The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has given its official translation of the Bible a little update. And while many of the changes will go unnoticed, there is one that could spark a lot of controversy.
“We needed a new translation because English is a living language,” retired auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee Richard Sklba, part of the review and editing team, told USA Today.
According to the paper, fifty scholars, translators, linguistics experts, theologians, and five bishops spent 17 years on the project. It’s the first update of the New American bible since 1970, and the group referenced everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to recent archaeological findings.
USA Today lists some of the more trivial changes:
But the one raising eyebrows deals with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a prophecy regarding her in Isaiah 4:17 [sic; 7:14]. According to that verse, “the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” And that’s the way the old version of the New American Bible phrased it.
The new version, however, swaps “the virgin” for ” the young woman.”
According to USA today, “It elaborates that the original Hebrew word, almah, may, or may not, signify a virgin.” Yet Sklba insists the Catholic church will not change any of its teaching related to the change.
According to the Messianic Jewish group Jews for Jesus, almah does sometimes refer to a “young woman. But the group explains even though the Hebrew word is used, the insinuation is that the woman referenced is “chaste”:
In the few verses where almah appears, the word clearly denotes a young woman who is not married but is of marriageable age. Although almah does not implicitly denote virginity, it is never used in the Scriptures to describe a “young, presently married woman.” It is important to remember that in the Bible, a young Jewish woman of marriageable age was presumed to be chaste. [Emphasis theirs]
“One cannot assert that the prophet was speaking of a virgin technically on the basis of the word almah,” the group’s site says. “Nor can a serious student lightly dismiss the word as having no possible reference to a miraculous conception.”
USA Today says Catholics can read from any of two dozen English translations, however the New American Bible is the official translation used by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.