The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is coming out with a rad new edition of the Bible—one that replaces the word “booty” with “spoils.”
The New American Bible, the official English language version for the Catholic Church, is releasing its newest edition this Ash Wednesday. It will be the first update since 1970.
I know English is a living language (thanks, #Shakespalin), but, in general, revising old literary works is pretty sketch. Publishers of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” created controversy earlier this year when they replaced the word “Nigger” with “Slave”— a revision that D.L. Hughley commented on to Bill Maher: “White people—that’s not an upgrade. Honestly, I’d rather be a nigger than a slave.”
But revising a classic work of fiction like “Huckleberry Finn” is different from revising a Bible translation, a written work that millions of people model their lives after. Maybe in that way the Bible is like the Constitution: the more amendments and footnotes the better? And besides the “booty” replacement, which will make Sunday school even less bearable for many kids, most of the changes seem like relatively progressive ones—in step with Pope Benedict XVI who loves health care and has a Facebook page.
Here are a few other changes that will appear in the new edition:
1970: “Ode to the Ideal Wife”
2011: “Poem on the Woman of Worth.”
Mary Elizabeth Sperry of the Bishops Conference told USA Today, ”Women will like this: being measured by their own accomplishments, not in terms of a husband’s perspective.” I guess if a woman wants her worth defined by the Bible, it’s better to do it in terms of her own perspective.
1970: “When anyone wishes to bring a cereal offering to the Lord, his offering must consist of fine flour.”
2011: “When anyone brings a grain offering to the Lord, the offering must consist of bran flour.”
Changing “cereal” to “grain” makes for a more accurate modern reading and fights cravings for sugar cereals like Lucky Charms. And the change to bran flour—is that encouraging fiber consumption in the Catholic Church? Hard to hate on that.
1970: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
2011: “The young woman shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
This one is interesting, and sure to cause some controversy for fundamentalists. Is the new edition working to distance Catholicism from the preposterous virgin conception story? “It elaborates that the original Hebrew word, almah, may, or may not, signify a virgin,” says USA Today. So probably not. But changing “virgin” to “woman” seems like it could be a baby step in the right direction.