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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What makes a better Bible better?

Peter Head, who blogs at Evangelical Textual Criticism, asks an appropriate question in his latest response in our series of comments to my post "facing another translation issue":
It seems like you might prefer an idiomatic translation with notes signalling literal translation. I might prefer the opposite. Why is one better than the other?
Excellent question, Peter. In my opinion, there is no single answer. There is more than one answer possible, depending on how we answer another question:
Better for what?
I'm sure I'm simply reviewing what Peter and many of you blog readers already know, but there are at least two critical factors that determine how we might answer this last question:
  1. Use: What do you want to use this Bible version for?
  2. Audience: What audience are you translating for?
I suspect that it is the intention of most Bible translators that their translations have multiple usages and multiple audiences. For instance, we know from the different editions produced, as well as advertising, that the ESV is intended to be used for detailed personal Bible study, preaching, and, likely, devotional reading.

The ESV has also been produced for different audiences. Reference editions have been produced for audiences of Bible readers who seriously study the text. And separate editions have been produced for children and evangelism.

When we examine literary and linguistic features of a translation, we can, however, often categorize different English versions as being more suitable for certain usages than others and certain audiences than others.

The TEV (Good News Translation) was originally produced for ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers. The TEV has less complex English syntax and vocabulary than a number of versions which are used by native speakers of English, more highly educated speakers, and those who are more biblically literate. The American Bible Society, which produced the TEV, soon discovered that there was an audience of native speakers (not ESL) of English which craved the kind of English used in the TEV. I was one of those, when the TEV was first published. The TEV spoke my language. It was the first "common language" translation of the Bible, as that term is defined by William Wonderly in his book Bible Translations for Popular Use. I could read the TEV without stumbling over technical religious terms. The syntax in it was the syntax which I normally use when writing and speaking. Its vocabulary contained the words that I understood well. Therefore, the TEV spoke to my heart. It didn't require extra cognitive processing time that versions with less natural English did for me. The less cognitive processing time required meant that the text could get more quickly to those parts of my brain where I am emotively and spiritually impacted by what I read.

So, Peter, and anyone else reading this, there are different possible audiences for our translations. You, Peter, are highly biblically literate. You know the biblical languages; your speciality is a focus on the variations within extant manuscripts of those texts to try to help determine what is most likely the original wordings. You like to know, directly in a translation itself, what the biblical language idioms are (wonderful idioms, I might add). I assume that your exposure to Bible teaching as well as your own formal education has taught you the meaning of those idioms.

Other audiences, however, do not have your background. They do not understand many biblical idioms, if their individual words are translated literally. For them it is necessary to follow the recommendation of those who teach at translation training schools, that idioms be translated as a unit. I plan to blog on the different ways that idioms can be translated, so I will keep that topic for another post. My calling in life, as a Bible translator, is to try to meet the needs of those who do not understand the Bible due to language barriers. A barrier can be because the Bible is not translated yet in their language or because they have not yet accessed Bible versions which speak their dialect. Millions of English speakers today do not understand the dialect of "Bible English" which is used extensively in many English versions.

Now, we can, of course, try to squeeze all audiences into the same mold. When audiences which are not very biblically literate encounter literally translated idioms and do not understand them, we can teach them the meaning of those idioms. Much expository teaching time in churches which use more literal translations is devoted to explaining the meanings of words and figures of speech which are not familiar to many people. (That reminds me of the story, told to me by one of my pastors as being true. Some pastors were asked why they continued preaching from the KJV when their congregations did not understand it well. They answered, "Well, if I didn't use that translation, then what would be left for me to preach about?)

If we desire a translation that leaves all possible word connections clear in the text so they can be followed through careful thematic and similar Bible study, then we might prefer a translation which translates biblical idioms literally. Peter's comments have made it clear that he would like to be able to find all references in the Bible which refer to literal faces as well as references to figurative faces in idioms and other figures of speech. And there are other Bible students like Peter who want such intertextuality within the translation text itself. We just need to remember that if we leave biblical figures of speech literal, we are creating an increased processing burden for audiences who are not so biblically literate.

So, I think we can answer Peter's most appropriate question with the English idiom "Different strokes for different folks." Different audiences for the Bible and different usages of the Bible call for different kinds of translations. One size doesn't fit all. Your mileage may vary.

29 Comments:

At Wed Aug 02, 06:12:00 AM, Blogger Federico Perazzoni said...

Nice....

:-)

 
At Wed Aug 02, 08:05:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

What I've found effective is to study with a literal translation (my favorite is still the NASB) so that I can see the original idiom, but then I usually use something less literal when I am in front of a group.

Over the past few months, I've been teaching Sunday School out of the HCSB. I started doing this because it's used in our curriculum, but I've found that I genuinely like this translation as a fairly good balance between formal and dynamic. An example of this is in Wayne's entry from earlier this week, "facing another translation issue." He found it interesting that "the HCSB, often a fairly literal translation, renders the meaning of the Hebrew idiom, as a whole, rather than the meaning of its individual words." I find that the HCSB does this quite often, but not everywhere. They seem to have tried to weigh the idiom in light of how familiar or foreign it might be to a contemporary American reader.

I use a Bible in all of my classes that I teach at IWU whether it's a NT Survey or a writing class. Even in the writing classes, they want us to incorporate a "Biblical Principle in Business" segment. Because I'm not going into the actual text of Scripture quite as in depth as I would in a Bible study, I have been using the TNIV for these purposes.

Of course in the average teaching situation, there's room for dialogue. Even though I preached a sermon using the HCSB a couple of weeks ago, I was discussing this with my wife recently, and I told her that I think I'm at the point that if I were to ever preach on a very regular basis again, I'd probably use something like the NLT. I'd do this because the average audience in the church is so mixed and the nature of a sermon usually does not allow for direct feedback, let alone conversation. In other words, if someone completely misunderstands the text, how will I know?

So in other words, I've really begun trying to think of my audience when selecting a translation. If it's for me, I go more formal. If it's for others, I tend to go more dynamic. I suppose I think of translations as "tools" and it's important to select the right one for a particular task.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 08:08:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

One more thing...

Wayne, I was unfamiliar with William Wonderly's book, Bible Translations for Popular Use. So I followed your link to Amazon and just purchased the last used copy (it's out of print).

My apologies to anyone else who wanted a copy :-(

 
At Wed Aug 02, 08:39:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick apologized:

My apologies to anyone else who wanted a copy

Rick, there are supposed to be more used copies available here. Caveat emptor: Buy from the second listed store if you want to save money.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Rick,

I really appreciate the way you have given a concrete context for using the three different types of translations, represented by the HCSB, the TNIV and the NLT. This certainly forefronts the fact that each of us is coming at this problem from a different perspective.

I have repeatedly found that the GNB is appropriate for the people that I interact with regularly, those with little or no prior knowledge or exposure to the Bible or evangelical Christianity. Wayne may be in a similar situation to myself, at the mission end, interacting more with non-Christians without advanced education.

For personal study, I would depend at some level on the Greek NT, so I wouldn't worry much about which translation to use. As a woman I don't teach Bible to adults in my church. (I am busy working during the women's Bible study time.)Most recently I taught the 4 year old Sunday School class.

For the OT I suppose I like the traditional English, the KJ phrases stick in my mind, but I really haven't given it as much thought as I might have.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 10:11:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Wayne, should I not even mention the fact that I got the book for $2.65?

Suzanne, I really like the GNB, too, and it will be featured in an upcoming installment on my favorite translations (once I get back to that!). But I find that I just don't use it as much as I used to, although it has a soft spot in my heart. Do you find it "appropriate for the people that [you] interact with regularly" because you are referring to the children you mention in your next paragraph? I still believe that the GNB is the BEST translation for children, but I hope to show (when I write about it) that it has value for adults as well.

As for using the Greek, yes, that is kind of assumed in my personal study, although I usually have it alongside a translation. I'm still not proficient enough to use it simply along--but time and practice will hopefully change that. My Hebrew is rusty at this point and I now have to look up more than I know (it wasn't always that way), but I have that as a goal to address that eventually, too.

I never use the KJV for any personal study. I occasionally look up something to see how it's rendered, usually out of curiosity. I will use the KJV in public only when I'm speaking to senior citizens or on formal occasions. The first time I ministered at a funeral, I had to go buy a decent looking KJV to carry with me.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 11:18:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Rick,

I was refering primarily to teenagers and adults who do not have a Christian upbringing or broad liberal arts university education. And I probably would use the NLT if I had made a habit of it. At the moment I don't need to select a single version to teach from because I don't teach scripture in any sense.

Personally I am seeking to address my own weakness in Hebrew, but also follow some of the translation traditions through the centuries. I realize that reading parallel versions in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, French, etc. is not an option for everyone, but it is consistent with my own training.

In terms of reading the OT as a narrative, The David Story by Robert Alter impressed me very much. I feel no need to have the OT and NT, or any parts thereof, bound as a single volume. That just simply is not a criteria for me, but it seems that many people view that as an important criteria even for a personal study bible.

Anon,

You wrote,

How can one follow Paul's exegesis, for example, without a sound grounding in the Septuagint?

Absolutely, it is essential. I couldn't agree more.

I don't think all Bible translations are equal.

Much as I feel drawn into a greater interaction with scholarship, with the original lgs, I cannot feel that God values any less those who read a simple version and interpret the Bible through their own devotion and practice of faith, those who need an accesible translation.

No, I don't think equality is the right word. Some translations are intellectually more valid, they are closer to the original writing. But do they bring us closer to what God wants us to learn from his word? There is much in the Bible that is only understood as it interacts with a life of faith and practice.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Rick,

What I'm trying to say is that I can operate outside of institutional constraints. No one is critiquing my choice of Bible. But I am hindered in recommending a translation for this very reason. I have not been made to appreciate the difficulties of the many valid constraints on choosing a pew bible.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anon,

Let me describe the tension between two extremes in more concrete terms.

On the one hand, there are the professors of biblical lgs, or anything else for that matter. They seek to impart their own knowledge and more to those that they teach. They see each person that they teach as having the same potential as themselves.

On the other hand, there are those who work with the terminally ill, or the handicapped. They experience humanity and service to others in a totally different way, Then they bring that to the Bible, that knowlede of life. It is valuable.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 01:51:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

It is a little hard for me to accept that the KJV is outside the reach of most English speakers.

Yours is a reasonable position. Ultimately, I think, the issue is an empirical one, subject to affirmation or lack of it through some kind of field testing. All of my own claims about better degrees of processing for some Bible versions than others should be submitted to the same empirical process.

And none of this denies the tremendous influence the KJV has had on the English language and English literature. Current readability is a separate issue from linguistic and literary impact of a Bible version.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 02:37:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

I have found lately that I have a harder time "processing" some of my more literal translations, while before I don't remember having nearly as much trouble. I have come to question everything when I am reading it and asking "What is that really saying?" Like all of the "in Hims" and the "by faiths", and what not. When you actually look for them, it is hard to interpret sometimes.

This is funny too, because I am talking about modern literal translations, not older ones. I used to be a huge KJV buff (loved the English) and I felt much more capable of interpreting.

Anyone else had an experience like this? What do I gotta do, get numb and stop looking so hard?

Frustrating.

 
At Wed Aug 02, 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Matthew wondered:

Anyone else had an experience like this?

Yes, I didn't notice these issues before either.

What do I gotta do, get numb and stop looking so hard?

Well, there are rehab programs in many countries. You could look for one that specializes in deprogramming!



Doctor to patient:

"Well, Mr. Mansini, when did you first notice this hyper-vigilant attention to unnatural English?"

"Doctor, it started when I began visiting the Better Bibles Blog."

"Hmm, I can refer you to one of our staff psychologists. Would your insurance cover those sessions?"

"I'm not sure. Isn't there any simpler treatment?"

"Have you considered staying away from that blog?"


:-)

 
At Thu Aug 03, 02:43:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

Wayne,

Thanks for this. If we stick to idioms rather than the (to me) rather different issue of literalism, then I think one of the issues for me is that idioms reveal (and depend on) something of the (foreign) cultural context in which they make sense, but out of which they do not make sense.

You gave some examples:

1. "I put on my mocassins with the morning star."

2. "The turtle is shrouded."

3. "I'm going to swallow a rock."

Now I don't know what these mean (although maybe with as much context as the Bible provides I could make a reasonable guess, I don't know), but I do know that if I was reading the history of some Cheyenne tribe I would expect to find some odd expressions which reflect their culture not mine.

So, to focus this in another question, are readers of translated Bibles supposed to register that what they are reading is the product of a foreign and ancient culture?

 
At Thu Aug 03, 03:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Peter, you ask, "are readers of translated Bibles supposed to register that what they are reading is the product of a foreign and ancient culture?" I'm not sure. I guess most readers know this anyway, and don't have to have it rubbed into them by repeated encounters with strange expressions. But I do know that they are supposed to understand what they read. You read the Cheyenne idioms, you don't know what they mean, but you "register that what [you] are reading is the product of a foreign ... culture". Is that sufficient? Perhaps it is if you are reading a Cheyenne text containing these idioms as an exercise in anthropological study. However, if say you were trying to live off the land in the Cheyenne homeland and this text was all you had to guide you, it might be a matter of life and death whether "The turtle is shrouded" means that the turtle is good to eat or poisonous enough to put you in a shroud - or maybe it is not literally anything to do with turtles at all, I know no more than you! Similarly with the Bible. For those who read it as a monument to ancient literature, maybe understanding all the details is not important. But those of us who read it as a guide to eternal life and death do need to understand its message clearly.

 
At Thu Aug 03, 04:00:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter Head (not Kirk) asked:

are readers of translated Bibles supposed to register that what they are reading is the product of a foreign and ancient culture?

Hello again, Peter. I have been thinking about this question myself lately, esp. since it is one of the issues in the Bible translation debates these days.

Like Peter Kirk, I don't know if "readers of translated Bibles supposed to register that what they are reading is the product of a foreign and ancient culture" (emphasis added). But I do believe that that they will find out rather quickly that they are reading "the product of a foreign and ancient culture."

Yes, idioms, metaphors, and other figurative language are a part of the culture of any language. But they are only a part. By no means do they carry all the weight of reflecting what constitutes a culture.

Regardless of whether or not the figurative language of the original biblical texts is literally or idiomatically translated, the foreignness of the cultures within which the biblical texts were written should be very clear to anyone who reads or hears that text. There is a great deal of non-figurative language in the Bible which communicates that "otherness" or foreignness.

There are instructions about Levirate marriage, gleaning, the special inheritance status of the first-born male. There is discussion about slavery and surrogate motherhood (Hagar for Sarah). There is a Hebraic focus on a localized Shekina glory. There are sacrifices of various kinds. There is the question of how much of Judaism those who believe in Jesus should maintain in practice.

Well, you likely know the issues even better than I do.

When we *translate* that ancient document, must we maintain all linguistic foreignness of the languages recorded in the Bible? If so, we would no longer have a translated text which could be understood by English speakers, because words would no longer be in English syntactic order, but, rather in Hebraic or Greek order. When translating the N.T. we would need to use pronominal affixes, for the most part, rather than English pronouns, since Greek more often indicates pronominal reference by affixes than separate pronouns. So we would somehow have to find a way of affixes English pronouns to English verbs. Or else we should simply borrow the Greek affixes which would be even more culturally authentic than using English pronouns.

There *is* a balancing act in all of this. We must not change metaphors and other figurative language which was difficult even for the original audience to understand. I believe that we should not transculturate Jesus' words to Nicodemus that a person must be "born again" (or "born from above") to some wording that might be better understood today. (I don't know what that would be.)

As you know, I think the proper place to reference literal translations of non-"critical" figurative in translation is in footnotes. I think the NET Bible is very good in this regard with its extensive translation footnotes. Oh, yes, in this discussion we do have to deal with that word "critical" I just flagged.

As much as I would like (with you) to retain the fact that the ancient Hebrews used the body parts hand and arm as metaphors for power, if translate to a language like English where these body parts do not have that meaning, it is my claim that we have not translated accurately. Body part metaphors are very common among languages. But their metaphorical meaning varies widely.

The ancient Hebrews viewed the kidney (Heb. kilyah) as the seat of emotions. Yet even the most literal English translations (including Young and Darby) do not translate kidney literally to English when there is a biblical metaphor (e.g. Ps. 7:9). Instead, many English version, including "literal" and "essentially literal" ones like the ESV *accurately* translate kilyah to the equivalent English metaphor, heart.

Are we leaving out something about the culture of the ancient Hebrews when even literal English versions do not use the word "kidney" in a translation? Yes, we are. Are we accurating communicating Ps. 7:9 when we substitute the English body part which represents emotions, "heart"? Yes. If we used a literal translation of the Hebrew kilyah, we would communicate none of the original figurative meaning to English and that is the central part of the meaning of that part of the Hebrew text, namely that the psalmist was referring to the emotions.

I fully understand what you are saying and "I feel your pain" (to coin a phrase!). But if our goal is to accurately communicate to translation audiences what the biblical authors intended to communicate to their audiences then I believe we have to go for the core/central meaning of what those authors were saying. We cannot maintain biblical language word order (part of their languages which were part of their culture) and communicate accurately in English.

If we want to reflect all cultural aspects of the ancient biblical texts, then we should not translate at all. Instead, we should teach people around the world Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I think most of us would recognize that that is too much of a processing burden for billions of people. Instead, we do the best we can to translate the propositional content of the ancient texts into the natural language forms of the receptor language. When the ancient text had a clear meaning the translated text should have that same meaning clear for its readers. This includes translation of non-figurative as well as figurative language.

The Italian proverb is right, "Traduttore, traditore." Translation *is* a kind of treason. But I suggest that so much more is gained through accurate, communicative translation than what is lost.

And for those who want to know precisely words the ancients used to express things figuratively, we've got a ready place for such information in the footnotes. Long live footnotes!

:-)

 
At Thu Aug 03, 04:07:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter Kirk mentioned:

... whether "The turtle is shrouded" means that the turtle is good to eat or poisonous enough to put you in a shroud - or maybe it is not literally anything to do with turtles at all

And the answer is ... the Cheyenne idiom has nothing to do with turtles, just like the English idiom "Well, don't have a cow!" has nothing to do with cows.

 
At Thu Aug 03, 05:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne wrote: "We must not change metaphors and other figurative language which was difficult even for the original audience to understand. I believe that we should not transculturate Jesus' words to Nicodemus that a person must be "born again" (or "born from above") to some wording that might be better understood today."

Wayne, I agree with you. But it seems to me that the problem today with "born again" is not that we don't understand it, but that we understand too well - or at least we think we do! When Nicodemus heard these words, they were very obscure. Now all of us, that is all westerners who have had more than a passing acquaintance with evangelical Christianity, think we know exactly what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. So by translating the phrase literally we are in fact making it much less obsure than it originally was. Should we do this? Well, I don't think I would propose any actual change to this passage. But the matter does need consideration.

A similar problem arises in 1 Corinthians 12 with Paul's picture of Christians as members of a body. To Paul this was probably a new and striking metaphor, I am not suggesting an obscure one, but one which might have required some thought. But in the modern world the idea of people being members of some kind of non-literal body has become a commonplace, and indeed the word "member" has fallen out of literal use and is now used only for membership of some kind of organisation or non-literal body. What was a metaphor to Paul has become something very literal in translation. The only way to rescue the metaphor is to abandon the word "member", perhaps in favour of "body part". This is of course not abandoning literal translation, just using a different and better rendering for the Greek word in question.

 
At Thu Aug 03, 06:13:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Peter Kirk wrote, "...it seems to me that the problem today with "born again" is not that we don't understand it, but that we understand too well - or at least we think we do! When Nicodemus heard these words, they were very obscure. Now all of us, that is all westerners who have had more than a passing acquaintance with evangelical Christianity, think we know exactly what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. So by translating the phrase literally we are in fact making it much less obsure than it originally was. Should we do this? Well, I don't think I would propose any actual change to this passage. But the matter does need consideration."

This is an interesting thought. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, Nicodemus was puzzled--startled even. His bewilderment is evident in his response:

“How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
(John 3:4 TNIV)

How do we make the reader--at least the reader new to the story--connect with Nicodemus' misunderstanding. In the United States, "born again" became associated with President Jimmy Carter's personal faith of a Southern Baptist variety. I once heard a Catholic friend complain about being asked if she was "born again." She said, "I'm not born again--I'm Catholic!" Wow--that really shows that those words aren't working in much of our culture since "born again" has come to mean a particular variety of Christianity, a very conservative Protestant variety.

The NRSV and and GWT use "born from above." Although that phrase accurately carries part of the meaning of γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, I'm not sure it readily connects with Nicodemus' confusion.

Perhaps a way to translate v. 3 that will both communicate to a modern reader free from cultural baggage and connect to the conversation taking place in John 3 is to use the phrase "a second time." Consider the following modified from the TNIV and note how it connects with Nicodemus' second sentence in v. 4:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born a second time.”
“How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born a second time.’”


Thoughts?

 
At Thu Aug 03, 09:26:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Robertson had this to say: First aorist passive subjunctive of gennaō. Anōthen. Originally “from above” (Mark 15:38), then “from heaven” (John 3:31), then “from the first” (Luke 1:3), and then “again” (palin anōthen, Gal. 4:9). Which is the meaning here? The puzzle of Nicodemus shows (deuteron, John 3:4) that he took it as “again,” a second birth from the womb. The Vulgate translates it by renatus fuerit denuo. But the misapprehension of Nicodemus does not prove the meaning of Jesus. In the other passages in John (John 3:31; John 19:11, John 19:23) the meaning is “from above” (desuper) and usually so in the Synoptics. It is a second birth, to be sure, regeneration, but a birth from above by the Spirit.

And so Vincent:...Expositors are divided on the rendering of ἄνωθεν, some translating, from above, and others, again or anew...In favor of the rendering from above, it is urged that it corresponds to John's habitual method of describing the work of spiritual regeneration as a birth from God (Joh_1:13; 1Jo_3:9; 1Jo_4:7; 1Jo_5:1, 1Jo_5:4, 1Jo_5:8); and further, that it is Paul, and not John, who describes it as a new birth. In favor of the other rendering, again, it may be said: 1. that from above does not describe the fact but the nature of the new birth, which in the logical order would be stated after the fact, but which is first announced if we render from above. If we translate anew or again, the logical order is preserved, the nature of the birth being described in Joh_3:5. 2. That Nicodemus clearly understood the word as meaning again, since, in Joh_3:4, he translated it into a second time. 3. That it seems strange that Nicodemus should have been startled by the idea of a birth from heaven.
Canon Westcott calls attention to the traditional form of the saying in which the word ἀναγεννᾶσθαι, which can only mean reborn, is used as its equivalent. Again, however, does not give the exact force of the word, which is rather as Rev., anew, or afresh. Render, therefore, as Rev., except a man be born anew. The phrase occurs only in John's Gospel.


Hmm, to ponder...

 
At Thu Aug 03, 09:32:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Wayne,

You said "Well, Mr. Mansini, when did you first notice this hyper-vigilant attention to unnatural English?"

This is soo true it makes me wanna cry sometimes. ;D

Wayne, and anyone who knows anything (what sweeping lyrics are these, the pure milk of the english language!), can someone describe to me Martin Luthers (original) translation of the Bible in terms of "dynamic and literal"? I have often heard it said that Luthers Bible was frequently free (if his letter on Translating is any indication!) and occasionally literal (when he found a passage to be useful in determining doctrine, etc.).

How much truth is there to this? If the Luther Bible (original) could be compared to one of our modern English translations, what would it be most similar to? ESV, NEB/REB, NIV, GW, CEV???

I'm just "literally" dying to know!!! (Oh yah, feelin' the idiomatic burn).

 
At Thu Aug 03, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Oh yah, forgot to ask this:

"Or was Martin Luthers idea of "free" a much more formal concept than our modern "functional" concept?"

In his letter on translation, from his examples that he gives, you get the feeling that the Luther Bible is fairly similar to many of our modern functional translations. From his cited examples of literal renderings that he found unnacceptable you would almost think that the Luther Bible has more in common with the NEB/REB than say a KJV or NASB.

But I just don't know, I need someone with some real understanding of the Luther Bible to fill me in...

 
At Thu Aug 03, 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Matthew, you quoted Vincent (I think) as follows: "Again, however, does not give the exact force of the word, which is rather as Rev., anew, or afresh. Render, therefore, as Rev., except a man be born anew." This sounds like good sense, except that "anew" is not really in modern use. Perhaps "afresh" would work - meaning "again" but with some added nuances, and avoiding the "born again" cliche. But then are the added nuances really correct? I wonder if "reborn from above" would help, rendering both sides of John's word play with "re-" and "from above". However, if it is made explicit that the new birth is "from above", that seems to conflict with Nicodemus' misunderstanding in terms of entering a second time into a mother's womb. Altogether this is very difficult!

 
At Thu Aug 03, 10:58:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Peter Kirk said, However, if it is made explicit that the new birth is "from above", that seems to conflict with Nicodemus' misunderstanding in terms of entering a second time into a mother's womb.

I agree, that is Robertson's concern as well.

Peter Kirk goes on to say, Altogether this is very difficult!

I guess we just cannot have our cake and eat it too! I believe this particular verse, and the words involved, would probably fall under Dodd's definition of "overlapping meanings", in which the translator must ask themselves what meanings the word or phrase has, and how exactly (if even possibly!) this can be mirrored somehow in the target language. As a cursory examination of modern translations (and some early moderns, KJV/AV, Geneva, etc.) clearly shows, English translators are not entirely sure how to bring about a full set of meaning from these words in their own language.

 
At Thu Aug 03, 11:01:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

To ponder the meanings of a riddle unrolled,
to look upon words made of Gold,
I am forced to make one thing seen,
I have not the slightest idea what they mean!


Perhaps this could apply to translation as well as to the "riddle" the author was speaking of.

 
At Fri Aug 04, 03:48:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Sat Aug 05, 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anon, I too am scandalised by the poor education of some people. Unfortunately it is a fact of life that it is possible to gradiate even from a seminary without understanding either Greek or King James English.

What proportion of mother tongue English speakers are college graduates? Even if for the sake of argument we accept that college graduates can understand KJV, what about the others? Are the Bible and the Christian faith only for college graduates? That's not what Paul thought, when he wrote to the Corinthians "not many of you were wise by human standards" (1 Corinthians 1:26).

 
At Sat Aug 05, 08:28:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Sun Aug 06, 10:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anon, you should be even more amazed, for there are those with a weak grasp of biblical languages actually doing Bible translation.

But as one who does have experience of trying to encourage those with limited education and limited motivation to read the Bible, I can assure you that giving them KJV is certainly not the way to do it. I would agree that giving them RSV or ESV is only a small improvement.

 

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