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Catholics shake 'booty' out of Bible

The word "booty" has been kicked out of the Bible.

This should not come as a surprise. Words do change meaning over time (the word "gay" comes to mind).

So when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for a new translation of the Old Testament, some words that seemed fine in the 1970s needed to be changed.

Like the word "booty."

"What is being called the New American Bible Revised Edition, or NABRE, will include the first revised translation since 1970 of the Old Testament. The New Testament translation is the same as in 1986 and later editions of the New American Bible," the Catholic News Service (CNS) reported.

The NABRE will be released on Ash Wednesday, March 9. "It will be like going from regular TV to high-definition," Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director of New American Bible utilization for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told CNS. "You'll have the same programs but more clarity, more detail."

Part of that clarity will be changing words like "booty," "cereal," "holocaust" and, perhaps most controversial, "virgin."

"Now 'booty,' a word that sets off snickers in Sunday school, will be replaced by the 'spoils' of war," reported USA Today .

CNS explained that "The word 'booty' also has taken on the slang meanings of 'buttocks' or sometimes, 'sexual intercourse,' instead of its primary meaning of 'plunder,' such as a marauding army might acquire.

So verses in the old New American Bible (we will pass by the weirdness of calling anything "old New") will no longer say things like "if the people had eaten freely today of their enemy's booty when they came across it, would not the slaughter of the Philistines by now have been the greater for it?" (1 Samuel 14:30)

You can see the problem.

The King James Version of the Bible, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary, uses many words which have changed their meaning, such as "conversation" and, yes, even four references to "booty." Footnotes usually point out the modern meaning of these words.

"Other removed words (in the New American Bible) include 'cereal', which scholars thought could be confused with breakfast rather than its original meaning of 'wheat loads'. It has become 'grain,'" explained an article in The Daily Mail.

The word "holocaust" was replaced with "burnt offerings." This change received praise from Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. He acknowledged in a statement that quoted in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the use in the Bible was "in no way offensive." "Holocaust survivors view this subtle but meaningful change as a sensitive gesture by the Catholic Church for which we are grateful," the statement said. "We understand the intention was to underscore the prevailing use of 'Holocaust' as denoting the Jewish tragedy under the Nazis."

One change was not mentioned in the CNS report, but was discussed on NPR: The word "virgin" was changed to "young woman." "Especially," NPR reported, "where the original uses the Hebrew word 'almah.'"

Reuters reported that a key verse about the virgin birth, Isaiah 7:14 (which in the old New American Bible is "Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.") will now say "young woman" instead of "virgin."

"The bishops and the Bible are not signaling any sort of change in the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. None whatsoever," Mary Sperry, who oversees Bible licensing for the bishops, told Reuters.

Reuters also reported that "The new edition will revert to more poetic versions of Psalm 23 to have it read, 'I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,' instead of 'dark valley.'

There were disagreements over some translation questions "such as over whether the pronoun 'he' should be used in all references to God," CNS reported. An attempt to substitute "it" for references to the church as "she" failed.

"Some people will be gravely distressed and others will be absolutely ecstatic and some will just say: 'I liked it the old way,'" Sperry said in USA Today.

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: twitter.com/degroote