First Reading: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

Lectionary text, which is exactly the same as the NAB ’70 text:

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; 
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel: 
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb, 
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one 
and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, 
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood 
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel 
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh 
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“This is how you are to eat it: 
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt, 
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; 
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, 
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, 
which all your generations shall celebrate 
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

NABRE:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month will stand at the head of your calendar; you will reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every family must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a household is too small for a lamb, it along with its nearest neighbor will procure one, and apportion the lamb’s cost in proportion to the number of persons, according to what each household consumes. Your lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole community of Israel assembled, it will be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They will take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat itThey will consume its meat that same night, eating it roasted with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry. It is the Lord’s Passover. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn in the land, human being and beast alike, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord! But for you the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thereby, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.

This day will be a day of remembrance for you, which your future generations will celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord; you will celebrate it as a statute forever.

Comments:

This section of Exodus is a great illustration of what the NABRE is: they have kept the framework of the earlier NAB text but have added a touch of detail there, a touch of contemporary English there, along with a general feeling that things have been tightened up and precision increased. The NAB’s “both man and beast”, a bit poetic, a bit colloquial, has been replaced by “human being and beast alike”. I think I prefer the NABRE rendering, despite my ambivalence to what the phrase “human being” often does to the rhythm of the English. (Four syllables is rarely better than one, if their meanings are the same. The problem is, the word meaning of the word “man” has gotten smaller and more specific with the passing of time.) One thing that interests me is how often “Bible English” is just not good English. I teach Upper Elementary at a Montessori school, and one odd feature of our curriculum is the care we still take in the instruction of grammar. The word “shall” belongs in the first person form only of future tense verb phrases. In American English it has almost entirely faded away in favor of “will”. The NABRE has replaced “shall” with “will” in seven places in this passage, by my count, and not a one of them was either first person singular or plural in the first place! I was only born in 1986, so I lack background in some of the disagreements people have over traditional language. What do people think about the distinction between “memorial” (NAB) and “remembrance” (NABRE)? And what about the replacement of the technical term “perpetual institution” for a rendering which communicates this idea without using the term?

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18

Lectionary text, which is exactly the same as the NAB ’70 text:

R. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16)  Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.

NABRE:

How can I repay the Lord
    for all the great good done for me?
I will raise the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
Dear in the eyes of the Lord
    is the death of his devoted.
    [I am] your servant, the child of your maidservant;
    you have loosed my bonds.
I will offer a sacrifice of praise
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,

Revised Grail Psalms:

How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will fulfill
before all his people.
How precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful.
Your servant, LORD, your servant am I,
the son of your handmaid;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will fulfill
before all his people

Comments:

I added the bracketed “I am” in the NABRE text, as the psalm loses some of its sense with that verse taken out. Nothing here challenges the preconceived notions I’ve had from doing these comparisons: The NAB ’70 psalms are better and more familiar than I remember. The NABRE psalms are precise and plainspoken in an attractive way. The Revised Grail Psalms are airbrushed of detail and are fond of “Yoda speak” but quite prayerful. (Good to chant, I bet, are the Revised Grail Psalms). I suppose I prefer “precious” (NAB, RGP) to “dear” (NABRE), but that is just nitpicking. This proves a point Biblical Catholic made in the comment section recently, which I will paraphrase as: there are only so many ways to render a given passage of the biblical text, and so the difference between translations can easily be overstated. (My translation of his comment was more The Message than the RSV, I suspect.)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Lectionary text:

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

NAB ’86 is the exact same except for the incipit.

Comments:

This reading always hits me like a ton of bricks at Maundy Thursday Mass. The mystery of our participation in the Eucharist is something that goes beyond my ability to chain words and form sentences. I am humbled in the presence. To return to the nuts and bolts of translation and English style, though, the NABRE’s use of “remembrance” in the reading from Exodus reverberates here quite nicely.

Gospel: John 13:1-15

Lectionary text:

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper, 
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power 
and that he had come from God and was returning to God, 
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin 
and began to wash the disciples’ feet 
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him, 
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, 
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him, 
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
 for he is clean all over; 
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet 
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, 
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’  and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, 
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow, 
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

NAB ’86 is the exact same.

Comments:

This is one of the chunks of the bible that is quite familiar to me in its lectionary rendering, which is exactly the same as the NAB text except for the brackets which surround the word “and” in one instance. When I read the NAB and NABRE, I don’t think to myself, “I am reading a translation”. I think to myself “I am reading the bible.” I suppose that is many of us when we are reading the translation with which we are most comfortable. When I read the Knox, I find myself thinking, “Knox was an exquisite English stylist.” When I read the NEB, I think, “this translation is so direct and at times unexpectedly moving and beautiful.” When I read the NAB, I am engaging with the message, not the medium of its transmission into English. Of course, that could be a dangerous place to be if I was coming up with odd interpretations based on a single English text, without checking that verse or chapter against the original language or another translation. By virtue of the deposit of faith and the guidance of the Church, Catholics are insulated from that danger in many ways, thankfully. Nonetheless, does anyone notice themselves thinking in this way with their pet version of the scriptures?

2 thoughts on “Comparing the NABRE with the Lectionary for Mass: Holy Thursday — Guest Post by Bob Short”

  1. I definitely resonate with Bob’s comments on the gospel reading here. The readings from the NAB Lectionary “sound like scripture” to me. I’m used to hearing them at Mass, and the unique phrasing of the NAB remains in my memory. I instinctively compare new translations to my memory of the NAB Lectionary. As I’ve explored other translations, the NAB’s quirks have become more apparent to me (the one I always go back to is “said…in reply” as in “Peter said to Jesus in reply…” — what an awkward turn of phrase! What were the translators thinking?) But in spite of the quirks, the NAB endures as the translation that sounds like scripture to me.

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