Enlightening Letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the members of the German Bishops’ Conference on the issue of Biblical and Liturgical translations
Your Excellency! Venerable, dear Lord Archbishop!During your visit of 15 March 2012 you let me know that, regarding the translation of the words “pro multis” in the canon of the Mass, there is still no consensus among the bishops of the German language area. There now seems to be the danger that, with the soon to be expected publication of the new release of ‘Gotteslob’, some parts of the German language area will keep the translation “for all”, even though the German Bishops’ Conference has agreed to use “for many”, as was desired by the Holy See. I promised you I would express myself in writing about this serious issue to prevent a split in our most inner prayer room. The Letter, which I send through the members of the German Bishops’ Conference, will also be sent to the other bishops of the German language area.
Let me first say a few words about the origin of the problem. In the 1960s, when the Roman Missal was translated into German under the responsibility of the bishops, there was an exegetical consensus that the words “the many” and “many” in Is. 53, 11 and further, was a Hebrew expression to indicate the community, the “all”. The word “many” in the accounts of Matthew and Mark was accordingly considered a Semitism to be translated as “all”. This is also related directly to the Latin text that was to be translated, that the “pro multis” in the Gospel accounts refer back to Is. 53, and should therefore be translated as “for all”. This exegetical consensus has know broken down; it no longer exists. In the German translation of Sacred Scripture the account of the Last Supper states: “This is my Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:24, cf. Matt. 26:28). This indicates something very important: The rendering of “pro multis” with “for all” was not a pure translation, but an interpretation, which was and remains very reasonable, but is already more than translation and interpretation. Continue Reading