Madam, — Kieron Wood (5 February) criticises comments I made at a Press conference on 4 February, even though he was not present at the conference. The issues raised by Mr Wood are far more complex than his letter allows.
Many will know that the words used by Jesus (quoting Isaiah. 53) at the Last Supper “for you and for many” have been translated in the English speaking Mass as “for you and for all”. They have also been translated in Spanish, Italian and German speaking liturgical texts also as “for you and for all”.
To move from “for all” to “for many” is a significant shift and should not go unnoticed. “For many” as understood in the usage of the English language is a restrictive designation in comparison to the inclusive “for all”.
In Semitic use “for many” is expansive, not restrictive.
While the Bible uses the expression “for many”, it is clear that in the Semitic mind it is in contrast with its opposite “for few”; the underlying meaning of this phrase is “for all” and this is borne out in for example in the interpretations of the words of Jesus in 1 Cor.15/22 and 1 Tim.2/6.
Kieron Wood and the proposed new English translation would have us go back to a literal meaning of “for many”, even though “for all” has been in use for some 40 years. Such a move loses the inclusive and universal meaning of the work of Jesus.
The issue in question here is one of translation: Do you adhere rigidly to a literal translation and run the risk of distortion, or do you seek to find a dynamic equivalence in translation, informed by context, tradition and contemporary usage? A word whose meaning is self-evident is surely preferable to a word which needs explanation.
The point of my comments at the Press conference and the concern of the Association of Priests is that the replacement of “for all” by “for many” will cause pastoral, liturgical and theological confusion.—Yours etc.
Fr. DERMOT LANE,