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Friday, August 29, 2008

The King James Bible is the answer to everything ...

In breaking news, in this post Charles Wesley’s encrypted journal cracked after 250 years the shorthand of Charles Wesley was decoded by reference to the scripture verses which he had included in his journal. The full story is here.
Wesley's shorthand, which omits vowels and abbreviates consonants, is a highly personalised adaptation of that invented by John Byrom, the 18th century poet, diarist and stenographer. Byrom, whose method was taught at Oxford University, published his New Universal Shorthand in 1740. Wesley's is severely abbreviated, sometimes using a string of consonants without breaks. Whole sentences are elided and the spellings are often phonetic. The language generally is that of an 18th century gentleman and preacher. ...

The breakthrough came when he discovered that Wesley had rendered part of the scriptures in shorthand and was able to compare the abbreviations against the King James Bible. “I was determined to unlock it. Charles was a great man, with insights that remain important for us today,” he said.

From the beginning

I am working on something that has turned out to be trickier that I had thought. What is the approximate meaning of Proverbs 8:22-23 on Wisdom. This is not unrelated to my recent post on Gen. 1:1.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way,
before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning, or ever the earth was. KJV, JPS

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began. NIV

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be. TNIV

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. ESV

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. RSV, NRSV

יְהוָה--קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ:

קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז

מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ


I have spent considerable time meditating on this text, on the way the English translations do or do not reflect the structure of the Hebrew. Fortunately I can offer the excellent translation of Azzan Yadin in Scripture as Logos page 163,
YHWH created me at the beginning of his course,
As the first of His works of old.
In the distant past was I fashioned,
At the beginning, at the origin of earth....
He comments on the passage from Proverbs 8:22-36,
Wisdom is a divine being that functions as an intermediary that comes to instruct humanity. ... Verses 25-31 [23-29] describe Wisdom's role as the primordial consort of Yahweh and witness to creation.
Yadin later takes up the Christos didaskalos tradition, Christ as teacher. What I particularly like about Yadin's translation is the way he makes the repetition of "beginning" clear in the English and he keeps the literal sense of derek - "way" or "course." However, there are intense theological differences in the different versions, especially if a Christological intepretation is in view. Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Scrambled Bibles: More Chronological Study Bible Buzz

A rather vague article at The Christian Post mentions several bloggers getting upset about the Thomas Nelson's new repackaging of the Bible as well as mentioning Wayne Hastings' work in damage control. Here's the article: Clarity of New Chronological Bible at Question. Katherine T. Phan, the writer or the article fails to link to any of the posts in question so I'll throw out a few links:

There's also a mysterious "Drew" mentioned in the Christian Post article but I'm unsure which of our blogger buddies named Drew that might be.

Come on, Katherine! Give us some links in your articles. What is this, the era of movable type?

Another Bible version worth critiquing in this regard is The TNIV The Books of The Bible. The ordering and grouping of the canon is in my opinion a statement about authorship and textual criticism. While I applaud the publication of editions aimed at getting readers to actually read the Bible, scrambled Bibles have a long way to go to prove their worth.

HT: Michael Kruse Clarity of New Chronological Bible at Question

oh boy!

I have not noticed any commentary on this post but likely I have just been out of it. Mark Roberts examines the recent changes in the Presbyterian Exegesis exam. He has written three posts on the changes to the Presbyerian Exegesis exam. It starts here.

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog to Bring You a Special Report: Presbyterian Exegesis Exam Changed

When I took the exegesis exam in the 1980s, it was a four-hour “open book” exam. Candidates were allowed to use any tools or helps they could bring, including dictionaries, grammars, concordances, commentaries, etc. At some point during the last twenty years, the exam was changed to a “take home” exam, in which candidates were given several days to finish it. I actually thought this was a positive change, since it did not place a premium on academic speed. Moreover, it provided candidates with a situation that was similar to that which they’d face as pastors, with a few days to work on a sermon.

Now, the exam itself and the way it will be graded have been changed in a couple of crucial ways. Here’s what I have learned from the PC(USA) website:

1. The demonstration of a working knowledge of Greek and/or Hebrew will no longer be a requirement in order to complete the examination successfully. When exams are graded, the readers will comment on the language facility which is demonstrated in the paper. Such comments will be offered as guidance for Committees on Preparation for Ministry in determining readiness for ministry.

2. The wording of the instructions for the Biblical Exegesis examination have been amended. Inquirers/candidates will be asked to offer “a faithful interpretation” of the assigned text, rather than “the principal meaning” of the text.

Read the series of posts here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Matching Socks

I had a dream a few nights ago in which a young woman of my close acquaintance tilted her head to one side and looked at me quizzically and asked why I had to match all the socks. It came to me in my dream that I do not need to match socks. When I woke up I decided that I would continue to match socks just the way I always do, with partial success.

However, when it comes to codepoints and search strings you really have to match socks, or find away around it.

Here is the word stenochoreo (2 Cor. 8:4a) in three different sets of codepoints.

1. στενοχωρέω combining accents

2. στενοχωρέω precombined accents polytonic

3. στενοχωρέω precombined accents monotonic

The first is from e-sword and I took it from Scripture Zealots blogpost, the second is from zhubert, and the third is from the LSJ lexicon in the new Perseus Project at PhiloLogic.

I always say used to say that they just "look different." But now I am over fifty and they all look the same. However, they all have different codepoints for the epsilon + accent. They will not work across platforms. They are mismatched socks but they do a good impersonation of being a match. I wish my socks were half this clever.

Now here is where I always say to my kids: do you want the long story or the short story? They always pick the short story. So, that's what I'll do for now. But if you like I can post the long story another day.

Here is my advice for searching. Always use the simplest choice possible. Do not mess with the accents if you can help it.

1. To access the LSJ lexicon at the original Perseus Project>classics>other tools & lexica>dictionary entry lookup. Choose Greek from the menu and follow the specific instructions from the keyboard display. For στενοχωρεω, you will type "stenocho^reo^". The accents are used to create the long vowels. You do not have to indicate Greek accents. Now type stenocho^reo^ into the dialog box on this page and submit query. This should be the result. Its slow. I always try it a few times, back and forth. Match a few more socks, etc.

You can reconfigure these pages to look like Greek rather than Latin but I do not spend the time to do that.

2. To access the LSJ lexicon at Philologic>Reference Works>Search Liddell and Scott's Greek English Lexicon Now here is the trick. DO NOT mess with the accents.

(From what I can see this lexicon uses a mix of accents - tonos - and not oxia, along with varia and circumflex. If anyone would care to explain to me what kind of system that is and if there is a keyboard which accommodates such a thing, I would be interested. I really don't understand it.)

Go to the Greek inputter, or use your favourite Greek keyboard - I use the bundled with MS version, and type in the word stenochoreo with the Greek inputter. As I said, NO accents. στενοχωρεω. You can just type this in the box by choosing the English letter that looks most like the Greek letter. For στενοχωρεω I typed stenoxwrew.

Now put στενοχωρεω into the LSJ at Philologic and choose the "No accents or breathings" option. The page should look like this. Choose στενοχωρεω from the list and the results are here.

You will notice that the LSJ entry at the original Perseus Project has hyperlinks and the one at Philologic does not. I typically still use the original Perseus Project, in case I want to use the hyperlinks.

3. For searching Zhubert, you need full polytonic Greek. Now you have to mess with the accents. Go to the Greek inputter and type in the word using all the accents. You will need to click on the "Greek letters" tab and carefully select the letters with the correct accents. στενοχωρέω

Now cut and paste, or try to reproduce this, and paste it into the wordfinder on Zhubert. Click "find". You should see a page with 6 results. None of them are for 2 Cor. 4:8. At this point technology breaks down. Zhubert has parsed the verb in 2 Cor. 4:8 as a middle voice verb but this is not a headword in the LSJ. It will not compute.

There are simply times when there is no way around not having a strong foundation in Greek grammar. I do not think that software searches can ever make up for studying a sizable amount of Greek. This should enable you to find most words in the LSJ, but not all.

Anyway, now you know why my kids always choose the short story. Its still long. Please ask me to explain whatever is not already clear as mud.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Voice

Wayne mentioned The Voice New Testament in a comment on Dave's post and I was interested in having a look at it. Here is a sample for those who don't want to download the Gospel of John.
    Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. 2 This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator; 3His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. 4His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light. 5 Light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched.

    6 A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this unquenchable Light. 7This wanderer, John who ritually cleansed,* put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light that all might believe through him. Because John spoke with power, many believed in the Light. Others wondered whether he might be the Light, 8 but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light; and in doing so, he invited the entire creation to hear the Voice.

    9 The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos. 10 He does not call out from a distant place but draws near. He enters our world, a world He made and speaks clearly, yet His creation did not recognize Him. 11 Though the Voice utters only truth, His own people, who have heard the Voice before, rebuff this inner calling and refuse to listen. 12 But those who hear and trust the beckoning of the Divine Voice and embrace Him, they shall be reborn as children of God, 13He bestows this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will. Because we are born of this world, we can only be reborn to God by accepting His call.

    14 The Voice that had been an enigma in the heavens chose to become human and live surrounded by His creations. We have seen Him. Undeniable splendor enveloped Him—the one true Son of God—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth. 15 John, the wanderer who testified of the Voice, introduced Him. “This is the one I’ve been telling you is coming. He is much greater than I because He existed long before me.” 16 Through this man we all receive gifts of grace beyond our imagination. He is the Voice of God. 17 You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Liberating King offered the gifts of grace and truth which make life worth living. 18 God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.
I am somewhat baffled by the large amount of added text in italics. Some of it seems to be very legitimate implied information and other parts are more obscure.

I am, however, quite delighted with the term "voice" used instead of "word." Here are a couple of extracts of the Book of Formation, a Hebrew text from the first few centuries AD.
    Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. Voice, Breath [Spirit] and Speech. This is the Holy Breath [Spirit] (Ruach HaKodesh). ...

    Twenty-two foundation letters: They are engraved with voice, carved with breath, and placed in the mouth in five places:
Although this text mentions the "sefirot," it is a pre-kabbalah text, and not kabbalistic.

Peter asks,
    What do you all thing of "the Voice" instead of "the Word"?
I think this opens a very interesting conversation on the primacy of the spoken over the printed word, for one thing, and perhaps many other contrasts.

An example of the dialogue in this version is also provided by Peter,
    Religious Leaders: Who are you?
    John the Immerser: 20I’m not the Liberator, if that is what you are asking.
    Religious Leaders: 21Your words sound familiar, like a prophet’s. Is that how we should address you? Are you the Prophet Elijah?
    John the Immerser: No, I am not Elijah.
    Religious Leaders: Are you the Prophet Moses told us would come?
    John the Immerser: No.

    They continued to press John, unsatisfied with the lack of information.

    Religious Leaders: 22Then tell us who you are and what you are about because everyone is asking us, especially the Pharisees, and we must prepare an answer.

Additional Translation Resources

I have been asked for some additional Greek resources. I wrote about some of them here, but I did not include any interlinear help. Here is an Online Greek Interlinear Bible. It is very attractive.

There are some problems with using an interlinear, as Mike pointed out.

Here is an interlinear for the Septuagint, and the translinear for the Hebrew Bible. Here are some additional links to lists of Bible translations.

Online Bible translations
English Bible Translations
Look Higher
Strong's Concordance

I highly recommend Rotherham's Emphasized Bible. And as you know I am continuing to pursue my interest in Pagnini and Erasmus (not on the internet) as the pivot texts of the Reformation and the foundation of the vernacular Bibles of Europe.

I think we need to hold interpretation lightly, as I am astounded at the different interpretations being produced on some topics. I would not normally use an interlinear myself, but I have changed my view slightly and now think that they do make a contribution for some people in ascertaining how much interpretation has been added to even the most literal translations.

Let me add that the Perseus Project has the Liddell Scott Jones lexicon so everyone has public access to the best.

Perseus Project
Perseus Project under Philologic

Anagrams of Bible Translations

Last week on my blog I wrote a post about anagrams for various Bible translations. I thought I'd try again here and give BBB readers a chance to use the Internet anagram server to create an anagram of a Bible version and post the result in the comments here. Feel free to rearrange results provided by the server.

My favorite is "A Valentine's Worst Lining."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Defining the words

This is a follow up to Suzanne's post The Apostle Titus. It started as a comment, but this post goes in an entirely different direction.

She quoted Bill, who asked,
How come no major translations are willing to call Titus & Epaphroditus "Apostles"?

I think this underscores an important need Bible users have regarding their interaction with a translation:
They need clear, accurate definitions of the original words.
We have no tool for this today. Yes, I know we have lexicons; however, they provide glosses. Even the new BDAG, though it attempts to provide something like a definition, does not supply what is needed. (Anyway, BDAG is more an original language, research tool than a Bible study, exegetic tool, but, I digress).

Here's where I'm coming from. The word ἀπόστολος (APOSTOLOS) means:
"A person commissioned by an authority to carry out a given task, who is delegated not only the commissioner's responsibility, but also his or her authority, to complete that task."
That, IMO, is the definition. Which can be verified through the use of tools such as BDAG.

So, in the case of the twelve Apostles, we have men who were commissioned by Christ, delegated with his requisite authority, to birth the church. There are typological reasons for 'twelve' that I won't get into that complicate a direct answer to the original question. But, the important piece of information regarding the word ἀπόστολος has to do with the elements of the definition:
  • one who commissions,
  • the commissioning with the given task,
  • and the delegation of authority.
These elements make up the definition. For the twelve this meaning is close to what we refer to when we use the complex term "Commissioned Officer," though a simple term would be best. Perhaps 'Apostle' is as good as it gets.

Titus & Epaphroditus are a little different than these twelve. They weren't commissioned by Christ (at least not directly). They were commissioned by the Church. Note what 2 Cor. says: ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν (APOSTOLOI EKKLHSIWN, "apostles of churches"). In other words, it was "churches" that commissioned these men. These churches would have delegated their authority and responsibility to further the growth of the Church. This understanding flows quite naturally from the definition of the word. And, FWIW, we call these people "missionaries" today.

The definition helps us wrap our minds around what the translation is doing. And, more importantly, gives us insight into the why behind the translation decisions.

In other words, if we had clear, natural, and accurate definitions, ones that expressed the various elements inherent to the word, then Bible students could interact more knowledgeably with a given translation.

Some of the benefits would be:
  • Bible students would interact with more depth into the meaning, and they would be less inclined to sit on the surface of the form.
  • They would see how the translation attempts to reflect the original meaning. The translation may not achieve as high quality as the student expects; however, the student would at least be helped by the definitions to see what the translation is attempting to do.
  • They would see more clearly how words interact within a given text: sharpening and molding each other's meanings as they form coherency within a text.
  • The students would less inclined to walk down the pathway of "matching up glosses." That is, they wouldn't "hunt for the right gloss in the lexicon."
  • And they would more easily realize that concordance doesn't provide exegetic insight; it simply conflates--and confuses--the English lexis with the Greek one (or Hebrew).
  • However, the negatives of a literal translation would be mitigated by having word definitions easily at hand. So, literal translations may actually increase in value as they provide better transparency into the original. One benefit here is that cross-textual coherency (eg allusions) would not be lost as they are with less literal translations.
  • Overall, people would start to get a much better feel for what it means to translate a text.

If the student would start with the definition of the words, then they would more easily walk the pathway of meaning transference--which is what translation is all about. They would be less tempted to venture down the cul-de-sac of matching up forms. I think that would be a win for everyone.

The non-dancers' Bible

Peter has an interesting post this morning. He classifies it as humour but to me the omission of a simple word or line has implications for the proof-texting Baptist of his story.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Apostle Titus

Bill asked,
    How come no major translations are willing to call Titus & Epaphroditus "Apostles"? (2Cor.8:23 & Php.2:25)
This is an excellent question. To tell the truth I had never thought of this before.
    As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers (apostoloi) of the churches, the glory of Christ. NRSV
The KJV, ESV, NRSV, (T)NIV and NLT do not have "apostles" in this verse. The ESV, NRSV, and NLT do have a footnote, while the KJV and T(NIV) do not. In historic versions, Coverdale and Douay-Rheims have "apostles" and Tyndale, Geneva Bible and all most subsequent translations in English do not have "apostles." Luther's translation does not have "apostles."

I cannot imagine why "apostles" is retained in Romans 16:7 and not in 1 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25.

Bill now wants to know,
    In short: is there a clergy-bias in our NT translation? And more importantly, when will it end?
IMO there is bias regarding the use of words like "those who rule" "bishop" "church" and so on, so yes there could well be bias here.

PS The Rotherham translation does have "apostle" for Titus and Epaphroditus. If you don't read Greek, get a copy of this Bible. It is truly outstanding in its fidelity to Greek.

The Bible Marketing Generation Gap

Wayne Hastings at Thomas Nelson stopped by my blog today and mentioned a post of his: Chronological Study Bible Debate Response. At this point there's really not much of a debate about this Study Bible but maybe there should be. He cites some interesting statistics as justification for the development of this new study Bible:
  • The Bible Literacy Report I finds that 98% of English teachers say that Bible literacy gives a distinct academic advantage and 90% say it is critical to a good education. They also said that an alarming loss of Bible knowledge among teens is eroding students’ ability to understand British and American literature impairing their study of art, music, history, and culture.
  • The Bible Literacy Report II reveals that English professors surveyed at leading universities – including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford – unanimously agree that, regardless of one’s faith, an educated person needs to know the Bible.
  • Recent Time Magazine and Religion & Ethics Newsweekly reports indicate that most Americans can only name one of the four Gospels and cannot name the first book of the Bible; and 60% cannot name five of the Ten Commandments.
Will such a Bible address these problems? I suspect not. Growing Biblical illiteracy is a phenomenon with multiple causes. Especially with regard to targeting the problem among teens I suspect that a Manga Bible or a LOLCatsBible will do far more to impart basic Bible knowledge than a sort-of scholarly Study Bible.

While Biblical literacy may be spiraling, Internet literacy continues to surge. Perhaps the next big product needed is not a Bible but a blog. Or a series of YouTube videos based on Biblical stories (sex, violence, magic, miracles! What more do you need?!?) Or possibly social-media will provide new ways for this generation to engage with timeless truths.

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the success of MTV in his book Blink. One of the keys is that they don't rely on middle aged men in suits to develop programming for their target market of 18-25 year olds. Hmmm, that's a thought. Maybe folks like Wayne at Thomas Nelson aren't able to answer the question of what the next generation needs. Maybe it is the next generation that will apply God's Word to today's reality in ways that us old folks would never imagine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where did verses come from

Iyov has been posting on the Geneva Bible. This is the first English Bible to divide the text into the present versification. However, Iyov then writes,

But even if the verse division was more of a hindrance than a help, a main achievement of the Geneva was translating from the original, for the first time in English, the major poetic books of the Bible. In those books, the verse division gained more than it lost. Not only did it lend greater clarity to poetic parallelism, but it gave impetus to the English biblical tradition of resonant obscurity.

I aknowledge that Iyov is expressing the majority opinion. However, my contention is that every Bible is a translation from the text that the translators are most familiar with in their own minds. In this case, it is still the Latin text that the translators of the Geneva Bible were most familiar with and depended on. The image shows the Robert Etienne 1551 text which was widely used by translators. (Click on the image to enlarge.) The Greek is flanked by the Vulgate and Erasmus Latin translation.

This is the book to which we are indebted for our custom of quoting the Bible by chapter and verse. It is the first division of the Bible into verses.

The reason for the development is probably an accident of the format. This book has three separate texts of the Bible: the Greek is set in the middle of each page, next to Erasmus’s Latin and the Vulgate Latin. It appears that the need to provide a basis for cross-references and comparison gave birth to the idea.

Printing three columns in such small format may very well have influenced the development of verse divisions. The tiny format of this book, which is in sextodecimo, may have suggested the idea of setting off each sentence as an indented paragraph. Indenting each sentence in small format—a style we see in some newspaper articles—is aesthetically compatible with narrow columns since it breaks up the rectangularity of the textblocks. This system of indentation may have suggested, as well, the enumeration. The numbers are much less forbidding at the beginning of indentations than they would be if they were set in relatively rapid succession throughout solid textblocks.


One earlier book that may have inspired the insertion of verse markings was the Psalterium Quincuplex, printed by Robert Estienne in 1509. The Psalms had traditional verse divisions, but in this version Estienne numbered them, no doubt in order to make cross-references between the five versions of the text easier. Santi Pagnini’s Bible translation of 1528 also had numerical markers throughout the text, but his divisions did not catch on. He divided the first chapter of Matthew, for example, into forty-nine units.

This is one of the first books that Estienne printed in Geneva after fleeing Paris in fear of censure from the Sorbonne. Geneva had become an intellectual haven for biblical philology under the inspiration of John Calvin. Estienne did become a Calvinist. In a controversial, eleventh-hour codicil to his will, he even bequeathed a tidy sum to support the efforts of the Geneva Academy, an important institution in the history of the Reformed Church.

I would like to study this matter further, so my remarks on this matter are somewhat speculative, as is often noted by my cobloggers.

PS: I am still checking for more detail on versification in the OT. More here where Etienne is cited as " Stephanus."

Update: The 1551 edition in the image was the NT only. Stephanus published the Latin Vulgate with versification in 1555 adding numbers to the "sof pasuk" divisions of the Masoretic tradition. The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to reflect these divisions. See Iyov's series on the Geneva Bible.

Build Your Own Bible

HT: ElShaddai Edwards
Image courtesy: BRYON’S WEBLOG

Well just yesterday I was blogging at Lingamish on the link between Rock music and the Psalms and now Bryon mentions some editions of the NLT with bright metal covers: The NLT Metal Bible Series. What is the world coming to? Back in June I mentioned the LOLCatBible. While the proliferation of Bibles in English may sometimes seem bizarre, I have noticed the tendency for niche Bibles even in Africa where people don't have any Bible in their language. It is quite common for a Catholic translation to be rejected by Protestants and vice versa. Sound familiar?
In this age of print on demand I can imagine people being able to order their own Bible with customized cover, version and even contents. meets Why not?!?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Luther meets Ryken

The conversation has been hot and heavy on TC's blog, New Leaven. A good comparison of the ESV and NRSV today. But on an earlier post Luther meets Ryken, we got into an interesting discussion.

TC claimed,

Here’s the grind: while the English professor is highly critical of the dynamic equivalence approach to Bible translation, the 16th century German reformer gladly embraced the dynamic equivalence approach to Bible translation of his time.

Iyov wrote,

No, this is not really right. You are mistranslating Luther, or misexpressing him. He did not produce a dynamic translation and took care to produce an accurate translation according to the standards of his day.

Do you have the original German quote?

And I took the bait. I am such a sucker for this stuff. I wrote,

I think Tyndale and Luther had the same goals and undertook a very similar type of translation. However, Luther did sneak in a few of his own dynamic translations here and there. For example,

1. He added allein “only” to Romans 3:28,

Rom. 3:28

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. KJV

So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben. Luther

2. He prefered to say that a woman was schwanger “pregnant” rather than “with child” or “conceive seed.”

Hebrews 11:11

Durch den Glauben empfing auch Sara Kraft, daß sie schwanger (pregnant) ward und gebar über die Zeit ihres Alters; denn sie achtete ihn treu, der es verheißen hatte. Luther

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. KJV

3. And I like what he did here,

Hebrews 13:17

Gehorcht euren Lehrern (teachers) und folgt (follow) ihnen;

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them KJV

4. But not so much here,

Romans 16:7

Grüßet den Andronikus und den Junias, (first to translate Junia as a male) meine Gefreundeten und meine Mitgefangenen, welche sind berühmte Apostel (are well known apostles) und vor mir gewesen in Christo. Luther

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. KJV

Otherwise, though, it is very similar to Tyndale although there are specific differences in details. For example, “saved” and “blessed” are both translated with selig and German lacks latinizations like “justification” so that would always be gerechtigkeit - righteousness.

Luther’s Bible sounds less formal than the KJV but it is still for the most part literal. That my sense in any case.

So here is the question, if Luther's translation is relatively literal why did he write,

"Whoever would speak German must not see Hebrew idioms; but if he understand the Hebrew writer, he must see to it that he grasps his meaning and must think: Now let me see. How does a German speak in this case?"

How should we characterize Luther's translation?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hot topics in Bible translation

Since my fellow BBBers have been silent for several days I thought I would jump in not with a post but a question:

For you as a reader of this blog, what do you consider to be a hot topic in Bible translation?

Tell us in the comments and maybe we can start up a good debate.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In the beginning ...

On the NLT blog today, Tremper Longman writes about the reasons for knowing the identity of the translators of any Bible version. He writes,

The main value of knowing who translated the Bible you are reading is to let you know the theological perspective of the work. (Yes, it is also to tell you that the people who did it are highly trained specialists in the language and literature of the Old and New Testaments). But what difference does the theological perspective of the translator make?

A big difference. After all, as I like to say, a translation is a commentary without a note. Well, not quite, but what I mean is that to translate requires interpretation and interpretation means that exegetical decisions have to be made. Much of the Bible is crystal clear and easily rendered into a modern language like English, but not all of it.

Let me give an example from the very first verses of Genesis (1:1-2) and let’s do so by comparing the NLT and the NRSV.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. (NLT)

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…” (NRSV)
Notice the difference? In the NRSV at the time (when) God created the heavens and earth, the earth was formless and void. In other words, it was already there and ready for God to use. The NLT hints at a creation from nothing. There was nothing and then God created a formless earth which he then shaped into the habitable planet described in the rest of Genesis 1.

I am tempted to contribute my usual schtick. Here are an additional five translations of the first two lines of Gen. 1,
    In the beginnning of God's creating the heavens and the earth -
    when the earth was astonishingly empty Artscroll Series

    When God began to create heaven and earth -
    the earth being unformed and void JPS

    At the beginning of God's creating of the heavens and the earth,
    When the earth was wild and waste Fox

    When God began to create heaven and earth,
    and the earth then was welter and waste Alter

    In the beginning God formed the heavens and the earth.
    And the earth was desolation and emptiness, Julia Smith
As an addendum I would like to add that the rabbi that I studied with this summer explained that the Jewish translations are roughly distributed thus. Artscroll is Orthodox, JPS is Conservative, and Fox is Reform. If you disagree, take it up with her!

Thanks to Kurk Gayle for directing me to Julia Smith's translation.

My boss is a Jewish carpenter

jesus carpenter crossThink about the word carpenter. What does a carpenter do for a living?

What type of carpenter was Jesus?

  1. A house-builder
  2. A furniture maker
  3. A chariot maker
  4. A brick mason

The word for carpenter in the gospels is τέκτων tekton. Our English work architect, meaning “chief builder” is related to this word.

The word occurs twice in the New Testament:

Matthew 13:55 “Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary? Aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”

Mark 6:3 “Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son? Isn't this the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" They were not pleased with him at all.”

In these verse the people don’t seem to be complimenting Jesus. My assumption is that they considered Jesus to be an uneducated manual worker and unqualified for a teaching ministry.

jesus joseph carpenter

Jesus was a blue-collar worker. “What does this construction worker think he’s doing?” That captures some of the condescension.

“Carpenter” is a slightly inaccurate translation. Do you agree?

I grew up in Oregon where entire houses are made of wood. They have studs for framing, plywood for underfloor, cabinets, siding and roofing all made of wood. So I grew up imagining Jesus wearing a toolbelt. Maybe with a couple of nails hanging from his lips. But houses were certainly not built that way in ancient times. Wood was scarce. Houses were made out of… what? I assume that the average house in Palestine was far closer in construction to an African hut than an American ranch-style house.

If you’ve only got a fuzzy notion of how houses were built in the time of Christ, you’re in good company. Luke might have been a good doctor but his knowledge of house construction in Galilee was rather weak. In the story of the paralytic let down through the roof, Mark precisely writes, “digging through it.” (2:4) Luke, no doubt imagining the houses of Rome with their tiled roofs writes, “through the tiles.” (5:19)

Can anyone share some online resources that talk about houses and carpenters in the time of Christ?

What kind of τέκτων do you think Jesus was?

See a couple of modern depictions of Jesus as a carpenter: embroidered, wood carving, bumper sticker

Update: Ben Witherington has a Jewish Carpenter poem with the “embroidered” image linked above: A CARPENTER'S CONFESSION.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

comparing ESV and NLT study Bibles

ElShaddai Edwards has been comparing the ESV and NLT study Bibles. His latest post compares the two for the first part of Ezekial.

There are now blogs specifically for the NLT Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible. And before those blogs came blogs for the ESV and NLT themselves, which many of you are already aware of.

It would be helpful if there would also be official blogs promoting the TNIV and the TNIV Study Bible. A number of us have been concerned for some time about inadequate official promotion / marketing for the TNIV.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Robert Alter

What does literature have to do with the Bible? HT יהוה מלך

NLT Study Bible video

Check it out and tell me what you think.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

ESV Study Bible video

HT: Michael Spencer

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Do not shoot talk nothing at people that they made bad skin so they must receive heavy.

The title of this post is a back-translation from the the Goiniri Onnele language of Papua New Guinea. The phrase in question is from Luke 6:37, “Do not condemn.” Zephyr at ΑΓΑΠΗΣΕΙΣ is beginning a series of posts discussing his experience checking translations done in Papua New Guinea. What’s so fascinating about his articles is how Papua New Guinean languages are so different from Greek and require different strategies for communicating information. For example, Onnele verbs lack a true passive, require an object, and more which makes it impossible to say something like “lest you be condemned.” Instead you have to say something like, “lest others say that you should be accused for doing wrong.” While Onnele lacks a passive, I assume that the grammar has a way of backgrounding a subject in order to highlight an object which is one of the functions of passivization.

The term for sin is “bad skin.” Reading Zephyr’s posts reminds me why I got into Bible translation in the first place. Being forced to express Biblical ideas in another language forces you to see these ideas in new ways that are less tied to your native language. And in the process, Biblical concepts begin to impact culture in ways that were never possible when they only had access to the Scriptures in a trade language.

Zephyr has promised a long series if there is interest. Here are the first two posts:

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Alter’s Psalter Falters

Well, not really. But I couldn’t resist the alliteration. ;-)

I found a copy of Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms at our local library and I have been thumbing through it in a lazy vacation sort of way. The introduction contains mind-bending prose like this:

“Poetically effective sequencing may be combined with the semantic dynamics to which lines of parallelistic verse lend themselves.” (p. xxvi)

Whoa! Scary thing is I almost understand what he’s talking about! Alter has to condescend to his readers somewhat because if he was only writing to his peers he wouldn’t need to publish a book he could just print five copies and hand them out.

My first stab at the book was just opening it to Psalm 1 and giving it a read. That was a mistake. My little translator critic alarm was dinging wildly from the first verse. But wait. Isn’t this guy hugely smarter than I am? Doesn’t he have Hebrew in the bag and more literary honors than I could stuff in my sock drawer? So he probably has good reasons for making a translation that sounds this strange. Thus my next step was to back up and start reading the introduction. I tried to swallow the intro right after lunch which ended up with me passed out on the bed and the book pushed under the pillow. This morning I tried again while still high on coffee and I was in just the right frame of mind to really enjoy the introduction and not get too hung up by prose like that shown above.

To summarize: Alter hopes to reflect in his translation something of the terseness and prosody of the original. In addition, he’s trying to give it a slightly archaic flavor while shunning traditional semantic mind-ruts like “sin,” “salvation,” and “soul.”

I’m looking forward to reading the translation and notes on Alter’s terms. But I think I’ll go hang out on the beach for a while first. If you’ve read Alter’s Psalms maybe you could give me some pointers on how I could make the most of reading this translation.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

PodBible on Facebook

Tim Bulkeley has just put the PodBible on Facebook, in addition to its usual spot on the Internet. If you don't have a Facebook account yet, they are free. And there are some Bible programs, as well as some fun games. (I've become quite a fan of several of them, Scramble, Guess the Word, Prolific, Scrabble, etc.).

The PodBible is audio recordings which were made of volunteers reading the CEV around the clock in New Zealand a couple of years ago. I have appreciated these recordings and hope that many others do also. I have blogged about the PodBible in the past but am always glad to mention it again.

There is something special about exposing ourselves to the Bible in new media. Most of us are accustomed to reading it. It's good to hear it. And with video productions of much of the Bible, it's good to hear and see it.