I am no fan of the Jerusalem Bible translation. I weep everytime I hear the Scriptures read at Mass that we have to endure this translation of a translation for years yet to come now that the plan to use the English Standard Version for our new lectionary was scuppered by the English speaking bishops around the world. And yet, it does produce in me interesting points of reflection during homilies, as I use the Universalis app to follow the mass, and that helpfully provides the Greek text for the Gospel lesson.
Since it doesn’t provide the Greek text for the other readings, however, I had to go looking on my Logos app to find the Greek text for today’s Second Reading. In particular, I was struck by the translation of Colossians 3:10-11 that was included in the JB lectionary.
This is how I grew up with it (RSV text):
[We are] being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.
Here is how it reads in the ESV:
[We] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is ?all, and in all.
Here is the JB:
[We have been] renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.
I tried embedding the Greek text here, but it didn’t come out right. Literally, the last line of the text reada “but [the] all things and in all Christ.” The standard conclusion to this text in standard English translations is “But Christ is all, and in all.” Where does the JB get “There is only Christ; he is everything and he is in everything.” I can live with “Christ is everything and in everything”, but isn’t the rest – “there is only Christ” – a bit of a stretch?
It IS a paraphrase of the Greek text, that is for sure. But the more I looked at it, the more I came to think: no, that’s the sense of it, isn’t it? The force of the “but” is adversative: There ISN’T “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Skythian, slave, freeman”; RATHER (“but”) there IS Christ (with the implication that there is ONLY Christ), and he is “everything and in everything”.
So, after having a bit of a think about it, maybe the JB isn’t so bad on this text after all. It still is more of a paraphrase than a translation, but I can live with it.
My one criticism of all the English translations, however, is that they miss St Paul’s emphatic word order: his long list of what there isn’t ends on what there is: “Christ”.
Here’s my try at the last part of verse 11:
“there isn’t Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Skythian, slave, freeman; rather – everything and in all – [there is] Christ.”
I still vote for the ESV…