Wednesday 24 August 2016

The BEST project of the Ecole Biblique of Jerusalem

Great visit to the Ecole Biblique with the ABS. Never really been there properly in my 3 years in Jerusalem.

Two youngish professors presented the new project - "The Bible in its Traditions" (BEST).

The Jerusalem Bible was the product of the first two generations of the Ecole (1943-1956). The translators tried to find, as far as possible, the most original texts, and in hopeless cases to reconstitute them or leave a gap in the text, rather than translate the traditional text. The first edition was released in between 1943 and 1956, and the second in 1973.

By the time of the release of the third edition between 1998 and 2000, new questions had arisen. One of the main preoccupations in biblical science and in humanities in general, was the role of readers in the process of definition of meaning of the text - or how the reception of the text through different traditions and versions helps us understand the meaning of the text.

This led to the decision to take into account the plurality of versions and translations of the text, and also the diversity of traditions of the readers of the text.

The third edition of the Jerusalem Bible did not solve this problem. This is the focus of the new BEST project. This is also the reason behind the choice of the motto of this project: "One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard." This line of scripture captures well the plurality that can be produced in the encounter of the word of God and humanity - a plurality that is not Babel but Pentecost.

So the new "translation" (and it is not a translation in the classical sense any more) will contain, if I understand right, the texts of the principal versions of the bible: LXX, Masoretic, Vulgate, Textus Receptus, (etc). It will also have three levels of notes dealing with (1) text, (2) context, and (3) reception.

A hugely ambitious project, with some 200 scholars collaborating online, thanks to the new possibilities of the cyber world - and one that has infused new life into the Ecole. Some books are already ready for publication. Others are in the pipeline. All this, in Lonergan's terminology, would the functional specialty Research, I guess, though a very new direction of Research - giving voice to the real plurality that we experience when we ask questions like What is the original text. No one can take for granted any more, it would seem, what was the staple of 30 years ago: that the Masoretic is anterior to the Septuagint. And it would seem that most of the authors of the New Testament, those who wrote in Greek, used the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic. And people are learning not to scoff at the Vulgate, because it would appear that Jerome had access to texts no longer available to us - and traces are to be found in his translation.

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