Spe Salvi: translation problem 1

You all knew I would get to it.  I am still absorbing.  However, I am alerted to something in the very first line of the encyclical….yes, the first line.   Do you notice anything strange about the French version?  I left a little clue.




1. « SPE SALVI facti sumus » – ait sanctus Paulus Romanis et nobis quoque (Rom 8,24). « Redemptio », salus in christiana fide non est tantum simplex notitia.

1. “SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24).

1. « SPE SALVI facti sumus » – dans l’espérance nous avons tous été sauvés, dit saint Paul aux Romains et à nous aussi (Rm 8, 24).


Don’t worry: I’ll get to the English soon enough!  But this one really struck me in the face.

Looking at the Greek of Rom 8:24, I don’t see all "all" in there, do you?   I think Romans says, "In hope we were saved" with esothemen (an aorist passive).

I think we had better start reading with more than one text at hand. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. prof. basto says:


    As much as admire your analisys of the translation problems – and it is
    good that there is someone out there checking the translations; this is
    reallly a very important service on your part – I must say I was looking
    forward to your toughts on the material contents of the Encyclical.

    I’ve read a very interesting analisys by Antonio Socci via Rorate Caeli, but
    I was really craving for your impressions, your insight. Is it coming soon?

  2. Richard says:

    No, the Greek word for “all”, “oloi”, is not present in the Greek New Testament. It says “Gaoelpidi esothimen” (basically, “For in hope we are saved”). “Omnis” is not present in the Latin, either (as we can see there).

  3. canon regular says:

    Note the omission of the translation of “asseclarum” in the first or second paragraph of Spe salvi. In the Latin, this adjective meaning “servant”, “slave”, etc. describes the “other religions”, thus showing that they are not equal to but below the Catholic religion.

  4. Robert says:

    I have found already (comparing English to French) that even with my limited French skills the English just seems to lack the punch that the french has.

    In a way it seems like the french continually translates things in a stronger sense where the English is always dumbed down and weaker just by a little bit. This might not seem to be a huge problem in one line or two, but in the end it gives the document more of a wishy-washy feel instead of something that has a beauty and depth similar to the Sacred Scriptures.

  5. James says:

    I read it in German, and the style is so typically Ratzinger that I’m pretty sure that *that* is the original. The curial officials who claimed otherwise were probably, um, exaggerating a bit. In fact, the quality of the Latin translation seems rather spotty.

  6. James –
    You’re very right about the “spotty” Latin, and Fr. Z reports as much in one of his previous posts on this encyclical: https://wdtprs.com/2007/11/pope-benedicts-2nd-encyclical-is-ready-spe-salvi/

    Interesting that they retain the original German text — I wonder if the Italian translation, then, is the one made from the German for the Latinists to translate from! This seems like such a messy way of writing official Church documents.

  7. Dob says:

    I didn’t pick up anything glaring from the English translation this time. I thought it was a magnificent document. Have they changed translators? I await your good work with interest Fr Z.

  8. It seems to me that French has some peculiarities in their language when it comes to Church language. Think of how they pray the Hail Mary…..

    “…Sainte-Marie, Mere de Dieu, priez pour nous PAUVRE pecheurs, maintenant et a l’heure de notre morte. Amen.”

    I think I screwed up on a few words there but they say “pray for us POOR sinners…” I don’t read that in the Latin.

  9. LeonG says:

    Anyone familiar with French biblical exegesis over the last hundred years or so will know that following the erroneous application of methodologies by Loisy and his empathic cohort, the french church is replete with clergy and bishops who no longer view The Christ as divine, no longer accept the historicity of The Gospels and it is they who at every turn attempt to stymie a return to traditional liturgy and the appropriate doctrinal emphasis which is incumbent. In the early 1960s french churches were already using novelties that eventually became propagated by Pope Paul VI (RIP) such as standing for communion and use of the vernacular in the Mass. Evolutionism, egology and pluralism have infected very aspect of contemporary french eccelsiastical norms and values. This is why french bishops rejoice more over one mosque that is built in France than over hundreds of parishes and their churches that have disappeared since the 1970s. Therefore, in and out of the french modernist ecumenist “church” ALL are saved.

  10. Melody says:

    Any chance of one of the learned people here providing a corrected translation of the encyclical? I know that’s a lot to ask, but it frustrates me so that I can’t even trust the Vatican’s own documents to be correctly transmitted.

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