The USCCB has come out with a new translation of the New American Bible (NAB), which will be for personal use and will not be replacing the already-in-use translation that is proclaimed during Mass. Some of the translations, it’s being reported, are more accurate to the original languages, especially in the Old Testament. But other changes are more a reflection of the times.
An example of the former is the use of “young woman” instead of “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14; I’ve read many times that the more correct translation of the Hebrew “almah.”
But many of the changes that I’ve read about are more in answer to our culture. “Holocaust” is being changed to “burnt offering,” which does, indeed, tell what a Holocaust is in the Old Testament. But the change is being made so as not to confuse people by using a word that has come to mean the systematic killing of Jews during World War II. “Cereal” is being changed to “grain” because most Americans think of Cap’n Crunch before they think of barely or wheat.
Honestly, I sometimes wonder at these kinds of attitudes from the bishops. There were some bishops who were voicing opposition to some of the new Mass translations, saying that the typical person in the pew wouldn’t know what “consubstatial” might mean, among other things. This might be harsh, and maybe unwarranted, but I think it’s lazy to change the translation to match the (presumed) dumbed-down society rather than teaching us the meaning of things we hear in the readings during Mass. How hard is it to say, “Holocausts were the burnt offerings made to God; think about this meaning when you next hear about the Holocaust during World War II. There’s a reason that term was applied to the gas chambers. There’s a reason we called the mass burnings of Jewish dead in concentration camps a holocaust,”? How difficult is it for anyone to make the connection that we call breakfast cereals that name because they’re made from grains? My fourth grader is learning about nutrition and the food pyramid and she’ll likely make the connection on her own.
But the worst substitution, and the one I wish they had left alone, is the elimination of the word “booty,” as in:
Immediately David’s servants and Joab came, after having slain the robbers, with an exceeding great booty: and Abner, was not with David in Hebron, for he had now sent him away, and he was gone in peace. [Douay-Rheims, 2Kings 3:22 – now called 2Samuel]
What the US Bishops have decided to do is replace “booty” with “plunder” or “spoils of war.” This, to me, is a huge mistake and it throws away an important teaching moment that could have major implications in the battle against the Culture of Death.
How, you might ask, could keeping the word “booty” in the Bible make a difference in that way? Let me tell you how I did battle in my own home against the Culture of Death.
I was reading passages about Saul conquering another army to my nine-year-old, while her older sister, who is twelve, sat nearby doing a math page. I got to the part when God instructs Saul to practice the ban, destroying everything and taking no booty for himself. This, naturally, led to giggles from my children who, despite our best intentions to shield them from a culture that seeks to destroy their innocence, cannot keep it all out. They’ve heard friends – and family, even – use the term “booty,” though, gratefully, they have yet to hear someone use the phrase “booty call.”
“Why are you laughing?” I asked, feeling frustrated that I was getting giggles from a Biblical reading about war and obedience to God.
“You said … booty!” squealed my nine-year-old, dissolving into a fit of laughter and dragging her sister into said fit.
I answered her with something I can only say was inspired. “Do you know what ‘booty’ really means?” She stifled her snickering and shook her head. “It means something that is taken from someone you conquered. It means that you conquer someone and then take this thing from them.” I glanced at my twelve-year-old, making sure she was also listening to this. I wanted this lesson, which had only sprung into my head – in full – moments before.
“How do you feel about boys talking about girls that way? That they are things to conquer and take?”
Their faces changed gradually as they considered this idea. Their smiles were gone, replaced by a worried look. “That’s not good,” answered my younger daughter.
My older daughter was looking more perturbed about this idea. “That’s really bad!” she gasped.
Our lessons about their inherent dignity, that they are precious and not objects to be gawked at or used, have not been in vain.
I wanted to gently lay it to rest, but, at the same moment, wanted to stress it one more time. “When someone uses that word – booty – to describe a girl, that’s the meaning behind it. That she’s a thing, an object, to conquer, to take. And that’s why we’ve never let you use the word.”
Now, mind you, I’ve always felt uncomfortable about the word; I’ve always felt it was degrading, but couldn’t put my finger on it. Until that morning, when I suddenly realized – when God helped me see, really – that men have been using a word that dehumanizes women and reduces them to conquests. I can’t take credit for the whole idea hitting me then. I’ve prayed unceasingly since our children were born that I’d be able to help them see the beauty of the Church’s teachings on sexuality, especially since I failed so miserably to see them for myself until it was too late for me to make the right choices first (rather than repent and make them after seeing my errors). I truly believe that my sincere prayers pay off when, at the spur of the moment, I’m called into battle against the Culture of Death.
But now, the Bibles for home use will have the word removed so as to avoid confusion with the hijacked version the Culture of Death has been teaching our children. And, instead of fighting for us and our children, the bishops seem to be running from it, conceding the point, and turning away from a perfect moment to teach us something about how our society looks at women and girls.
And that’s a shame.