“For you and for many” is ecumenical progress – a Protestant viewpoint

Deutschlandrundfunk (“German Radio”) reports on the “battle over the words of Jesus.” Matthias Gierth argues that the pope’s order is, from a Protestant standpoint, ecumenical progress. Here is a quick translation of the last paragraph of the piece:

How much the Roman directive continues to displease some German bishops is seen in the unenthusiastic reaction of the president of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Zollitsch. Priests in the parishes will have to take the rap. They will have to fight against misunderstanding and incomprehension – as if there were no other problems in the German church. But to see in the letter from Rome one step further in the rapprochement with the Society of St. Pius X, as some theologians presume, misses the mark by far. For the SSPX doesn’t want any vernacular language at all in the liturgy. And the fight between the Vatican and the German bishops about the correct form of the words over the cup has been raging much longer than the current rapprochement of Rome with the SSPX. In the sense of ecumenical convergence, however – which the SSPX would not at all like to see – the translation “for many” is progress. For some time now, most of the Protestant churches have been saying “for you and for many.”

What do you think?

awr

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43 comments

  1. Words and symbols do not exist in a vacuum. I, like many other Catholics, see the change (return?) to “for many” as an assertion that many others will be sent to Hell.
    My daughter attends a welcoming Episcopal parish. The altar rail there is innocuous because it is not a symbol of the differences between Vatican II and Reform of the Reform attitudes.

      1. Jansenism, Marcionism, Antisemitism…. these circulate in the Vatican corridors, where theology is unknown.

    1. Brigid Rauch :

      I, like many other Catholics, see the change (return?) to “for many” as an assertion that many others will be sent to Hell.

      or… [a disinterested interpretation]

      that there are others that somehow have no need of Christ’s redemption.

  2. Brigid, as you well know I’m no theologian. That said I would quibble with your choice of words that this translation asserts that others will be sent to Hell.

    I’m under the impression that no human throughout history stands outside the mercy, grace and redemption that God through Christ offers. However, is it likely that some, at a pivotal moment, choose to stand outside that realm of their own volition?
    There’s a funky little art film that actually depicts such a moment, “The Rapture” inwhich Mimi Rogers’ character, having repented of her wayward youthful ways awaits the Parousia in the desert, and ultimately becomes disillusioned and despondent that it does not arrive according to all her beliefs, and through much personal tribulation out “there.” But in fact, the Rapture signals the apocalpyse and she is so entrenched in her conviction God didn’t love her and follow her expectations that, as the world surreally dissolves into chaos, she finds herself alone in the void. At that moment the film depicts the utter desolation that her soul has chosen, and of which she fully realizes she’s permanently frozen (irony intended) from any hope or repentance. She wasn’t sent, she went.

    1. I would agree with your description of salvation. What I was trying to say is that within the Catholic Church the words “for many” have become a slogan standing for an attitude of exclusion and exclusivity – “Our way or the highway”. That’s not the words are supposed to mean, that’s not what they mean in other communions, but that is how they are heard by many, both those who disapprove and those who approve of that sentiment.

      1. I wonder has anyone in the Vatican connected this with the old debates on double predestination, or remembered the strong condemnation of the view that Christ did not die for all in the bull Unigenitus in 1715.

      2. I don’t think that “it will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins” implies double predestination nor that Christ did not die for all, and I would be greatly troubled if anyone advanced either of those two opinions as justification for translating “pro multis” as “for many”.

  3. Given that I’m among those who have raised the SSPX concern here, I feel like I should wade in just a bit. In general, I agree that context does matter: within the ecumenical conversation, our Protestant sisters and brothers largely don’t see themselves as not in communion with Rome. Their invitations to intercommunion and our prohibitions of it offer a good reference point for the discussion. Perhaps Gierth broaches a more technical discussion of the comparative history of translation between Catholic and Protestant texts. I suspect that there is much more in play here than the mere translation of pro multis, given the differences of perspective on history, theology, etc. My lack of familiarity with those questions disqualifies me from any opinion that deserves publication. But I would wonder, last, whether our “separated brethren” really have been waiting for us to come around on pro multis before they “come home to Rome.’ I think, in other words, this is a coincidence more than a convergence. I doubt it makes nearly so much difference to our Protestant friends as it makes to the SSPX.

  4. I’ll be interested to read the rest of this if and when it becomes available. Certainly, in my experience Protestants tend to be more Biblically sensitive than we are, and so it is no surprise that their liturgies track the actual Biblical language in this regard. It’s good to put this ecumenical embarrassment to rest; hopefully it will help lay open new avenues to mutual understanding and eventual intercommunion. I wonder what they thought of our tinkering around with Jesus’ words like that for the last forty years.

    1. “Tinkering around with Jesus’ words … for the last forty years?” I don’t think so.

      Two reasons:
      1. Jesus didn’t speak English. We’re talking about translation, which of course raises complicated issues about idiom and cultural context and receptor language. The issue isn’t “Jesus’ words,” it’s about how to translate them, which is a different issue.

      2. The “supper narrative” in the Roman canon (and now the other eucharistic prayers) doesn’t quote any Biblical account completely, but is an amalgation of more than one Biblical source. We haven’t been using “Jesus’ words,” strictly speaking, for about 1,600 years now.

      awr

      1. While what you say is true, that sort of misses the point. Yes, we’re talking about translation, but no Bible translation renders Christ’s words with “for you and for all.” They all say “many.” (This contributes to great confusion on the occasions when those passages are read). I guess I don’t really know that “how to translate” this passage really qualifies as an “issue,” outside the very limited context of some Catholic liturgical progressives. For actual Bible translators, the question seems to be completely settled, and by unanimous consent too. That’s what I was referring to when I said that, in light of the seriousness with which the Protestant tradition treats the Bible, what we had been doing was an embarrassment.

        Don’t worry, most Protestants nowadays (who are aware of it) are embarrassed in exactly the same way by Martin Luther’s insertion of “alone” after “faith” in Romans on the pretext that that’s what it was really trying to say. Well, you’ll notice that Lutheran Bibles don’t say that anymore! Why it is that we should have seen fit to try the same sort of stunt 40 years ago is really beyond me.

      2. The “supper narrative” in the Roman canon (and now the other eucharistic prayers) doesn’t quote any Biblical account completely, but is an amalgation of more than one Biblical source. We haven’t been using “Jesus’ words,” strictly speaking, for about 1,600 years now.

        We haven’t been using only Jesus’ words. But we are using words that have been attributed to Jesus in the Scriptures, with the one exception of “eternal” from Hebrews 13:20.

        So while it is an amalgamation (and the narrative surrounding the words even moreso), I think it is safe to say that our words of institution include the phrase “pro multis” because that’s what Jesus is reported to have said (in whatever language it was) in Matthew and Mark.

        “Mysterium fidei” is another matter altogether. Aquinas attributed them to apostolic tradition starting with Christ Himself (ST III 78.3 r.9), but that would imply that the Roman form was the most ancient form which seems a rather unsupportable claim.

  5. Perhaps “most of the Protestant Churches” in Germany use “for many, but “for all” is the translation used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (see ELW and LBW).

    1. Crystal – thank you for pointing out this article.

      Very interesting read — using biblical exegesis (with JPII’s own biblical interpretation of “for all”), liturgical tradition and dogma (with Joseph Ratzinger’s own theological defence of “for all”) to efficiently rebut the now-pope’s justification for translating “pro multis” as “for many”.

      For there has simply never been one continuously used form of the institution narrative, one ‘way it always has been’

      The current literalist and obdurate ascendancy of “for many” is for me symptomatic of the (official) Church withering and closing in on itself, cult-like and apparently hostile to the mass of humankind.

      This is the one, central and critical opportunity for Catholic liturgy to match its theology, for its prayer to match its belief, to be true to the core of our faith in the words we pray, to be catholic… and we’ve blown it – big time.

      So, everyone’s NOT invited. We may call ourselves the universal church, but we don’t really accept the consequences deep down. Because, if we did, we’d not hesitate to demolish all semantic roadblocks to mold the vernacular liturgy into the clear living faith of the Church at worship.

  6. Fr. Ruff —

    (This inquiry – mine – is that of a complete ignoramus.)

    Is it known which language Jesus actually used at the Last Supper?

    If we have His original words, what did they mean in their actual context? Or are they ambiguous?

    If His original words are not known, which language is the oldest account of the Last Supper written in?

    In that oldest account, what did the physical words of that phrase *mean* in their context?

    In other words, what was the meaning that Jesus probably intended by whatever phrase He (probably?) used?

    1. Dear Ms. Olivier,

      You raise excellent questions. Alas, I’m not sure that I or anyone has answers to them. We don’t know if we have the original words of Jesus or not, since the Gospels were written so many decades later, and in Greek. Scholars have done their best to reconstruct hypothetically what all happened in the intervening times, as the story got retold and embellished. There is no pure ‘history.’ The Gospels don’t intend to be that – they are written with an agenda (which is not a put-down, it’s an agenda I share), for the purpose of bringing the reader/hearer to faith. From the get-go, there is a mix of history and theologizing. As for the original context and original meaning (even if we had the original words), hats off to the scholars who have done their best to reconstruct as much as possible, – but of course we’ll never have access to a complete, exhaustive understanding of the time of Jesus.

      Of course, we don’t have such bias-free understanding of any past event – think of all the scholarly disputes and impassioned debates about the Spanish Civil War, or Pius XII’s defense of the Jews, or the meaning of the Second Vatican Council. Such are the limits of human understanding.

      Wish I could be of more help. Oh, I believe Jesus spoke Aramaic, but no written record was made, as far as we know, of his Aramaic discourse.

      awr

  7. Thanks, Father. What I still don’t understand is why all this attention is being given to the Latin when the first report (the best available source, we must assume) was in Greek. What Greek words are being translated and what did they mean in the context of the original report?

    1. (repost): The Greek “peri pollon” in Matthew 26:28 is translated as “for many” in every English digital copy of the Bible I know of, and as the equivalent in many foreign languages:

      por muchos (La Biblia de las Américas, 2007)
      pour plusieurs (Segond, 1910)
      pour plusieurs (Darby, 1744)
      pour plusieurs (Martin, 1744)
      für viele (Luther, 1545)
      für viele (Elberfelder, 1871)
      për shumë (Albanian)
      za mnoge (Croatian)
      za mnohé (Czech)
      for mange (Danish)
      voor velen (Dutch)

    2. Ann – it is why I disparage folks when they use the term ‘ “original latin” to justify liturgical translations. As if latin was the original or as if it is possible to find the “original latin” that came from the Greek – in fact, historical evidence is that Jerome used a “dynamic equivalence” approach to translating the Greek.

      1. I don’t wish to be disparaged (I’m not sure you meant that word), but surely there is some original Latin in the Roman liturgical tradition. It wasn’t all translated from underlying Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic. Of course that’s not the case for “pro multis” which is clearly a translation of “peri pollon” (which is presumably a translation of some Hebrew or Aramaic original), but I’d expect a good portion of the Latin liturgy is “original Latin”.

      2. Bill deHaas, nobody uses “original latin” in the manner you think they do – at least I’ve never encounted anyone who does.

        The missal being translated is in latin – thus the “original latin.” It’s the starter language being used to translate the texts, even though it is not the language in which the texts were originally written. One can argue that older translations and such should be used as well as the latin, but you shouldn’t act as if those who support use of the latin as a starting point are a bunch of dummies who think Jesus spoke it exactly as it appears in the Roman Missal.

      3. Jack – guess you just want to argue for argument’s sake.

        PrayTell has posted and used many articles, posts, etc. in which the commenter or writer uses the term – “original latin” to mean exactly that. (In fact, it is not much different from those who have tried to find and canonize the “exact” words spoken by Jesus because they are “original”)

        Here is one example from a post by Jonathan Day:

        http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/01/19/translation-by-its-very-nature-is-a-continuous-implicit-commentary/

        Money quotes:
        “…..Both renderings are equally tendentious in the sense that each presupposes a belief. In that sense all translations of scripture are tendentious: translation, by its very nature, is a continuous implicit commentary. It can become less tendentious only by becoming less of a translation. Hence when Bishop Gardiner in the Convocation of 1542 tried to stem the tide of Protestant translation he found himself driven by the logic of his position to demand that in all future versions nearly a hundred Latin words (his list included Ecclesia, Penitentia, Pontifex, Sacramentum, and Gratia) should be left Latin or only morphologically ‘Englished’.
        – “….The Council of Trent in 1546 had pronounced the Vulgate to be the only authentic Latin version and Martin worked from it, not from the original. This, however, does not by any means remove his work from serious consideration; he had the Greek also before him, he used Geneva, and was himself used by the Authorized Version.”
        – “,,,Lewis’s comments on translation seem entirely right to me: ‘The business of a translator is to write down what he thinks the original meant. … all translations of scripture are tendentious: translation, by its very nature, is a continuous implicit commentary.’”

      4. Heh – I’m not the one arguing for argument’s sake. None of those are “money quotes” for your position, in that none illustrate people today believing the latin of the Roman Missal to have been some sort of exact quote from Jesus, or original language rather than a translation. Could you provide a healthy number of instances where people mean “original latin” in the way you say they do?

        Whenever I hear “original latin,” it seems obvious they mean the language being translated.

  8. I have been given to understand that “poloi” (many) in Greek carries the implication of an indefinite “many” — like “the masses” in English — that might end up being all; whereas in English, we are more inclined to see “many” as implying “but not all”. The doctrine of the Church is that Christ died “for all” — even if not all accept the offer of salvation — in the sense that all who are saved, are saved through Jesus.

    1. Yes, and this is why translating it as “the many” would have avoided at least some if not much of the controversy now being experienced. Jesus was not making a mathematical prediction at his last supper. But we now sound like we possibly are, and this is what has caused many to react negatively to the new translation of the eucharistic narrative.

    2. The “for many” is juxtaposed not against “for all” (and thus seen restrictively) but alongside “for you” (and thus seen inclusively or expansively).

      The words “it will be poured out for you”, depending on context, can be quite exclusive: they could mean only those who were present at the Last Supper, or only those who are present at the Eucharist, or perhaps all the faithful, or maybe everyone (all).

      Seen in the context of the Last Supper, “for many” speaks to a wider application than just “for you”.

      I think “for many” (or “for the many”) gets the short end of the stick because it is continually contrasted with “for all” (which I think misses the point) rather than “for you”.

      1. Jeffrey, as someone troubled deeply by “for many” I actually draw some comfort here from your suggestion to parallel “for many” with “for you.” That helps a lot, actually. Still, don’t you agree that the Mass where “for many” is said is not a ship in a bottle? There is a lot of baggage surrounding how we word that thought, as has been discussed elsewhere on this blog (and, even a bit here). It seems, once more, we’ve pointed back to the fact that we’re dealing with translation, and translation carries with it “a mix of history and theologizing” that imposes contextual awareness on what we are doing. We cannot seal ourselves hermetically from history, and neither can the Mass. I don’t want to diminish what I said at the top–I think your contribution here is helpful, at least to me. But I think you have to agree there still is more to the matter.

      2. Steve, I am thankful that you are able to draw some comfort in this matter. I think part of understanding this complicated issue is to focus on what the words of this translation are; that’s what drew out for me the “for you” vs. “you many” comparison, rather than “for many” vs. “for all”.

        That’s also why I point out that the phrase is “it will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”, which implies (to me) that the “forgiveness of sins” which is the reason the blood is poured out will be received by the “many”. Who those “many” are, we don’t know, and I don’t think we can say with certainty that it is “all”.

        The previous translation, “it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”, should not be contrasted with the current translation. I think they should be seen in tandem, just as the words of institution place the four scriptural sources alongside one another. Jesus shed His blood, so that sins may be forgiven, for ALL. That’s true. At the same time, He shed His blood for (i.e. to bring about) the forgiveness of sins of [the] many. That’s also true.

        The institution narrative does NOT say “Jesus died only for many”. It addresses either the reason (in the previous translation) or the effect (in the current translation) of the pouring out (or shedding) of His blood.

        I’ll address the rest of your comment in another comment.

      3. There is a lot of baggage surrounding how we word that thought. … It seems, once more, we’ve pointed back to the fact that we’re dealing with translation, and translation carries with it “a mix of history and theologizing” that imposes contextual awareness on what we are doing. We cannot seal ourselves hermetically from history, and neither can the Mass. … You have to agree there still is more to the matter.

        I think that, for some people who have been hearing “for you and for all” for four decades, now hearing “for you and for many” will sound very restrictive. For some it might even conjure up the “smaller, purer church” image that Pope Benedict is claimed to champion.

        Maybe they’re interpolating an “only” or a “some” into the words they’re hearing; maybe their [the people’s] context (or baggage) is preventing them from hearing the words as they really are. Maybe the priest is reading the words poorly and thus not bringing out the expansive nature of “many” after smaller “you”.

        What I wonder is, when these people (like yourself, Steve) read Matthew 26 or Mark 14 and read “for many”, do they have the same reaction? Are they deeply troubled then too? Or, over the past few decades, when they’ve heard the Passion narrative from Matthew or Mark on Palm Sunday, has “for many” there troubled them? If not, why not? (If so… well, that’s another issue to get into.)

  9. What I wonder is, when these people (like yourself, Steve) read Matthew 26 or Mark 14 and read “for many”, do they have the same reaction? Are they deeply troubled then too? Or, over the past few decades, when they’ve heard the Passion narrative from Matthew or Mark on Palm Sunday, has “for many” there troubled them? If not, why not? (If so… well, that’s another issue to get into.)

    Would this be the wrong place to make the usual joke about being Catholic, therefore enjoying a blissful ignorance of Scripture?

    I won’t speak for others. I always was puzzled by the “for many” until I came to know some SSPXers many years ago, had reason to read up on it, and then…well, troubled was not quite the word at that point. I understood the history of the translation and the difficulties attending that history, and I was cheered that a choice had been made to make what people would hear week-in-week-out more inclusive (“for all”) because the long history of the Church and present controversies over the Council load that “for many” with a lot of stuff that is rather difficult to ignore at a moment in the Mass when we shouldn’t want to be bothered by all of that.

    It seems to me worth emphasizing the character of a choice here because it is translation we are discussing. Any translation of sufficient complexity (it need not be much complexity) faces the translator with choices. Good choices do not becloud the listener’s understanding by raising questions or placing “an ‘enormous responsibility’ upon those who interpret the Word of God.” Good choices put everything out of the way of hearing the Word of God, it seems to me. “For many,” in this day for these people hearing it, requires endless blogging in order to get past the history thrown up in front of us by a bad choice. As I said earlier, even cheered as I am by your observation, it really only serves to remind me of how bad this is.

    “For the many” would have been a fine choice. One day, maybe.

  10. Three points:
    1. The point about some Protestants being pleased about Catholic’s using “many” rather than “all” is not simply that we are now doing the same thing, it is that Catholics are, at least in the the eyes of the those Protestants, being more faithful to the Bible per se. Many Baptists in the U.S. have apparently looked askance at the Catholic wording here under discussion for quite some time.
    2. Any discussion of peri pollon must reference the notion that Matthew and Mark, and possibly even Jesus, were making the connection for their hearers between the meal/Jesus’ death and resurrection and the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 who suffers “for many.”
    3. The special Qui pridie of EPI for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, retained from the pre-Vat. II Missal, says “On the day before he was to suffer for our salvation and the salvation of all…” (Latin: “…pro nostra omniumque salute…”) As it seems to echo “for you and for many,” one might hazard to guess that this special Pridie may have influenced the first ICEL translation of the words over the chalice – especially since at least one old handmissal translates omniumque as “and for all men” as did the first ICEL translation of the words of institution themselves (before dropping the seemingly inexplicable “men.”) Too bad we can’t say “pro nostra omniumque salute” or its vernacular equivalant every Sunday, or perhaps one might be…

  11. Jeffrey —

    If Jesus just wanted to broaden His meaning from “you”, why wouldn’t he just say “for you and for others”. Assuming, of course, there was a way to say that in Aramaic or Greek.

    Is there an unambiguous way to say “for all” in the Greek Jesus spoke?

    1. It is presumed that Jesus was alluding to the prophetical texts which used (in Hebrew or Aramiac) the phrase “for [the?] many”, rather than “for [the?] others”.

      If Jesus was speaking Greek at the time, I presume He would have used “pantas” (or some form of that word), as in “pantokrator” (all-mighty).

      I don’t know what word He would have used if He was speaking Aramaic or Hebrew at the time and wanted to say “for all”. I expect you can say “for all” in Hebrew and Aramaic, not just “for many” in a way which would mean “for all”.

  12. It’s not a case, surely, that protestants have started to use “for many”, were these words not used in the 1662 (if not 1549 & 1552) Book of Common Prayer. I was told that whilst Christ shed his blood for all,only Many would choose to receive the benefits of his redemptive death. Both forms ,to me, would seem correct when properly understood.

  13. Sorry,I should have included the terms subjective redemption and objective redemption in the above post, which seem to explain exactly what the difference is between the two texts.

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