Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Presbyter in the Latin BCP

An addendum to the previous post on the etymology of the English term "priest": The Latin translation of the BCP authorised by Queen Elizabeth (1560), which does not include ordination services, uses presbyter five times, once in relation to the ministration of public baptism of infants (the equivalent at private baptism is Minister), once at the the giving of the ring during the solemnization of matrimony, and three times in the service of Holy Communion, namely before the two exhortations ("minister" in English) and in a rubric right at the end in which priests are distinguished from deacons (Presbyterii et Diaconi).

The Latin sacerdos is not used in the baptism services but once in the marriage service. It is used seven times in the Holy Communion service, namely in the rubrics before the Ten Commandments, the reading of the Epistle, the general Confession, the Absolution, the Prayer of Humble Access, the Prayer of Consecration, and the Blessing. It is also found about a dozen times in services in which presbyter makes no appearance (Visitation of the Sick, Communion of the Sick, Burial of the Dead, Morning and Evening Prayer), always in rubrics, except for the petition "Endue thy Ministers with righteousness" (Sacerdotes tui induanter Justitia, cf. its occurence in the Benedicite hymnus, also at Matins).

The (unauthorised) 1885 Latin translation of the 1662 Prayerbook show a greatly increased use of sacerdos with presbyter having dropped out of baptism and marriage services. In the Holy Communion service presbyter is used twice, in both instances presbyteri are distinguished from diaconi. By contrast, sacerdos is used about two dozen times. The only place in which presbyter is used prominently is in the ordination service which is not surprising, as it helps to distinguish one kind of sacerdos from another (the episcopus).

The 1571 and 1670 Latin translations of the Book of Common Prayer are not available online, as far as I can see. The latter, by Jean Durel, would be particularly interesting. Charles Marshall and William W. Marshall in chapter 2 (pp. 46-60) of The Latin prayer book of Charles II; or, an account of the Liturgia of Dean Durel, together with a reprint and translation of the catechism therein contained, with collations, annotations, and appendices (Oxford: James Thornton, 1882) comment on Durel's preference for the term presbyter as due to its lack of sacrificial connotations. Presumably Marshall and Marshall think that sacerdos carried such connotations by that time, even though they believe that in the early church sacerdos referred to a person in holy orders, including deacons.

J. Robert Wright in the chapter on "Early Translations" in The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey, edited by Charles Hefling, Cynthia Shattuck (OUP, 2006), pp. 56-60, in reviewing the various Latin and Greek versions of the Book of Common Prayer comments that "there is no strict consistency as to how such words as 'priest', 'presbyter', or 'minister' are to be translated, and the confusion has given rise to much unnecessary theological speculation" (pp. 56-57).

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Etymology of English "Priest"

Most English translations of the New Testament observe the distinction between "priests" and "elders" made in the Greek New Testament where ἱερεύς ("priest") is used for Jewish priests, pagan priests, Melchizedek, Christ and for the priesthood of all Christian believers but never for individuals within the Christian church. For figures of authority within the Christian church πρεσβύτερος ("older man, elder") is used, the same term which in the Gospels designates certain authority figures within Judaism.

In producing the Latin translation of the Bible which would shape the Western church for centuries, Jerome preserved this distinction. He used the loanword presbyter in Acts 14:22; 15:2; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 and sacerdos for ἱερεύς (numerous times). But he did more than that. Jerome bifurcated πρεσβύτερος. The Jewish elders were seniores. The Latinized presbyter was used for elders within the church only. The Latin speaking church consequently used presbyter for their clergy; in vulgar Latin this became prester.

Along with similar terms these Latin words were assimilated into Anglo-Saxon: prester became "préost" and then "preest"; sacerdos became "sácerd". (This is the most likely explanation. An alternative theory, noted  in the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for priest, allows that the Old English préost might have derived from a vulgar Latin word designating someone who is put over others, cf. "provost" and see below.)

This history gives superficial plausibility to the claim sometimes heard that the Roman Catholic Church hijacked the English term "priest," using a word that simply meant "elder" to refer to a performer of sacred  (sacrificial) rites. But when "préost" entered the English language via Latin it did so as a specific term for Christian clergy with the connotations the term would have had within the Latin speaking church. The English word "priest" never meant "elder" (presbyter, senior figure) in a general sense. Put differently, "préost" is not a loanword from Greek πρεσβύτερος but from Latin presbyter via prester and the Latin presbyter never corresponded exactly to the Greek πρεσβύτερος from which it derived.

The role of Christian clergy had long been understood within the church as in some ways analogous to the Levitical priesthood. (The priesthood of all believers in 1 Peter 2:9 was not seen as an hindrance to such a narrower usage, just as traditionally the priesthood of all Israel in Exodus 19:6 was not seen as a hindrance to the establishment of the Levitical priesthood.) So it is maybe not surprising that the Latin sacerdos and the Anglo-Saxon "sacerd" also came to be employed for ordained Christian clergy. See the relevant entry in An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Based on the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth (ed. Thomas Northcote Toller; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898) which makes the point in reverse by stating that "the term is not confined to the Christian priesthood" (p. 807).

K.J. Elford, in her 2009 MPhil Thesis "The Terms Used for the Priests and Other Clergy in the Anglo-Saxon Period" observes about eighth century usage:
Bede seems to have used sacerdos for ‘priest’, for all those men in the Church who were ordained and able to administer the rites, when he did not feel it necessary to state their individual rank. He used the term presbyter for the specific rank of priest, as distinct from that of bishop, with monachus for monk, and clericus and clerus for the clergy in general, sometimes for men of any order and sometimes specifically for those in minor orders. (p. 100)
She notes this about Bede's (late ninth century) translator:
The translator consistently used mæssepreost when translating Bede’s presbyter, with preost mainly being used for the lesser clergy whom we refer to today as minor clerics. For the term sacerdos, the translator apparently considered the context carefully before choosing to use either biscop, sacerd or mæssepreost, instead of automatically translating every instance as sacerd, which appears to be the direct equivalent. Sometimes the translator seems to be making a much clearer distinction in the orders than Bede does, which may reflect the changes that had taken place in the Church since Bede’s day. The translator uses various terms such as gefer, geferscipe, preost and þeow for the Latin clericus/clerus, which suggests that where there was a choice in the terms available to him, he used them all. (pp. 102-103)
This is important for two reasons. First, the use of "préost" mainly for lesser clergy makes the alternative derivation noted above unlikely. Secondly, the consistent use of "mæssepreost" for presbyter shows that there was no sharp distinction between "presbyter" (having authority within the church) and "priest" (authorized to preside at masses) even at this early stage of the language. Elford adds, "In the royal law-codes contemporary with the OE version of the Ecclesiastical History preost is sometimes used instead of mæssepreost for priest." (p. 103)

How common the use of "sacerd" for Christian priests is unclear; Elford notes occurrences in two Old English pastoral letters of Ælfric from the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, used synonymously for priests alongside "mæssepreost" and "preost"  (pp. 104-105). By the twelfth century "mæssepreost" seems to have fallen out of usage, with "preost" being used more for "priests" as well as clerics in minor orders.

Indeed, it is not certain that "sacerd" ever got much of a foothold in West Saxon even as a designation for Jewish and pagan priests. If it did, it fell into disuse (cf. P. Goodwin, Translating the English Bible: From Relevance to Deconstruction [Cambridge: James Clarke, 2013], p. 134). By the time the Wycliff Bible appeared in the late fourteenth century "preest/prestis" was used not only to translate presbyter in Acts 14:22; 15:2; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 but also to render ἱερεύς in the Gospels and Acts and, e.g., throughout Hebrews 7 (in cases where Jerome had used sacerdos). But Jerome's practice of using a different term for the Jewish "elders" was imitated (seniores becomes “eldere men” in Matthew 15:2 and other places). See the Wycliffe NT here.

The use of "preest/prestis" for both ἱερεύς and πρεσβύτερος was abandoned in Tyndale's translation. In keeping with etymology, Tyndale could have reserved "prest" for a (Christian) πρεσβύτερος / presbyter and re-introduced "sacerd" to render ἱερεύς but this is obviously not what he did, presumably because (a) "prest" had connotations which he rejected for ordained Christian clergy and (b) it was not feasible to re-introduce "sacerd". So πρεσβύτερος becomes "elder" (cf. "ealder" in tenth century Anglo-Saxon for Jewish elders).

The English word "presbyter" is apparently attested from the 1590s (Online Etymology Dictionary entry), presumably to revive the distinction between Jewish "elders" and Christian "presbyters" which Jerome had introduced. Thus it does not seem to have been available for the early versions of the Book of Common Prayer. Given the reservations of some Reformers about the use of the term "priest" for church leaders, it is remarkable that the ordination service in the Book of Common Prayer does not adopt an alternative term but retains it. (The 1662 Epistle is from Eph. 4 and could have given "pastor" as an alternative; earlier versions of the BCP used Acts 20 which could have suggested "elder".)

In the view of some, the decision of the Reformed Church of England to retain "priest" for its clergy ensured that the term remain sufficiently broad to prevent any necessary association with a particular understanding of Christian "priesthood". For others, the use of the term for Jewish and pagan priests as well as Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox) clergy means that "priest" carries connotations which make it unacceptable to them as a term to designate pastors or elders or presbyters within their own churches.

See also the follow-up post on Presbyter in the Latin BCP.

Thursday, 9 November 2017


Joshua Lim's essay Post Tenebras Lux?: Nominalism and Luther's Reformation has this summary of nominalism of which I want to keep a record:

"Nominalism, as it is commonly understood, is the philosophical view in which universals are regarded as having no objective weight, and no intrinsic correspondence to individual, concrete things. For instance, according to Nominalism, to say that Peter has a human nature and that John has a human nature is simply to say that both have extrinsically predicated of them a common name (nomen), which happens to be “human nature.” To predicate the same ‘human nature’ to both John and Peter is not to say that they share any metaphysical reality or nature in common; it is simply to say that we predicate something common to both on the basis of observation. The common features that are shared by John and Peter (e.g., intellect, will, arms, legs, nose, etc.) do not and cannot, from a Nominalist point of view, be understood to be based upon a common shared ‘human nature’ except in name. There is no ‘human nature’ that transcends or norms what it means to be human in anything more than an extrinsic sense; in other words, human flourishing is not based on an objective human nature that exists apart from the collection of individual beings called human, but can be only something imposed onto this group of individuals without any inherent reason that corresponds to their given nature (e.g., for vegetative beings, flourishing would be to grow physically and to do it well, while for rational beings, flourishing would pertain not only to physical growth, but also growth in knowledge and love of truth and goodness—this based on the objective nature of the being in question).

A common illustration used to explain Nominalism is found in the use of paper currency. Unlike coins that may be made out of silver or gold, carrying a value that corresponds to its ‘nature,’ paper currency, has a value imputed to it extrinsically. On this basis, a $100 bill would be identical to a $10 bill in nearly everything except for the fact that one is deemed to be worth several times more than the other—solely on the basis of what some authority judges. There is nothing intrinsic to the paper bill that gives it its value. The problem arises when this mode of understanding of the nature of things is applied across the board to human nature and other universals.1 According to Nominalism, observations are made, a name is given from said observations, but this name has nothing to do with a shared nature or ‘essence’ of the thing, as such.2 Such a process of exclusively extrinsic denomination stems from a radical emphasis on the reality of the particular accompanied by an explicit denial of an objective universal shared reality inherent to things.3

According to classical philosophy, by contrast, given the link between particular, concrete things and corresponding ideas or universals (whether these ideas or universals were thought to exist independently of the concrete individual or in conjunction with it), the ideal was seen to be something objective, rather than a result of extrinsic imposition. From a Nominalist perspective, focusing as it did solely on concrete and individual realities to the exclusion of the immaterial aspects of material things, and a fortiori anything purely immaterial, metaphysics as the study of being qua being (i.e., not necessarily material and therefore distinguishable from the empirical or sensible reality) could only appear as the height of speculative arrogance.4 Such a view of metaphysics in the traditional sense remains today, not only within Protestantism, but also pervades our post-Enlightenment setting."5

1 And even in the case of paper currency, problems arise if there is no real corresponding value; the absence of an objective correspondence leads to problems like inflation. So this example is also imperfect as the extrinsic denomination is not based on pure will, but on some objective value.

2 This is not to say, however, that realists, such as Thomas, for example, believe that there is a separate form existing somewhere that is human nature (a view typically associated with Plato). Rather, it is simply to say that the shared nature between John and Peter corresponds to something inherent to both, and this shared nature is objective. Its existence is not the result of merely an extrinsic recognition followed by an arbitrary naming process; on the contrary, the name follows from a reality discovered to be present in both Peter and John.

3 Cf. with Aquinas’s treatment of man’s knowledge in ST I, q. 94, a. 3, s.c., where he asks whether the first man knew all things. Aquinas argues from the fact that Adam named the animals that he had to know the very natures of the animals, “Nomina autem debent naturis rerum congruere.” That is, the names should be congruent with the nature of the thing. This is a way of thinking about creation that is absolutely foreign to the view of Nominalism.

4 And the logical outgrowth of this is evidenced in later thinkers such as Hume and Kant, who have influenced all of subsequent philosophy, for better or for worse. Cf., Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, NY: 1995), 166-79. As Bainton recounts: “The Occamists had wrecked the synthesis of Thomas Aquinas whereby nature and reason lead through unbroken stages to grace and revelation. Instead, between nature and grace, between reason and revelation, these theologies introduced a great gulf. So much so indeed that philosophy and theology were compelled to resort to two different kinds of logic and even two different varieties of arithmetic” (169).

5 For varied accounts of the relationship between Nominalism, the Reformation, and secularization cf., Bradley Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2012), Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2007), Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2007), and Michael Allen Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 2009).

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A New Old Translation of Genesis 1-11

“Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your bride through a veil.” ― Haim Nachman Bialik
“Traduttori traditori” (translators [are] traitors) but linguists are also lovers and this came to mind as I finally get to read more of Samuel L. Bray and John F. Hobbins, Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation For Readers, Scholars, and Translators (GlossaHouse, 2017). The book oozes love for the biblical text and love for the English as well as the Hebrew language. It is appropriate that it should become the first book to be warmly commended to the readers of my blog.
This is a new translation of Genesis 1-11 (actually, 1:1-12:9 for reasons explained in the notes) which aims to hold together the virtues of old translations, namely staying close to the form and structure of the original language rather than aiming for smooth, thoroughly colloquial English, giving preference to traditional renderings, and being attentive to the aural quality of the text rather than optimised for silent reading. “It is true that some of the newer translations embody one or another of the old virtues. But the unity is gone.” (p5) This step forward is therefore also a step back. Hence the use of “New Old Translation” in the title.
The actual translation is on pp. 19-38 and makes for a very enjoyable reading of these chapters. The translation is preceded by remarks to the reader which outline and briefly defend the principles behind it and followed by remarks addressed to “the persistent reader” (pp. 41-64) which elaborate on a number of issues, e.g., why the Masoretic Text is the basis for the translation even in places where we are able to conjecture an earlier text and why it is desirable to follow the ancient paragraph divisions. There is a discussion of how to deal with “fronting” in the Hebrew text. Sometimes the subject or object of the clause is placed unusually early in the Hebrew text, e.g., to introduce a new topic or for emphasis. Such “fronting” cannot easily be replicated in English where the subject usually comes first anyway and word order is more fixed. The authors introduce the various ways in which they sought to bring out this feature in translation. The knotty issue of gender is discussed and the question of how to deal with conjunctions. I am familiar with these issues and share the translation philosophy of the authors but enjoyed reading about them anyway. One aspect that had not been sufficiently on my radar is the use of double translation to solve some tricky translation problems. I am grateful to be made to think about this, and about the question what it means to call Genesis the first book of Moses.
In short, there is a great deal here that persistent readers can learn about the task of translation. This is by no means of interest to scholars and translators only but should prove useful to anyone who wants to be a careful reader and the authors have made sure to keep the discussion accessible. The persistent reader will not need much by way of prior knowledge to benefit from this section.
One of the authors, Sam Bray, has published several items in the Washington Post which relate to this:
But that’s only the first part of the book! It is followed by almost 150 pages of annotations (pp. 65-200) which offer notes on nearly every verse, explaining the translation choices made in interaction with both ancient translations (Greek and Latin in particular) and modern ones (Roman Catholic, ecumenical, Protestant, Jewish). You will not get any closer to having the veil lifted to kiss the bride! Needless to say that there are plenty of insights here and studying these notes will both enhance understanding of the biblical text and an appreciation for the challenges of translation and the principles adopted here. “The arguments are consistently put in ordinary language” (p65) and, again, should be accessible to a wide readership.
And there is more to come: a list of dramatis personæ in Genesis (pp. 201-206), a glossary (pp. 207-222), with entries on, e.g., important (ancient and medieval) Bible editions and scholars, a note “Of the Making of Books” (pp. 223-225) which offers suggestions for further readings, a list of abbreviations (pp. 226-234) and one of works cited (pp. 235-267) and no fewer than five indices (subjects, ancient sources, translations, authors, and “stories & genealogies” in Genesis).

I hold in my hands the paperback version. It is well produced. The pages do not stay open on their own, as they might in the hardback version, but the binding gives the impression that it will last a long time. I find the layout of the pages very pleasing on the eye. An impression can be gained from the publisher’s sample and Amazon’s “Look inside” function (e.g., on the UK page).
Take and read!

Disclosure: I have known John Hobbins for a good few years although we have only met once or maybe twice in person. He had sent me a pre-publication manuscript for comments and subsequently a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Year C Psalmody in Second Sunday Service

A full index for the Psalmody in the second service lectionary for Sundays, including Epiphany and the Presentation, is on this page, on which there is also an explanation of the use of square brackets etc. The following is a list of the psalms used in year C. Red colour indicates psalms or passages used only in year C. 

Psalm [1]
Proper 1AC
Psalm 2
Sunday before Lent B, Proper 1C
Psalm 5
Proper 1B, 2C
Psalm 6
Proper 2BC
Psalm 9* [9.1-8]
Advent 1AC
Psalm [11]
Advent 2A, Lent 3B, [Proper 3C]
Psalm 12
Advent 3A, Lent 3BC
Psalm 13
Proper 2A, Lent 4B, Proper 3C, Lent 3C,
Psalm 16
Easter 2C
Psalm 30
Lent 5A, Lent 4C
Psalm 33.1-12
Pentecost (Whit Sunday) C; Epiphany 3A [or whole psalm]
Psalm 34* [34.1-10]
Epiphany 4 ABC, Lent 5B
Psalm 35*
Proper 4B [35.1-10], Lent 5C [35.1-9]
Psalm 39
Proper [5A], 6B, 4C
Psalm 40
Lent 3A, 3 before Advent C
Psalm 44* [44.1-9]
Proper 5C
Psalm 46
Baptism of Christ ABC, Proper 7A, 3 before Advent B
Psalm 47
Baptism of Christ ABC, Easter 7A
Psalm [50]
Proper 7C
Psalm 50.1-15
Lent 1A
Psalm 50.1-6
Advent 3C; Lent 1A [50.1-15], Proper 8A [whole psalm*]
Psalm 52
Proper 6C, [8B]
Psalm [53]
Proper 8B, [6C]
Psalm 57
Proper [9A], 7C
Psalm [59.1-6,18-20]
Proper 8C
Psalm 60
Proper 10A, 8C
Psalm [62]
Advent 3C
Psalm 65
2 before Lent B, Proper 9C
Psalm 66.1-11 (alternative) 
Easter Day ABC; Proper 10B [whole psalm or vv. 1-8]
Psalm 68* [68.1-13,18-19]
Easter 7C; cf. Advent 3B [vv. 1-19 or vv. 1-8]
Psalm 69.1-20
Palm Sunday BC
Psalm [70]
Proper 11A, 9C
Psalm 72* [72.1-7]
Christ the King BC
Psalm 73.1-3,16-28
Trinity Sunday C; cf. Proper 11B [whole psalm or vv. 21-28]
Psalm 75
Proper 12A, Advent 2C
Psalm [76]
Proper 12A, Advent 2C
Psalm 77* [77.1-12]
Proper 10C
Psalm 81
Proper 11C; cf. Easter 4B [81.8-16]
Psalm 86
Proper 14A, Easter 3C
Psalm 88* [88.1-10]
Proper 12BC
Psalm 89.1-18* [89.5-12]
Sunday before Lent C
Psalm 93
Trinity Sunday A, Christ the King A, [2 before Advent C]
Psalm 96
Epiphany 2ABC, Easter 5B
Psalm 97
[Christ the King A], 2 before Advent C
Psalm 98
The Epiphany ABC, Easter 5C
Psalm 100
The Epiphany ABC, Proper 15B
Psalm 105 (alternative) 
Easter Day ABC
Psalm 107.1-32* [107.1-12]
Proper 13C
Psalm 108
Proper 18A, 14C
Psalm 113
Advent 4ABC
Psalm 114
Easter 4C
Psalm [116]
Proper 14C; Proper 16B [whole psalm or vv. 10-17]
Psalm 119.1-16
Proper 25C, Bible Sunday BC; Proper 17B [or vv. 9-16]
Psalm 119.17-32* [119.17-24]
Lent 1B; Proper 15C
Psalm 119.49-72* [119.49-56]
Proper 16C; cf. Proper 19A [vv. 41-48 or 41-64]; 19A [vv. 41-56 or 49-56]
Psalm 119.73-88*
Lent 1C; Proper 19B [or abbreviated to vv. 73-80]
Psalm 119.81-96* [119.81-88]
Proper 17C; cf. Proper 25A, Bible Sunday A [119.89-104]
Psalm [120]
Proper [21A,] 21B, [18C]
Psalm 121
Proper 21B, 18C
Psalm 122
The Presentation ABC
Psalm 123
[Proper 21A], Advent 4C
Psalm 124
Proper 21A, 19C
Psalm 125
Proper 22B, 19C
Psalm 126
[Advent 4A], Proper 22B, Easter 6C
Psalm 127
Proper 23B, Easter 6C
Psalm [128]
Proper 23B, 20C
Psalm 129
Proper 20C
Psalm [131]
Advent 4BC
Psalm 132
Christmas 1ABC, The Presentation ABC, Dedication Festival ABC
Psalm 134
Proper 21C
Psalm 135* [135.1-14]
Christmas 2ABC, Lent 2ABC, Proper 21C
Psalm 142
Proper 24A, Easter 3B, Proper 22C
Psalm 144
Proper 23C
Psalm [146]
Proper 24C
Psalm 147* [147.13-21]
2 before Lent C; cf. Easter 5A, Easter 7B [147.1-12]
Psalm 148
2 before Lent A, All Saints’ Sunday ABC
Psalm 149
Proper 24C
Psalm 150
Trinity Sunday A, All Saints’ Sunday ABC