Translation of the Glory to God

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Can you help me with a critical commentary on the translation of the Glory to God (in the Introductory Rites of the Mass) from the Greek NT and the Latin in RM (2010).

A colleague here is interested in the translation “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will”  The late Rev. Dr Evan Burge (Trinity College, Univ. of Melbourne) apparently wrote a commentary as part of the ELLC Praying Together/Prayers we Have in Common which is one useful source.    Are there any others that could shed light on the most recent translation?

Thanks in anticipation for  any advice.

A:  I don’t know of another critical commentary. I’ve made a few remarks in my book At the Supper of the Lamb, which refers to the Apostolic Constitutions 7:47 as the earliest source of the hymn (4th c.). I don’t have the Greek in front of me, but I suspect that even there the first line of the hymn in AC differs from Luke 2:14. It’s important to check that out.

The current English translation faithfully renders what the Latin has said for many, many centuries. It is not the same as Luke 2:14. The revised translation has brought some questions to light, and I’m happy to know that your colleague is looking into them. I just would just caution that the translation we have now is faithful to the centuries-old hymn. It was not trying to rework the traditional hymn to make some political point.

I have never been too concerned about the discrepancy between the first line of the Gloria and the biblical text, but maybe I should be. I just know that many of the popular hymns we sing – “I am the Bread of Life” is only one example – take liberties with the biblical text, and nobody seems to care. Hymnody is not the same as biblical proclamation. That’s why the biblical proclamation is so important during the Liturgy of the Word, and why the freedoms surrounding hymnody help people express the faith in different terms.