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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

translation problems poll results (cont'd)

Last week I began discussing the results of the blue translation problems poll results in the margin of this blog. This post concludes that discussion.

57 respondents spotted a problem with this verse wording:
I am astonished you are deserting the one who called you ... to follow a different gospel (Gal 1:6)
This wording has syntactic ambiguity that was not part of the Greek text. In the one reading of the ambiguity is the original meaning, that Paul was astonished that the Galatians are following a different teaching about the gospel as they quit following God who called them to be followers of Christ. The other reading is that the call of God was for them to follow a different gospel. It is obvious from the context of this verse that this second reading was not intended, but it is still there as a potential meaning of this particular wording. To allow the number of words for this verse to fit within the blog template I had to ellipsize some words which did not affect the ambiguity. For those interested, here is the entire verse, as it is found in the ISV:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ to follow a different gospel.
The next verse, 1 John 3:18, is not worded properly in a number of English translations. The wording used in the poll was:
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
The problem here is that the wordings "love with word" and "love ... with tongue" are not sanctioned by the lexical collocation rules of English. In other words, native speakers of English do not express the intended meaning with either of those word combinations. As I have tested this verse with others in the past, some respondents have noted that "love with tongue" sounds like French kissing. This may sound ridiculous to some who know what this verse is supposed to mean. But it really is not ridiculous. English speakers, as well as speakers of others languages, start with the assumption that utterances are intended to make sense. If something sounds unusual it is normal for people to try to figure out some meaning from the words which makes some sense to them. This shows us why it is so important to use wordings in English Bibles which are sanctioned both by English syntax and the rules of the English lexicon. We must pay as must respect to the rules of English as we translate into it, as we do to the rules of the biblical languages, as we study the biblical texts to try to determine what those texts mean so that we can translate their meaning. The test wording for this verse is from the NASB, and the wording of the NET Bible is identical except for lacking the second comma.

Some translations of 1 John 3:18 which do follow the appropriate English lexical rules are:
  1. Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action. (REB)
  2. My children, our love should not be just words and talk (TEV)
  3. Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it. (CEV)
  4. Dear children, we must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words. (GW)
  5. Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (NET)
The problem with the wording of the last verse of this poll, Ps. 37:21, from the RSV, is that it (unintentionally) contains ungrammatical English:
The wicked borrows, and cannot pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives
In English adjectival substantives, that is noun phrases which consist of a definite pronoun plus an adjective but no noun, refer to plural entities. Most English speakers intuitively know this, and can say that the following even numbered examples sound "odd" or "ungrammatical":
  1. The poor are with you always.
  2. The poor is with you always.
  3. The obedient please the Lord.
  4. The obedient pleases the Lord.
  5. The diligent have enough to eat.
  6. The diligent has enough to eat.
Unlike English, Biblical Hebrew can have either singular or plural referents for adjectival substantives and both are found in the Old and New Testaments. If we try to match the number of referents from Hebrew to English without any other adjustments, those Hebrew adjectival substantives which refer to singular referents will be ungrammatical. There are solutions for retaining the form of the Biblical Hebrew as closely as one desires while also wording the English translation of it grammatically. One of the simplest is to include the English word "one" or "person" as part of the English noun phrase when it refers to a single person. Another is to change the number of the noun from singular to plural, which is done by some translation teams for statements that are indefinite (generic), not referring to a specific individual. Some are not comfortable changing such singulars to plurals. Others recognize that using singulars or plurals in generic statements results in essentially the same generic meaning.

Each of the following translations wordings of Ps. 37:21 are ("is", according to many grammar teachers!) grammatical:
  1. The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
    but the righteous are generous and keep giving (NRSV)
  2. The wicked borrow and do not repay,
    but the righteous give generously (NIV, TNIV)
  3. The wicked borrow and do not repay;
    the righteous give generously. (REB)
  4. Evil men borrow, but do not repay their debt,
    but the godly show compassion and are generous. (NET)
  5. The wicked borrow and never pay back,
    but good people are generous with their gifts. (TEV)
  6. An evil person borrows
    and never pays back;
    a good person is generous
    and never stops giving. (CEV)
  7. A wicked person borrows, but he does not repay.
    A righteous person is generous and giving. (GW)
  8. The wicked borrow and don't pay back,
    but those who do right give freely to others. (NCV)
  9. The wicked borrow and never repay,
    but the godly are generous givers. (NLT)
Further comments on the poll questions and results are welcome. Thank you to each person who responded to this poll. It will shortly be removed from the margin of this blog.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The End of Biblical Studies

Chris Heard has a post which reinforces what I wrote yesterday. I won't go into any details on the post, it is a fascinating read. He reviews The End of Biblical Studies: translations (chapter 1) by Hector Avalos, first commenting on the difficulty both in text criticism and translation of Deut. 32:8-9.

While Chris doesn't agree with everything Avalos writes, he does conclude,
    ... it does seem that in these cases (at least), translators’ faith commitments are overriding translation accuracy.

    At the end of the chapter, Hector concludes that translators (knowingly) “distort scripture” when they think that the “unvarnished” text will prove offensive or objectionable; these distortions benefit translators because they “prop up the Bible’s illusory relevance” and keep people buying Bibles.

    I agree with Hector that translators shouldn’t massage their renderings in order to make them more palatable to their readers. I have no doubt that translators’ religious commitments (or their sense of their target audience’s religious commitments) sometimes, maybe often, control their renderings to such a degree that the meaning of the source text does get distorted.

    I can imagine a conversation like “If we don’t fudge the translation of Deuteronomy 32:8–9, people will reject the Standard Today’s Unvarnished Version (STUV) and just buy the NIV or something else.” I hope such conversations don’t happen; I’m too cynical to believe that they don’t.
This is remarkably close to the conversation which I recorded in my post yesterday. No matter what topic, yesterday's was baptism, there does seem to be a reluctance for readers to move from the tradition they are familiar with regardless of the meaning of the critical text.

In fact, yesterday I wrote,
    The committee of 15 must vote 80% in favour of a change or the change presented by the specialist will not be accepted. In many cases, this is resolved by a footnote. The reasoning is that people will not accept a translation which has wording that is too unfamiliar.
No, Chris, you don't have to imagine these conversations. They happen.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

1 Cor. 12:13

I still have notes left on 1 Cor. Here is another verse which is used by some to support doctrine and practice. 1 Cor. 12:13,
    For we were all baptized by [a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. TNIV

    1. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or with; or in
Those who really want to dig into this and explore the translation of Greek en into English as either "in" or "by" might be interested in this article. Gordon Fee, who is himself from the Pentecostal tradition, deplores the misuse of this verse. He had argued to have "baptized by one Spirit" changed to "baptized in one Spirit". He pointed out that the Greek baptizo also means simply "immersed" or "soaked in". [In fact, in one case in Josephus' Antiquities it refers to being drunk - immersed in wine to the extent that they become insensible and fell asleep. So, baptizo has a wide range of meaning.]

Fee points out that the believers are immersed in the Spirit and drink of the Spirit, two metaphors which emphasize the unity of the believers.

At one point in the lecture, Fee explained how the TNIV translation committee worked. The committee is composed of specialists in different areas, a Pauline specialist, a specialist in the gospels, etc. I point this out specifically because not all translation committees are composed of specialists, - for example, the original NIV committee was not. I am not sure about others.

The specialist presents the translation of the books which he or she is responsible for to the committee. The committee of 15 must vote 80% in favour of a change or the change presented by the specialist will not be accepted. In many cases, this is resolved by a footnote. The reasoning is that people will not accept a translation which has wording that is too unfamiliar.

This also explains the presence of footnotes which the translators actually disagree with. For example, Fee vigorously disagreed with the footnote for 1 Cor. 11:10 but the committee insisted on it being included.
    It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own [b] head, because of the angels.

Fee was emphatic that there was absolutely no evidence to support the footnote. The main reason why I agree that the footnote cannot be a legitimate reading is that those who support the translation in this footnote have not ever presented evidence to support it. We do know that this is a traditional interpretation of this verse, but we don't have any evidence in Greek literature for this interpretation. I would be very interested in hearing what people think about this kind of footnote. The footnote falsely implies that this could be a possible translation.

In any case, the translation itself is a compromise between what the specialist proposes as the correct translation and what the committee believes the target community will accept, in terms of how much the translation varies from previous translations.

That might explain why, when I was researching 1 Cor. 13, many of the committee translations seemed very similar to me, in spite of the fact that the Greek can be interpreted at certain points in a variety of ways. It also demonstrates the overpowering influence of preceding translations.

kindness in chiasm

This is just a mini-post to note an edit to 1 Cor. 13. I have been thinking about parallelism and chiasm in structure, reading Wayne's last post and comments and trying to make "Love is patient, love is kind" better reflect the structure of the Greek - ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη. My latest edit is,

    Love is generosity of spirit
    Love is acts of kindness.
The chiastic structure is retained in some way without running contrary to English word order. Of course, I do wonder if "calmness of disposition" or some other phrase might not be better in the first line,
    Love is calmness of disposition
    Love is acts of kindness.


Psalm 103: 8 and Kindness

    רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן יְהוָה;
    אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב-חָסֶד

    οἰκτίρμων καὶ ἐλεήμων ὁ κύριος
    μακρόθυμος καὶ πολυέλεος

    The LORD is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. KJV
I wonder if we would recognize that when 1 Cor. 13 says "Love is patient, love is kind" that it refers to the attributes of God, which can also be found in this psalm. I am not sure about the Hebrew, but the Greek says to me,
    "Pitying and having mercy, the Lord,
    patient and full of kindness."
There is very little concordance in either the LXX or the KJV with respect to these attributes of God. By tracing back one can find that חָסֶד hesed is translated into Greek by δικαιοσύνη, and ἔλεος, and into English as "kindness" and "mercy".

It seems from the LXX as if "justice", "mercy" and "kindness" run into each other. I realize that in English we would keep these distinct.

In Gen. 20:13, Abraham asks Sarah to show him hesed and it is translated as δικαιοσύνη, "justice", but when Rahab and Ruth showed hesed, it was translated as ἔλεος - "mercy". Both of these are translated into English as "kindness". However, when God shows hesed, it is usually translated into English as "mercy". Only the Rotherham Bible has kindness for Psalm 103:8.
    Compassionate and gracious, is Yahweh, -
    Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.
In fact, the Rotherham Bible has "lovingkindness" in Gen. 20:13, Joshua 2:12, Ruth 2:20, Ruth 3:10 and Psalm 103:8.

translation problems poll results

It's time to discuss the results of a poll which has been in the margin of this blog for quite a few months. The poll has five verses from various Bible versions and respondents were asked:
Check any of the following wordings which seem to you to have a translation problem. Feel free to use any resource you need, including other Bibles.
225 blog visitors responded, with the following results:

First, the number of responses is lower than we normally get for the amount of time the poll was up. I don't know what this means. Perhaps it means that looking for translation problems is more difficult than some other exercises which have been in BBB polls. Perhaps this is especially true for those who typically visit BBB, who, I'm guessing, are more accustomed to "Bible English" than are other audiences.

There is at least one problem with the English of each of the verses in the poll. I'll state the problems that I see. They line up with what some others noted about these verses when this poll was first posted.

In the first verse, it sounds like people are being told to brag about themselves: "Let everyone know how considerate you are." Now, of course, Paul did not intend for the Philippians to brag about how considerate they were. The bragging meaning was unintentionally inserted by the English translators. We can see how this could happen when we look at a literal translation of the Greek of this verse:
The gentleness/considerateness of you let it be known to all people.
It is, grammatically, not very far from "let it be known to all people" to "let everyone know", yet there is an important difference. In the intended meaning, people will know that we are considerate by how they observe us acting. Paul did not instruct the Philippians to verbally point out how considerate they were. 141 respondents spotted a problem with the test wording, the largest number of responses for any of the verses. For those who are interested, this translation wording is from the God's Word translation, which is a quite good translation. Unintentional wrong meanings, such as in its translation of Phil. 4:5, are not at all characteristic of the God's Word translation.

The problem with the wording of Ps. 119:105 was more difficult for most people to spot. This is probably so because we are so accustomed to this traditional wording that we find it difficult to sense anything wrong with it. This verse is one of many examples of Hebraic parallelism in the Bible. For poetic purposes, light and lamp are parallel. They refer to the same thing. In addition, my feet and my path actually refer to the same thing, for purposes of the poetic parallelism. Both refer to the where our feet go as we walk. When it is dark, we need a light to help us see where we should plant our feet, so that we can avoid anything that might cause us to stumble.

English and Hebrew differ in that Hebrew parallel meaning comes through just fine with the Hebrew conjunction, vav. In constrast, English conjunctions block parallel meaning. We cannot conjoin synonyms in English and expect others to understand that we intend the conjoined terms to be synonymous. One example that I like to use to illustrate this is:
I love my wife and my spouse.
This sentence just doesn't work for English. It looks grammatical but most people sense that there is something wrong with it, because "my wife" and "my spouse" are functioning as synonyms. (For the purists, they are not exact synonyms--there may not be any exact synonyms in any language--but for all practical purposes, the function as synonyms in this context.)

For the majority of English speakers, who have the rule of conjunctions blocking synonymous meaning, the traditional English translation of Ps. 119:105 is ungrammatical. English "and" does not allow us to sense to the fact that "light" and "lamp" refer to the same object, unless we are so "biblicized" that we have adopted the Hebrew rule of a conjunction allowing synonymous meaning. One accurate English translation equivalent of the Hebrew conjunction in poetic parallelism is the comma. The comma results in appositive English syntax which can accurately communicate the parallel meaning of the Hebrew. Some English Bible translation teams had members who understood the different syntactic behavior of Hebrew and English conjunctions with regard to parallelism and accurately translated that parallel meaning. I have found only one version which retains the poetic couplet structure form closely and uses the appositive comma:
Your word is a lamp to my feet,
a light on my path (REB)
Two other versions make additional adjustments to the form of the couplet to retain the parallel meaning:
By your words I can see where I'm going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path. (MSG)

Your word is a lamp
that gives light wherever I walk. (CEV)
I do not wish to discuss the merits of this more extensive restructuring in this post. I simply want to make the point that it is possible to retain the Hebraic form and its parallel meaning by substituting a comma for English "and" in translation.

I will complete my analysis of the results of this poll in my next post.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Liddell and Scott

You have to see this post about Liddell and Scott. Apparently there is some kind of poetry virus on the loose.

1 Cor. 13 Commentary

I wanted to attempt the translation of 1 Cor. 13 since I don't regularly work in the area of translation and I know most of the other bloggers here do. I needed a little practical experience. I tried to integrate some of the ideas found in Alter's translation of the Pentateuch, as well as Anne Carson's translations of Sappho.

I saw in both of the above an attempt to be starkly literal and transparent to the original in a way that has not been done before, while at the same time not sacrificing meaning to aesthetic and literary values. I attempted to follow the word order and structure of the Greek as much as possible, varying from this only once or twice. I tried to include alliteration and onomatopoeia, but only as much as was in the original. Naturally, the alliteration is not in exactly the same place nor does it recreate the same sounds. I fear that some of this may have interfered in a minor way with comprehension.

Occasionally, I have interpreted a word in an unusual way, but I am not aware of translating any word in a way that is not represented in a lexicon. It's possible, but I don't think I did this. At first, I attempted to be concordant but I found that to be a very elusive quality.

For me, the greatest challenge was how to translate the central thesis, "love is patient, love is kind" in a way that was transparent to the etymology of the Greek. While I don't want to favour etymological translation too much, I have always believed that "suffer long" imposes a false etymology on makrothumia. For me, this word is closer to "big-hearted" or "expansive".

This verse speaks of two attributes of God, but represents them each with a verb. Hence, "love is generosity of spirit, kindness in deed is love." It also retains the chiastic structure of the Greek.

There has been a lot of talk about transparency - wouldn't it be lovely to have a translation that was "transparent to the Greek."

I owe a lot to the Good News Bible, CEV, Rotherham, and TNIV for this translation. I have benefitted from the encouragement of many commenters here to explore these literary aspects of translation, especially Iyov, Wayne, Mike S. Mike A., John H. and everybody here.

If you wish to offer a critique or question my use of any particular words, please comment. I'd be interested in people's thoughts about this approach to translation. I'm editing on the go.

The translation is also presented with the Greek in three previous posts, part 1, part 2, part 3.



If with the tongues of humans,
I talk, and even of angels -
but love, I have not,
I am become a timbring gong
or a tinkling cymbal.

And if I have prophesy
and fathom all mysteries
and all knowledge
and if I have faith
to remove mountains

But do not have love
    I am nothing.
And if I give away all my belongings
And surrender my body to suffering
for the sake of self glory

But do not have love
    I gain nothing.
Love is generosity of spirit
Love is acts of kindness. Kindness in deed is love.

It does not envy

does not brag
does not puff up
does not act shamefully
does not seek self
does not get irritated
does not find fault
    does not delight at injustice
    but rejoices along with truth
always sustains
always trusts
always hopes
always supports
never fails.

Whether prophesies, they will be left aside
or tongues they will end
or knowledge it will be left aside.

For in part we know
and in part we prophesy
but when that which is complete comes the end comes
that which is in part will be left aside.

When I was a child
I talked like a child
I thought like a child
I argued like a child
    But when I became an adult
    The things of a child I left aside.
Now we see
through the looking glass
in riddles
but then face to face.

Now we know in part
But then we will know
Even as we are known.

As so remain faith, hope and love,
these three things
but the greatest of these



Commentary here.


Explaining Greek and Hebrew to a Congregation

In my last post, I wrote about my pastor's recent exposition of 1 Samuel 23, a chapter which repeats the word "hand" no less than nine times. I pointed out four distinct uses of "hand" in that passage, and showed how various translations chose to render each of those senses. Translations on the "formal equivalence" end of the spectrum tended to render the various hand expressions literally, but the resulting English was sometimes awkward and unnatural. More "dynamically equivalent" renderings resulted in smoother English, but tended to obscure the repetition of the word "hand." My point was that in the context of teaching, the more "literal" translations can be useful for bringing out literary aspects of the original text without requiring the pastor to give the impression that he is having to "correct" a more dynamic translation.

In the comments on that post, Peter raised a number of important issues, which I'll interact with here:

On your more general point, it makes some sense, but I think this depends to a great extent on the kind of preaching and the audience or congregation. I know some preachers use their sermons as excuses to show off their great learning about minor points in the original languages. And some congregations prefer to have their ears tickled with such things (2 Timothy 4:3) than to be challenged on great matters like love, justice and eternal salvation.

Peter is absolutely correct that some preachers and teachers delve into the Greek and Hebrew merely to demonstrate their erudition. It's been said that the amount of Greek or Hebrew a preacher uses in a sermon is inversely proportional to the amount he actually knows; and I've found that generally to be true. The danger of saying, "this is what the Greek or Hebrew says" to a congregation is that it can give them the impression that their English translations are somehow inadequate and that they are in need of experts who can tell them what the Bible "really says." That is why I argued that a more "literal" translation can be useful for bringing out literary devices in the original text.

Now it may be that your pastor had some important point of application to make in teaching that the Hebrew word in question is used nine times in this passage of scripture. But, given the diversity of senses in which the word is used, I can't think what it could have been. It is very rare, I would think, that a significant point for application of scripture to a general congregation can be found in its form only without reference to its meaning, as seems to be true with this minor point.

Now, this is an interesting question. Do the diversity of senses in which the word "hand" is used in this chapter make its frequent repetition exegetically insignificant? In some cases, it might. If a word has a broad semantic range, its frequent use in a passage may not indicate an intentional use of repetition so much as the circumstantial overlap of its various uses.

On the other hand, meaningful wordplay often consists in juxtaposing the differing senses of the same or similar words. In the case of 1 Samuel 23, the various "hand" references effectively connect several individual episodes into a cohesive narrative. David saves the town of Keilah from the Philistines because God promises to deliver them into his hand. But when Saul discovers that David has occupied Keilah, he concludes that God has given David into his hand. When David hears of Saul's coming, he asks God whether the citizens of Keilah will surrender him into Saul's hand. To avoid being betrayed by the very people he had saved, David flees and is doggedly pursued by Saul, yet the LORD does not give him into Saul's hand. In the midst of all this, Saul's son Jonathan finds David and "strengthens his hand in God," assuring him that Saul's "hand" will never succeed in capturing David. Even the statement that Abiathar the priest came to David with an ephod "in his hand" indicates that the LORD has abandoned Saul and is providentially protecting David. All these hand references tie the narrative together, and point to the guiding hand of God in all of David's narrow escapes. This was, of course, used by my pastor to make several important points of application.

Like Peter, I'm wary of pastors who focus on minor aspects of the Greek or Hebrew text to make points of dubious value. I found my pastor's sermon to be an excellent example of unpacking a literary device the right way—namely, in a way that brought out the central theme of the narrative. Better still, he never once informed us that yad is the Hebrew word for hand or told us how many distinct uses are listed in HALOT. He simply identified the literary pattern and unpacked it using an English translation which made the pattern transparent to the congregation.

Comparing Job 20 translations

Sam, of Unrelated Ramblings, blogs on three translations of Job 20. The comparisons among the translations are striking, as Sam notes.

1 Cor. 13: 8b -13

Either prophesies, they will be left aside
or tongues they will end
or knowledge it will be left aside.

For in part we know
and in part we prophesy
when the end comes
that which is in part will be left aside.

When I was a child
I talked like a child
I thought like a child
I argued like a child
    But when I became adult
    The things of a child I left aside.
Now we see the enigma
in the looking glass
But then face to face.

Now we know in part
But then we will know
Even as we are known.

As so remain faith, hope and love,
these three things
but the greatest of these



εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι καταργηθήσονται
εἴτε γλῶσσαι παύσονται
εἴτε γνῶσις καταργηθήσεται

ἐκ μέρους γὰρ γινώσκομεν
καὶ ἐκ μέρους προφητεύομεν
ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον
τὸ ἐκ μέρους καταργηθήσεται

ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος
ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος
ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος
ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος

ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ
κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου

βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι
δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι
τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον

ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους
τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι
καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην

νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις ἐλπίς ἀγάπη
τὰ τρία ταῦτα
μείζων δὲ τούτων
ἡ ἀγάπη


Thursday, July 26, 2007

1 Cor. 13:4a-8a

It does not envy
does not brag
does not puff up
does not act shamefully
does not seek self
does not get irritated
does not find fault

    does not delight at injustice
    but rejoices along with truth

all things sustains
all things trusts
all things hopes
all things supports
never fails.

οὐ ζηλοῖ

ἡ ἀγάπη

οὐ περπερεύεται
οὐ φυσιοῦται
οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ
οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς
οὐ παροξύνεται
οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν

οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ
συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ

πάντα στέγει
πάντα πιστεύει
πάντα ἐλπίζει
πάντα ὑπομέν

ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει

I am indebted to the following translations for significant input; the Good News Bible, the CEV, the TNIV and the Rotherham Bible.


1 Cor. 13: 1-4a

Today Gordon Fee's lesson dealt with 1 Cor. 12, 13 and part of 14. He spoke at length about the gifts of the spirit and tongues and for the first time some of it made some kind of sense to me. But he also talked about 1 Cor. 13.

Here is my interpretation, an attempt to be transparent to the alliteration, the connotations, the rhythm and the variants. It will not sound like the King James Bible, but I hope it offers some semblance of the original.

    If with the tongues of humans,
    I talk, and even of angels -
    but love, I have not,
    I am become a timbring gong
    or a tinkling cymbal.

    And if I have prophesy
    and fathom all mysteries
    and all knowledge
    and if I have faith
    to remove mountains

    But do not have love

      I am nothing.

    And if I give away all my belongings
    And surrender my body to suffering
    for the sake of self glory

    But do not have love

      I gain nothing.

    Love is generosity of spirit
    Kindness in deed is love.

    ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων
    λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων
    ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω
    γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν
    ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον

    καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν
    καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα
    καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν
    καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν
    ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι

    ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω
    οὐθέν εἰμι

    κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου
    καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου
    ἵνα καυχήσωμαι

    ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω
    οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι

    ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ
    χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη


lines 1-5 There is extensive alliteration in the Greek with λαλῶ, ἀγγέλων, χαλκὸς, κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον - I have tried to bring some alliteration into the English with "timbring", from "timbre" or "sound" and is pronounced "tambering".

line 7 - taken from the TNIV

line 14 - in Greek this says simply to "give into another's hands" or to "surrender" but I don't believe it means to give your body to another human, but to give up your body with the implication of suffering.

line 15 - to burn was based on the variant καυθήσωμαι but the critical text provides καυχήσωμαι - to boast, or have self love.

line 16 - I believe that "long suffering" is a completely false reading of the Greek. μακροθυμεῖ means to be "long in spirit" not unlike "magnanimous". In fact, in French it is translated as "longanimité" Magnien - Lacroix. Since this word does not exist in English, I have used "generosity of spirit", inspired by a line in this post on Iyov's blog - "the true tragedy of Tisha b'Av was a failure of generosity of the human spirit."

line 17 - in Greek these two words are verbs and not adjectives, so I have translated " kindness in deed" not just "kindness".

lines 16 and 17 - in Greek the two lines are arranged as a chiasm. I cannot see how to do this well in English. Alternatively, "Love is generous in spirit, love is acts of kindness."

Thanks to John for inspiring me with his translations from Hebrew, and to everyone for the Magnien - Lacroix, which finally unlocks the meaning of makrothumia.

Unfortunately, this passage is unfinished in it present form. More later. Edited July 27, 2007.


"Jou Got Some 'Splainin' To Do!"

Yesterday, Peter posted on the challenges of arriving at a single translation which most English-speaking Christians could standardize on. One of the challenges he mentions is the whole question of whether translations should aim at "formal equivalence" or "dynamic equivalence." In my previous post, I wrote about my own "translational journey," explaining that I have always gravitated toward translations which feature good readable English as opposed to those which try not to depart from the original Greek and Hebrew wording. Thus, translations such as the NIV, TNIV, NLT, and HCSB all tend to sound better to my ears than translations like the NASB or ESV. Nevertheless, I do think there is a place for translations which aim at formal equivalence, a belief which was reinforced to me this past Sunday.

My church has standardized on the ESV, and this Sunday's sermon text was 1 Samuel 23. In his sermon, the pastor pointed out that the word "hand" is used no less than nine times in this chapter. Here are those nine occurrences as translated by the ESV:

  1. verse 4: "I will give the Philistines into your hand"
  2. verse 6: "he had come down with an ephod in his hand"
  3. verse 7: "God has given him into my hand"
  4. verse 11: "Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand?"
  5. verse 12: "Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?"
  6. verse 14: "God did not give him into his hand"
  7. verse 16: "Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God"
  8. verse 17: "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you"
  9. verse 20: "our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand"

By translating these verses "literally," the ESV makes the repetition of this word obvious, but most of these uses of the word "hand" do not sound natural to modern English speakers. For purposes of comparison with other translations, we can divide these uses of "hand" into four distinct kinds of expression:

  1. The expression "give into the hand" (verses 4, 7, 11, 12, 14, and 20) means to deliver someone into the power of someone else.
  2. The expression "in his hand" (verse 6) means "in his possession"
  3. The expression "strengthened his hand" (verse 16) means to encourage.
  4. The expression "[his] hand . . . shall not find you" (verse 17) means he will not succeed in capturing you.

It is interesting to see what other translations do with these expressions. The HCSB translates "give into the hand" with the more natural-sounding expression "hand over." This rendering preserves the use of the word "hand," but uses it as a verb rather than a noun. The NLT uses "hand over" twice, but also renders this expression as "help conquer" and "betray." The NIV and TNIV, for all their "dynamic equivalence," actually stick with the literal "into the hand" expression about half the time, choosing "surrender to" and "hand over" the other times.

All but the most formally equivalent translations chose to drop the "hand" reference in verse 6, where Abiathar is described as coming to David with an "ephod in his hand." Most chose simply to say that he brought an ephod "with him."

Likewise, few translations preserve the description in verse 16 of Jonathan strengthening David's "hand." I've always loved the NIV's "helped him find strength in God." The NLT renders it as "encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God," and the HCSB reads, "encouraged him in his faith in God." Even the NASB translates this expression simply as "encouraged him."

Most interpretive translations render the expression "his hand shall not find you" with something along the lines of "he will not lay a hand on you," preserving the "hand" reference in a way that sounds natural. A few, like the NLT, lose the "hand" reference by rendering it as "He will never find you."

Personally, I think all of these translations are more or less valid, and they all sound more natural than the ESV's literal renderings. But if, like my pastor, I were preaching a sermon on this chapter and I wanted to emphasize its literary use of repetition, I would choose the ESV to preach from. This is not because I think a more literal translation is somehow "truer" to the original Hebrew or Greek, but because such a translation would enable me to convey a significant aspect of the Hebrew text without having to tell the congregation, "This is what the Hebrew really says." Why undermine their confidence in the accuracy of another translation which is more "dynamically equivalent"?

When preaching or teaching, one always has to decide what kind of "explaining" one wants to do. If you're preaching from a more wooden translation, you'll spend more time explaining what the text means in plain English, and less time explaining what the Hebrew or Greek really says. If you're preaching from a more dynamic translation, the meaning of the English is more clear, but you may spend more time pointing out various nuances of the Greek or Hebrew text. Depending on the text and the focus of the sermon, it may be wise to preach from the translation which will require the least amount of explaining.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Elsewhere July 25, 2007

It seems that the name Hen Scratches went over like a lead balloon, so I have changed the name. The purpose of these short posts is to draw attention to posts elsewhere, so I have used that for the name.

Iyov, has been posting on Lamentations, here, here and here. Besides the extensive background discussion and art, I noticed an interesting variant in the NJPS translation, the final lines are a reprise of the second last verse. Iyov links to the Velveteen Rabbi, where Rachel Barenblat writes,
    For me, the most valuable thing about reading Eicha is how our tradition handles the end of the text. The last line is dark and pretty miserable, so what do we do? After we read the end, we return and repeat the penultimate line, in order to find hope. Return us to You, God, and we shall return; renew our days as of old. That's the final message we take away, the verse that rings in our ears.

    This is a text of trauma, and the end of the megillah is only the very beginning of healing the religion from the loss it describes. Rupture leaves an indelible mark, which forces over time a kind of renewal. Poetry is one of the ways that humanity has always dealt with catastrophe; by reading and studying this poem, today and tomorrow, we place ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites who lost the city -- the Temple -- the central point of connection with God. We feel that pain, and we mourn.

    For me, that process is incomplete unless it also impels us to ask: who mourns today from this kind of loss? Who weeps now, imagining the very roads of home in mourning, desecrated and invaded, old friends and strangers alike bartering their treasures for food, children dead or enslaved? How can we obligate ourselves to really recognize the breadth and depth of suffering, in the many war-torn and damaged places of our world, and what can we do toward alleviating the suffering and healing the grief? How are we culpable, and how can we make teshuvah and begin the work of renewal and repair?

John has put some of Lamentations online in his own translation. As always I am fascinated by the way the text talks in simple and evocative language when John translates.

I have written a couple of short and inconsequential stories about being at Regent this month, for light entertainment.

One for all and all for one?

Doug Chaplin of Metacatholic describes himself as
I’m an Anglican parish priest. ... I went to an evangelical seminary, but see myself standing in the catholic tradition of the church. My liberal friends think I’m conservative, and my conservative friends think I’m liberal.
And he is continuing to ask some excellent questions about the Bible. His latest post is One for all and all for one? No such Bible. In it he takes up ElShaddai Edwards' question "What would it take to create a Bible that was acceptable to [all Christians]?" He identifies three main problems with doing so: canon; language, by which he mainly means the gender issue; and text.

It is interesting that he does not mention translation principles, apart from the gender issue. It seems to me that there would be a very real problem, which Doug does not note, in getting all Christians to accept either a dynamically equivalent translation or a rather literal one. I think the best that can be hoped for in this area is agreement on a largely formal equivalence translation which makes real efforts to use natural modern English, as HCSB and TNIV do, for use as some kind of standard for formal public reading in church and for study purposes, while recognising that various dynamic equivalence translations, or perhaps a single one accepted by all, may be used privately and in informal situations.

Also Doug does not mention the problem of acceptability, the "not invented here" syndrome which leads to people rejecting something in which they do not feel they have had a personal stake. This would be a serious barrier to wide acceptance of a Bible translation like HCSB originating from a single denomination. Products of ecumenical bodies are likely to be more broadly acceptable - although perhaps not to hard line evangelicals who reject ecumenism.

I was one of a team, and for a time its coordinator, which had to find an answer to ElShaddai's question for a particular language group, as we set about translating the Bible into this language, the national language of a former Soviet republic. We could only work on one translation, at least to start with, which was intended for the whole language group. So we needed to solve these problems for this situation.

We avoided serious problems in the area of acceptability by trying to work with all the churches in the country, not a very large number. When we put together the translation team we invited every church to put forward candidate translators, and we selected a team representing several churches. There is a project board including the pastors of several churches. So, although some issues remained in this area, none of the churches felt that the project did not belong to them.

The question of canon was easily resolved, because in practice all the local churches which we were able to work with are Protestant. The Orthodox church declined to get involved because they continued to work only in Russian. So we set about translating the Protestant canon. In principle we remain open to translating the deuterocanonical books if there is a demand for that, but so far there is none.

Gender-related language was rarely an issue because in this target language personal pronouns and indeed most nouns for people are gender generic. As an exegetical adviser to the team I had to ensure that the translators were using the gender specific word for "man" only when appropriate, which means not in places like 2 Timothy 2:2.

The text issue was more problematic because the churches were used to the Protestant edition of the Russian Synodal Bible. Its Old Testament is more or less based on the Masoretic Hebrew (although name forms follow LXX), and since the Orthodox were not involved in the project we simply followed the Masoretic Text in our translation, the first of the Old Testament into this language. In the New Testament the Russian is based a strangely mixed text, something between the Byzantine Majority Text and the Textus Receptus, with some Church Slavonic readings thrown in; an older version of the New Testament in the target language had more or less copied this text. After some discussion we agreed that our new translation of the New Testament would follow the UBS critical text, with footnotes wherever there was a significant difference from the Byzantine text, the Textus Receptus, or the Russian.

But probably the most difficult of these issues in our situation was that of general translation principles. We started from a situation where the translators, who were all quite new Christians, were familiar only with formal equivalence translations in unnatural old-fashioned language. But as they learned about translation principles and different possibilities their preferences began to shift to a more dynamic approach. However, this caused tensions with church leaders who expected something more literal. But the team would not compromise on clarity and naturalness even while following a generally formal correspondence approach. Eventually, and after having to revise some books, we ended up with a modified literal type of translation, which I sometimes describe as like NIV, but without its unfortunate reading of the New Testament into the Old.

So, hopefully, we are ending up with a translation which will be acceptable to all of the rather small number of churches in one country. I don't hold out much hope for a single translation being acceptable to all the churches in the English-speaking world, but I would think that if we are to get anywhere near to this the approach taken will have to be along these lines.

Grasshopper Greek

Lingamish is starting a new series called Grasshopper Greek. His first example is Philemon verse 6. Excellent example, Lingamish. Lots of different issues there. The three translations he cites all have significantly different meanings - at least it seemed that way to me. Go and see.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Footnotes and Formatting

I am taking a step back from my post yesterday on the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This is not the first time that I have been taken by surprise by the influence which the critical text has on translation. I did not realize that the UBS text took a paragraph break in the middle of verse 34 and between verse 36 and 37. I simply didn't check. I wrote from class notes. I also often read the Greek text of an 1899 Greek NT, the TR, for sentimental reasons, but I should have checked the UBS 1966 text (which is the only other one that I have) before posting.

I want to face head on a couple of issues which have come up on this blog at different times in the past.

First of all there is the matter of footnotes. In the UBS text, the placement of verses 34-35 is given a B rating. This indicates that "there is some degree of doubt." However, few Bibles footnote this. For example, in the HCSB, verse 38, with a B rating, is footnoted, but verses 34 and 35 also with a B rating, are not. Now, especially in a matter of such significance to half the human race, surely, they are worth a footnote! But I have not previously put much emphasis on footnotes. I am guilty of giving this issue too little attention.

Second, there is the significant potential for paragraph formatting to impact on meaning. There is some, but not much, formatting in the original manuscripts. However, the formatting of the UBS text is extremely influential at this point - and it is surprising as well, since it seems to completely contradict the manuscript evidence. I am baffled. I feel like I just have to start over again and look at this issue in more depth.

I want to thank Peter and Iyov for their long and significant contributions in comment threads to my thinking on these matters. I know that some of the longer discussions may look daunting, but sometimes very valuable principles are established. This is one of the things that I was referring to when I posted about dialogue. I hope that there is a strong enough sense of affection, respect, trust and appreciation here, that disagreements have the potential to become learning points.

I also want to say that Bryan and Peter seem to have better notes in the books they own by Fee than I am making in class. So, dollar for dollar, I guess a book is better. However, Fee is a great speaker, Waltke too.

One of the funny things about Fee's lectures is that he often refers to "Gordon's commentary". He says things like, "Well, you can disagree with Gordon's commentary if you like." It took me a few minutes to realize that he was talking about himself! He also presented 1 Cor. 11 today, but explained that he was only presenting the questions, not the answers.

I won't post about 1 Cor. 11 unless anyone has a specific question because we have written about it at length here before. There are not that many translation points. I guess everyone here knows by now, that in 1 Cor. 11:10, there is no evidence supporting the authority on a woman's head being someone else's authority. That's about it.

1 Cor. 14:30-40

There has been some discussion recently about the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Without discussing motives or agenda, let me show how this passage, 1 Cor. 14: 30-40 has a unique treatment in the HCSB and the NET Bible.

I hope this can be understood in context, as a response to comments elsewhere in the blogosphere and as a transfer of the material Gordon Fee is covering in class this week. Here is the HCSB.
    But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged. (A) 32 And the prophets' spirits are under the control of the prophets, 33 since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

    As in all the churches of the saints, (B) 34 the women [a] should be silent in the churches, (C) for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands (D) at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church meeting. 36 Did the word of God originate from you, or did it come to you only?

    37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord's command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, he will be ignored. [b] 39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager (E) to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in [other] languages. 40 But everything must be done decently (F) and in order.

I am now going to post the ESV for this passage because it demonstrates a somewhat more traditional reading of this passage.
    30If a revelation is made to another sitting there,(AF) let the first be silent. 31For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33For God is not a God of(AG) confusion but of peace.

    As in(AH) all the churches of the saints, 34(AI) the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but(AJ) should be in submission, as(AK) the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

    36Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37(AL) If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39So, my brothers,(AM) earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40(AN) But all things should be done decently and(AO) in order.

Since it is well known that all early Latin versions, and church fathers, those who wrote prior to the earliest Greek manuscript now extant, had verse 34 and 35 together at the end of the chapter, it is very odd that both HCSB and ESV break for a paragraph in the middle of verse 34. What is even odder is that the HCSB has broken for a paragraph after verse 36, when the logical structure seems to place verse 36 and 37 together. The HCSB also omits to translate η at the beginning of verse 36.

The NET Bible has paragraph breaks that are identical to the HCSB. In the light of the fact that the NET annotator writes,
    Following a suggestion made by E. E. Ellis (“The Silenced Wives of Corinth (I Cor. 14:34-5),” New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, 213-20 [the suggestion comes at the end of the article, almost as an afterthought]), it is likely that Paul himself added the words in the margin.
I cannot understand why the NET Bible provides paragraph breaks in such odd places. If it is a marginal note, albeit by Paul, why give the impression that it ties into the preceding and following sentences?

My question is this - if the best explanation for these verses being authentic to Paul is that he added them himself to the margin, how does one explain the paragraph formatting in the ESV, NET and HCSB. I believe this is another of those cases where paragraph breaks are significant.

Translating different styles

In a new post on Bible English, Doug asks some interesting questions:
What I’d really like to know, from those who are better informed about translations than I am, whether people have tried, or indeed, whether there’s a case for trying, to work up translations that aim for equivalent styles as much as for equivalent meanings. How rough should a translation of Mark be? How poetic one of Job? Should one seek to write the opening of Luke in quite traditional Bible English and switch registers as it moves into the main story? What, in short, would be the result if one paid as much attention to equivalent affect as to equivalent effect?
Rather than try to answer this one myself, I shall throw it open to you, the readers of BBB, to comment here or on Doug's blog.

Bible Translator Articles Online

Rob Bradshaw has recently posted some old Bible Translator articles. I read this one and enjoyed it. Lots of food for thought here. I really appreciate Rob's efforts here. Thanks.

Monday, July 23, 2007

1 Cor. 8:1 - 4

I had very much hoped to post an image from P 46 today, but I can't find online images for the pages that are in the Chester Beatty collection.

While Gordon Fee taught two chapters of 1 Cor. this morning, he only went into text criticism on one section. Today it was 1 Cor. 8:1-4. His contention was that P 46 should be taken as the correct text base for these verses. That would mean excluding the words in red. I have provided Fee's translation in blue.

1 περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων
οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν
ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ

Now about food sacrificed to idols:
We know that "We all possess knowledge."
But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι
οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι

Those who think they know something
do not yet know as they ought to know.

3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν
οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ' αὐτοῦ

3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
But if one loves, this one knows [truly]. (Fee's reading.)

4 περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων
οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ
καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:
We know that "An idol is nothing at all in the world"
and that "There is no God but one."

5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ
εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς
ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί

For even if there are so-called gods,
whether in heaven or on earth
(as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"),

6 ἀλλ' ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ
ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα
καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν
καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός
δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι' αὐτοῦ

yet for us there is but one God, the Father,
from whom all things came and for whom we live;
and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Dr. Fee rightly points out that love in the first verse builds up the community - it edifies. This love, of the members of the community, one for another, is referred to again in verse 3. Fee argues that P 46 is a good 125 years earlier than the next extant manuscript, and should be given more weight than it is.

He argues that the main focus of the passage is putting love for each other before knowledge - not letting go of knowledge but putting love for others first.

Fee explained that the majority of the TNIV committee was convinced that his reading of verse 3 was correct but they believed that because it was not supported by a majority of manuscripts it would not be widely accepted.

Fee argues this case from the principle of lectio difficilior

defined here,
    1901, from L., lit. "harder reading," from phrase maxim difficilior lectio potior. In textual reconstruction (of the Bible, etc.) the idea that, of two alternative manuscript readings, the one whose meaning is less obvious is less likely to be a copyist's alteration, and therefore should be given precedence.
Dr. Fee then pointed out that verse 6 was the first theological proposition in the epistles. He explained that this was a Christian response to the Shema, and could possibly be better translated as "there is one Lord, Jesus, the Messiah".

While many other issues were brought up, they related to the interpretation and I feel that they would be better treated by reading his commentary.

A Translational Journey

Wayne asked me to give BBB readers a more formal introduction than I gave in my first post, and while I'm hesitant to devote an entire post to my personal biography, I do think knowing where people are coming from helps us to better understand their perspectives. I'll therefore give a brief summary of my personal and professional life, and then talk a bit about my journey through various English Bible translations. The discussion of which English Bibles I prefer will also help lay the foundation for an upcoming post.

In terms of my personal life, I grew up in a nominally Christian home, but rarely went to church. I came to faith in Christ as a teenager and began attending church on my own. I would describe my denominational background as "American mutt," having attended various kinds of churches over the years; but for purposes of knowing where I come from on this blog you can classify me as generally "conservative evangelical."

In college, I majored in Religion at Florida State University, which meant I typically only agreed with my professors about football! I began studying Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew so that I could better debate with my profs, and quickly fell in love with both languages. While I never came to share my professors' views, I did come out of college with a much more nuanced understanding of the Bible. Ultimately, I guess that means that "liberals" tend to view me as a "fundamentalist," while "fundamentalists" suspect me of being somewhat "liberal." :-)

I attended seminary after college, taking Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew. At that time, I married an incredible young lady named Lisa, began working as a writer for a local church (ghost-writing books based on the Senior Pastor's yearly sermon series), and began having babies right away. (Okay, my wife had the babies!) With a job I loved and a growing family to support, I eventually dropped out of seminary.

Around the same time, I began moonlighting part-time for a small company that developed Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh computers. I knew virtually nothing about computers (still don't really, that's why I use a Mac!), but soon learned how to develop modules for Accordance and contribute to the design of the program's interface. I now work for Accordance full-time, and the various projects I've worked on have kept me from completely forgetting my Greek and Hebrew, as well as teaching me more than seminary ever could about the historical and geographical context of the Bible.

Now, having told you more than you ever wanted to know about my personal history, let me talk a bit about the various English Bibles I've used along the way.

When I first began reading the Bible as a teenager, the only Bibles in the house were a Living Bible and a King James Bible. I tried both, but quickly settled on the KJV. Somehow, the Living Bible seemed too colloquial; it just didn't sound "Biblical" enough to my ears. The KJV sounded majestic and familiar—it was the same language I had heard watching movies like Ben Hur and King of Kings as a kid.

While I did okay reading from the KJV, it was always an exercise in translation rather than mere reading. As good as I might become with Elizabethan English, its vocabulary and modes of expression would never be the same as the ones I use every day, so I had to translate from that language into my own. That meant reading the Bible was work.

After a while, I had a Sunday School teacher who read from the New International Version. I'll never forget the first time I heard it. Written in good, clear, easy to understand English, it just seemed so transparent. The Bible was speaking to me in the language I used every day. I promptly went out and bought a ten-dollar hard-bound copy of the NIV, and began reading the Bible more regularly and consistently than I had before. Reading the Bible was no longer work, and it led to an exciting period of growth.

When I eventually went to seminary, most of my professors were teaching from the NASB, because it was supposedly "closer to the Greek and Hebrew." I did find that the NASB served well when I wanted a fairly wooden translation of the Greek or Hebrew, but I found its English to be so clumsy and awkward that it could never supplant the NIV for ease of reading and beauty of expression. At the same time, I was becoming proficient enough in Greek and Hebrew to realize that the NIV had its shortcomings as well.

In my work for Accordance, I've had the opportunity to get reasonably familiar with virtually every new translation available today. And as a homeschooling father, I've longed for a Bible I could standardize on for family Bible reading and Scripture memorization. For me, that has meant searching for a Bible which has reasonable fidelity to the original Greek and Hebrew, but which also has good, readable English. This, of course, is the balance which every new translation promises, but which none seems to achieve completely. I tried the ESV, which my church has standardized on, but personally found its English to be too awkward and archaic at points. Today, I've settled on the Holman Christian Standard Bible as my primary English translation. The HCSB has its quirks, and there are certainly places where I think it could be improved, but I find it to be very readable and generally very accurate.

In my own translational journey, I've always gravitated toward translations with good readable English more than those which try not to depart too much from the original Greek and Hebrew wording. I do, however, think there is a place for those kinds of translations. That will be the subject of my next post.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The kindness of God

I have been working through the Hebrew scriptures looking at the theme of kindness. There is the kindness that Sarah and later Abimilech showed to Abraham, there is the kindness of Rahab, of Boaz, of Ruth, of David, the law of kindness of the valiant woman, and the kindness of God.

Here are 4 verses (NRSV) in the Christian scriptures which mention the kindness of God.
    Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Rom. 2:4

    Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness towards you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. Rom. 11:22

    So that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:7

    But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, Titus 3:4-6
This repeated reference to kindness is unfortunately obscured in the King James Bible, which translates χρηστότης as "goodness" in Rom. 2:4, and 11:22, thus obscuring the continuity of one of the great themes of the Bible. Fortunately recent translations have restored the word "kindness" in these verses.

The kindness of God was brought to my attention by this post of Mike's, Chiasm in Ephesians 2.4-7. I have posted the verses again here, with his arrangement, changing "generosity" to "kindness".

4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς,
[4] God is rich in mercy because of his abundant love with which he loved us.

5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ,
[5] Although we were dead in our disobedience he has made us alive together through Christ.

χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι
You are saved by grace!

6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,
[6] God raised and sat us in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus,

7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.
[7] so that in the coming ages he might show the unsurpassable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

I think this is a case where concordance, translating one Greek word with the same English word can bring into focus a major theme of the scriptures. There are many times where concordance is truly significant, we don't want to lose sight of that.

I also feel that more focus on the rhetorical structure of the scriptures might help us to see what God thinks is important. Mike's arrangement of these verses helped bring the meaning to my attention. Here we see that salvation from God is framed by his mercy and kindness. This is the loving kindness of God so abundantly shown to us in the Psalms and the kindness which should also be the basis of our relationships with others.
    As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience NRSV
It is a beautiful theme, one I have been tracing in many of my posts over the last few weeks, a theme which shows that sometimes translating the same Greek or Hebrew word with the same English word, in the right context, does sometimes make for a better Bible.

Another Kindness

I have always liked the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Sam. 9. Once again, the word for "kindness" is חֶסֶד hesed.
    And David said unto him: 'Fear not; for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.' And he bowed down, and said: 'What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?' And thou shalt till the land for him, thou, and thy sons, and thy servants; and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have bread to eat; but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread continually at my table.' Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then said Ziba unto the king: 'According to all that my lord the king commandeth his servant, so shall thy servant do; but Mephibosheth eateth at my table as one of the king's sons.' Now Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. But Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem; for he did eat continually at the king's table; and he was lame on both his feet. JPS
I like this story but I have always wondered about a detail. Does it literally say that Mephibosheth bowed down. Other translations say, "did homage", "obeisance" "prostrated himself" and so on.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

1 Cor. 7: 1-4

Gordon Fee had a lot to say about 1 Cor. 7 in class the other day. He was pretty upset about the way the first verse looked in the NIV.
    Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. NIV

    1 Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. TNIV

    Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:(A) "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3(B) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. ESV
First, verse 1 is simply not accurate in the NIV. The Greek simply does not say "It is good for a man not to marry" and who knows how that got into the NIV.

Second, verse 4 is not literal in the NIV because it says "authority" and this is indeed the only time in the scriptures where "authority" is mentioned in connection to marriage. It is clearly a matter of mutual consent between spouses.

However, the NIV does get verse 2 correct. Sexual immorality, actually, the word used is that for visiting prostitutes, is in the plural here. It means, not the potential for immorality, but actual instances of immorality.

The TNIV recognizes this and has corrected verse 1 and verse 4 and maintains a correct translation for verse 2 when it says "sexual immorality is occurring", meaning there is more than one instance of sexual immorality occurring.

The ESV ignores the fact that "immorality" is in the plural in Greek, that is "immoralities". In fact, the ESV has inserted a very odd addition to the Greek text when it says "temptation to sexual immorality". That is clearly not what the Greek says. The ESV and the NIV are therefore both adding some peculiar things to this passage.

However, when it says "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband," Gordon Fee insists that this means that the husband is to "have" his wife, the wife is to "have" her husband - anyway, I'm sure you get his drift. It doesn't say that each man should marry a wife, but that they were to "have" the wife they did have - and vice versa.

Dr. Fee said that he speaks at a lot of weddings and he thinks of lots of things that he would like to say in the homily that he doesn't feel is appropriate to say, but it all goes along this line.

He held out his arms in class and said "These days there is all too much abuse in marriage, emotional abuse and physical abuse." He felt that this passage was written in a context where women, possibly recently converted women, were abstaining from sexual relations in their marriages, and, on the other hand, there was also a trend towards asceticism among some of the men. So both prostitution and a reactionary trend.

Anyway, I hope this explains why the TNIV says "each man should have sexual relations with his own wife," - and vice versa. Although this makes the TNIV appear to be less literal, I would hasten to point out that all other translations have their verses where they are not literal either, words added here and dropped there. Do people feel that the translation of verse 4 in the TNIV makes it less literal? Which of these translations - each with its peculiarities - seems to be the closest to Paul's intent?

Come to think of it, it all sounds so much better in the KJV. All this "duty" and "rights" business sounds very tiresome.
    Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
(Actually, I just checked - the Greek does say "duty". Oh well. Sometime the KJV improves on the original.)

(I am still organizing my notes from my meeting with Bruce Waltke.)

Dialogue Partners

This is not about Bible translation but more about what I feel is evolving on this blog. We are as bloggers in constant dialogue with others so here are some comments on dialogue.

This first one represents the position of a blogger who discourages having a dialogue partner outside of one's comfort zone.
    My point is that what we do cite, what we do choose to interact with, has a way of setting the mood for the music we play. Our dialogue partners influence our discussion because it is their contentions, their interests, and their conclusions with which we will interact. And it seemed that you mainly discussed ******** scholarship, which results in your treatment giving certain impressions.
This blogger was uncomfortable with his colleague being in dialogue with someone of a different persuasion.

Here is a comment from another blogger, a friend,
    I've enjoyed blogging of late because of the sense of friendship that is growing among a circle of bloggers. The friendship is built on something deeper than seeing eye to eye on everything. In conversation, we discover we agree more and disagree more than we once thought.
Iyov and other bloggers have brought up the issue of cross-religious dialogue. Peter has sustained an ongoing dialogue with Adrian, with whom he agrees and disagrees. With David joining us, I wish to articulate the happiness that I feel in being in dialogue with those with whom I agree and disagree.

Many years ago, I opened myself to a greater dialogue with ideas through reading The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire, given to me by a missionary couple who worked in Latin America, (Dave and Judy Payne, in case you know them). Here are some thoughts on Freire and others from a website called Dialogue and Conversation. from Infed (Informal Education)

For there to be dialogue in the dictionary or etymologically sense we look to dia meaning two or between or across and logos speech or ‘what is talked about’. Dialogue is , thus, speech across, between or through two people. It entails a particular kind of relationship and interaction. In this sense it is not so much a specific communicative form of question and answer, ‘but at heart a kind of social relation that engages its participants’ (Burbules 1993: 19). It entails certain virtues and emotions. Burbules lists some of these:

concern. In being with our partners in conversation, to engage them with us, there is more going on than talk about the overt topic. There is a social bond that entails interest in, and a commitment to the other.

trust. We have to take what others are saying on faith - and there can be some risk in this.

respect. While there may be large differences between partners in conversation, the process can go on if there is mutual regard. This involves the idea that everyone is equal in some basic way and entails a commitment to being fair-minded, opposing degradation and rejecting exploitation.

appreciation. Linked to respect, this entails valuing the unique qualities that others bring.

affection. Conversation involves a feeling with, and for, our partners.

hope. While not being purely emotional, hope is central. We engage in conversation in the belief that it holds possibility. Often it is not clear what we will gain or learn, but faith in the inherent value of education carries us forward.

So it is, Martin Buber believed, that real educators teach most successfully when they are not consciously trying to teach at all, but when they act spontaneously out of their own life.

And from the page on Martin Buber,

For Buber encounter (Begegnung) has a significance beyond co-presence and individual growth (see encounter). He looked for ways in which people could engage with each other fully – to meet with themselves. The basic fact of human existence was not the individual or the collective as such, but ‘Man with Man’ (Buber 1947). As Aubrey Hodes puts it:

When a human being turns to another as another, as a particular and specific person to be addressed, and tries to communicate with him through language or silence, something takes place between them which is not found elsewhere in nature. Buber called this meeting between men the sphere of the between. (1973: 72)

Encounter (Begegnung) is an event or situation in which relation (Beziehung) occurs. We can only grow and develop, according to Buber, once we have learned to live in relation to others, to recognize the possibilities of the space between us. The fundamental means is dialogue. Encounter is what happens when two I's come into relation at the same time. This brings us back to Buber’s distinction between relation and irrelation. 'All real living is meeting' is sometimes translated as 'All real life is encounter'.

And a subscript on Buber's three life stages,

Mysticism (1897-1923) - where his interest lay in people's ability to transcend profane conceptions of reality.

Dialogue (1923- 1938) - that reflects Buber's move away from the supremacy of the ecstatic moment to the unity of being and a focus on relationship and the dialogical nature of existence (perhaps most strongly linked to his book I and Thou).

With the move to Israel, it can be argued that he moved into a third:

Attentive silence (1938 - 1965) - wherein dialogue remains central, but there is a deepening recognition of 'the eternal, "silent" background of being and dialogue' (ibid.: 33)

Reproduced from the encyclopaedia of informal education [] Enjoy!