because of my experience in a parish with mostly voluntary pastoral staff members, I believe that is the model of the future, and that paid staff should exist to facilitate the maximum voluntary use of talent of the members of the parish. I watch very carefully whether paid staff are centered on their own talents or the talents of the members of the parish. I generally think parishes and dioceses have too many paid staff.

        In general I think Catholic educational and charitable institutions should be independent of bishops and pastors. I went to a Catholic college and support Catholic higher education. I even endowed a scholarship in memory of my parents. I did not go to a Catholic grade school or high school. I would however support them if they were totally independent of dioceses and religious and provided a quality education superior to most public schools.

        I would support Catholic Charities only if independent from the bishops, etc. In most cases these organizations receive considerable public support anyhow, and should be independent rather than being used by bishops to leverage money and influence.

        Bishops need to cease being CEOs of multipurpose organizations and limit their work to supervision of parishes.

        Of course if you read Jason Berry Render unto Rome: the Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church you will probably decide not to contribute money at all. Through most of its history church management has been far more obsessed with money even than sex.

    4. it simply indicates that she is somewhat disconnected from parish life.

      Perhaps she is disconnected because the parishioners do not have any specific information about where the money goes. It disappears into a black hole. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, but that’s what happens in many, many parishes. Would you support her call in that case?

    5. (T)he money in the basket goes to paying the light bill, the salary of the director of religious education, the parish’s outreach ministries, etc.

      And as a parish employee I say “Bravo, deacon!” That HuffPo dreck – not to mention the Call To Action flyer suggested elsewhere here – can only do more harm than actual good.

      I understand some folks need to vent boilerplate, anticlerical, DIY-revolutionspeak (“We are strong! No one can tell us we’re wrong!” ad nauseam), but in the end such calls to vote with one’s wallet only end up hurting people, many of whom do their ministries in spite of left, right or center.

      1. And I should add that I do not benefit financially from what goes into the collection basket (even though for the last three years I’ve ended up being the one who gave the homily on giving).

  4. The negative public discourse we hear and read today on religious blogs, newspapers and the like that mirrors the negativity we see in the talking heads on TV as it concerns politics should be of concern to all Catholics and others of good will for when we participate in this style of negativity we are simply acquiescing to the culture and not to Christ or what is good within us.
    It does make one wonder about the effect of the “divorce mentality” so rampant in our culture, that we choose separation over reconciliation, hateful language over loving critique. The style of communication in the satire of Colbert Report indicates just how far we have sunk. I think Catholics have a good sense of humor but there is a fine line between a sense of humor and maliciousness disguised as humor that pulls people and institutions down rather than building them up. While we all are liable to cynicism is that really Christian? Catholic? Is it Christ-like?

    1. I laughed over my oatmeal as I read your comment just after I read this comment from LeonG over at Rorate Caeli:

      ” . . . Pope Benedict XVI is a progressive liberal modernist. He came from this stable and is still very much part & parcel of that movement. He says himself he never changed as others did. Ecumenically and interreligiously he is progressive. There can be absolutely no doubt about that in view of what we have observed over the span of his pontificate. He supports collegiality which horizontalises the hierarchical principle. This is progressivist. He is definitely not a traditionalst liturgically speaking as he supports and propagates the NO and is not against diffrential praxis as his support of the Neo-Catecumenal and Charismatic ways attests. He does very little to discipline bishops and priests who are flagrantly de facto schismatic while he has done very little in effect to eradicate sexual perversion amongst the clergy – this has been mostly left to the secular authorities (and not without some obstruction either). Furthermore, his writings demonstrate the continuing characteristic ambiguity and equivocation of the modernist papacies in that much of what he writes requires clarification. It is rare when he is absolutely clear – reading the Summorum Pontificum made us acutely aware of that, as only one example.”

      * * *

      I will say that, while cynicism is not Christian, a healthy dose of detached skepticism is necessary to balance the false and unChristian version of docility that the culture of Romanità encourages.

      1. Ironically, Summorum Pontificum is actually one of B XVI’s more confused and internally contradictory writings.

  5. I personally would have preferred “for the many”, but I’ve read that it was considered seriously and rejected on the grounds that it could have a more exclusive interpretation–somewhat like “for the elect”–and raise questions along predestination lines in the minds of some (if not many).

    1. Where did you read that, Henry? Because that’s not what happened at all. As with all these things, it was much simpler than the picture painted by the subsequent legends – and you’re assigning to the people involved far more good will and intelligence than they actually had, and have.

  6. The Bible and the Liturgy are like poetry because both are better when sung, and were developed to be sung.

    Andrew Greeley has long made the point that religion works more like poetry than prose.

    1. Jack, I beg to differ. Good poetry is not often better when it is sung. Words being sung are called lyrics. Read Suzanne Langer on the difference. Excellent poets like Shakespeare put the music into the lines by using the sounds and cadences (that word as musicians use it) in such a way that the medium is the message. The sound of the words is the music. (It is also metaphorical, much of which is lost when people read it with only their eyes, or as if it were prose.)

  7. The reversion to “for you and for many” is simply trouble-making. […] If anyone sees a valid reason for such wording, I hope we hear from them below.

    At the risk of rehashing everything that has been said on PTB about “pro multis” and its translation: there is no Greek warrant for “for the many” (Greek has a word for “the” which is not used here), virtually every English translation of the Bible has “for many” in Matthew 26, and the reason “pro multis” rather than “pro omnibus” was used for the words of consecration was explained by the Catechism of Trent as referring to the fruit rather than the value of Christ’s sacrifice: “For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race.”

    And let me provide another possible English translation: “for so many”. It captures the essence of “for many” (“pro multis”) without sounding (to me, at least) quite as restrictive.

    Of course, someone might complain that “so many / so much” can be used in a distinctly limiting manner: e.g. “I can only handle so many things at a time,” rather than “I have so many things to do.” But that seems to be the case only when it is used in conjunction with “only”, which is not the case here.

    1. Thanks, Jeffrey. It still leaves me with the problem of how we explain this to plain people (including me). In real English of today we do not say “for many” without saying something like “for the many who accept it.” Do you really want to say that he really did die for all, but in a lot of cases it did not work, so he did not die for them?

      1. I would never say that Jesus didn’t die for someone, or that He didn’t “really” die for someone. It’s just that there are some people who do not live for Him who died for them.

        Perhaps the words of Paul would work well here: “He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

      2. Jeffrey’, your second sentence illustrates the problem. “It’s just that there are some people who do not live for Him who died for them.” I certainly grant that principle and believe it as a doctrine of the Church.

        But He has to have died FOR THEM before they have the choice not to live for Him.” In today’s English “for many” IMPLIES to many that there are some He did not die for. How are they going to choose to live for Him?

        I understand that you are trying faithfully to figure this out, as we all are. Shed some more light, would you?

      3. Fr. John, the words of institution are not “I will die for you and for many”, but “[my blood] will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” So that’s the distinction I make, that Jesus is talking about the actual (rather than the potential) forgiveness of sins of “many” as a result of the pouring out of His blood. I think the older translation, “for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”, emphasizes the potential (“for all”, “sins may be forgiven”), whereas the newer translation emphasizes the actual (“for all for the forgiveness of sins”).

        I gloss the words as “for you and for many for the forgiveness of their sins”, the “their” being the “many” who do, in fact, have their sins forgiven.

        Put another way, the older translation seems to be saying “[my blood] will be shed so that sins may be forgiven, for you and for all”, whereas the newer translation seems to be saying “[my blood] will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of their sins.”

    2. I guess that my comment would be not as much as “for the many” should be the ultimate translation. Merely that it should maybe be a transitional translation and then after a time, start saying “for many”.

      Be that as it may, it’s currently set to “for many”.

      And thanks to everyone who has allowed a bit of rehashing to take place. Some of us here are newbies, but who do find the conversation stimulating, and in some cases educational.

  8. Sean Whelan :
    Christ died for ALL. Whether all accept that is another thing, and certainly not up to us to judge. The 73 translation got it right.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.
    Yes Christ dies “for all” and the Church has never denied that. And by returning to “for many” she still doesn’t. During the Consecration the Priest is speaking in Persona Chrisi. There is a difference between the sufficient and efficacious aspects of the atonement. The Council of Trent addresses this and explains that Christ was speaking of His atonement’s efficacy, not its sufficiency during the Last Supper. Ergo the use of “for many” is appropriate during the Consecration while taking nothing away from the fact that Christ died “for all”

    1. This is how the Church has operated for centuries: saying one thing and meaning another, and, if in doubt, have a Council decree that it’s all ok. It’s a form of casuistry.

      This is the same process, and indeed the same Church, which subsequently brought you the likes of Bernard Cardinal Law, who HAD NOT knowingly re-assigned paedophile priests, except when the paperwork was discovered, he actually HAD knowingly re-assigned them.

      Lex orandi – lex credendi. I seriously doubt that people who hear a priest, or anyone, spinning the “Christ died for all, but he said he died for many” line in 2011 and beyond will take that line any more seriously than Bernie Law is taken in Boston: he is a laughing stock.

      Look above, to the title of this thread: for shame.

      1. To your point, Chris:

        http://www.americancatholicpress.org/Father_Zerwick_Pro_Multis.html

        JP – not sure where you are getting your Trentan “fruit” vs “value” storyline.

        Re-read Rev. Zerwick’s research and explanation of the 1973 translation and why the choice was made.

        Keys:

        As a result of these facts, why in our liturgical translations is the venerable pro multis replaced by pro omnibus? Here is my answer. This is appropriate because of an inconvenient fact, accidental but true. The phrase “for many” (it is said) in our minds today is understood without reflection to exclude the universality of Christ’s redemptive work. The Semitic mind of the Bible could see that universality connoted in the phrase “for many.” In fact that connotation was certainly there, because of the theological context. However eloquent it was for ancient peoples, today that allusion to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is clear only to experts.

        One could also object to the phrase “for all” by saying that for some people the phrase might suggest that all actually will be saved. But that misunderstanding hardly exists amoung Catholics, it seems.

        Furthermore, this is neither the first nor the only time that the words of the conscration have changed. The traditional Latin text already combines the pro vobis (“for you”) from the Gospel of Luke with the pro multis phrase of Mark and Matthew. And that is not the first alteration of the text, to be sure.

        The liturgy of the early Church (as in Mark and Mattew) seems to have adjusted the words over the chalice, to conform to the words said over the bread. According to Paul and Luke (1 Corinthians: 11:25; Luke; 22:20) the original words said over the chalice were. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” That is a wording that perhaps in depth of meaning was excellent; it is not, however, excellent in clarity.

      2. not sure where you are getting your Trentan “fruit” vs “value” storyline.

        From the Tridentine Catechism itself, the section on the Holy Eucharist, under the heading “Explanation Of The Form Used In The Consecration Of The Wine”.

        for some people the phrase [“for all”] might suggest that all actually will be saved. But that misunderstanding hardly exists among Catholics

        How much time does Fr. Zerwick spend reading Catholic blogs?

      3. JP – did you read the link I provided you?

        Father wrote and published this in 1970 – 40+ years ago. You might have been blogging back then; but, oh well!

        Tridentine Catechism – you do understand that you are taking one document from Trent which may or may not summarize what actually was discussed, etc. Yes, it may have wound up being a summary of what leadership decided but other documentation, records from episcopal participants, etc. would give a more comprehensive look at the issue. For example, Paul Ford provided documentation from Trent that the bishops actually discussed and came close to voting on liturgy in the vernacular. (The typical Catholic does not know this and would reject that given the recent outlook on the Trentan Council.)

        Also, keep in mind that Trent was reacting to the Reformation – both good and bad decisions and directions. Its catechism reflects the culture and times – it does not reflect 1970 much less 2011.

      4. Bill, yes, I read the link. I know it is from 1970. Perhaps you didn’t consider that mine was an intentionally anachronistic remark. (Example: “Shakespeare wrote, ‘frailty, thy name is woman,’ but Shakespeare never met my mother. To me, she was anything but frail.”)

        In other words, Fr. Max may have thought in 1970 that the misunderstanding (as he calls it) that “the phrase [‘for all’] might suggest that all actually will be saved … hardly exists among Catholics”, but I wonder if he would have the same opinion today!

        There are some who are distressed about “for all” becoming “for many” because it sounds like we’re saying Christ did not die for all; their distress is understandable, but as we are hashing out in this very thread, the Catholic Church has always believed, and still believes, that Christ died for all.

        But others, like John Murphy (posting last month), are distressed because the change from “for all” to “for many”, in John’s words, “clearly contradicts the doctrine of Apocatastasis (Christ’s universal salvation).” And there have been comments made on Pray Tell over the past few years (especially over “pro multis”) questioning whether anyone has been or ever will be in Hell. A year ago, Crystal Watson posted a series of articles about Hans Urs von Balthasar’s idea that there might not be anyone in Hell.

      5. Yes, it may have wound up being a summary of what leadership decided but other documentation, records from episcopal participants, etc. would give a more comprehensive look at the issue.

        Bill: So, is there documentation that you know of that would suggest the Tridentine Council Fathers thought differently of “pro multis” than what is contained the Catechism produced after the Council?

        For reference, here is more context for the excerpt from the Catechism:

        The additional words “for you and for many”, are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore (our Lord) said: “For you”, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, “And for many”, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.

        With reason, therefore, were the words “for all” not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. And this is the purport of the Apostle when he says: “Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many”; and also of the words of our Lord in John: “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me, because they are thine.”

  9. Siobhan Maguire :

    Siobhan Maguire
    If you want to support your local lay ministers, please, please, please make regular weekly donations. This pays the light bills, salaries, funds the annual budget for music, hosts, wine, paper, bulletins, coffee, toner cartridges, heating bills, furnace repair, etc.
    I appreciate the Christmas gifts of course; I am humbled by the notes, gift cards, kind words on Christmas morning. But I cannot pay my mortgage with a Starbucks card. Nor can I administer a music budget with a Christmas ornament in the shape of a treble clef. And I really, really, really cannot live a dignified life as the recipient of tips and vacations (vacations? really, somebody is giving priests vacations?).
    I show up every Sunday (and 5 out of 6 weekdays). Please, please, please do the same.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    One thing that I would like to see changed is the absolute control of the pastor over who gets hired, who gets fired and what they get paid. I’ve known many who have given above and beyond for their parish at very low pay for years only to be shown the curb by a new pastor.

  10. Within the article quoted it is sarcastically asked whether we were supposed to believe that Jesus spoke Latin. I mention this only to propose a possibility and gather opinion: namely, it seems likely to me that, owing to the near-universality of these languages in his time, Jesus most likely did know some degree of Latin, as well as Greek. What thoughts have we on this? JP?

    1. “JP?”

      Me?!

      I would guess Jesus knew Hebrew and Aramaic, some Greek, and perhaps some Latin.

      If Jesus was born into the United States today, we’d expect Him to know some Spanish by the time He turned 30, no?

      And Brigid, what would it matter that Latin was the language of the occupiers? That’s a reason to refuse learning or using it?

      1. I just think it ironic that what was for Jesus the language of the oppressor is now considered by some to be the only appropriate language for the Church!

      2. JP – latin was the language of the oppressors (comparison to today’s spanish – poor link and makes even less sense). Totally different situation – no easy comparisons. Look to the works of the Jesus Seminar – Jesus may have recognized latin words, phrases but doubt that he would have chosed to use them for all kinds of reasons.

    2. Be careful of anachronism – at this point, Latin wasn’t that universal yet. Judaea had only been a Roman province for a generation (the prior three generations it was a protectorate of sorts, but under local control), and was still under considerable local day-to-day administration, very especially in the regions where Jesus spent almost all of his life. It’s like thinking that many rural Afghans are fluent in American English now (if anything, American English has many advantages as a second lingua franca that Latin never had).

      1. I’ve read one analysis of English as developing from a pidgin trading language. If indeed English developed as a trading language accessible to people speaking unrelated languages, that may explain its dominance in world commerce today.

    3. Ben Witherington has some things you might find interesting

      Latinisms, Western Diction, and the Provenance of Mark’s Gospel
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/11/01/latinisms-western-diction-and-the-provenance-of-marks-gospel/

      “There are some 18 Latin words found embedded in NT texts, but no less than 10 of them are found in Mark’s Gospel which is in fact more than in any other literary Greek text we know of from antiquity.”
      “Most commentators rightly take this as a clue to Mark’s provenance, namely that it was not merely written in Rome, but for Romans (hence the Latin explanations).”

      “Greek does not appear to be Mark’s first language, Aramaic is, as was the case with Jesus. Jesus grew up in Galilee where Aramaic was the chief spoken language, followed by Greek (Hebrew was read in the synagogues but was not the chief spoken language of Jews in that locale in that era).”

      Scholars have often noticed the ‘Semitic interference’ in Mark’s Gospel. This phrase means we have evidence from awkward Greek phrases and use of terms that the author has been thinking in one language and expressing himself in another.”

      “The compelling evidence of Semitic interference in Mark adds some real spice to the provenance debate. Now we have an author writing for Westerners, who himself is clearly an easterner, an Aramaic speaker, which even the vast majority of Jews outside the Holy Land were not

      1. could Jesus himself have known and used some Greek.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/11/02/reading-and-writing-in-herodian-israel-was-jesus-an-illiterate-peasant-part-one/

        The answer to this is yes, and yes, he could have done so, and there were occasions when he would have needed to do so— when speaking to a Roman officials for example, such as a centurion, or say especially Pontius Pilate.

        And then too we have the evidence of Jesus using loan words like ‘hypocrites’

        Most people in the occupied territory we call the Holy Land, had to be to some degree multi-lingual to deal with Greeks, Romans, Jews on a very regular basis, including especially for business purposes. The lingua franca in such a mixed language milieu was Greek, the language of commerce, trade, tax discussions etc. but the chief spoken language of Galilean and Judean Jews was Aramaic, a Semitic cousin of Hebrew.

        Galilee was surrounded by ten Greek cities (the Decapolis), including one within the region itself— Scythopolis. Bethsaida was a border town. Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi to reveal his identity. There is no reason at all why the stories of Jesus, and the sayings of Jesus could not have been written up in Greek not long after Jesus spoke them, at the least for Diaspora Jews to peruse.

      2. It is a too little known fact that Greek speakers were everywhere to be found in the world of Jesus

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/11/03/reading-and-writing-in-jesus-world-was-he-an-illiterate-peasant-part-two/

        We tend to forget that at first Israel was under the control of the Roman province of Syria, before the Herods did their thing, and thanks to the Romans Greek replaced Aramaic as the language of administration in the region, including even in Judea during the reign of Pilate.

        “the attested presence of Greek in Palestine from the third century BC onwards and the variety of texts available from the Herodian period implies that there were few parts of the country where some knowledge of the language could not be found

        In short, Jesus did not live in a cultural backwater, he lived in a multi-lingual setting. He mostly spoke Aramaic but likely knew some Greek.

      3. That Jesus spoke Aramaic most of the time very few dispute any more

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/11/04/was-jesus-illiterate-part-three/

        . The Gospels are clear enough on this— here is a short list of Aramaic words found on his lips— abba,eloi,eloi sabachthanai, ephphatha, kephas,messias,qorban,rabbuni,talitha qumi,amen, Gehenna, mamonas, pascha, raka,sabbaton,satana,saton, and we could go on.

        Millard (p. 157) reminds us that the literacy situation in Jewish society differed from that in the Greco-Roman world in a notable way. Firstly, there was a strong tradition of the education of males (see e.g. Proverbs or Sirach), so they would be able when called upon to take their turn reading the Hebrew and Aramaic of the OT

        Jesus debates with the literate, for example scribes and Pharisees, and he upbraids them.
        Now all of these folks could read, and it would have been singularly inept, ineffective, and inappropriate for Jesus to upbraid them for not reading, if he himself had never read these texts, and they knew he was illiterate. Indeed, the very fact that Jesus is approached by respectable educated folk like a Nicodemus involves the assumption that both parties have read the Scriptural texts in detail and can discuss them. In short, all these texts either directly or indirectly make clear Jesus had to be able to read the Scriptures to be respected, to dialogue with the literate, and to speak in the synagogue after the Scripture reading. None of this should surprise us in light of the tradition of male Jewish literacy from before the time of Jesus.

      4. My conclusions about this is that Jesus and the disciples like knew and used Greek when dealing with people in business and administration or when dealing with anyone that spoke Greek but not Aramaic. However because most people spoke one or the other they would have had little need to learn or use Latin in Galilee or Judea.

        The extensive use of Greek and Aramaic likely facilitated the quick adoption of Greek as the language of the NT even when as in the case of Mark the person still though in Aramaic.

        However when Greek speaking and writing Christians got to Rome and other places where speaking Latin was more common they likely learned enough to be able to understand some words but since Greek was very prevalent they likely were under little pressure to learn it. E.G. “Christian” is a Latin word, but Christians in Rome took several centuries to begin to use Latin in the liturgy.

      5. re: Jack Rakosky on December 1, 2011 – 6:17 pm

        One of my issues with Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” (besides the film’s bald anti-Semitism) is the scene in which Pontius Pilate cross-examines Jesus. Pilate starts out in Aramaic, and then switches to Latin! I remember walking out of the movie theater with a “huh?”

        Pontius Pilate certainly knew Greek fluently, given that it was the lingua franca of the late antique Mediterranean. Wealthy Romans began Greek immersion early, often with Greek tutor slaves. Mel’s decision to have Pilate switch from Aramaic to Latin makes no historical sense.

        I agree with Jack that the historical Jesus must have had some knowledge of Greek, even if that knowledge was only verbal. However, if the Maccabean novels are to be read as a historical record, Judeans or Galileans who were proficient or fluent in Greek might have been viewed as collaborators with the occupying regime.

        Luke 16:1-8 displays standard narrative tropes from hellenistic and Roman literature. Even if Jesus told this parable in Aramaic, it is not implausible that the parable borrowed from cultural memes outside of the region of Jesus’ ministry.

  11. Brigid Rauch :
    I just think it ironic that what was for Jesus the language of the oppressor is now considered by some to be the only appropriate language for the Church!

    Brigid, that’s not irony, it’s just a case of “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

  12. Fr. John Foley: [Michele] Somerville alleges that the “Eucharistic Prayer may not be a poem in a technical sense, but it functions as one.” There may be a good point buried here, but what kind of poetic function is she talking about? (my addition)

    The ancient eucharistic prayers are necessarily literary. The Roman Canon displays parallelism, profound meter, alliteration and assonance, and even a few instances of obscure vocabulary to provide another layer of meaning. Some of this meter has been restored in the new English translation. The early medieval custom of the silent recitation of the Canon, which eventually applied to all Masses, obscured the lyrical quality of this anaphora. Fortunately, the Council has restored audible recitation of the eucharistic prayer. I do hope an optional audible Canon will be restored to the EF as well.

    Fr. Foley: I would have thought that the EP should instead consist of a ritual language, i.e., one that expresses (repetitively) truths that are already deep within the assembly—which includes the people in the pews […] (my ellipsis)

    I am unsure about this statement. It is true that Catholics are justified in baptism and confession. Both sacraments impart sacramental grace. Perhaps our shared baptism and continual growth in grace through confession embeds within us an identity and participation within the second person plural of eucharistic prayer. I would be hesitant to say that conscious or subconscious understanding of the truths of the faith are an indelible mark on the faithful however. The Christian life is growth through the sacraments, and not the sacraments as an affirmation of personal achievement or perceived holiness.

  13. Jordan: IIRC, in that scene, Pilate addresses Jesus in Aramaic, Jesus answers in Latin, Pilate grins smugly (“ah, a smart one who can speak my language…ok…”), then continues in Latin. It’s been a few years since I saw it…that could be wrong.

    What actually stood out to me was that they used 19th-century “Italianate” Latin pronunciation, not the Classical pronunciation that (IIRC) is likely closer to what Romans of the time spoke.

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