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Translation of the phrase
 “Carnis resurrectionem”
in the Apostles’ Creed *


Decisions regarding the translation of the phrase “Carnis resurrectionem” in the Apostles’ Creed, December 14, 1983

1. The phrase “Carnis resurrectionem” (“resurrection of the flesh”) in the Apostles’ Creed has been translated differently up to now in various languages.

– translating according to the literal meaning of the Latin text of the Apostles’ Creed; [1]

– translating the term “carnis” (“flesh”) with an equivalent term; [2]

– translating the term “mortuorum” (“dead”) in the article “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum” (“and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead”) in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. [3]

2. The question of the translation of the phrase “Carnis resurrectionem” (“Resurrection of the flesh”) in the Apostles’ Creed has been examined by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has adopted the following decisions in its ordinary meeting, accompanied by the corresponding theological reasons.

These decisions, after being approved by the Holy Father in an Audience granted on December 2, 1983, to his Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the same Congregation, have been transmitted by this Dicastery in a letter on December 14, 1983 (Prot. 121/75).

* * *


A) Decisions

1. There are no doctrinal reasons that are absolutely contrary to the translation “resurrection of the dead,” as this formula expresses the same faith found in the formula “resurrection of the flesh,” although there is a convergence of current theological opinion that argues for preserving the traditional exact (literal) translation.

2. In future translations presented for ecclesiastical approval, the exact traditional translation is to be maintained.

3. Where a change has already been authorized, it is appropriate to communicate to the bishops the reasons that recommend a return to the exact traditional translation.

B) Current theological opinions that argue for the maintenance of the exact traditional translation of the phrase of the Apostles’ Creed, “carnis resurrectionem”

1. The two formulas “resurrection of the dead” and “resurrection of the flesh” are different but complementary expressions of the same early tradition of the Church, and therefore the exclusive or global prevalence of the formula, “resurrection of the dead,” would constitute a doctrinal impoverishment.  While it is true that this expression implicitly contains the affirmation of the bodily resurrection, the expression of the formula, “resurrection of the flesh,” is more explicit in affirming that particular aspect of the resurrection, as is demonstrated by its origin.

2. Abandoning the formula “resurrection of the flesh” carries with it the inherent danger of supporting the modern theories that place the resurrection at the moment of death, in practice excluding the bodily resurrection, especially in the flesh.  Regarding the present dissemination of a similarly “spiritualized” vision of the resurrection, the CDF has brought this issue to the attention of the Bishops in the letter “on certain questions concerning eschatology,” issued May 17, 1979.

* Documents, 249-251

[1] Cf. Translation in Italian, French, and Portuguese:

- "La risurrezione della carne" (Roman Missal, second Italian edition.  Italian Episcopal Conference, 2nd edition, 1983, 306);
- "La résurrection de la chair" (Roman Missal for the French speaking countries, Paris 1974, 11).
- "A ressurreição da carne" (Roman Missal, National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 1973, 351).

[2] Cf. Translation in English:

- "The resurrection of the body" (The Roman Ritual. Rite of Baptism for Children, English translation approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and confirmed by the Apostolic See, New York 1970, 89).

[3] Cf. Translation in German and Spanish:

- "Auferstehung der Toten" (Missal for the Dioceses of the German language area, 1974, Part 1, 119);
- "La resurrección de los muertos" (Book Headquarters, National Secretariat for Liturgy, Madrid 1983, 394).