17 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 15


SIR,—The correspondence about Mgr. Knox's trans- lation of Matthew i, 25, does not, as Mr. Currie im- plies, rest on the existence of an Aramaic manuscript, though this is well authenticated by critical scholar- ship. It is evident to the most superficial reader that this is a Gospel written by a Jew for Jews and re- flects continually a Semitic turn of phrase, no matter what its original language.

Thus Mgr. Knox is faced by a word, which, if translated by its English equivalent, will give a mean- ing possibly very different to its sense. The evidence that it might do so was established hundreds of years ago by St. Jerome with examples such as Genesis viii, 6, 7 and Isaias xlvi, 54. (To say nothing of I Timothy iv, 13, which was original Greek any- how.) To this can be added the support of non- Catholic scholarship such as F. W. Green (The Gos- pel according to St. Matthew, Oxford, 1947) who says: 'These words cannot be taken to imply that it [the virginity of Our Lady] was not afterwards pre- served.

What is a translator to do, if he wishes to show what was in the mind of the original writer? He must obviously opt for one version and discuss the alternative in the footnotes, which is what Knox has done. And is it so very uncritical to prefer, for want of other indication, the alternative which does not conflict with the teaching and tradition of the organi- sation of which the author was a member, and which declared the document in question as being worthy of credence in the first place?