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Friday, July 14, 2006

Bertrand on Bible translation

Mark Bertrand is an author, teacher, careful thinker, and blogger. Today he blogged about a podcast on which he was interviewed about his passion for physical Bible design, which can make a Bible more attractive, readable, and durable. He also spoke about different kinds of Bible translations.

I have been reading Mark's blog for a couple of years and he always has something reasonable to say. I am often challenged to think more deeply about something from one of Mark's posts.

I have just finished listening to the podcast of the interview with Mark. It was a pleasure to listen to his physical voice after having getting to know his literary voice (including in comments here on this blog).

Typical of Mark, on the podcast he was open-minded and careful with his words. He arrives at some different conclusions from mine (which, of course, is a healthy thing for thinking people to do), but I never feel judged by anything Mark says in writing or on the podcast. As an English major and someone who loves classical English literature, Mark prefers Bible versions which sound more like the KJV, while I prefer versions which sound more like the way those for whom they are translated actually speak and write. But we understand and respect each other's positions. We both grew up on the KJV and memorized it and still enjoy its cadences.

I was impressed with how fairly and irenically Mark discussed different kinds of Bible versions on the podcast. I wish that all debate about English Bible versions these days were conducted in such a fair, civil, non-judgemental way.

I commend to you Mark's blog post which will take only a couple of minutes to read, as well as the podcast, which lasts forty minutes.

5 Comments:

At Sat Jul 15, 01:37:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

I share the love of good book design with Mark, and have checked out his comments on build quality in the past.

Sometimes we differ slightly in preferences, and I think that I may be more involved in some of the technical aspects of book making than he is, it is nice to know that other people are interested.

Cheers to good book making (including Bibles), a dying trend in most heavily industrialized societies.

 
At Sat Jul 15, 02:39:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

First, I really enjoyed Mark's podcast. However, he comments that 'the tools exist now to learn at least a smattering of Greek' 'students do this all the time, having to acquire a minimum proficiency.' With all due respect to Augustine whom Mark references here, I would suggest,

"A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."

I think this is why Mark has trouble seeing gender inclusive language as accurate. However, he is careful to say that he is not qualified to decide.

I can see that I was brought up in a similar environment to Mark, and understand his appreciation of the KJV as a cultural artefact. He talks about a new Penguin King James with original translation choices that is worth noting.

Mark refers to a loyalty to the RSV on the part of his professors. While he prefers the ESV, he also recommends the New Living, although, oddly, he refers only to the TNIV as 'controversial.' I don't know why the TNIV is controversial and the NLT is not. Hmm. Maybe he'll respond. Good talk, Mark.

 
At Sat Jul 15, 03:48:00 PM, Blogger J. Mark Bertrand said...

Thanks for the kind words, Wayne -- they're much appreciated. Just to clarify something Suzanne mentions: I don't actually have "trouble seeing gender inclusive language as accurate," and if I gave that impression, I'm sorry. Over the past six weeks I've been on the road, living out of a suitcase, and the two Bibles I've traveled with are the ESV and the NRSV, both of which use gender inclusive language to one degree or another. I regret the infelicities that inclusivity sometimes requires, but I don't think it's inaccurate to translate passages that refer to men and women in English that does the same. What I have trouble seeing, actually, is the opposite: that the traditional usage is inaccurate and ought to be abandoned. (Still, I think I did state the case for abandoning it.)

On my remark about the TNIV, you have to remember that I mention it only in passing while answering a question about how the various translations might be 'ranked' on the spectrum, and the main point I tried to make is that in some cases the TNIV chooses more literal readings than the NIV -- which from my point of view, constitutes praise. I didn't mention the TNIV controversy to dismiss the translation; after all, the KJV is more controversial by far, and I think it's wonderful.

One translation I mentioned only briefly and could have gone into more detail about is the REB, which I happen to like. But this interview was recorded just before midnight after a long day of lectures -- which is why I made such a big deal out of Augustine's first bit of advice and seem to have forgotten the other two: comparing translations and reading in context.

 
At Sat Jul 15, 05:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Mark,

Sorry if I sounded too one-sided, I was typing as I listened. I am a great fan of Augustine, so I hesitated before writing that - and then I thought, oh what the heck!


I regret the infelicities that inclusivity sometimes requires, but I don't think it's inaccurate to translate passages that refer to men and women in English that does the same. What I have trouble seeing, actually, is the opposite: that the traditional usage is inaccurate and ought to be abandoned. (Still, I think I did state the case for abandoning it.)

I am not quite sure I get your point. I must be thick today.

I didn't mention the TNIV controversy to dismiss the translation; after all, the KJV is more controversial by far, and I think it's wonderful.

Yes, I completely get your point here. You did not mention the controversy to dismiss the TNIV, but time had run out. I understand that. Not really on topic either. But it was a 'leading' comment - tantalizing.

Lots of good remarks about Fiztgerald and Lattimore, physical nature of books, etc. Thanks, I did enjoy your podcast very much.

 
At Sat Jul 15, 06:41:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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