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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.


At Tue Jul 31, 09:35:00 AM, Blogger Peter Smythe said...

Suzanne, this is the main issue that got me into the Koine Greek. To paraphrase S.M Baugh, "translation" is just another name for commentary.

At Tue Jul 31, 10:51:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, I suppose it is but sometimes translation can be just another way to "toe the line" as they say.

I am often surprised when I read a translation from a different tradition or heritage, like the Good News Bible, or the New American Bible and find that a fairly different wording is just as well grounded in the original language.


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