Sunday, December 20, 2015

Magnificat

Early Fresco of Elizabeth and Mary
courtesy Wikipedia
 Said Mary: "My soul magnifies the Lord
My spirit's joyful in my saviour God
He's seen my lowly state, but now I'm Blessed
(By each new generation thus expressed).
The holy mighty one has done great things.
In every age, his fear his mercy brings.
The mighty he's dethroned, he's raised the weak
The rich he's emptied, and he's filled the meek!
To Israel he has given help untold
As promised to the patriarchs of old."
 from my condensed Luke

The last Sunday in Advent focuses on Mary and we had a very good sermon by Helen Parry on her. But as so often the NIV translation gets something fundamentally wrong. Mary begins:
 "My soul magnifies the LORD"
The word Megalunei is a little unusual - it literally means "makes greater" and although it can of course imply "extol" or even "glorify" it isn't the same. Interestingly it's also used in Luke 1:58 of Elizabeth. The usual translation is "she gave birth to a son. And her neighbours kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy on her" but the Greek is literally "that magnified (emegalunen) the Lord the mercy of him with her."  When Mary in v 49 says "for he that is mighty has done great things (megala) for me" the KJV says "he that is mighty has magnified me" to make the Megalunei/megala resonance clearer.

It is also used in 2 Cor 10:15 " our hope is that, as your faith increases, to be magnified (megalunthEnai) among you according to our rule in abundance".

The NIV has "My soul glorifies the Lord" which I fear may be motivated by a desire to avoid the "Magnificat". A pity!

We should celebrate Mary and learn from her. This is not made easier by hiding her astonishing and searing words.

I hope all readers have a wonderful Christmas season. If I don't post before then, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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