Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Kleist & Lilly New Testament

This is the sixth in a series on obscure Bible translations. I've restricted the candidates to those I've been able to personally acquire and examine.

James A. Kleist SJ and Joseph L. Lilly CM. The New Testament: Rendered from the Original Greek with Explanatory Notes. Bruce Publishing, 1954.

Catholic Bible translations are invariably more interesting than those of the run-of-the-mill kind. For a start they usually sound good when read aloud. This is, after all, the way they were received in ancient times when the common folk who gathered in synagogue or Christian assembly were largely illiterate. Many modern translations are tone deaf to this reality. Those traditions which retain formal lectionary readings are more authentic to this original practice.

And then, with an occasional hiccup in deference to dogma, Catholic translations tend to be more scholarly than the more popular offerings dominating the evangelical marketplace. Vatican II had something to do with that.

But there are also the pioneering Catholic translators like Ronald Knox, producing brilliant work well in advance of the impetus from Vatican II. Among these hardy souls were James Kleist and Joseph Lilly whose New Testament first saw the light in the early 1950's. Kleist was responsible for the gospels, Lilly for everything else.

Sample passages; John 1: 1-3
When time began, the Word was there,
      and the Word was face to face with God,
      and the Word was God.
This Word, when time began,
      was face to face with God.
All things came into being through him,
      and without him there came to be
      not one thing that has come to be.
John 7: 14-17
By the time the feast was half over, Jesus went up to the temple to teach. The Jews were puzzled, "How is it," they said, "that this man is able to read? He has had no regular schooling!" In explanation, therefore, Jesus said to them: "My teaching is not my own invention. It is his whose ambassador I am. Anyone in earnest about doing his will can form a judgment of my teaching, to decide whether it originates with God, or whether I speak my own mind.
It's a good, clear translation that still reads well sixty years later, though long since superseded by more ambitious projects like the New American Bible.

Earlier entries in this series:
The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction by Norman A. Beck (Fairway, 2001)
The New Testament in the Language of Today by William F. Beck (Concordia, 1963)
God's New Covenant: A New Testament Translation by Heinz W. Cassirer (Eerdmans, 1989)
The Translator's New Testament (The British & Foreign Bible Society, 1973)
An Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul by F. F. Bruce (Paternoster, 1965)

1 comment:

  1. Another obscure NT translation, "The Idiomatic Translation of the New Testament", is available with BibleWorks. It's by William Graham MacDonald. Here are some samples:

    John 1.1-8

    In the beginning the word intrinsic to God, identifying God, was active.
    2 This word, expressed in the beginning, belonged to God. 3Through his word
    all creation originated; not one existing component was created apart from his word.
    4 Life inhered in the word, and life was humanity’s light. 5 The light shines in the
    darkness, and darkness did not put it out.
    6 A man commissioned by God came on the scene; his name was John. 7 His role was to
    advocate the light by his testimony, that through the light everyone might believe. 8 Not that
    light himself, John came to authenticate the light.

    John 7.14-17:

    14 Already it was the middle of the feast when Jesus turned up at the temple and began
    teaching. 15 The Jews were deeply impressed by him; they said, “How does he have such a
    command of language in consideration of the fact that he has not been to rabbinic school?”
    16 Jesus responded to them, “My teaching is not mine, but it belongs to the one who
    commissioned me. 17 If anyone wants to implement his will, he will know about this teaching
    —whether it is from God, or if I speak on my own.