Here's a portion of an interesting article in the current issue of Commonweal by John R. Donahue, SJ on the new translation of the Roman Missal. Donahue looks at the new translation's rendering as chalice what we'd become accustomed to understanding as cup.
In the Greek original of all the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, after the blessing of the bread, Jesus takes a cup (potērion) and says that this is the blood of the new covenant (Mark and Matthew), or “this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke) and “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:25). Though Hellenistic Greek had a word—kylix (the basis of the Latin calix)—that suggests a larger ceremonial vessel often used in religious rites, the New Testament authors chose potērion, the normal term for an ordinary drinking cup in daily life.
When St. Jerome translated the New Testament from Greek to Latin he chose the Latin term calix (from which “chalice” derives) to translate potērion, but he did not intend it to mean a liturgical vessel. In both the secular Latin of the time and in Jerome’s translation of the Scriptures, the term calix meant primarily an ordinary drinking cup. In Matt 10:42 Jesus says, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” While the original Greek has potērion for “cup” of cold water, the Latin translation reads “calicem aquae frigidae.” Given the context it would be absurd to translate this “a chalice of cold water.” Similarly, to translate “my cup overflows” in Psalm 23:5 (Vulgate 22:5) as “my chalice overflows” would be ludicrous.
Read the complete article here.
Response to the new missal from the kind of perspective Donahue offers here is important for understanding and critiquing what is now the prayer of the Church in the English speaking world.
Father John Donahue, SJ was for many years Professor of New Testament at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA, and was the first Raymond E. Brown Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is author of The Gospel in Parable: Metaphor, Narrative and Theology in the Synoptic Gospels, co-author with Daniel Harrington, S.J. of The Gospel of Mark.
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