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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bible translation and mission

Lamin Sanneh, an African scholar who teaches at Harvard Yale, has emphasized that Christianity is a religion of translation of its holy book. Translation of the Bible is part of the mission of the church throughout the world. In spite of the cultural insensitivities of some missionaries, Sanneh promotes the idea in his book Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture that Bible translation shows respect for cultures and languages.

A series of articles on Bible translation and mission has been posted on another website. They would be well worth your reading. Comments on them would be welcome here.

HT: Kouya Chronicle

8 Comments:

At Sat Sep 23, 09:48:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

On translations of the Qur'an,


In 1143, the first Latin translation (in fact, a paraphrase, really) of the Qur'an was done by Robert of Ketton (fl. 1136-57) in 1143; exactly four centuries later, this very translation (which included a refutation) of the Qur'an was printed in Basel at the instigation of Martin Luther. (From there came the translations of the Qur'an into the vernacular European languages: first in Italian, then German, then Dutch, and only then in English by George Sale in 1734, which was, a translation that is very different from Ketton's - free from polemical motives and was more accurate, textually). There was another early Latin translation of the Qur'an, and it was produced by Mark of Toledo (fl. 1193-1216) in 1211; although more literal than Ketton's, it was much less widely known. Both of these medieval 'translations' were produced at the instigation of the various archbishops (including Peter the Venerable) who thought it would be useful to Latin Christians attempting to convert Muslims as part of the mobilization of arms and opinion, following the Christian Reconquest of Muslim Spain. Living Islam

 
At Sat Sep 23, 10:54:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I should clarify

Not at all. I went off on a tangent. However, a recent translation of the meaning of the Qur'an that is definitely intended for the faithful has been done for Tamazight. In Algeria Tamazight has been recognized as a national lg. This is quite a recent development, however. I don't know if this is a bilingual edition or not. It is in the Arabic writing system.

 
At Sat Sep 23, 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is "Christianity" a religion of translation of its holy book or does that describe Protestantism?

Sanneh refers just to Christianity. He notes that the Bible has been translated from the earliest days of the church long before "protestantism" was a sector of Christianity. Some of the most valuable translations of the Bible for textual criticism are into Ethiopian, and languages spoken not far from Palestine. Of course there was translation into the Latin Vulgate.

Sanneh sees this dynamic of the church, from its earliest time, as a important factor in how Christianity has related to other cultures and languages.

 
At Sat Sep 23, 11:05:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Has anyone actually read his book? Is it any good?

Yes, I think a good number have. My wife and I have. It is good. It's important to have the perspective of an African scholar on Bible translation in Africa. Sanneh does a good job describing some translation work there which truly was clothed well in the vernacular language patterns.

The book is an easy read.

 
At Mon Sep 25, 04:37:00 AM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

While I will freely admit that I haven't read Sanneh yet (and probably won't before I get back from sabbatical), I wonder about his take on the significance of translation in the history of the Reformation. While 16th and 17th century Western Hemisphere Catholic missionaries from Canada to Argentina were happily translating both Scripture and Liturgy -- often in defiance of edicts from their governments in Europe -- the translation of Scripture in Europe was associated with the Protestant side of the Reformation, largely because of Luther. A failure to take the politics of European Christianity full into account will distort the picture unduely.

Of particular interest to this blog is the fact that this was the time in which the KJV was translated, and these influences helped shape it. There was no small amount of both theological slant and politics (secular and religious) in the process which created what too many Evangelicals think of as the only valid form of God's word. (A handy introduction to this history is God's Secretaries by Adam Nicholson.)

 
At Mon Sep 25, 02:38:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Richard wrote: "While 16th and 17th century Western Hemisphere Catholic missionaries from Canada to Argentina were happily translating both Scripture and Liturgy -- often in defiance of edicts from their governments in Europe -- the translation of Scripture in Europe was associated with the Protestant side of the Reformation, largely because of Luther."

It is somewhat ironic that at about the same time, in a comment on another post, I was quoting C.S. Lewis as follows:

The history of the English Bible from Tyndale to the Authorised Version should never for long be separated from that European, and by no means exclusively Protestant, movement of which it made part. ... those who are divided by the bitterest theological hatreds gladly learn from one another. Tyndale accepts corrections from More: Rheims learns from Geneva: phrases travel through Rheims on their way from Geneva to Authorised. Willy-nilly all Christendom collaborates. The English Bible is the English branch of a European tree.

In other words, Lewis is reminding us that much of the 16th century background of Bible translation in Europe, including England, was laid by Catholics loyal to Rome. It was perhaps only later that Bible translation became associated with Protestantism and was rejected by the church of Rome.

 
At Tue Sep 26, 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

It's too bad anonymous pulled the review of Sanneh. Does anyone have a reference to it? Or better, an electronic copy?

 
At Tue Sep 26, 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rich asked:

It's too bad anonymous pulled the review of Sanneh. Does anyone have a reference to it? Or better, an electronic copy?

I'm googling (not gurgling) now, Rich. Let's see if one of these might be the one Anon. included in his comment:

http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jan1990/v46-4-bookreview10.htm

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=884

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/010/31.111.html

I think it might be the second one from what I remember.

 

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