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Diocesan Synod calls for psalter revision

On Saturday the Christchurch diocesan synod passed the following motion:

That the Common Life Liturgical Commission be asked to provide the text of the verses in the Psalter which have been omitted from the Psalms for Worship in A New Zealand Prayer Book/ He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, and restore “Israel” and “Zion” where they have been altered, as nearly as possible in the same style.

The word “Israel” occurs about 60 times and the word “Zion” occurs about 40 times in the original Psalter. An example of the NZ version: “O that deliverance for God’s people (original “Israel”) would come forth from Jerusalem (“Zion”)” (Psalm 14:8).

Explanation for the way the psalter is found in the prayer book is given on page 195 of the prayer book: “Some omissions have been made on the grounds that we are not making a new translation of the Book of Psalms, but providing psalms suitable for Christian worship.” When this version was produced in the 1980s there was some concern that references to “Israel” and “Zion” would be interpreted in a particular political way into the contemporary situation in the Middle East. No consistent position was formulated however (“Israel” is removed from the Benedictus p.39 etc. and included in the Nunc Dimittis p.47 etc.). There was outrage and hurt in the Jewish community, both in New Zealand and internationally, at the reworking of the psalter in this manner. The Auckland Diocese requested a text with “Israel” and “Zion” restored. I would be happy to host a digital version of that on this site. Now the Christchurch Diocese has added its voice to that. And also to making the imprecatory material available.

The New Zealand version was one of the first to take care that language be inclusive both for God and for humans. It uses the masculine “Lord,” however, for the Hebrew יהוה (YHWH – Yahweh) and does not distinguish this from אֲדֹנָי (Adonai). I would hope that in any future versions we can have a deep discussion which respects the inherited taonga (treasure) fully, is as inclusive as possible both in relation to humans and to God, and works harder at translating יהוה, all the while retaining the ability to continue our great chanting tradition.

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