25 March 2014

“Virgin” vs. “Young Woman”

If you compare the Canadian Lectionary with the U.S. Lectionary, you will notice a major difference today.


Canadian Lectionary:
Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary the people, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel,” for God is with us.

U.S. Lectionary:
Then Isaiah  said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”
The major difference is “young woman” in the Canadian Lectionary, versus “virgin” in the U.S. Lectionary. Why is there this difference?

I suspect that the difference is due to the Canadian Lectionary using a Protestant translation whereas the U.S. Lectionary uses a Catholic translation. The Protestant translation is correct when using the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the early Christians did not primarily use the Hebrew Scriptures, but used the Greek Septuagint, which would give the translation of “virgin.”

The Septuagint is not a literal translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in this case, but reflects the later thought and development of the hellenized Hebrew scholars and possibly the scholars before them that had not been hellenized. The Hebrew and Gentile Christians both accepted this development. The early Church Fathers even considered the Septuagint as inspired. And, when St. Matthew quotes this passage from Isaiah, he does not take it from the Hebrew Scriptures, but from the Greek Septuagint:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
I took the above quote of St. Matthew’s Gospel from the Canadian Lectionary; however, I have seen some Protestant translations that “correct” St. Matthew by not translating his text, but the Hebrew Scriptures this quote comes from. They may feel justified in doing this because St. Matthew may have originally written his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic. Regardless of this possibility, the only evidence we have shows St. Matthew quoting the Septuagint. We should also remember that if the Author of the Scriptures, that being God, wanted us to have St. Matthew’s Gospel in something other than Greek, it would have been so right from the early centuries.

Why do some Protestant translations of Isaiah, and even sometimes St. Matthew, go to the Hebrew texts and not the Greek texts, which are not only also inspired, but more clearly prophesy the virginal conception and birth? Perhaps this is another ploy in avoiding the Septuagint because it contains the Greek books of the Old Testament that they removed from their Bible. The Jews themselves stopped using these books after the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century to distance themselves from the Christians. Why do Protestants distance themselves from the Christians of the first century?

This all leads to the question: Why does the Canadian Roman Catholic Church use a Protestant translation of the Scriptures for the Ordinary Form of the Mass? It seems rather odd that when the Canadian Lectionary was modified (only the Lectionary for Sundays and Solemnities has been completed so far) to conform to the Norms For The Translation Of Biblical Texts For Use In The Liturgy published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995, they had to get permission from the Protestant copyright holders.