Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Attempt at Translating the 1662 BCP into Modern English

The talk around the Anglican world seems to be pushing for "modern" editions of the 1662 BCP.  While I would rather use the original language and offer commentary on the service sheet, I think many modern "translations" are too literal.  In order for the BCP to be "translated" into modern English, we have to do more than change "thou" to "you" and remove the -eth and -est.  Many words have changed in meaning since the 16th century or shifted in degree.  These words must be changed to reflect current usage.  Likewise, a common complaint consists of the idea that modern people cannot understand 16th century idiom.  If this is the case, then we cannot use "Prayer Book language" and must look for alternatives to words that the "common person" will understand.

A note about the "gender neutrality" in some of  the language contain herein.  The modern English language does not use the masculine gender as an all-inclusive neutral gender as it did in the 16th century.  The modern equivalent of "him" in that sense is "they".  For this purpose, I have employed current usage to reflect the syntax of modern English.

Another note, the Lord's Prayer is not maintained in traditional language.  If one adopts the view that traditional language is not "understood by the people" then nothing in the Liturgy can remain as such.


The minister reads one or more of the following Scriptural sentences.

When a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Ezekiel 18:27

I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.  Psalm 51:3

Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.  Psalm 51:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

Rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.  Joel 2:13

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.  We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.  Daniel 9:9-10

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.  Psalm 6:1

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  Matthew 3:2

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you"  Luke 15:18-19

Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.  Psalm 143:2

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

Then he says the following,

DEARLY beloved brothers and sisters, the Scripture moves us, in various places, to acknowledge and confess our sins and wickedness, so that we should not disguise or hide them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of them, by His infinite goodness and mercy. And although we should, at all times, humbly acknowledge our sins before God; yet we should especially do so, when we assemble and meet together to offer thanks for the many benefits that we have received at His hands, to set forth His most worthy praise, to hear His most holy Word, and to ask those things which are required and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Therefore I pray and plead, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and a humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying—

The people say the following Confession, with the minister,

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the desires and plots [plottings] of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we should have done and we have done those things which we should not have done; there is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, hopeless [miserable] offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to us [, and all men,] in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; that we may continue to live a godly, righteous, and temperate life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

If a priest is not present, a layperson or deacon may read the following, in place of the above Absolution,

GRANT to us, your faithful people, O merciful Lord, forgiveness and peace, that we, being cleansed from all our sins, may serve you with untroubled minds, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The priest and people then say,

Our Father in Heaven, may your name be held holy.  May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.  Give us the bread that we need today and forgive us our wrongdoing, as we forgive those who have wronged us.  Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, both now and evermore.  Amen.

O Lord, open our lips,
And our mouths will proclaim your praise.
O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, ever without end.  Amen.
Praise the Lord.
The Lord's Name be praised.

Then the following psalm shall be said or sung, except on Easter Day, when a proper anthem is appointed in its place.  And Note, that when the psalms is appointed in the Psalter, it should not be read twice.


O COME let us sing to the Lord:
let us rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving:
and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God:
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth:
and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his,for he made it:
and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down:
and kneel before the Lord our maker.
For he is the Lord our God:
and we are the people of his pasture; the sheep of his hand.
Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts:
as they were provoked in the day of temptation, in the wilderness;
when your fathers tempted me, proved me,  and saw my works.
For forty years I was grieved with this generation, and said:
They are a people which err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways.
Unto whom I swore in my wrath:
that they would not enter into my rest.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, ever without end.  Amen.

The psalm(s) appointed for the day are said or sung.


WE praise you, O God : we acknowledge you to be the Lord.
    All the earth worships you : the Father everlasting.
    To you, all Angels cry aloud : the Heavens, in all its power.
    To you, Cherubin and Seraphin : continually cry,
    Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of Hosts;
    Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty : of your glory.
    The glorious company of the Apostles : praises you.
    The great fellowship of the Prophets : praises you.
    The noble army of Martyrs : praises you.
    The holy Church throughout all the world : acknowledges you;
    The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
    Your honourable, true : and only Son;
    Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
    You are the King of Glory : O Christ.
    You are the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When you took on the deliverance of man: you did not abhor the Virgin's womb.
    When you overcame the sharpness of death : you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
    You sit at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
    We believe that you will come : to be our Judge.
    We, therefore, implore, help your servants : whom you have redeemed with your precious blood.
    Make them to be numbered with your Saints : in glory everlasting.
    O Lord, save your people : and bless your heritage.
    Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
    Day by day : we magnify you;
    And we worship your Name : ever without end.
    Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
    O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
    O Lord, may your mercy lighten upon us : as our trust is in you.
    O Lord, in you, have I trusted : let me never be confounded.


BLESSED be the Lord God of Israel : for he has visited and redeemed his people;
    And has raised up a mighty salvation for us : in the house of his servant David;
    As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets : which have been since the world began;
    That we should be saved from our enemies : and from the hand of all that hate us.
    To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers : and to remember his holy Covenant;
    To perform the oath which he swore to our forefather Abraham : that he would give us;
    That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies : might serve him without fear;
    In holiness and righteousness before him : all the days of our life.
    And you, Child, will be called the Prophet of the Highest : for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
    To give knowledge of salvation unto his people : for the forgiveness of their sins,
    Through the tender mercy of our God : through which the dawn from above has visited us;
    To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death : and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, ever without end.  Amen.

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth :
    And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died, and was buried: He descended into hell; On the third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From there, he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father, in Heaven, holy is your name.  May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.  Give us the bread that we need today and forgive us our wrongdoing, as we forgive those who have wronged us.  Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, both now and evermore.  Amen.

    O Lord, show your mercy to us.
    Answer. And grant us your salvation.
    Priest. O Lord, save the State.
    Answer. And mercifully hear us when we call upon you.
    Priest. Gift your Ministers with righteousness.
    Answer. And make your chosen people joyful.
    Priest. O Lord, save your people.
    Answer. And bless your inheritance.
    Priest. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
    Answer. Because there is no other who fights for us, but only you, O God.
    Priest. O God, make our hearts clean within us.
    Answer. And do not take your Holy Spirit from us.



O GOD, the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom rests our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us your humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


O LORD, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us in the same way, with your mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our deeds may be ordered by thy governance, to do always what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Anonymous said...

I would have some tweaks to make in various places, but especially in the Lord’s Prayer, where the first clause doesn’t mean ‘your Name is holy’ but ‘let your Name be held holy’ (as the French say, ‘que ton Nom soit sanctifi√©’). I’d also exclude the second part of Luke 15.19, since it’s (1) not used in the BCP and (2) a theologically harmful mindset into which to train the people.

Miserable may also be rendered wretched; I would also use plottings instead of plots to avoid any funny association with garden plots.

To be honest, though, I’d prefer to modernize the wording only where the meaning would otherwise be confused, which is where the wordings were updated up to 1662. This conservative way of revision would make it clear that the aim of revision was keep the prayer book understandable and not to mould it to our own image. Nevertheless, I recognize that some people desire more extensive changes, though I myself consider them unnecessary.

The Hackney Hub said...

Thanks for the comments.

This was just a first run but I started playing with it after a discussion with a group of ACNA people who had some very confusing understandings of Prayer Book revision. I wanted to develop a consistent vision for changing the text but keeping it as close to the original in meaning, essentially a dynamic equivalent translation.

highchurchman said...

I thought it very good ,on the whole, but I prefer it as it was! I don't particularly like change in religion. I would be happy with Sarum or 1549!
How-and-ever, I seen worse translations.