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Shawn wrote:

Hi, guys —

The New American Bible translation is out and they have replaced many words to more modern meanings.

I understand this but they replaced the word virgin in Isaiah's prophecy to young woman.

  • Why would the Catholic bishops do this?

Young woman and virgin are two different things completely, and I find it very important that the next generation knows she was a virgin.

  • Can you please help me make sense of this?


  { Why would the new translation of the New American Bible replace "virgin" with "young woman"? }

John replied:

Hi, Shawn —

The New American Bible (NAB) translates the Hebrew word "Alma" as young woman because that is what the word literally means in the Hebrew. The (NAB) New American Bible uses the Hebrew text as the basis to translate in to English. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. So the NAB is accurate in this instance. That doesn't mean that Mary wasn't a virgin but there is no word for virgin in Hebrew.

About 150 B.C., roughly 70 Jewish Scholars gathered in Alexandria to translate the Old Testament into the Greek, because most of the modern world spoke Greek at that point and that included the Jews. So the scholars all worked on it separately and when they were done, all the translations came out exactly the same. The rabbis overseeing this process were amazed and said it was a miracle. This Greek version of the Old Testament is known as the Septuagint; named after the 70 scholars.

Now the same text in Isaiah that we are dealing with uses the Greek word parthenos which is the Greek word for virgin. Later, St. Jerome translated the Scriptures into Latin and he used the Septuagint text as his basis, so we got the Latin word Virgine which is translated Virgin in the older English Bibles that are based on the Latin Vulgate.

In regards to the Old Testament, the Old Douay Rheims or Confraternity Bibles, are in English, translated from Latin, which is translated from Greek, which is translated from Hebrew.

In regards to the New Testament, it was originally written in Greek.

My point is that these older Bibles are not necessarily more accurate.

The original Isaiah text in Hebrew is literally translated young woman, but we also need to understand that there is no Hebrew word for virgin, yet the Jewish Greek Scholars understood from the context that Isaiah meant a virgin.

There is no perfect translation. Lord knows, the Douay and Confraternity are problematic. For my money, I prefer the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition. If I'm not reading from the Deuterocanonical books and can use a Protestant translation, the New King James is a very good translation.

I would stay away from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition.

It's a politically correct translation. It goes out of it's way to emasculate the text and God.

The NAB is the most commonly used Catholic Bible in the United States. It has it's share of errors plus it has all poetic majesty of a small soap dish.

Like I said, there is no perfect translation. That's why I own several, used them all and compare the texts.


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