Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Selected Review of the CAI Study Bible

I was perusing CAI's site after reading Jame's White's blog reference to the upcoming debate between Bob Sungenis and Gerry Matatics, when I happened to notice the advertisement regarding the CAI Study Bible. The CASB (as CAI calls it) makes the following claim:
The CASB gives you an updated version of the Douay-Rheims Bible, the most accurate and authoritative Catholic translation available. The CASB replaces some archaic 16th century words with more precise words. The grammar and syntax of the original Greek and Hebrew are analyzed in conjunction with the Latin Vulgate for the most accurate translation.
Click here for a sample page from the CASB.

The sample page above caught my attention because it has to do with the interpretation of Matt 26:26-28 (the Last Supper text). In particular, this note on v. 28 from the study Bible intrigued me:
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is being poured out . . .”

[Greek: ekchunomenon] a present participle which follows the present tense verb [esti = “is”] in the clause, “this is my blood.” The present participle is an action in progress or simultaneous with the action of the principal verb. This means that the blood, at the time Jesus is speaking, is presently being poured out. As Catholic dogma specifies, the blood of Jesus is under the appearance of wine. This is supported by the addition of the article [to] in the phrase [to peri pollon ekchunomenon] which sets off the event as a present occurrence (i.e., that which is in the act of being poured out for many). [Italics in original]
Just a few cursory observations. First, the Greek word is not ekchunomenon but rather ekchunnomenon (two nus, not one). Not a huge issue; just a Sungenis scribal gloss. Second (a bigger issue), is that in his "updated version" of the DRB, Sungenis failed to explain why he left in the word "new" (kaines) with "testament." While there are a few manuscripts that support the reading, it's clearly an addition from a scribe who inserted it based on his memory of Luke's account, where kaines ("new") is used with diatheke ("covenant"). Sungenis claims that the DRB is "the most accurate and authoritative Catholic translation available." He adds, "The grammar and syntax of the original Greek and Hebrew are analyzed in conjunction with the Latin Vulgate for the most accurate translation." But if the Latin is what's really important in translation and exegesis, why engage in a pretense over the importance of the meanings of Greek words?

The biggest issue by far is what Sungenis does with the verse. He makes a huge theological claim regarding the present tense of the participle. In Sungenis' view, the "pouring" of Jesus blood occurs as an attendant circumstance to the saying about the blood; that is to say, they occur at the same time (Jesus' blood is presently being poured out as he speaks). That, in turn, is implicitly used as a "proof" that transubstantiation is taking place.

The problem is, this same verb occurs in identical form (present passive participle) just a few chapters earlier in Matt 23:35, where Jesus again talks about "blood" being "poured out":

"That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar" (Douay-Rheims).

I used the DR version because that's the version on which Sungenis bases his study Bible. Here we see that ekchunnomenon, although in the present tense, is translated as a past action. And this is the case even though the main (principal) verb ("[upon you] may come") is itself not a past-tense verb, but a future-referring subjuctive verb. Hence, using Sungenis' analysis, since the final judgment of the Pharisees (in which they are held responsible for all of the righteous blood shed on the earth) has not yet occured, and since the subordinate verb ("[blood] has been shed") is technically a present tense verb and therefore "simultaneous with the action of the principal verb," then the action of the present tense verb ("[blood] has been shed") should not have yet occured. But Jesus indicates the shedding of "righteous blood" has already occurred since it is contained within the covers of the Hebrew Old Testament: "from Abel to Zechariah."

It is not so much the tense that is important in the Greek verb as the context. Present-tense verbs are sometimes past-referring or future-referring. Past- (aorist-) tense verbs are sometimes present referring or future referring. All depends on what is demanded by the context. And a simple appeal to the tense of the verb to make a theological point as weighty as transubstantiation is meaningless by itself. In the case of Matt 26:28, the verb is clearly future referring; and to translate it as "is currently being poured out" is simply naive.