People are often surprised to find out just how many translations of the Bible there are. It is hard to find a definitive count and the numbers found online vary. According to one source, the Wycliff Bible Translators (a Protestant ministry), the complete Bible is translated into over 700 languages. In English, a quick Google search will bring you to a minimum of 15 different English translations with more if you dig deep enough.
The translation that the U.S. Bishops have approved for use in worship is the New American Bible. This is a solid translation which is grounded in academic scholarship, research and historical context. If you look at today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke which highlights Mary’s Magnificat, you will be reading in English what is as close as biblical scholars could get to the words, phrases, and meaning of Mary’s prayer.
When I am studying a piece of Scripture I know well or have heard often, I like to spend some time with other translations in addition to our own. I have found that it can be worth looking at other translations to see what other scholars in different times and places understood the original words of Scripture to mean. There are some translations that focus primarily on a literal word-for-word translation. Others look to convey a contextual or overall meaning of a passage. These worry less about word-for-word and instead look to use their modern language’s nuances and phrases to pass along the message.
For the Magnificat¸ I’d like to offer you a translation you may not be familiar with. It is called, The Message, and is translated by Eugene H. Patterson. There is a Protestant and a Catholic version. This is a reading Bible, as Patterson says. This is a unique translation. Patterson explains, “I became a ‘translator’, daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children” (12).
The Message is the Bible in everyday speech. With this in mind, take a few moments to read Patterson’s rendition of the Magnificat. It is decidedly not what you will hear in Church, but it may evoke new images, emotions, or inspirations you had not considered before. This is not meant to replace your study of the Magnificat found within an approved translation. It is meant to enhance that study experience.
“And Mary said ‘I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened – I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now (Luke 1:46-54)
Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.
Feature Image Credit: Hermann, https://pixabay.com/photos/books-education-school-literature-462579/