An Bíobla Naofa presented to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork

On Saturday, 11th December 2021 Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise presented a copy of “An Bíobla Naofa” to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. An Bíobla Naofa is a translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Bible texts into Irish which was completed in 1981. 

The Rev. Ted Ardis, Dean’s Vicar, and the Rev. Tony Murphy

After the presentation, Daniel Fleming, curator at The Cotton Library Lismore, gave a talk and allowed the congregation to have a closer look at an original translation of the Old Testament from 1685. 

Daniel Fleming, curator at The Cotton Library Lismore, giving a talk
Original copy of the Old Testament in Irish from 1685
Members of the congregation with Daniel Fleming

The Rev. Tony Murphy said:

Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise (The Irish Guild of the Church)  is delighted to have had the opportunity to present a copy of “An Bíobla Naofa” to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in recognition of the hospitality that Dean Nigel and the Rev. Ted offer us in both holding  our monthly service and making it available on the internet.

The first Irish Language translation of the New Testament was completed by Uilliam Ó Domhnaill, Archbishop of Tuam in 1602. The task of translating the Old Testament was undertaken by William Bedell, an English Man and Bishop of Kilmore. Bedell learned the Irish Language and with the aid of two native speakers undertook the much bigger task of translating the Old Testament. This task was completed in 1640. 

It was over forty years later before the full Bible, Old and New Testament, was published under the patronage of scientist Robert Boyle. The Roman Catholic Church for many years did not encourage the production of the Bible in the vernacular. For that reason there was little work carried out on further translation of the Bible in Irish.

In 1970, nearly 300 years later, Canon Cosslett Ó Cuinn published an Tiomna Nua on behalf of Cumann Gaelach an hEaglaise. During this time work was also underway in the Roman Catholic Church on the modern publication of a full edition of An Bíobla Naofa in 1981. This was a massive effort and a life longs work by an tAthair Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, Beannacht Dé ar a anam. 

The size of the book is not suitable for the average person in the pews. An ecumenical project led by Cumann na Sagart, the National Bible Society of Ireland, the Bible Society of Northern Ireland, and Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise works on the publication of An Bíobla Naofa in a size that each person can hold.

A campaign has started to raise €50,000 to support this publication, so that a free copy can be presented to all Gaelscoileanna and language bodies. Archdeacon Gary Hastings, a man who learned Irish in his adult years, has been heavily involved in this project and the introductory comments have been signed by the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Primates.

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