As I mentioned on the first Sunday of advent, I’m shifting the focus of the REB vs. NABRE comparison to the Old Testament to begin the new liturgical year. In honor of the Immaculate Conception, I’m including an extra comparison post with the first reading from today’s mass. 

Saturday, December 8th, 2018 — Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15, 20

NABRE:

The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the snake:

Because you have done this,
cursed are you
among all the animals, tame or wild;
On your belly you shall crawl,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
They will strike at your head,
while you strike at their heel.

The man gave his wife the name “Eve,” because she was the mother of all the living.

REB:

The LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He replied, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I forbade you to eat from?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave to be with me who gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ The LORD God said to the woman, ‘What have you done?’ The woman answered, ‘It was the serpent who deceived me into eating it.’ Then the LORD God said to the serpent:

‘Because you have done this you are cursed alone of all cattle and the creatures of the wild.

‘On your belly you will crawl
and dust you will eat
all the days of your life.
I shall put enmity between you and the woman,
between your brood and hers.
They will strike at your head,
and you will strike at their heel.’

The man named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living beings.

6 thoughts on “REB vs. NABRE: Old Testament (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception)”

  1. Alright, Gang, I’m going to need to get some help from you on this passage.
    First, the NABRE references ‘the snake’. Perhaps I’m putting too much into this, but ‘serpent’ works so much better to my mind as scripture develops this entity into the ‘Dragon’ (a serpent) of the book of Revelation. Is there a differentiation in Hebrew, as in English, between serpent and snake, or are they synonymous and I need to simply get over it?
    Next, traditionally the enmity was between the serpent and a collective singular, ie. ‘he’ in the English (or ‘she’ in the Latin Vulgate). Now I know that individual represents the whole community, but as a single individual points to the ultimate Victor over the serpent: Christ Jesus. Does the plural translation take us a step away from seeing this as the ultimate victory and make this text into a ‘why people hate snakes’ story?
    Last, and probably least, why in Heaven’s name does the Almighty never get His words in quotation marks in the NABRE? Even Balaam’s donkey gets quotation marks when she speaks in Numbers 22. There’s probably the best reasons in all the world, and I just haven’t figured out what they are; yet every other major translation quotes the Almighty and the NABRE doesn’t. What gives?
    I am really looking forward to hearing what you all think!

    1. I noticed the very same points you mentioned when I was typing this post, Tate. I was surprised that both the REB and NABRE chose a plural “they” to refer to the woman’s offspring. The NRSV uses “he” in that verse.

      I don’t know Hebrew, so I hope other readers can chime in on the precise meanings of the Hebrew words. The NABRE offers a lengthy footnote summarizing the various traditions:

      “They will strike…at their heel: the antecedent for “they” and “their” is the collective noun “offspring,” i.e., all the descendants of the woman. Christian tradition has seen in this passage, however, more than unending hostility between snakes and human beings. The snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24; Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the protoevangelium. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 130–200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19 and 4:4 to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, “she,” and is reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. “She” was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent.”

      I suspect that the NABRE translators decided to render the original meaning of the text and offer the footnote as a supplement.

      I’m glad you raised the point about the NABRE’s lack of quotation marks. That struck me as quite odd. Does anyone know the reason for it?

  2. I think the use of the word ‘they’, while perfectly defensible in terms of Hebrew grammar, was probably done mainly as a somewhat awkward way to avoid the use of the first person singular pronoun, where they would have to choose either ‘he’ (that is, Christ) or ‘she’ (that is, Mary).

    But I don’t think it is a question of inclusive language, but rather an attempt to sidestep a thorny theological dispute. That the REB would do this doesn’t surprise me at all given the number of different churches involved in its production.

    That the NABRE would do this is a little surprising, but it too was probably done for ‘ecumenical’ reasons to in the (rather vain in my opinion) hope that some Protestant churches might adopt it as a preferred translation. This is an instance of where I like I would really like to be able to compare the textual history of this. What does the 1970 NAB OT say here? How about the original 1952 edition of Genesis.

    1. I like your recommendation to compare the translation history of this verse. I’ll check my 1970 NAB and my edition of the Confraternity Version later today when I return home.

      In the meantime, I find it really interesting that the NRSV uses “he” while the REB and NABRE use “they.” Normally,the NRSV pluralizes anything it can get away with if there is reason to believe that the object of the pronoun could be either male or female. In most cases, the REB and NABRE are more reserved with inclusive language than the NRSV.

      1. Well, again, I don’t think it is intended to be inclusive, but rather a sidestep of a theological dispute. It is my understanding that the original Hebrew can be translated as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’ or even ‘it’. Traditionally, Protestants translate it ‘he’, and Catholics translate it ‘she’. ‘They’ is equally defensible and has the effect of offending neither Protestants nor Catholics by picking a side in the dispute.

        I am surprised that the NRSV would use ‘he’ simply because that implies that the passage is Messianic in nature, where the RSV and NRSV usually try to translate the Messianic passages of the Old Testament in such a way as to make a Messianic interpretation impossible.

        ‘They’ is the traditional Jewish translation, used, for example, in the 1999 edition of the NJPS. Since the NRSV usually follows the NJPS on questions like this, I am surprised that in this instance it did not. By the way, the reason why the NRSV usually follows the NJPS is that the NJPS and NRSV OT both had the same editor: Jewish scholar Harry Orlinsky, who was the only translator who worked on both the RSV and the NRSV.

    2. Here is Genesis 3:15 from my confraternity bible copyrighted in 1963:

      “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.”

      The footnote reads: “Her seed; he…his: refers principally to Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of Satan. The Hebrew words include also all faithful children of God in every age who share in Christ’s victory by their opposition to Satan and his offspring, God’s enemies. Crush…lie in wait for: though the same Hebrew verb is used in both instances, these two meanings are determined by the parts of the body injured (head, heel) and by the serpent’s manner of attack. This verse contains the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind.”

      Now, here is the rendering in the 1970 NAB:

      “I will put enmity between you and the woman,
      and between your offspring and hers;
      He will strike at your head,
      while you strike at his heel”

      The footnote reads: “He will strike…at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike…at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (Wis 2, 24; Jn 8, 44; Rv 12, 9; 20, 2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3, 8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.”

      Then finally the NABRE:

      “I will put enmity between you and the woman,
      and between your offspring and hers;
      They will strike at your head,
      while you strike at their heel.”

      The footnote reads: “They will strike…at their heel: the antecedent for “they” and “their” is the collective noun “offspring,” i.e., all the descendants of the woman. Christian tradition has seen in this passage, however, more than unending hostility between snakes and human beings. The snake was identified with the devil (Wis 2:24; Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9; 20:2), whose eventual defeat seemed implied in the verse. Because “the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), the passage was understood as the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind, the protoevangelium. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 130–200), in his Against Heresies 5.21.1, followed by several other Fathers of the Church, interpreted the verse as referring to Christ, and cited Gal 3:19 and 4:4 to support the reference. Another interpretive translation is ipsa, “she,” and is reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. “She” was thought to refer to Mary, the mother of the messiah. In Christian art Mary is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent.”

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