Monday, November 15, 2010

Malachi 3/4

Late last week, I decided to look ahead to the Sunday readings. I was using my NIV pocket bible at the time, and I couldn’t find Malachi 3:19-20. After verse 18, chapter 4 started. “Darn Protestant bible,” I thought to myself (being the arrogant Catholic that I am. “I didn’t know that they cut out part of Malachi, too.”

So I pulled out my Ignatius Bible (RSV-CE), and it, too, went from Mal 3:18 to Mal 4:1. OK, I can’t blame the Protestants for excising parts of Malachi. This time, though, there was one of those tiny little footnotes informing me that the verses of chapter 4 were part of chapter 3 in the Hebrew. I was getting confused, so I checked my Catholic Youth Bible (NRSV), which had in the past given me details on such mysteries as Chapter C of Esther. No luck. All that I got was the same tiny little footnote as was in my RSV.

I mentioned this on Saturday morning at our men’s fellowship meeting, and a friend checked his bible (NAB), and sure enough, it had the verses at the end of chapter 3. I didn’t think at the time to ask whether his bible had a tiny little footnote.

Here’s the big cause for my massive confusion: I was always led to believe that the chapters and verses were added by St. Jerome when he compiled the Latin Vulgate. Were the verses of Malachi numbered in the original? If so, then why don’t all of the translations that are based (to the extent possible) on the original languages follow the Hebrew numbering?

In the grand scheme of things, the numbering of the verses in one of the books of the minor prophets is a trivial thing. Whether they’re in chapter 3 or chapter 4 has no effect on the meaning of the words, it just makes them harder to find. However, it leads to one more head-scratching moment, of which I already have way too many.

1 comment:

James said...

The difference comes from differing editions of the Hebrew Bible. The Vulgate and those that follow from that use the Septuagint (the Greek version) for the basis of what we call the Old Testament. These would include the Vulgate, Douay-Rheims, and the NAB.

Other modern Bible translations use what is called the Masoretic Text, which is the more canonical version used by Jews today for the Tanakh. The RSV family, NIV and others use this.

There are a number of differences between the two versions. There are version numbering changes, such as Malachi, and different numbering of the Psalms. The big differences, of course, and the whole books that are in a Catholic Bible that are not in a Protestant one, like 1 and 2 Maccabees