Translation row on 'Body of Christ' triggers ecclesiastical, legal debate

What is the appropriate translation for the ‘Body of Christ’? That appears to be the bone of contention. While several passages have been quoted by the petitioners

Published: 07th November 2013 08:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th November 2013 08:01 AM   |  A+A-


What is the appropriate translation for the ‘Body of Christ’? That appears to be the bone of contention. While several passages have been quoted by the petitioners to drive home their opposition to the 1993 Tamil translation of the Roman Missal, the usage of which has now been restrained by a local court, the word employed to denote the body of Christ in the revision, in particular, seems to have turned detrimental to the translation.

The judge, issuing the orders restraining its usage, specifically pointed to the prayers made during the ritual of the Holy Communion. As per Christian belief, in the last supper with his disciples Jesus Christ had said that the bread, which he broke during the meal, was his body.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus had asked his followers to continue the ritual of breaking the bread in his remembrance. Similarly, the wine he had at the supper was his blood. Catholic churches across the world recreate this during the Mass.

In the prayers offered during the Communion, the 1993 translation of the Missal deviates from the 1979 version in adopting a different word to denote the body of Christ.

While the older version had the word ‘body’ translated as ‘Sariram’, the 1993 version replaces it with the Tamil term ‘Udal’.

The petitioners argued that the two words have different connotations - while ‘Udal’ stands for just the body, ‘Sariram’ denotes the body to be the abode of the soul. This, it is contended, is the true sense of the term ‘body’ used in the Gospels and the Roman Missal.

In the order, the judge seemed to have agreed to the contentions and said that ‘Udal’ would refer to a dead body. The defense that ‘Sariram’ is a Sanskrit word is dismissed by the judge as “illusory and moon shining one”. 

Another instance the judge quotes is the consecration prayers, where the new translation seemed to have replaced ‘Irai Vaazhvu’ with ‘Nirai Vaazhvu’ to denote spiritual life. The judge said ‘Nirai Vaazhvu’ points to worldly life.

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