Two “Jewish” Changes in New Catholic Bible

As reported in USA Today and elsewhere, the new version of the New American Bible to be released on March 9 has a few changes aimed at being “more accurate, more accessible and more poetic.”

Two of the changes in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new text might be of particular interest to Jewish readers. First, the word “holocaust,” which appears throughout the older versions of the bible, has become impossible to separate from the genocide of Jews during World War II. The new text uses the words “burnt offering.”

Isaiah 7:14, a verse that is often used by missionaries to convert Jews, has changed as well. Often cited as a foreshadowing for the birth of Jesus, the 1970 version of New American Bible translated the passage as, “the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

The version being released this week uses the term “young woman,” instead of virgin, which is seen as a closer translation of the original Hebrew word, almah.

A spokesperson for the bishops told Reuters that the new translation didn’t signify any change in the Catholic church’s belief in the virgin birth of Jesus.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, whose organization Jews for Judaism works to counteract the work of Christian missionaries targeting Jews, welcomed the new translation.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops new translation of the Bible is both timely and appreciated,” Kravitz wrote in an email. “Timely, in that it coincides with ArtScroll’s new English-only Jewish Bible, and appreciated because they both correct translation errors used by missionaries to convert Jews.”