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Mike Aubrey

I'm having a hard time understanding the purpose of this post if you're conclusion is "learn the languages."

Not everyone can learn the languages. You know this. And that's the point. That's why Wayne's blog is the Better Bibles Blog instead of the Greek and Hebrew Bibles Blog.

I'm not see any sort of practical application for your recommendation - especially for the work that people like Wayne and his organization do.

Help me out here. I'm at a loss.

Bob MacDonald

John - your blog and your teaching give me hope! (I laughed into my puke bag.)

I am of course guilty of all kinds of gaff - but I am having fun doing it. In a recent translation of Sheol, I was gravely gravitating to an engraving of a heavy figure around its repetition in Psalm 49. Doesn't quite work. It's the verse between the two selah's - what do you make of this verse - apart from the obvious sheep to the slaughter?

Bob MacDonald

I do think Mike has a point. (Excuse my butting in.)While I do not approach language the way it has been approached recently at BBB, I do see that they are spelling out a process that may not be obvious to some at first. I can only hope, however, that they do not really believe this is the 'end product' because such obvious circumlocutions are not the only 'meaning'. As if we should swallow meaning rather than the flesh of the Son.

John Hobbins

Mike,

Sorry if I came across as overly grumpy. Though I share Wayne's goal of accuracy, I do not subscribe to his theory of communication whereby an expression like "their eyes were opened" almost inevitably becomes "they saw." Do you? I thought not.

The practical application of this post, as I see it, would be to consider retaining figures of speech in future DE translations far more than is now the norm.

My argument is that in so doing, greater higher level referential accuracy will be achieved.

I realize that SIL people tend to be very committed to Nida's theory of communication. At SBL this year, however, the Nida Institute hosted a lecture which I heard, by Lawrence Venuti, which took issue with the fundamental premises of Nida's theory.

There is nothing wrong with doing that on principle, I hope. My doubts about that theory's approach to metaphors, figures of speech, and linguistic register are genuine and deep.

Note that NLT2 recovers the figure of speech in question precisely in the passage under review. I am arguing for more consistency in that sense.

You are right that not everyone can learn the languages. But many more people could than at present.

It's a question of priorities. It's a question of making it clear how much is missed when we are not familiar with the text in its original languages, and we no longer read the biblical text as a symphonic whole.

John Hobbins

Bob,

I'll try to find time to look at your Psalms text later. Your emphasis on process is well-taken. So what is the process? On what grounds is an expression like "their eyes were opened" discarded as inaccurate in the case at hand? I don't see it.

Wayne Leman

Cute post, John. It has some connections to what I actually believe about translation. Two points:

(1) I ask again: what does "their eyes were opened" mean to speakers of standard dialects of English? Until we resolve that question, we can't deal with the other layers of meaning, which are also important.

(2) If you read my comments to the blog, you will note what I have always believed, that there are a number of layers of meaning, first referential meaning (what is the original statement primarily referring to; what took place?), then allusional meaning, connotational meaning, cotextual meaning, etc.

My post was only about being sure we get the referential meaning in a translation. But that is only part of the translation picture and my other posts and comments make that clear, at least I hope they do.

To be fair, I think your post should have included my followup comments that an adequate translation needs to *somehow* include all layers of meaning, including the ones you are emphasizing in your post.

Wayne Leman

Bob commented:

I can only hope, however, that they do not really believe this is the 'end product' because such obvious circumlocutions are not the only 'meaning'.

Bob, your hopes are a reality. None of us who translate at the U.N. or have been trained to do missionary Bible translation believe that getting referential meaning accurate in a translation is the final goal. I have made it clear in followup comments to my own post that it is not.

We cannot deal with options for including non-referential meanings in a translation until we get the referential meaning accurately translated first.

Any translation that does not somehow, somewhere, deal with all the layers of meaning is, to use John's label, a DT translation.

Bob MacDonald

The process in the subject post was formed as a dialogue. The problem was that this particular dialogue is unfinished. Having established the word order and base semantic issues, the process should continue -

scholar: if there are no hooks in the text, the fish will be bored.

newbie translator: O - I see! The reader has to do some work. So we will leave in the ambiguity deliberately - even though we know what the Greek means? Wait a minute - you mean that the meaning isn't the paramount thing - the real thing is ... (unnameable)

And given the Greek lens on a whole mass of Hebrew precedents, the 'literal' interpretation of the Greek that was thought to be decisive for understanding may be misconstrued anyway.

Personally I think it is possible to translate - and a few gaffs will help to snare the fish.

Understanding is emphatically not overstanding.

Wayne Leman

John asked:

On what grounds is an expression like "their eyes were opened" discarded as inaccurate in the case at hand? I don't see it.

John, there is no desire to discard that literal translation. It must only be discarded if users of a translation understand it to refer to physical opening of eyes rather than gaining eyesight.

We can speculate all we want, myself included, about how something should be translated. But the only way we can know if our translation suggestions are adequate is to field test them with those we hope to use the translation.

It is easy to field test this one. We can ask anyone we encounter: "What does it sound like happened if you heard that someone's eyes were opened?"

If readers can't get the right meaning from "their eyes were opened," then it must be revised until they do. That is what translation is about. Now, we can have literature courses or biblical language courses where we work with syntactic transliterations (not translations), and teach people what the meaning of phrases such as "their eyes were opened" actually mean.

Since the Bible is full of such Semiticisms, people who have studied them will have job security for a long time, if that is the approach we wish to take to exposing people to the Bible.

Mike Aubrey

John, thank you for the clarification. I appreciate it.

I understood Wayne's post to mean that we need to take more seriously how the target language expresses meaning. Most English translations (whether formal or functional) spend so much time focused on the meaning of the original that they don't look at English. Most scholars have a better understanding of Greek or Hebrew grammar than they do of English.

I'd be willing to bet that many minority languages are in some ways (though not all ways) better than our English Bibles simply because the people working on them have spent incredible amounts of time studying and writing about the grammar of the target language.

But again, thank you for the clarification. I'm following you much better now.

J. K. Gayle

John,

1) Dittos on Wayne's follow-ups to his post (as he notes them here).

2) I wrote a follow-up too (in part to suggest that the various levels of meaning Wayne acknowledges can't all make it into a DE translation, which seems to be okay within the DE goals). I was also following Reynolds Price, who says that DE is "logically suspect in the extreme." And I also linked to and acknowledged your entry into the conversation with Wayne at BBB.

3) Since you're bringing in a suggestion (that I made in the BBB conversation) that Matthew is working with a literal LXX translation of Isaiah, then I hope you won't mind my linking to something that Barnstone says about Matthew better hearing Jesus's voice in translation than most others have.

I think the LXX translators and the NT writers give precedence to translation techniques that Nida and his DE followers have not been able to better.

John Hobbins

Wayne,

I realize you want a translation that, within Nida's theory, gets first order referential meaning right, but also connotational or second order referential meaning. Perhaps, then, NLT2 in this passage meets your goals.

In response to NLT2, I asserted without proof that the referential meaning of "and their eyes were opened," in the context of the entire passage, is clear to most readers, without the addition of "they were able to see" or the like.

In the past, we've gone round and round with other figures of speech as well, such as Martin Luther's (and our) "the apple of my eye," which is a figure-laden translation of a Hebrew idiom I for one would not discard.

What I am afraid happens too often is the following: an expression like "apple of my eye" or "their eyes were opened" is field-tested for intelligibility without adequate context being provided. If that is the case, the way field testing is done is stacked against turns of phrase which are not explicit and require context to be disambiguated. Do you see my point?

Wayne Leman

Personally I think it is possible to translate - and a few gaffs will help to snare the fish.

Bob, I grew up in a commercial fishing family a few thousand miles northwest of you.

Gaff hooks are one of our important tools!

Of course, the dialogue in my blog post was unfinished. And you are right to want to add to it.

Few blog posts tell the whole story of anything.

J. K. Gayle

Wow, I try to say something and all of a sudden Mike and Wayne have both said something new. So I have a question for them (Mike saying "Most scholars have a better understanding of Greek or Hebrew grammar than they do of English" and Wayne "the only way we can know if our translation suggestions are adequate is to field test them with those we hope to use the translation"):

Did the LXX translators and the NT writers who also translated Hebrew(Aramaic) into Greek understand the source language better than the target, and did they have to field test?

Bob, I need a "scholar" or a graduate course or a "field test" to understand what must be meant by your English word "overstanding." :)

Wayne Leman

John asked:

If that is the case, the way field testing is done is stacked against turns of phrase which are not explicit and require context to be disambiguated. Do you see my point?

I sure do, John. And you're not the first person to remind me of that. And those who train us to field test remind us of it also.

I'd be happy to include as much context as you would like when field testing, as long as "their eyes were opened" actually gets field tested. Such Biblish phrases are understood by you and me because we have learned to speak Biblish. But not ever English Bible version is intended for Biblish-speaking audiences.

Every translation needs to be targeted at the language spoken by its target audience. There are plenty of Biblish translations already available for English speakers. We need to ensure that English speakers who do not speak Biblish have adequate access to translations in their language, and that they do not feel that they are using an inferior translation. A translation is appropriate if it meets the translation needs of a particular audience. As that audience learns church language, it can begin to use translations which are worded in church language. But I must say that my wife and I, both of us weaned on Biblish translations, really appreciate the referential accuracy of translations that make clear first order meanings. I also want to know about second and third order meanings, but if I can't get the first order meanings accurately, there's little use for other level meanings.

John Hobbins

Kurk,

You are a challenging dialogue partner in all this. I mean that positively. At SBL Boston, I challenged Lawrence Venuti on his understanding of Jerome's agenda for returning to the hebraica veritas. In response, He immediately backed away from the assertions in his presentation.

But that left me cold somehow. Mutatis mutandis here, concessions to the need for second-order referential accuracy are not enough. I want to see what difference it makes in practice.

I would note that the translation I offer of the Matthew passage is DE in a host of ways even if it might not seem so at first glance. I try to keep something of the oral nature of the text alive by retaining the "and"'s. I avoid translating "let it be done for you" which sounds wooden to me from the point of view of English speech. I'm in favor of "implicating" rather than "explicating" in translation - but "implicating" is also a kind of DE.

Wayne Leman

Kurk asked:

Did the LXX translators and the NT writers who also translated Hebrew(Aramaic) into Greek understand the source language better than the target, and did they have to field test?

I don't know, Kurk. I wish I could know it. All I have to work with now are living languages where we can and must do adequate field testing to produce accurate translations.

John Hobbins

Wayne,

I am actually in favor of producing two types of translation, only one of which I currently find available:

(1) An essentially literal translation rooted in the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition. Such a translation will strive to retain Biblicisms where possible, especially in those instances in which said biblicisms are part of the English language in the broadest sense. A translation like ESV does pretty well at this, though its syntax could be greatly improved without damaging its overall continuity with its forerunners.

(2) An idiomatic rendering free of Biblish in so far as possible, but sensitive to the style, register, figures of speech, metaphor, and poetics. Such a translation would be DE, but not of the kind that aims for readability by 6th or 8th graders as is easily found on the market today (GNB, CEV, NCV, NLT, (T)NIV, ISV, etc.)

For example, here are the opening verses of Ruth in non-Biblish DE:

In the days when the chieftains ruled, a famine struck the land. A man of Bethlehem of Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the outback of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech. His wife’s name was Naomi. His two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. Ephrathites of Bethlehem of Judah, they reached the outback of Moab, and remained there.

Compare that to NLT, and it will become clear how much Biblish NLT (still) contains.

John Hobbins

Mike,

I agree that most Bible scholars have thought far more about the languages of the Bible work than their own language.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston et al) and the Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Quirk et al) belong on the shelf of scholars with linguistic interests and all Bible translators.

Wayne Leman

OK, I have added an UPDATE comment to the my blog post which makes it clear that my post dialogue is only the beginning part of the translation process, the part that deals with referential (denotational) meaning, not non-referential meanings such as allusions, connotations, co-textual relationships, etc.

Wayne Leman

John wrote:

I am actually in favor of producing two types of translation, only one of which I currently find available:

(1) An essentially literal translation rooted in the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition. Such a translation will strive to retain Biblicisms where possible, especially in those instances in which said biblicisms are part of the English language in the broadest sense. A translation like ESV does pretty well at this, though its syntax could be greatly improved without damaging its overall continuity with its forerunners.

(2) An idiomatic rendering free of Biblish in so far as possible, but sensitive to the style, register, figures of speech, metaphor, and poetics. Such a translation would be DE, but not of the kind that aims for readability by 6th or 8th graders as is easily found on the market today (GNB, CEV, NCV, NLT, (T)NIV, ISV, etc.)

We're on the same page, John. I am not a fan of DE translations which flatten out the literary contours of the original. Actually, I follow a more ecclectic approach to translation which attempts to do what you have described in your #2. I believe strongly that preserving genre distinctions are important in translation, at least to the extent that those same distinctions are made in the translation language.

I also am a great fan of all figures of speech, including those in the Bible. I don't know how to communicate this well, while also communicating that a translation for a general audience needs to have figures of speech which that audience already has in their language, or can readily understand without too high of a cognitive speed bump.

J. K. Gayle

Can we go back to what Mike protests, that "Not everyone can learn the languages"? I wonder if we can't give naive readers more credit. I'm not saying everyone can learn Greek and Hebrew, or that everyone can read biblish. But why always favor the direction of one language, and that being the one that has no biblish and no literary or literal reference to the layers of meaning in Greek and Hebrew? And why not a both/ and (as John is suggesting) rather than a lowest-common denominator avoidance of any "cognitive speed bump"?

Without knowing either the biblical languages at all or English-biblish much, my own children are more facile than the imagined audience of many Bible translators today. Isn't the solution here the diglot? And things like biblegateway.com? And printed Bibles with parallel English versions? (My own children really can handle veggie tales and the bibles; Shelley Duvall's Faiery Tale Theatre and the full-blown full-grown best English translations of the Grimm Brothers' works; any novel and its film counterpart. Right now, I'm listening to Toni Morrison's oral readings of one of her novels, and I must say that I get things altogether different when I've read that same work in print, which allows me the freedom to hear her characters differently. I also listen to the Bible Experience but also find that my experience silently reading the TNIV is much different. The point is that readers can handle, and do appreciate the challenge of, original language, biblish, read-aloud texts, and silent reading. One and only one kind of translation--especially only a culture-and-language stripping DE translation--loses much more than it gains.)

John Hobbins

Wayne,

Group hug, group hug. Do you know that scene in Aladdin? The Genie (Robin Williams) complains of getting a hairball from the monkey in his throat during the hug. Sorry if I gave you a hairball.

J. K. Gayle

The thing we do know about LXX and the authors of the NT also translating Greek is that they translated in the context of readers and speakers facile in and tolerant of bilingualism and translingualism and monolingual-word-plays. Do we really have to wonder whether they outsourced field testing of a target-language phrase to audiences and outsourced source-language expertise to scholars?

Wayne Leman

Group hug, group hug. Do you know that scene in Aladdin? The Genie (Robin Williams) complains of getting a hairball from the monkey in his throat during the hug. Sorry if I gave you a hairball.

I suspect a hairball is better than an airball. I *know* we don't get any points in basketball for an airball. I don't know if we can get points anywhere for an airball.

It *is*, I confess, difficult to have my views on Bible translation go through a DT process on someone else's blog. But as long as there is opportunity for clarification, I think I can survive.

Wayne Leman

Kurk asked:

Do we really have to wonder whether they outsourced field testing of a target-language phrase to audiences and outsourced source-language expertise to scholars?

I don't know, Kurk. There's many things I don't know.

I do like to speak up, however, about things that I do know. And I enjoy dialogue that helps me hone my ideas so they can become even better.

Wayne Leman

My doubts about that theory's approach to metaphors, figures of speech, and linguistic register are genuine and deep.

Have you read the textbooks on how these important aspects of language are dealt with by professional translators?

J. K. Gayle

And I enjoy dialogue that helps me hone my ideas so they can become even better.

Thanks Wayne. I always enjoy the dialogue with you, and you do help me with ideas and better thinking!

Peter Kirk

John, it seems to me that your main objection would be overcome if a translation consistently used something like "cause to see" rather than "open eyes" throughout the Old and New Testaments. NLT is not very good at being consistent in such matters, as several of us have noted before. But you should at the very least make clear that this is not a defect in the DE method but a deficiency in a particular implementation of it.

Also you really shouldn't include (T)NIV in your list of translations "of the kind that aims for readability by 6th or 8th graders". They are in fact much closer to your desired first category, ESV with much improved syntax (and gender language in TNIV) but plenty of biblish. They are not DE translations, but modified literal, just a bit more modified than ESV.

Kurk, I'm sure your wonderful children are so exceptional that they prove every rule Wayne has put forward. ;-)

JohnFH

Wayne,

If you have any reading suggestions, I would appreciate it.

David Ker

This post tries to pull the wool over our eyes. But the last paragraph lets the cataract out of the bag.

Rich Rhodes

John,
I'm fully aware that "Ouch!" and "That hurt me!" are both synonymous and distinct. And that if you say "That hurt me!" in some contexts, then it would be a pale imitation of "Ouch!". No, I do fully appreciate the implications of my examples. I could turn the matter around and say that "their sight returned" and "their eyes were opened" both do and don't mean the same thing.

The problem is that translation always costs something. Where do you pay? My argument is that if you lean to much towards retaining the allusions, you lose too much in accessibility. It's also true that I think differently about that balance in OT translation than I do in NT translation, precisely because OT translation is literary translation (for the most part), but NT translation isn't (for the most part).

There is another observation worth making at some point. All the folks over at BBB (with the exception of Mike, as far as I know) have spent a major part of our lives working on languages without dictionaries or grammars, Algonquian languages, Bantu languages, Turkic languages, and Creoles. We were constantly faced with communicative conundrums where we had to give up on "essential literalness" and allusions completely just to meet the minimum standards of referential clarity. When we come back to look at English translations from that vantage point, we see problems in the form of too much Biblish floating around. In the name of preserving "the richness of the text", we force strange English -- a price we think too high.

Furthermore, we have spent our lives figuring out what words and expressions mean from context, and when we look at some points in English translations, our (well, maybe just my) hair stands on end. They are so bad. (επιτιμάω is my favorite whipping boy on that ground, esp. in 2Tim 4:2, where the verse doesn't even make sense in most translations -- how do you rebuke someone 'with all patience', and too many pastors have used it as license to abuse their congregations.)

It looks like I'll have to post on this at some point soon. (The family is in the throes of a new dog, and she's a young Lab and, need I say it, she's taking a lot of our time. Whiskey, our previous and greatly beloved dog was with us for over 12 years, but we grieved him for a year and a half, and it was time to get a new dog.)

Mike Aubrey

Wow! I go out for lunch with Steve Runge and I miss an entire day of interesting discussion.

Wayne and John - thanks for talking that out. I can now say I'm with both of you again.

John your second translation fits better with what I had remembered you saying in the past about a literary translation than what I saw in the body of this post. That's why I was so confused.

Thoughts on communication theories:
In terms of comparing translation methods. DE may very well have a flawed theory (I don't know, its not something I've studied in detail).

But as far as I know, literal/formal translation has no theory of communication - just glosses from lexicons.

I'd take the one that's actually given thought to what it means to communicate, any day.

John

I personally find it more than a little odd to be "translating" the Bible with translators who disallow "biblish" for "target audiences" of the "translation"; it is the "Bible" that speaks "biblish", after all; rebelling against form and biblical expression leaves the end result, of course with some flexibility of collocation (in all translations), in one way or another a paraphrase, not as much a translation; personally, "Dynamic Equivalence" is just a fancy way of saying "paraphrase" on so many levels.

Texts have their own ways of speaking...expecting a reader to follow the author, not vice versa, should be apparently, obviously, primary to "translators"; otherwise they take upon themselves the role of interpreter, judge, and guardian...denying the reader what's actually there while purporting to deliver it.

John

p.s. I don't mean that as an insult, nor oversimplify things, but too often wish there were more forthrightness in these areas. I for one favoring return to the days of being very literal and expecting people to read and re-read, compare scripture, learn those forms, but I'm not totally opposed to "help" from a paraphrase or such...just that often I find those not so much helpful as hindering, leading to oversimplified understandings and feeding the laziness (at least of Americans) rather than insight into the complexity of a more literal rendering.

John

one last thought...we ought encourage people to look from the DE translations to the formal ones for clarification and insight, not vice versa; or better yet, start with the harder formal ones and teach them so they'll be used to them, and then they'll be able to assist others in need of help.

John Hobbins

A note to readers of this blog: in the comments, the John Hobbins who owns this blog now always appears in the "sign-in" as JohnFH. "John" is someone else.

David,

I remain convinced that the theory of communication underlying DE translations is flawed to the core. It was nice at SBL Boston to hear Lawrence Venuti say so in a lecture sponsored by the Nida Institute.

I'm trying to take the wool off of your eyes without replacing it with wool of my own making. But I am arguing for a paradigm shift and shifts of this kind do not come easily.

The material point of departure of this post, a Greek text in Matthew 9, suited my purposes in terms of co-textual references and the intelligibility of the idiom "their eyes were opened" in context.

In response, some supporters of DE in the comments here and at BBB have gone fishing for a way to preserve the chief co-textual reference in Isaiah and maintain the translation choice of a non-figurative rendering like "restore sight."

It's nice to see willingness to improve on the DE side, but, as you must know by now, I will not rest until I see a commitment to figure to figure and metaphor to metaphor translation.

In the case at hand, I'm looking for a translation that preserves the coherence of a chain of acts of salvation in the Bible that stretches from God opening the eyes of Hagar to the prophecies of Isaiah to the Matthew and John 9 passages.

In addition, I'm looking for a translation that preserves coherence with prayers in which God is asked to open his eyes.

Coherence in both directions of the divine human relationship is a point on which I will not budge.

A prime example is the language of repentance. In the Bible, both God and human beings "repent." To me this is theologically of the greatest importance - and I'm a Calvinist, which means that the point actually throws my system into disarray. So be it: scripture is supposed to take precedence over our systems.

But you to have to go back to the KJV for a translation that renders concordantly across (for example) Ex 13:17; Jon 3:9; Ex 32:12, 14; Jon 3:10; 4:2: Job 42:6.

Take a look at ESV, (T)NIV, NLT, what have you: they all fail to translate in such a way that the semantic coherence of the above texts is evident.

I have to hand it to NLT though, for translating at least once "change his mind" with God as subject. I don't agree with the translation but at least it is not wimpy.

Both God and man are said to experience remorse in the Bible. It's about time that, in the post-literal period of Bible translation (ESV and (T)NIV are not really essentially literal translations either, not to anything like the same degree as KJV and similar classic translations in other languages; they DE to save their readers theological quandaries rather often), serious attention be given to the need to preserve co-textual references. I don't mean just the obvious ones, which are also often overlooked. On this grounds alone, though I appreciate it from many points of view, NLT must be judged a failure.

Yes, ESV must also be judged a failure, with its weirdo syntax for example. But let's not allow the failings of so-called literal translations like ESV to blind us to the failings of so-called DE translations like NLT.

David, you may be happy with a Bible translation that assimilates the text to the piety you inherited in whatever version of Christianity is home for you. (I don't actually believe you are happy with this. I just think you are enough of a company man to avoid pointing out the many ways in which translations produced by your organization are guilty as charged on this score.) Contemporary translations tweak the original so as not to upset the theological apple cart of their target audience in spades. Paraphrases do it by definition, DE translations, almost by definition, but so-called essentially literal translations do it often enough as well, subconsciously and perhaps also sneakily. I am not going to pretend otherwise.

We live in a self-indulgent era. That doesn't mean I have to acquiesce. My loyalty is first of all to the ancient text, to the content it conveys. Where is your first loyalty?

John Hobbins

Rich,

I look forward to future posts of yours on this topic. I agree that translation technique is or should be a function of a cost-benefit analysis.

That's exactly the point for me. To me, the cost of your translation choice here is too high. The removal of the kinetic image "open the eyes" in a verse like John 9:32 and its replacement by "restore the sight of" exacts a theological cost I'm not willing to pay. It obscures the intense physicality of the John 9 narrative, a distinctive of John's gospel, in which Jesus is more fully human even as he is more fully God, than in the synoptics.

Even NLT2, which everywhere else "dis-figures" the source text in John 9 by replacing "open the eyes of" with the pallid "heal" in 9:14, 17, 21, 26, is at least more concrete in 9:30 ("healed my eyes") and, finally, translates figure for figure in 9:32: "Ever since the beginning of the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind."

NLT1, contrary to my expectations, dis-figures less in John 9. So now I am particularly irked that NLT2 takes a step backward in this instance.

More generally, the problem with messing with the kinetic image inclusive of a concrete reference to eyes is the eyes / ears parallelism in Isa 35:5. That's why NLT rightly "open the eyes of the blind / unplug the ears of the deaf" there.

Once again, you are willing to pay a price here by substituting "restore the sight / restore the hearing [I imagine]" I, who takes the side of the poet, will not and cannot pay. Note the segue in 35:6 "the lame will leap like a deer." As far as I concerned, by removing the kinetic imagery in 35:5-6 as far as verse 5 is concerned, you lobotomize the text.

Okay, I'm pushing hard and unfairly in this comment, because you were probably only thinking of the Matthew passage. I've widened the discussion in a way that perhaps seems out of scope to you.

But that just brings me back to the point about co-textual references. If DE translation inevitably sacrifices such references in the name of its theory of communication, I for one take that as one more strike against said theory of communication.

John Hobbins

Peter,

I agree with your remarks about the DE translation continuum. It's something like:


KJV-NJKV-NASB95-ESV-HCSB-NRSV-NJPSV-NAB-NJB-REB-(T)NIV-NLT-GNB-CEV-NCV-Message.

If you think T)NIV is less DE than any of the translations I list to its left, I would like to know why.

No, I don't think it's possible to remove the kinetic image "open the eyes of" without unacceptable losses on the theological, poetic, and reception-history fronts (Michael W. Smith's song is one example among many). For the theology and poetry, see my reply to Rich Rhodes.

John Hobbins

Mike,

I'm certainly not as well-read in translation theory as I would like to be. But there are alternatives to Nida's theory of communication and there are alternative theories of translation. I posted on Anthony Pym earlier. Lawrence Venuti also challenges Nida's model (though I haven't figured out what Venuti's alternative entails, practically speaking). I also posted on the new Zurcher Bibel translation, a fresh but also very literal translation which has, I'm sure, been justified theoretically by those who produced it (auf Deutsch, of course).

Finally, I quoted Richard Pevear on translation (he and Voloknonsky are producing a marvelous set of translations into English of the Russian classics) in an earlier post. He too ups the ante, so to speak, in terms of standards for translation of high-prestige texts.

Eventually, I will properly index the posts on my blog, but for now, you should be able to find the relevant posts easily through google, "ancient hebrew poetry" and, e.g., "Pevear."

Translators of the Bible today, I think, especially when translating the Bible (a high-prestige text) into English (a high-prestige language), need to work harder than has been the case to translate with attention to the issues I raise in this post.

Wayne Leman

John [not JohnFH] wrote:

it is the "Bible" that speaks "biblish", after all;

No, no, no, John. Biblish is translation language that has imported non-native syntax and lexical combinations. The Bible contains no Biblish. It is the original text that we work with. It is alive with wonderful metaphors and other figures of speech. That is not Biblish. That is the Real McCoy.

Biblish is when we try to force biblical language syntax and lexical collocations onto a non-biblical language.

Wayne Leman

John invited:

If you have any reading suggestions, I would appreciate it.

A decent professional, secular book to start with is In Other Words, by Mona Baker.

For years we have had on BBB a list of Recommended Reading, helpful textbooks and other resources. Since reorganization of the BBB, the list appears halfway down that linked page.

It bothers me, John, that you and some other speak so disparagingly of DE translation philosophy while it appears that you may not yet have read the textbooks to see how this particular approach to translation deals with metaphors and other figurative language. Furthermore, DE is largely an out-dated translation philosophy today. Someone else has been commenting on your post here, correctly noting that even the Bible Society people who were likely trained in Nida's DE approach now recognize some of its flaws. Today there are alternative theories of translation which are affecting Bible translation, producing higher quality translations, that do not flatten the literary landscape so much as the early Nida DE approach did.

I realize that it's not easy to keep up with developments in other fields, but it does bother me to see my own post characterized as an example of DE translation (it is not), and called DT (it is not). I don't advocate DE translation on the Better Bibles Blog. I have mentioned DE translation but also mentioned approaches which I consider better. I would ask that we do not refer to each other's blog posts with caricatures like DT and "puke bag". Those kinds of simplistic potshots don't advance scholarly understanding. And they lead blog readers astray who are less well-versed in the topics. On BBB we are trying to describe Bible translation issues and present solutions for audiences that we care about. We take our blogging seriously. Yes, we may forget something and we appreciate getting that filled in via a comment. But too often the main point of a blog post is ignored with comments that are not directly relevant and lead uninformed readers astray.

At a minimum, let's run put-down blog posts by each other before posting them, to see if we have misunderstood or mischaracterized something. I think we owe that to each other. I would do that for you, John.

Wayne Leman

Note the segue in 35:6 "the lame will leap like a deer."

Similes are much easier to handle in translation that many metaphors.

John, I understand why you do not want to give up "open eyes", because of the poet in you. Well, I'm a poet also, an English language poet. I love imagery. I love biblical imagery.

But I say again, I have found no evidence and neither you nor Kurk has yet presented any that I know of that tells me that if someone says "their eyes were opened" English speakers understand that to mean that they received their eyesight. You want to retain the poetry and cotextual relationships, and that is a very worthy goal. But if the price paid is losing referential accuracy (what the original verb referred to, namely blind people being able to see), then we have lost something even more important than poetry and co-textual relationships.

Who among us who is blind, but goes to a surgeon who is able to take care of the problem so that can see would ever say, "My surgeon opened my eyes" or "My eyes were opened"?

This is so very, very basic, yet it gets lost in our laudable desire to keep other important aspects of the biblical texts.

You say that losing the poetry and co-textual links is a price you are unwilling to pay. I am unwilling to pay the price of losing the primary meaning of what happened to the blind men. After Jesus finished his work with them, they could see!!

Surely, if all these layers of meaning are so important, good minds can work together to find win-win solutions. That's the challenge for Bible translators, and I would love to work *with* you to find those solutions. I don't want to be the butt of jokes about DT or puke bags. I'm a better scholar than that to get that kind of language about my post concerning the most important part of the meaning of Matt. 9:30a.

Rich Rhodes

I will cop to referring to DE too loosely, when I mean something considerably more sophisticated than Nida's early version. So I have argued that DE is the thing as opposed to essential literalness (which, BTW, I think isn't logically coherent as a translation theory, but that's another matter). I simply don't know how to talk about a theory which focuses on translating so as to produce as nearly as possible, the same effect on its audience as the original produced on its audience. Sometimes that means paying a little in referential accuracy to achieve a secondary effect, but mostly it means using the resources of the target language to solve the communicative problem in a way that best balances the reference and effect of the original. Is there such a translation out there? No, at least not in English, where the history of translation casts a long shadow across any new attempt. Anyone churched at all speaks enough Biblish (or should that be Biblese?) that we fail to notice that in non-Biblish "to open someone's eyes" is only figurative or directly physical, but not healing. Also since blindness is extensively metaphorical in Biblical context, I'm less convinced that "their blindness was healed" or "their sight was restored" or "their sight returned" or some such isn't by reference alone sufficiently allusive.

John Hobbins

Wayne,

Thanks for coming right back at me. I'm not sure I regret going overboard with my rhetoric here and there, because the result has been a far franker discussion than has been the case in the past. I will be frank in this comment, too.

I have read a number of the titles on the BBB reading list. In other cases, I have read summaries and critiques) of their main theses. I am happy to read more, but your recommendation of Mona Baker's work sends up red flags based on the reading I have already done.

I am aware of Mona Baker's approach, because Anthony Pym presents and strenously objects to many aspects of Baker's work in an essay of his to which I linked in a previous post - the "Why Jobes is only half-right" post in the ensuing thread of which, BTW, we all touched on some of the same arguments we are touching on here.

Pym's essay is dated 2007 and entitled "On Toury's laws of how translators translate." In my view, Toury and Pym represent an advance over Mona Baker in manifold ways. But please, judge for yourself.

I realize at this point that I have not done enough to present Pym and Toury's work to a broader public. In any case, that is my theoretical platform at the moment, more nuanced, I believe, than Baker's approach. BTW, Pym presented at SBL two years ago.

I'm not sure what to mkae of your criticism of my criticism of DE translation technique insofar as I do not refer back to the theory but concentrate on applications of the theory.

I would be more than happy if you gave me another label than DE translation technique as a descriptor of what is going on when, as I have documented in quite a few posts by now, a translation like CEV or NLT dis-figures the source text.

But maybe I have not done this enough. I say the proof is in the pudding, and so far, I have found many reasons to be sorely disappointed.

I have half a mind to go through the entire book of NLT Ruth with a view to showing where it succeeds and where it fails according to a multivariate set of criteria. I would do this with NLT Ruth precisely because it is the best non-essentially literal translation in English currently available, or at least the most popular. Perhaps I need to do the same thing with ESV Ruth at the same time, in the interests of being an equal-opportunity critic of currently touted translations.

If you do not consider yourself a proponent of DE translation, I must admit that comes as a surprise to me.
How do you self-identify? What translation into English currently on the market best represents your translation philosophy in action?

Now to the nub of the specific question at hand. You say:

"Who among us who is blind, but goes to a surgeon who is able to take care of the problem so that can see would ever say, "My surgeon opened my eyes" or "My eyes were opened"?"

The answer to your question is "no one." But the conclusion you draw: we should not translate "and their eyes were opened" in the Matthew passage, does not follow.

Nor does it matter whether or not, in the abstract, "if someone says "their eyes were opened" English speakers understand that to mean that they received their eyesight."

Instead, this is what I think matters, and I would clearly love to know why you disagree, if you do. What matters is whether or not, after all of Matthew 9:27-31 in either the NRSV, NAB, ESV, NASB95, or HCSB has been read to them - all of these translations read "And their eyes were opened," people misunderstand. If they misunderstand, if they can't make out what the clause in question means in context, you are right and I am wrong.

If people can make sense of it in context - obviously, the people who translated NRSV, NAB, ESV, NASB95, and HCSB think it does make sense in context, so your argument is not just with me, but with the translation teams that produced the versions listed - then I have offered multiple arguments for retaining it.

Furthermore, I am happy to field-test along the following lines tomorrow in my 7th and 8th grade confirmation classes. I will distribute NRSV Matthew 9:27-31 on a sheet of paper with whatever follow-up questions you wish to ask in terms of comprehension. If it turns out that you are right, that they "lose the primary meaning of what happened to the blind men because they read the story in a translation with 'And their eyes were opened,'" I will include within the body of the post that began this thread a mea culpa to the effect that I completely over-estimated the ability of kids today to understand what I thought was an intelligible expression in context.

John Hobbins

Rich,

You say:

"Anyone churched at all speaks enough Biblish (or should that be Biblese?) that we fail to notice that in non-Biblish "to open someone's eyes" is only figurative or directly physical, but not healing. Also since blindness is extensively metaphorical in Biblical context, I'm less convinced that "their blindness was healed" or "their sight was restored" or "their sight returned" or some such isn't by reference alone sufficiently allusive."

I suppose some people do fail to notice that the usual semantic range of the expression in question in English is not coterminous with the wider range the equivalent expression has in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Nevertheless, the expression's use in English translation at Matthew 9:30 is intelligible in context. That is my claim at least. It is so intelligible in fact that only a trained linguist is likely to notice and say, "Hey, that's funny English. We don't talk that way."

I don't agree with your "sufficient allusiveness" claim because, inter alia, you can't plug in your preferred translation choice across the board without creating problems, instead of removing them. But judge for yourself. Try it out with the range of examples we have of metaphorical, literal, and ambidextrous examples in the Old and New Testaments. Here is a reductive list (I leave out synonymous expressions, parallel "open the ears of," etc: Isa 42:7; Job 14:3; 27:19; Ps 146:8; Jer 32:19; Zech 12:4, Gen 21:19: 2 Kgs 4:35; 6:17, 20; 19:16; 37:17; Prov 20:13; Dan 9:18; Gen 3:7; Isa 35:5; Matthew 9:30; John 9 (7x); 11:37; Acts 26:18.

At a minimum, one might want a concordant translation across examples of acts of salvation described with this idiom. Or perhaps I need to open the eyes of my heart to see other possibilities.

Wayne Leman

I am aware of Mona Baker's approach, because Anthony Pym presents and strenously objects to many aspects of Baker's work in an essay of his to which I linked in a previous post - the "Why Jobes is only half-right" post in the ensuing thread of which, BTW, we all touched on some of the same arguments we are touching on here.

OK, John, no problem. I was just trying to as objective as possible, coming up with a secular book which is not influenced by translation of the Bible, which is such a holy book that we often find it difficult to translate it objectively.

Try Mildred Larson's textbook Meaning-Based Translation. It is one of the most thorough treatments of translation theory, and it is basically atheoretical.

There are a number of other textbooks which discuss translation of figures speech. I was trying to answer your question.

Wayne Leman

John wrote:

It's nice to see willingness to improve on the DE side, but, as you must know by now, I will not rest until I see a commitment to figure to figure and metaphor to metaphor translation.

But, John, surely you know from you fluency in Italian and probably some other languages that often there is no matching figure or metaphor. And that is the case between Indo-European language which share a great deal in terms of syntax, lexicon, culture, language contact, etc. How much more less can we expect figure to figure and metaphor to metaphor matching between a non-Indo-European language such as Ancient Hebrew and English (or Japanese, or Swahili).

How do you translate "He's uptight" to Italian?

How do you translate "I'm going to swallow a rock" (literal translation) from Cheyenne to English. The Cheyenne idiom means 'I'm not going to budge from my current position, no way, no how, I'm not going to take that man, my ex-husband back.'

There are many biblical idioms which simply do not make sense when translated literally to English. Even the literal English translations do not translate the most difficult of them literally to English. There's reason why: idioms seldom can have their meaning accurately communicated through literal translation. This has been demonstrated thousands of times all over the world.

We think it is different with the Bible but we are not comparing apples and oranges. We typically teach people the meanings of biblical idioms. But if we have to teach people the meanings of things in a translation, why translate in the first place.

I'm sure you've had the experience of trying to read an appliance manual written by someone who is not a speaker of English. You can usually figure out what is meant, but at least for me, it's a painful experience. I would rather read that same manual written by a native speaker of English. It's the same intended message, but it communicates more accurately and more clearly.

John Hobbins

For sake of readers of this thread, this is how Wayne replied to my query of 2:39 pm:

John wrote:

If it turns out that you are right, that they “lose the primary meaning of what happened to the blind men because they read the story in a translation with ‘And their eyes were opened,’” I will include within the body of my post on the subject on my blog a mea culpa to the effect that I completely over-estimated the ability of kids today to understand what I thought was an intelligible expression in context.

OK, John, but I suggest not testing with Scripture since Scripture has a special holy status. English speakers tend to try to get Scripture to make sense, regardless of how it is translated, because it is Scripture.

A more objective approach is to test the same expression, with a context, of course, using some non-biblical text or made-up scenario.

For instance:

“Students, I’ve got a paragragh here that I’d like you to help me with. You can help me revise it if that is necessary:

Bob was blind since he was born. His optic nerve was not properly attached to the back of his eye. Doctors told his parents there was nothing that could be done for him. But when Bob was thirty years old he read an article in a Braille journal about a new laser technique that was able to attach the optic nerve in some patients. He decided he would like to try to his eyesight. He went to the Mayo Clinic where the surgical team performed the surgery. The surgery took four hours. Then he eyes were bandaged. On the third day the lead surgeon removed the bandages from Bob’s eyes. He asked Bob, “Is anything different?” Bob waited for awhile and then said, “Yes, doctor. Do you have curly hair?” His surgeon said, “Yes, I do.” And Bob said, “Wow, you have opened my eyes.”

What did Bob say happened to him? What do you think he meant by that? What would you have said if you were Bob? Could you help me revise the last sentence if you think it could be worded better?

Notice that we don’t ask the students if they can understand what “opened my eyes” means? Those who field test find that such a yes/no question is not scientifically helpful. Instead, they have found it is more helpful to ask content questions that probe subjects’ understanding.

I hope this is helpful.

END QUOTE

This is how I replied:

Wayne,

I take it then that you realize that the expression in question is readily intelligible in its biblical context. That being so, I would argue for retaining it.

The “objective” test you offer is of interest to linguists, but not necessarily to Bible translators per se. It is true that readers of the Bible try harder than they otherwise might to understand the text before them. I say we should leverage that predisposition, not cast it aside.

Wayne Leman

But that just brings me back to the point about co-textual references. If DE translation inevitably sacrifices such references in the name of its theory of communication, I for one take that as one more strike against said theory of communication.

But you are misunderstanding translation approaches and what they do. DE doesn't make this sacrifice. Co-textuality can be maintained in DE translations as it can be in other kinds of translation. You are focused on this one example of translation of Matt. 9:30a and assuming, apparently, that it represents DE translation. It doesn't. Professional translation is much more complex. If there are additional layers of meaning that need to be included in a translation, and anyone who translates poetry or any other non-prose literature recognizes this fact, they need to be included somehow, some way, in a translation. Professional theories of translation simply require that we use the linguistic resource of the target language and not try to create new translation dialect of the language. There is nothing in DE or any other theory of translation that requires us to give up anything that you feel is part of the original meaning.

Translation is often difficult and complex. But it is possible, one way or another, to include all the original meaning that you want. There just isn't room in modern professional theories of translation for distorting the grammar of a translation language in the process. Instead, we need to use that grammar and find win-win solutions.

We've barely scratched the surface of possible solutions for the Matt. 9:30a issue. My blog post was by no means the last word. It was meant to deal *only* with referential meaning: What happened to the blind men? If that answer is not communicated accurately using the natural resources of English or any other language, we have not yet completed our translation process. Let's not critique caricatures of translation theories. Far too much of that goes on in discussions of Bible versions. But I know that you're a much better scholar and want something better than simplistic generalizations that are not true to reality.

John Hobbins

Wayne,

I don't agree with you that Mildred Larson's textbook is "basically atheoretical." More accurately, it represents the theory currently in vogue in SIL.

Perhaps what you mean is that it is a practical handbook. Fine, I'm interested in practical applications, but I have them in abundance already in currently available English translations. Unless you are suggesting that the handbook's approach do not reflect the practice of said translations, or at least a subset thereof.

I think Pym and Toury's theoretical work has profound practical consequences. However, the consequences may not go in the direction you are familiar with.

When I argue for metaphor to metaphor translation, and figure to figure translation, I am arguing for resistance to the tendency to dissolve metaphors and figures into abstract components and translate with abstract, propositional language.

For example, "liver" and "kidneys" are sometimes used in Hebrew as seats of emotion/mind, like "heart" elsewhere. So we translate by "heart," not by, let's say, "mental states." That's an easy example we can all agree on.

Beyond that, I am arguing that the figure to figure and metaphor to metaphor rule must be applied far more widely than has been the case in DE translations which, again, I thought reflected your translation philosophy in action.

John Hobbins

Wayne,

You say:

"You are misunderstanding translation approaches and what they do. DE doesn't make this sacrifice. Co-textuality can be maintained in DE translations as it can be in other kinds of translation."

I am convinced that I do understand what the DE translation approach tends to do: among other things, efface long-distance co-textual relationships with its focus on intelligibility at the sentence and paragraph level. As I've documented on many occasions, DE translations tend to botch things at a fine grain level such that they are inadequate for what lit crits call "a close reading" of the text, and they tend to botch things at the higher levels, insofar as they sever or obscure textual ties with the rest of the canon and with its history of reception.

Finally, insofar as I am a theologian (we are all theologians, in that we speak of God), DE translations tend to remove the ground out from under me by translating particular idioms in distinct ways depending on whether God or a human being is subject.

To be sure, all of these tendencies are at work in translations in general, not just DE translations. But the above tendencies are risks to which DE translations are particularly subject. Apparently, I have not proved these points in your eyes. Fine: I will continue to furnish examples down the road.

It is an interesting rhetorical move on your part to suggest that there is no room in "modern professional theories of translation" for the translation choices of versions like NRSV, NAB, (T)NIV, HCSB, and ESV insofar as they utilize the resources of the English language in sometimes innovative fashion in an attempt to capture or preserve components of meaning of the ancient text, co-textual references, and continuity with tradition of translation that has shaped the culture in enduring ways. I concur with you that a great deal of weirdo syntax could be removed from FE translations without no loss and only gain.

But your iron-clad resistance to using the resources of the English language in innovative ways not only strike this lover of poetry as a betrayal of language itself, but out of line with the kind of novelty one finds over and over again in specific translation traditions of high-prestige texts beyond the Bible, such as the Greek and Latin classics.

If Larson's approach is identical to your own, I would simply invite you to read more widely outside the SIL canon. Theorists like Anthony Pym, Lawrence Venuti, and Gideon Toury accommodate a far wider range of translation techniques than you do.

Toury's notion that translation of high-prestige texts needs to be understood as an example of cultural planning, as an effort to shape and reshape culture, is particularly illuminating.

Finally, I remain unconvinced by your assumption that *first* we must make sure we get first-order referential meaning right on a clause-by-clause basis, and then, if we have time and energy left over, we can bother with second-order referential accuracy.

I don't buy this in the least. First of all, as you know, meaning is not located at the word level or the clause level, but at the discourse level.

It is precisely irrelevant to point out that "And their eyes were opened" could not be construed to mean what it means, clearly enough, in NRSV Matthew 9:27-31, apart from that context or an equivalent context.

Secondly, when we read a text, we do not process it sequentially, in terms of first-order referential accuracy, followed by second-order referential accuracy, followed by third-order referential accuracy (which might be defined as the level of tie-ins with a broader cultural corpus).

As a linguist, you have trained yourself to read in what I would call a literalistic fashion. But competent readers, yourself included when you take off your professionally tinted glasses, process a text globally, all at once, on all levels simultaneously. Over and over again, I have clashed with you and especially Peter Kirk on these
matters.

Peter, too, likes to suggest that a translation like the one I offered of Psalm 1:1-2 in which I preserve key elements of the wording of the original by stretching the resources of the English language beyond the usual, results in an incomprehensible text. So far, however, I haven't had commenters who agree with the non-intelligibility claim unless they have been trained to think that way by the professional training they received previously.

There really is a long tradition of translating high-prestige texts like the Bible with specific attention to preserving fine-grain nuances, concordance over distance, and in terms of what Toury calls cultural planning. I have a variety of issues with the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV-RSV-ESV trajectory, as you surely know from previous posts in which I reach behind this tradition and try to translate the text afresh.

But I find plenty to criticize in alternative trajectories out there, NIV-TNIV, for example, GNB-CEV, and the NLB-NLT1-NLT2 trajectories.

Expect more of the same.

Mike Aubrey

Agreed, there are other alternatives to Nida (and by the way, you're better read on the subject than I am).

My point was merely that at the very least Nida did something that the NASB and ESV didn't do. They have a theory. Whether its correct or not is a different question.

I'll leave the rest of this discussion to the pros. which I am not.

Keith Williams

JohnFH,

I've completely stayed out of this discussion, but I would be remiss if I failed to alert you that I have been reading with great enjoyment. This sort of vigorous debate about Bible translation is always fun.

I know the NLT could never become your ideal English translation, but please know that I will pass on any specific improvements you suggest for the NLT (here or in private communication) to the Bible Translation Committee for review.

Sorry we didn't connect at all in Boston. Maybe next year.

John Hobbins

Mike,

Your point is exactly the one Lawrence Venuti made in the Nida Institute lecture. He credited Nida with being one of the founders of the discipline of translation theory, someone who had the gall to develop a hard-edged, unilateral hypothesis capable of moving the tectonic plates of previous theory, not to mention inspire translation after translation of the Bible from which countless millions of people have benefitted since.

Could he have also been fundamentally wrong, as Venuti also claims, and done all that?

Yes, indeed. Many of the best contributions to the common good are in essence courageous errors.

For the rest, I wouldn't be so meek and humble if I were you. Trust your instincts (they're very good, in my opinion) and go for it. Afterwards, once you've made a fool of yourself (follow my example if you wish), you will be in a position to be genuinely humble, and humbled.

John Hobbins

Keith,

I'm sorry too we didn't have a chance to schmooze in Boston. The group of Bible bloggers that got together on two separate occasions was a high-energy group. Most are also whip-smart and very good looking (with a couple of exceptions), so I found it hard not to fritter away the time with such august company.

I am hoping to go through the book of Ruth with a fine-toothed comb and offer translation suggestions, some of which might be of use to you for a future edition of NLT.

Sue

I would argue that the circle is drawn too small altogether. The text only exists as a translation style, inasmuch as it is used in a certain way by a certain community of readers.

If a community reads the text as law citing a verse or phrase as a legal precept, then the text ought to be translated as a legal text, translating target language structures with the same functions as those in the source language - in effect functional equivalents. This is what I think Wayne is suggesting, although I could be wrong here.

However, if the text is considered a cultural text, a text which functioned in a certain way in the source cultural, and we wish to appreciate the source culture, recognizing that it differs from our own, then by all means, use a cultural translation style, a more formal equivalent.

John Hobbins

Suzanne,

The legal analogy is an excellent one, but I don't think that legal texts, by and large, get updated in their language. The updating occurs at the level of interpretation. In some settings but not in others, the interpretation takes the form of supplemental law.

A great book is now available on this topic, by Jaroslav Pelikan, Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution (Yale Univ Press, 2004).

Precisely insofar as the Bible is understood as a source for legal prooftexts, it is no wonder that the Bible has been pulled in opposite directions on one set of ethical / legal issues after another. But the facts are rather clear.

The Bible is compatible with a huge though hardly unlimited variety of cultural, ethical, and legal frameworks. Cultures with slaves, and cultures without slaves. Patriarchal and less patriarchal cultures. Economies based on reciprocity and economies whose chief engine is a relatively unregulated market.

Christianity differs little from Judaism on this score, at least as Judaism is currently configured, with a Reformed wing, not just an Orthodox core.

If I remember correctly, you wish to see traditional and neo-traditional forms of Judaism and Christianity outlawed insofar as they do not subscribe to the principle of functional equality of the genders.

As I have explained elsewhere, I have deep reservations about your agenda.

Sue

If I remember correctly, you wish to see traditional and neo-traditional forms of Judaism and Christianity outlawed insofar as they do not subscribe to the principle of functional equality of the genders.

I have pointed out many times that you do not "remember correctly" and have spread so many counter factual notions about me that I can only assume this is your agenda.

The last time you used the expression "if I remember correctly" you said something rather unpleasant and completely untrue about my family of origin.

Here I was trying to make a non-polemical entry into a rather interesting discussion about something other than gender, but I think I will pass after all.

Sue

If I remember correctly, you wish to see traditional and neo-traditional forms of Judaism and Christianity outlawed insofar as they do not subscribe to the principle of functional equality of the genders.

What seems to be missing in your characterization of me is fact. I believe the "vow to obey" should be outlawed on the same basis as slavery. The vow to obey is not in the scripture and has been abandoned by the RC church among others.

So, in fact, my position is not in conflict with scripture or with the traditional churches of today.

I am proposing that the vow to obey, which can be and is used by some men to enslave their wives, be outlawed.

This is not an assault on the scripture nor on the Catholic or Orthodox churches. It may be an assault on your personal practice, but it was not intended as such since I had no idea that this was important to you.

Some men use the vow to obey as a weapon to enslave the wife and hold her hostage by emotional blackmail, saying that if she does not obey his every whim, she has broken her vows, and is therefore a ------.

This happens in real life, - when I say that I am against the vow of obedience, I note that the mainline "traditional" churches are also in line with this.

John Hobbins

Suzanne,

I do my level best to represent your views in a responsible manner. Often enough, you express yourself by means of sweeping generalizations. Sometimes you state baldly that anyone, which would include the traditional churches and traditional forms of Judaism, who does not countenance the functional equality of the genders oppresses women. But on other occasions, as in your last comment, you claim that "my position is not in conflict with . . . the traditional churches of today."

I assume you only wish to affirm the change in language from "love-obey" to reciprocal language. I'm happy with the change myself, but would note two things. By and large, the couples I have under my care who grew up with the love-obey framework and have adhered to it all their lives have done so in a responsible and non-oppressive manner. Many of those under my care who live out their marriage within an egal framework would love to have a marriage as full of love and respect as their parents had and still have. Clearly, egalitarianism brings with it risks that in many cases are not being adequately addressed.

Secondly, in prepping young couples for marriage, I notice that within the egal framework, it is not unusual for the wife to cede overall authority to her husband of her own volition.

Finally, it may not be clear to you that the headship of the husband continues to be taught in many Catholic and (I assume) Orthodox settings. Any change in wording in the wedding ceremony did not change, and was not meant to change, teaching on that subject. I have argued at length on other occasions that complementarianism by whatever name stands within what Scripture permits so long as it is practiced with sufficient attention to the teaching found in Rom 12, 1 Cor 13, and Phil 2.

Once again, if I remember correctly, you disagree.

John Hobbins

Anyone who wishes to carry on with discussion unrelated to an ongoing thread is invited to contact me by email.

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a community of bloggers

  • Abnormal Interests
    Intrepid forays into realia and texts of the Ancient Near East, by Duane Smith
  • After Existentialism, Light
    A thoughtful theology blog by Kevin Davis, an M. Div. student at University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • AKMA's Random Thoughts
    by A. K. M. Adam, Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Glasgow
  • alternate readings
    C. Stirling Bartholomew's place
  • Ancient Hebrew Grammar
    informed comment by Robert Holmstedt, Associate Professor, Ancient Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, and John Cook, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore KY)
  • Antiquitopia
    one of the best blogs out there, by Jared Calaway, assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Illinois Wesleyan University.
  • Anumma - Hebrew Bible and Higher Education
    by G. Brooke Lester, Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible, and Director for Emerging Pedagogies, at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston IL)
  • Awilum
    Insightful commentary on the Bible and the Ancient Near East, by Charles Halton
  • AWOL - The Ancient World Online
    notice and comment on open access material relating to the ancient world, by Charles Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
  • Balshanut
    top-notch Biblical Hebrew and Semitics blog by Peter Bekins, Ph. D. student, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati OH, faculty member, Wright State University (archive)
  • Believing is Knowing
    Comments on things like prophecy, predestination, and reward and punishment from an orthodox Jewish perspective, by David Guttmann
  • Ben Byerly's Blog
    thoughts on the Bible, Africa, Kenya, aid, and social justice, by Ben Byerly, a PhD candidate at Africa International University (AIU), in Nairobi, Kenya working on “The Hopes of Israel and the Ends of Acts” (Luke’s narrative defense of Paul to Diaspora Judeans in Acts 16-20)
  • Berit Olam
    by a thoughtful Matt Morgan, Berkeley CA resident, grad student in Old Testament at Regent University, Vancouver BC (archive)
  • Better Bibles Blog
    Discussion of translation problems and review of English Bible translations by Wayne Leman, Iver Larsen, Mike Sangrey, and others
  • Bibbia Blog
    A Bible blog in Italian and English by former students of the PIB and PUG
  • Bible Background research and commentary
    by Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
  • Bible Design & Binding
    J. Mark Bertrand's place
  • BiblePlaces Blog
    a spotlight on the historical geography of the Holy Land, by Todd Bolen, formerly, Assistant Professor at the Israel Bible Extension campus of The Master's College, Santa Clarita CA
  • Biblicalia
    The riches of orthodoxy brought online by Kevin Edgecomb, a seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline MA)
  • Biblische Ausbildung
    by Stephen L. Cook, professor of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible at Virginia Theological Seminary
  • C. Orthodoxy
    Christian, Contemporary, Conscientious… or Just Confused, by Ken Brown, a very thoughtful blog (archive). Ken is currently a Dr. Theol. student at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, part of The Sofja-Kovalevskaja Research Group studying early Jewish Monotheism. His dissertation will focus on the presentation of God in Job.
  • Catholic Bibles
    a thoughtful blog about Bible translations by Timothy, who has a degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum) and teaches theology in a Catholic high school in Michigan
  • Chrisendom
    irreverent blog with a focus on the New Testament, by Chris Tilling, New Testament Tutor for St Mellitus College and St Paul's Theological Centre, London
  • Claude Mariottini
    a perspective on the Old Testament and current events by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Chicagoland, Illinois
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot
    by Tyler Williams, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and cognate literature, now Assistant Professor of Theology at The King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta (archive)
  • Colours of Scripture
    reflections on theology, philosophy, and literature, by Benjamin Smith, afflicted with scriptural synaesthesia, and located in London, England
  • Complegalitarian
    A team blog that discusses right ways and wrong ways Scripture might help in the social construction of gender (old archive only; more recent archive, unfortunately, no longer publicly available)
  • Connected Christianity
    a place to explore what it might be like if Christians finally got the head, heart, and hands of their faith re-connected (archive)
  • Conversational Theology
    Smart and delightful comment by Ros Clarke, a Ph.D. student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, at the (virtual) Highland Theological College (archive)
  • Daily Hebrew
    For students of biblical Hebrew and the ancient Near East, by Chip Hardy, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago
  • Daniel O. McClellan
    a fine blog by the same, who is pursuing a master of arts degree in biblical studies at Trinity Western University just outside of Vancouver, BC.
  • Davar Akher
    Looking for alternative explanations: comments on things Jewish and beyond, by Simon Holloway, a PhD student in Classical Hebrew and Biblical Studies at The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Deinde
    News and Discussion by Danny Zacharias
  • Discipulus scripturae
    Nathan Stitt's place
  • Dr. Claude Mariottini
    balanced comment by a professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary, Lombard IL
  • Dr. Platypus
    insightful comment by Darrell Pursiful, editor at Smyth & Helwys Publishing, on the New Testament faculty of Mercer University
  • Dust
    A diary of Bob MacDonald's journey through the Psalms and other holy places in the Hebrew Bible
  • Eclexia
    The heart and mind of this Bible and theology blogger sing in unison
  • Eat, Drink, and be Merry
    The journey of a grad student with a love for ancient languages at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (archive)
  • Elizaphanian
    Rev Sam tussles with God, and limps away
  • Emerging from Babel
    Stephen investigates the potential of narrative and rhetorical criticism as a tool for expounding scripture
  • Evangelical Textual Criticism
    A group blog on NT and OT text-critical matters
  • Evedyahu
    excellent comment by Cristian Rata, Lecturer in Old Testament of Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, Seoul, Korea
  • Exegetica Digita
    discussion of Logos high-end syntax and discourse tools – running searches, providing the downloads (search files) and talking about what can be done and why it might matter for exegesis, by Mike Heiser
  • Exegetisk Teologi
    careful exegetical comment by Stefan Green (in Swedish)
  • Exploring Our Matrix
    Insightful reflections by James McGrath, ass't. professor of religion, Butler University
  • Faith Matters
    Mark Alter's place
  • Ferrell's Travel Blog
    comments of biblical studies, archaeology, history, and photography by a tour guide of Bible lands and professor emeritus of the Biblical Studies department at Florida College, Temple Terrace (FL)
  • Fors Clavigera
    James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, thinks out loud.
  • Friar's Fires
    an insightful blog by a pastor with a background in journalism, one of three he pens
  • Gentle Wisdom
    A fearless take on issues roiling Christendom today, by Peter Kirk, a Bible translator
  • Giluy Milta B‘alma
    by Ezra Chwat and Avraham David of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, Jerusalem
  • He is Sufficient
    insightful comment on Bible translations, eschatology, and more, by Elshaddai Edwards
  • Higgaion
    by Chris Heard, Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University
  • Idle Musings of a Bookseller
    by James Spinti of Eisenbrauns
  • if i were a bell, i'd ring
    Tim Ricchiuiti’s place
  • Imaginary Grace
    Smooth, witty commentary by Angela Erisman (archive). Angela Erisman is a member of the theology faculty at Xavier University
  • James' Thoughts and Musings
    by James Pate, a doctoral student at HUC-JIR Cincinnati
  • Jewish Philosophy Place
    by Zachary (Zak) Braiterman, who teaches modern Jewish thought and philosophy in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University
  • kata ta biblia
    by Patrick George McCollough, M. Div. student, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA
  • Ketuvim
    Learned reflection from the keyboard of Jim Getz
  • Kilbabo
    Ben Johnson’s insightful blog
  • Kruse Kronicle - contemplating the intersection of work, the global economy, and Christian mission
    top quality content brought to readers by Michael W. Kruse
  • Larry Hurtado's blog
    emeritus professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, University of Edinburgh
  • Law, Prophets, and Writings
    thoughtful blogging by William R. (Rusty) Osborne, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies as College of the Ozarks and managing editor for Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament
  • Lingamish
    delightful fare by David Ker, Bible translator, who also lingalilngas.
  • Looney Fundamentalist
    a scientist who loves off-putting labels
  • Menachem Mendel
    A feisty blog on rabbinic literature and other Judaica by Michael Pitkowsky, Rabbinics Curriculum Coordinator at the Academy for Jewish Religion and adjunct instructor at Jewish Theological Seminary (New York)
  • mu-pàd-da
    scholarly blog by C. Jay Crisostomo, grad student in ANE studies at ?
  • Narrative and Ontology
    Astoundingly thoughtful comment from Phil Sumpter, a Ph.D. student in Bible, resident in Bonn, Germany
  • New Epistles
    by Kevin Sam, M. Div. student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon SK
  • NT Weblog
    Mark Goodacre's blog, professor of New Testament, Duke University
  • Observatório Bíblico
    wide-ranging blog by Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica/Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, Brasile (in Portuguese)
  • Observatório Bíblico
    Blog sobre estudos acadêmicos da Bíblia, para Airton José da Silva, Professor de Bíblia Hebraica / Antigo Testamento na Faculdade de Teologia do CEARP de Ribeirão Preto, SP.
  • Occasional Publications
    excellent blogging by Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs' scholar extraordinaire
  • old testament passion
    Great stuff from Anthony Loke, a Methodist pastor and Old Testament lecturer in the Seminari Theoloji, Malaysia
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog
    A weblog created for a course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, by James Davila (archive)
  • On the Main Line
    Mississippi Fred MacDowell's musings on Hebraica and Judaica. With a name like that you can't go wrong.
  • p.ost an evangelical theology for the age to come
    seeking to retell the biblical story in the difficult transition from the centre to the margins following the collapse of Western Christendom, by Andrew Perriman, independent New Testament scholar, currently located in Dubai
  • PaleoJudaica
    by James Davila, professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. Judaism and the Bible in the news; tidbits about ancient Judaism and its context
  • Pastoral Epistles
    by Rick Brannan and friends, a conceptually unique Bible blog
  • Pen and Parchment
    Michael Patton and company don't just think outside the box. They are tearing down its walls.
  • Pisteuomen
    by Michael Halcomb, pastor-scholar from the Bluegrass State
  • Pseudo-Polymath
    by Mark Olson, an Orthodox view on things
  • Purging my soul . . . one blog at a time
    great theoblog by Sam Nunnally
  • Qumranica
    weblog for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, taught by James R. Davila (archive)
  • Ralph the Sacred River
    by Edward Cook, a superb Aramaist
  • Random Bloggings
    by Calvin Park, M. Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton MA
  • Resident aliens
    reflections of one not at home in this world
  • Revelation is Real
    Strong-minded comment from Tony Siew, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore
  • Ricoblog
    by Rick Brannan, it's the baby pictures I like the most
  • Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
    Nick Norelli's fabulous blog on Bible and theology
  • SansBlogue
    by Tim Bulkeley, lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College (New Zealand). His Hypertext Commentary on Amos is an interesting experiment
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages
    texts and files to help people learn some ancient languages in self study, by Mike Heiser
  • Midrash, etc.
    A fine Hebrew-to-English blog on Midrash, by Carl Kinbar, Director of the New School for Jewish Studies and a facultm member at MJTI School of Jewish Studies.
  • Phil Lembo what I'm thinking
    a recovering lawyer, now in IT, with a passion for a faith worth living
  • Roses and Razorwire
    a top-notch Levantine archaeology blog, by Owen Chesnut, a doctoral student at Andrews University (MI)
  • Scripture & Theology
    a communal weblog dedicated to the intersection of biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine, by Daniel Driver, Phil Sumpter, and others
  • Scripture Zealot
    by Jeff Contrast
  • Serving the Word
    incisive comment on the Hebrew Bible and related ancient matters, with special attention to problems of philology and linguistic anthropology, by Seth L. Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Religion Department of Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Singing in the Reign
    NT blog by Michael Barber (JP University) and Brad Pitre (Our Lady Holy Cross)
  • Stay Curious
    excellent comment on Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language topics, by Karyn Traphagen, graduate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia PA (archive)
  • Sufficiency
    A personal take on the faith delivered to the saints, by Bob MacDonald, whose parallel blog on the Psalms in Hebrew is a colorful and innovative experiment
  • The Sundry Times
    Gary Zimmerli's place, with comment on Bible translations and church renewal
  • Sunestauromai: living the crucified life
    by a scholar-pastor based in the Grand Canyon National Park
  • ta biblia
    blog dedicated to the New Testament and the history of Christian origins, by Giovanni Bazzana
  • Targuman
    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.