Is it right to revise the Bible?
"The New American Bible" is not the first Catholic bible to be updated to reflect changes in the way English is understood, but the latest revisions are controversial.
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• The most controversial change comes in Isaiah 7:14, a passage that many Christians believe foreshadows the coming of Christ. The 1970 version of the verse says, “the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
The new version replaces “virgin” with “the young woman.” Theologians say this better represents the meaning of the Hebrew word, almah, which doesn’t necessarily signify a virgin. But traditionalists may see it as a step away from the original meaning.
Is the new edition working to distance Catholicism from the virgin birth of Jesus? Certainly, the danger is that slow, incremental changes in the Bible could result in a shift in meaning over time, a serious concern with regards to religious scripture.
More than 50 scholars, translators, linguistics experts, theologians and five bishops spent 17 years reviewing and editing the current text, analyzing original manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and findings unearthed after the 1970 publication of the current text.
This latest version is just one of some two dozen English translations – including the popular King James Version. Many Catholics have already said they prefer older versions. But for young readers, there is no “old way,” says John Kutsko of the Society of Biblical Literature, in a USA Today article. For many of them and their offspring, this will be the authoritative version. “Young people are accustomed to change,” he said.
It’s a move in line with the pope’s progressive outreach - Pope Benedict XVI has a Facebook page and the new version of the Bible will come out in a variety of paper and digital formats, including as a cell phone app.
But are some of the changes too progressive? How much should the Bible be changed?
Will Americans protest more about modifications made to a children’s book than about changes made to the Bible?
-- Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
[Editor's note: Originally this article used the words "immaculate conception" instead of the words "virgin birth" in referring to the birth of Jesus.]