This coming Sunday’s second reading—a rough draft?

To me the passage from 2 Cor 1:18-22 for 7 OT Sunday B reads like a rough draft rather than a finished translation, especially verses 19 and 20:

Brothers and sisters:
As God is faithful,
our word to you is not “yes” and “no.”
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me,
was not “yes” and “no, “ but “yes” has been in him.
For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him;
therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.
But the one who gives us security with you in Christ
and who anointed us is God;
he has also put his seal upon us
and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

Yes, the Greek original is “lumpy”:

πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ὁ λόγος ἡμῶν ὁ πρὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἔστιν ναὶ καὶ οὔ
ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν δι’ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς δι’ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὔ ἀλλὰ ναὶ ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν

ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ ναί διὸ καὶ δι’ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἀμὴν τῷ θεῷ πρὸς δόξαν δι’ ἡμῶν
ὁ δὲ βεβαιῶν ἡμᾶς σὺν ὑμῖν εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ χρίσας ἡμᾶς θεός
ὁ καὶ σφραγισάμενος ἡμᾶς καὶ δοὺς τὸν ἀρραβῶνα τοῦ πνεύματος ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν

Can we use the Anchor Bible version or the Contemporary English Version?

2 Cor 1:18-22/ Victor Paul Furnish

18 As God is faithful, our word to you is not both yes and no. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by myself, and also by Silvanus and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No.” Rather, in him it has been an enduring “Yes.” 20 All the promises of God have their Yes in him; hence, through him as well as through us the “Amen” glorifies God. 21 The one who is confirming us along with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.

2 Cor 1:18-22/ CEV

18 God can be trusted, and so can I, when I say that our answer to you has always been “Yes” and never “No.”
19 This is because Jesus Christ the Son of God is always “Yes” and never “No.” And he is the one that Silas, Timothy, and I told you about.

20 Christ says “Yes” to all of God’s promises. That’s why we have Christ to say “Amen” for us to the glory of God.
21 And so God makes it possible for you and us to stand firmly together with Christ. God is also the one who chose us
22 and put his Spirit in our hearts to show that we belong only to him.


  1. I find the readings from Paul obtuse and frustrating whether I am listening to them or lectoring. All too often, the reading begins in the middle of one of Paul’s careful expositions, then skips over this verse here and that verse there, apparently to fit within some arbitrary word limit. I would rather hear a longer reading that made sense than the abbreviated reading that is a mere jumble of words and phrases. It almost seems as if the current readings are designed to scare people away from Paul!

  2. As a long time lector, Paul has always been a challenge, regardless of translation. Luckily, he didn’t have access to a smartphone with auto correct to post his letters.

    I have the task of reading that passage this Sunday. My strategy has been to group words that belong to an idea, rather than to be a slave to punctuation. If you have access to a full size lectionary, the printed arrangement suggests the differences in ideas. It is always important to read the passage aloud, rather than simply in your mind. It always sounds different to me when I do that.

    Finally, as an exercise to prove my point that how you read the exact same words can change their meaning, punctuate the following:

    “Woman without her man is nothing”

    One way: Woman without her man, is nothing.

    But there is another: Woman: without her, man is nothing.

    I am no ancient language scholar and don’t know what sort of punctuation, grammar or syntax ancient Greeks and Paul would have used, so I assume the translation is correct, and use the words in the order given. But at the same time, my prayer and intent is to proclaim the Word the
    Lord wants His people to hear.

  3. I’m still trying to figure out how to proclaim this mess, oh, I mean reading at Sunday’s Mass; if I cannot understand/experience it, how can I expect those hearing it to understand?

    Hmm, perhaps my Pastor could proclaim a better version during his homily, ergo, no ‘liturgical abuse’!

  4. I just think Paul was following Liturgicam Authenticam and had his letters “reviewed and rewritten” by Vox Clara. Could the Anchor Bible and CEV translations been done in 1998 by any chance?

  5. Would this help?

    . . . our word to you is not “yes and no.”
    For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
    who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me,
    was not “yes and no, “ but “yes” has been in him.

    All I’ve altered is the punctuation, to indicate that Jesus does not bring with him into the world any ambiguity about God’s promises, but an unambiguous affirmation of them.
    Admittedly, this doesn’t solve all the problems in the NAB version.

  6. As I read through the very clear and proclaimable rendering of this passage in the NRSV, it invites me to raise the larger question: Why can’t the English translation be rendered in clear English prose in our lectionary? Why must the translation always be worse than the original? Why not better, occasionally? If we can make sense of it, why don’t we make sense of it?

    This isn’t the only place where this sort of thing crops up. The Letter to the Hebrews has been turned into awful, perplexing, clunky English in our lectionary. Whereas the NAB was fine. It read well. It made sense.

    “Oh,” you will say, “but the Greek is ambiguous, it is lumpy! So the English ought to be ambiguous and lumpy too!”

    But is this inference true? Must a translation always read worse or at minimum no better than the original?

  7. What translation is being quoted? The NRSV is fine. In the UK and Ireland we had the Jerusalem BIble of Paul for many years, and it was always horrible, meaningless.

    This, despite the fact that Paul is one of the most thrillingly eloquent writers who ever lived.

    No one complained, no one bothered to try to solve the problem. The inveterate Catholic Schlamperei…

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