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Monday, April 03, 2006

Proverbs Coined by God

I seem to be taken by a fascination with Proverbs recently. Coined By God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in English Translations of the Bible is 'the book' to read on this topic. Justin Taylor mentioned it on his blog, Between Two Worlds. The author of Coined by God, Stanley Malless, was interviewed by Christianity Today here. This is an segment from the interview.

    We were surprised at how many phrases considered "biblical" are really elusive phrases—they're not in the Bible but they're of the Bible. Promised land, Good Samaritan, prodigal son, and Doubting Thomas don't exist in the Bible.

    We also found that Wycliffe had about half of the total number of coinages [we included in the book]. Tyndale was second with about half of that. King James by contrast had two entries. We thought it was going to be the other way around—that the King James would be top heavy and the others wouldn't have as many.

    I was a little bit surprised about the way the numbers fell as far as the books of the Bible. There's kind of an interesting symmetry. In the Old Testament, Genesis and Exodus both had 10 or 11 coinages. Matthew then had the highest number of entries from the New Testament at 14. The first books of each have the most coinages. I didn't know what to make of it, except that [the translators] were more energetic at the beginning than at the end.

    As far as the numbers go in terms of the New Testament and Old Testament, it is about even. There were about 70 coinages from the New Testament and 64 in the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha. So there's an even distribution.
I found the notion that translators were more energetic at the beginning than at the end rather intriguing. Could that be true, and do translators even begin at the beginning?

Maybe readers are more attentive at the beginning than at the end. Maybe most Bible readers don't get past Genesis and Matthew. I wonder how 'Read the Bible in 90 days' went. I am glad I chose 2 Timothy for my 90 day marathon. Baby steps.

I don't doubt that many did just that - read the Bible in 90 days. But maybe their memory for idioms was fresher at the beginning. Just a thought.

My own experience with memorizing idioms goes back to my days as a French major. One translation class was taught by a prof who was an editor of a French-English lexicon. He simply handed out a recent section of his beloved work, 300 or so idioms, and said "Have these memorized for the final exam."

That was quite a change, and a definite relief, after the French grammar prof. He was not terribly fluent in English and once asked us to translate from French into English a paragraph containing the phrase 'la directrice de l'hotel'. When we all translated this as the 'hotel manager', he took off a mark, claiming the right answer was the 'hotel manageress'. We simply agreed as a class that we would rather lose a mark on a test than concede to his notions about how to translate 'correctly'.


At Tue Apr 04, 07:48:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

The speed reading programs and Bibles can actually help people in comprehension IMO.

I picked up a Lightspeed Bible recently and I rather enjoy speed reading (in addition to my normal study and reading of the scripture that is).



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