A new English translation of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body promises to offer a more true reading of one of the late pontiff’s greatest gifts to the Church.
“The Theology of the Body: A New Translation Based on the John Paul II Archives” will be available in September. This new edition was translated from the Pope’s original Polish text. In addition, John Paul II’s original system of chapter headings has been translated from Polish for the first time.
The Theology of the Body was shared with the faithful of the Church in a series of inspirational lectures the Pope delivered at his weekly general audiences between 1979 and 1984. The short lectures were given in Italian and then translated into English by various translators in the editorial offices of L’Osservatore Romano.
But, because several translators were dealing with individual catecheses, the results were inadvertent omissions, intentional edits, and many inconsistencies. For example, the key concept “spousal meaning of the body” is translated in eight different ways.
Therefore, existing English translations were simply a compilation of these slightly errant Osservatore transcripts. While theologically true and pedagogically helpful, they lacked the coherence originally conceived by John Paul II.
The new translation is by professor and biblical scholar Dr. Michael M. Waldstein, who is also director of the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Gaming, Austria.
“The biggest difference my translation provides is the rigor of the Pope’s thinking and the clear order of thought throughout the work. The task of the translator is to disappear as much as possible,” Waldstein said in a press release. “I wanted to make John Paul II’s own words available.”
Six additional catecheses printed in the Polish edition are also published for the first time in English. The Pope’s trademark use of italics, much of which had been lacking in the first translation or removed by subsequent editors, has also been restored. Inconsistencies caused by different translators have been corrected, and sentences have been properly reconstructed.
Waldstein discovered the original manuscript of the Theology of the Body in the John Paul II archives, a document that was completely unknown to scholars. The discovery confirmed that the Pope had adapted his Polish text into Italian for his general audiences, and not the other way around.
The new translation will be available through the website of the Daughters of St. Paul at www.pauline.org.