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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Are we ready to run?

This past weekend was the board retreat. We’ve just called our interim pastor to be our senior pastor and he’s interested in leading a church that doesn’t burn its leaders out. To that end he had us read The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero.

I read it.

Then I lay on the floor and bled.

You’d think that if you’ve gotten to the age of 61, raised three children who are successful or well on their way to success in their chosen careers, if you are still married after 35 years, have served two three-year stints as church chairman (which in our church means you’ve been elected six times), and if you have served as an associate dean, and have been elected as the vice president/president elect of your professional society (SSILA) then maybe, just maybe, you’d score higher than emotional adolescent in some category.

Not so.

According to Scazzero, I’m at best an emotional adolescent.

And the trouble is, he’s right. I’ve got so many dents and so many masks. The outside world — including my small group — doesn’t have clue to how insecure and emotionally needy I am. My wife only half knows.

About half of Scazzero’s measures of emotional maturity place me somewhere between adolescent and adult.

Oh, great!

But the other half his measures reveal that there are things I just haven’t worked through. I'm still barely above child. He groups the aspects of emotional maturity together and shines an unrelenting klieg light on the fact that my partial maturity in one area is complemented by serious immaturity in a closely related area.

Now the new pastor wants all of us on the board to work on these things. Ouch. (Well, that’s a good ouch, but it’s an ouch nonetheless.)

Why all the confession? and what does this have to do with Bible translation?

Well, plenty.

You see, at the same time I was finishing The Emotionally Healthy Church, my wife started the new Anne Lamott book Grace (Eventually). It turns out the two books are about the very same thing — learning to come to maturity in Christ.

Mary didn’t make any connection at all. It was completely serendipitous. We both love Anne Lamott. Mary saw that her new book just came in at the library and took it out.

The difference between Scazzero and Lamott is that Scazzero is technical and analytical. Even when he includes anecdotes, they are spare and as much pointed as parabolic.

Lamott just tells stories about how God’s grace looks in her life. They’re all spang on truthful, and therefore sometimes painful. But they are deeply parabolic. You have to figure out how to connect them to your life.

Scazzero is Paul telling us: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” (HCSB)
ἄρα ἡ πίστις ἐξ ἀκοῆς ἡ δὲ ἀκοὴ διὰ ῥήματος Χριστοῦ (Rom. 10:17)
Lamott is Jesus telling us: “Still [other seeds] fell on good ground and produced a crop that increased 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.” (HCSB)
καὶ ἄλλα ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν καλήν καὶ ἐδίδου καρπὸν ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενα καὶ ἔφερεν ἓν τριάκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑξήκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑκατόν (Mark 4:8)

Part of the conversation about translation between J. K. Gayle and John Hobbins, on the one hand, and us (or at least me) on the other is that I’ve been mostly focused on getting analytical stuff right — the places where there isn’t much in the way of layered meaning and deep secondary meanings that depend on the form of the original, where there isn’t much poetry or literary flair, i.e., most of the NT.

I’m interested in getting translators to give equal treatment to οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ‘the [masculine] Jewish ones’ and ἡ Ἰουδαία ‘the [feminine] Jewish thing’, which means translate ‘the Jewish leaders’ on the same contextual principles that they use to translate ‘Judea/the province of Judea’. (See this post.)

I'm interested in getting a pre-theological rendering of ἄνθρωπος ‘human (being), person’, instead of “conveniently” translating it ‘man’ in just those places where it can be used in the complementarian debate. (See this post.) (In fact I’m interested in getting theologians to butt out of the translation process all together. The text is primary. Theology is derivative. I’m apparently not alone in this opinion. )

I’m interested in getting the unnecessary (and sometimes misleading) church-speak out of translations, like the use of ‘rebuke’ for ἐπιτιμάω, which really means ‘tell or ask someone to stop doing something’. (See these posts.)

John Hobbins says that Jobes (and I) are only half right to apply standards to Bible translation that are used for functional translations — simultaneous interpretation, EU document translation — because the Bible isn’t just a functional document.

And he’s right.

Our point ... well, my point is that these are minimal standards. This is the baseline. We should have translations that are at least as accurate as these measures demand.

I’m not ready to talk about getting suitable solutions for the literary stuff until we get the translations of the first order meanings up to the baseline. (Notice that the HCSB translations above, about the best of all the ones I looked at, are still pretty clunky.)

John and Kurk Gayle are saying we need to run. I’m thinking half the time we’re not even crawling all that well.


At Wed Feb 20, 04:36:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Sorry about Paul and Peter Scazzero! Otherwise another great post, Rich. If we believe Jesus and Ann Lamott (Hooray for Lamott too!), then running is something someone else does while we slink home bleeding wondering if we'll get work as a slave. Even that old pre-modern version of the parable puts it this way: "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

Why all the confession? and what does this have to do with Bible translation? Yes. . . plenty.

Since you've let John and me gang up against yall (or at least you by yourself), let's get Peter Kirk on your side.

First, let's back up and give spectators who want to crawl with us a viewers' program. John's post today (although not for the colorblind or the tone deaf) illustrates the beauties in both ancient Hebrew poetry and contemporary English translation. (And today, Peter's gentle, wise rebuke of John's misunderstood attempts to translate original Christian doctrine for the Jew first and then the Greek by looking at the first books, is not entirely unrelated to how we're all trying to limp along here.) Observers by now should be familiar with the half-fullness of Jobes, and I think we're all ready to run with distinctions by translation of the three or four Greek phrases you've put again on the table. I, for one, think your brackets in "ἡ Ἰουδαία ‘the [feminine] Jewish thing’" is no small thing!

But you interrupted something Peter Kirk said in comments last BBB post:

I must say I suspect that the Hebrew etymologising connection of Adam with adama "ground" is a modern idea which would not have been taken seriously by the LXX translators or Paul.

Now I wonder (and then will be quiet to listen for a while):

Hasn't Peter really turned "modern" around? Maybe he's giving credit to modernists for abandoning their fathers Plato and Aristotle. Plato hated the poets and the sophists. Aristotle hated translation. Why? It sacrificed their end-game: to divide and conquer.

Who can read Homer or Sappho and not laugh or cry at the word play? Why does Socrates make fun of Gorgias (in Plato's screen play), when in real life Gorgias admits to play with words? Why does Aristotle teach (like Scazzero if he could) without ambiguities, or vagueness, for a perfect Greek domination of the barbarians? It’s as if they all knew how funny “Isaac” is. And all the other not-just-poetic word plays in the Jewish tongue from the beginning. They may not have realized all the river in shibboleth, but they sure knew better than try to cross it. I know, I need to stop with the jokes. So how about we take seriously Scott B. Noegel and his "Wordplay and Translation Technique in the Septuagint of Job." (Noegel also says, “Modern commentators typify
the current additude toward polysemy by choosing an ‘either/or’ policy when translating,” page 10. And let’s bring Wayne Leman (yes brilliant) in on your side. Even if Wayne subtly silences the Hebrew and Hellene poets & translators (and John H and me), can yall say with a straight face that plenary inspiration doctrine so quickly covers a multitude of word play and translation techniques? (I do believe we need to talk more about the Greek phrases you point out here! Who’s next?)

At Wed Feb 20, 06:34:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Kurk, thanks for the compliments - assuming that is what you intend, which as so often I find hard to be sure of!

As for turning "modern" around, possibly. I accept that in the original Hebrew there was very likely a deliberate word play between adam "human being" and adama "ground". Whether or not there is a genuine etymological link is irrelevant. This word play has been recognised by modern, or perhaps post-modern, contemporary commentators. My scepticism is about whether the LXX translators or the thinker Paul, pre-modern people with largely Hellenistic cultural presuppositions (which are not those of Homer or Sappho), would have recognised this word play and neither translated nor transliterated the word adam but replaced it with an entirely different word in order to preserve the word play. I think it is hardly credible to suggest that Paul would have done so if, as is suggested by LXX, there was an existing well known transliterated form of the word in the name "Adam".

At Wed Feb 20, 10:09:00 AM, Blogger John Hobbins said...

Or maybe Rich, just maybe, by working on one thing (first order, or "ouch"-level accuracy, as I've called it), we also work on the other (the "literary stuff," as you call it), and vice versa.

Hsve you seen that early Tom Hanks movie in which he is a twelve year old in an adult body? Emotional maturity, according to this film, is overrated. At least what passes for emotional maturity among adults.

My experience is, to put it bluntly: church is a safe place for people to hurt each other.

It's also a safe place for people to help each other, and bear one another's burdens, but I wouldn't take it for granted that positive interaction outweighs negative interaction in a "safe place."

Did I mention that I am a Calvinist?

At Wed Feb 20, 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

John, Calvin must be spinning in his grave at your invocation of his name while you argue that Christians can lose their salvation by not keeping the Torah.

At Wed Feb 20, 02:38:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

Thanks for the support, guys.

The kind of emotional maturity in play here is for us service junkies to learn to say, "No, I can't." even if it means there will not be a bassist on the worship team, or worse, that there will not be PowerPoint slides of the songs.

It's learning not to be so touchy when we're eyeballs deep in a sensitive email that's right on the edge of what's emailable, and you're wife calls from the kitchen to warn you that when you take the garbage out tonight, you need to watch out for the grease on the outside of the garbage bag.

It's learning that sometimes, as mad as some complementarian in the congregation of your technically egalitarian denomination(1) makes you when they walk out on the female associate pastor because she shouldn't be allowed to preach because she's a woman, you have to love them anyway.

This kind of emotional maturity is not overrated.

(And how did the discussion about the Torah end up here, anyway?)

(1) The Evangelical Covenant Church is non-confessional, but there is one litmus test. (The guys in Chicago would tear their hair out at that wording.) You can't be ordained if you can't sign for women in ministry.


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