Friday, October 7, 2011

What to do with the Gloria in Excelsis...

I grew up hearing the Pastor intone "Glory be to God on high" and responding "and on earth, peace, good will toward men..."  It is the Book of Common Prayer 1662 translation.  After ILCW and the advent of LBW/LW/LSB and the adoption of the 1975 ICET text for the Gloria, I learned to sing "Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth..." with the congregation responding the rest of the text.  Of course, the phrase is rendered in various ways by the carols of Christmas.  One keeps the whole Latin phrase (Gloria in excelsis Deo) and others use bits and pieces of the phrase or completely paraphrase it altogether. The traditional Lutheran hymn versions of the Gloria (LSB 947/948) also paraphrase the classic text.  Newer hymn versions do the same.  Since we are Lutherans and German is the high and holy language of theology to us, it may be worth noting that the Luther German translation of this is Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe und Friede auf Erden und den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen!  (Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth and goodwill toward men!)

As I thought about this I turned to some Roman Catholic blogs dealing with the new translation, it brought up some questions about how we translate this very traditional phrase.  Is it "on earth, peace, good will toward men" or "peace to His people on earth" or "on earth peace to people of good will?"  Which one best translates the original text?

In Greek it is: Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία.
Translated:     Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.

In Latin it is:  Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.
Translated:    Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.

Well, the translation is part of the issue, isn't it.   The Orthodox Church in America has "good will among men."  The Greeks say "good will to all people."  The ICEL 2010 has "on earth peace to people of good will."  Well, which is it?  Or, even a better question, which translation best communicates the intent of those words?

Is the good will from God to men?  Is it peace to HIS people on earth (as opposed, say, to those not His people -- for whom there is no peace)?  Is it peace to people of good will (who have a gentle spirit and a loving heart)?  OR people of good will (people who are willing to receive His gift)?  It seems to me that what needs to be prominent is the idea that it is God's peace and God's good will and God's favor that is being shown and not the good will or peaceful hearts of the people that is the focus of this phrase.  Now, how best to communicate it.

One Roman Catholic source says:  Many commenters have pointed out the subtle theological difference between, "peace to His people on earth," and "peace to people of good will."  The idea is that Christ came not to bring some world-wide peace to everybody in the here and now, but rather to bring those who have accepted him an internal peace in the midst of a troubled world.  Of course, in the heavenly afterlife, this internal peace become fully manifested.  The new text makes it clear that only to those "of good will" is the offering of peace meaningful.  The current text, with a bit of stretching, could mean the same thing.  Yet the ambiguous "peace on earth" is an entirely different matter, and not at all appropriate.

I am not so sure. It seems to me that both the 1662 BCP and ICET 1975 emphasize that the peace and good will are coming from God and, indeed, God's gifts while the newer RC mass translation makes it even more ambiguous.  Who are these people of good will?  It may be clear to those who live within the confines of the mass but it is not so clear and transparent as the other translations.  On this point I am not convinced.  In fact, I think more and more that the BCP 1662 got it best of all:  and on earth, peace, good will toward men.  Second on my list would be the ICET 1975 translation -- though I will admit that this translation seems designed for singing as one critic has noted (think of the opening to the Gloria:  "GLO-ry to GOD in the HIGH-est.  And PEACE to his PEO-ple on EARTH"  It's almost as if it was written to fit with something like a 6/8 meter).

I get these things in my head and the only way to release me from them is to put it out here.... so what think ye common taters and specialists all???


Rev. Joshua Hayes said...

One issue giving rise to the differences is which Greek text you follow. As I recall, modern eclectic texts following a reading other than the Byzantine text. Check your apparatus criticus.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Right, the Majority Text has ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία, but the Critical text has ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. Luther went with the Majority Text. "Goodwill to men." I trust Luther - and I think the three nominatives go together: Glory (in the highest), Peace (on earth), Goodwill (to/among men).

I agree with your emphasis on peace and goodwill coming from God to men. It's really even deeper than that. Now, at the birth of Christ, the Man of God's good pleasure dwells ἐν ἀνθρώποις - among men. God's goodwill toward men dwells in bodily form as a man. Much better than "peace to his people on earth."

Terry Maher said...

Well, the solution is obvious: drop the bleeding Gloria altogether for This Is The Feast and call it traditional anyway. Oh wait, that's been done already. Ay least anywhere I go with "Lutheran" over the door. Gloria? What Gloria? So what are we worrying about?

But, since we're worrying about it, everybody knows God speaks Latin (when not speaking German conversationally) so it's just what the Latin says. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.

There is no "peace to his people" except in the fevered minds of drooling revisionists.

However, to be all politically correct and everything -- though why a church should worry about that escapes me, but hey -- Latin has two words for each distinct sense that English uses the one word "man", if one still includes the generic sense. Vir is for male men, so zu sagen, homo is for a human being of either sex, and in the Gloria hominibus is a form of homo.

So one could say "peace to people of good will" if one cannot abide that "man" has a narrower and a broader sense.

Great philological Judas, we have no problem with using "day" as either the whole 24 hour period light and dark alike, or day for the light part only. Where is the movement for Day Rights?

William Weedon said...

FWIW, Latin Lutheran liturgy retained bonae voluntatis.

Daniel Baker said...

The newer WELS liturgy ("Divine Service I") found in its supplemental hymnal has the innovative translation of the Gloria. I had been wondering what prompted the change of wording. Thanks for illuminating me in that respect!

As a humble, young layman, I side with the form we find in our Common Service. :)