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Mike Gantt

Hooray for formal equivalence. It gives those of us who don't know the original languages, but do know how to use a tool like Strong's, at least a half a glimpse of what we otherwise simply have to rely on someone else's description of.

Nathan Smith

I would recommend taking a look at Karen Jobes' examination of "Bible Translation as Bilingual Quotation." [1] (bilingual translation is the "live" translation of speech as done at the UN). She cites a study which found that mistakes were more frequent when translators were trying to be too formal in their translations. This is not the exact same as Bible translation (which doesn't have to be done on-the-fly), but it is worthy of thought.

I have wondered for a while why Bible translation is (almost) always done by committee, while such an approach is used in no other literature of which I am aware.

[1] http://zondervan.typepad.com/zondervan/2008/02/zondervan-is-pl.html

TheraP

Hello, John! As usual my thoughts go in more than one direction.

Regarding tradition and the communion of saints, here is a wonderful lecture that might interest you (and your readers), posted by Bosco Peters (who has a passion for good liturgy) at his blog:

http://liturgy.co.nz/the-shocking-truth-about-christian-orthodoxy/9326

Next, I'd like to underscore something about "other languages" - which is that they "teach you" new ways of thinking, concepts unavailable in English because we simply have no words for them. And perhaps, in part, that is what you are getting at when you discuss translation, the need to consult different translations, and the benefit of a study bible - as well as how wonderful it might be to read the bible in the original languages.

Just for an example of that, my husband (a native Spanish speaker) recently told me that "to give birth" in Spanish is "dar luz" - which means to "give light." This is a concept we simply do not have in English, even though, once you hear it, it makes sense - but "in a new way". Now that was astounding to me, because instantly I thought of John's Gospel. And the conversation with Nicodemus. The need to be "born again". And together with that the Prologue to John, Jesus as "the true light coming into the world" (this quote from the NAB). And, ok... I know I tend to experience things in deep and powerful ways, but to me all this carries a sense of the world itself being "reborn" with the "coming into the world" of Jesus. Truly, you get the "sense" of a "new creation". And all because I have a new sense of what it means (in Spanish anyway) to "give birth" or "be born".

Now, you know the Greek, which I don't. So I can't comment on how this might fit together in Greek. But I simply write this as an example of how another language opens doors, vistas, which our own language may not be able to (easily) open for us. Jesus, the Word, wants to open doors, to open eyes. And scripture holds the same potential. And that is so clear in the lecture I noted above. (well, to me anyway)

And in one of your links, you mention the "reader" in a liturgical celebration. Yes, how important is the reader! How few people have such a gift. But also how little is this skill appreciated or taught - for it can be learned! It's the basis of good acting. It's the basis of good teaching. And, I might add, to good therapy. For the ability to pause, to emphasize, to word carefully, to have one's body language in sync with the words ... is part of getting something across to another.

Your posts are wonderful catalysts! (We get a sense of your teaching and preaching... maybe we even envy those who benefit from them in person!)

John Hobbins

Hi Nathan,

Karen Jobes is an excellent scholar, but I don't think it is helpful to draw an analogy between simultaneous translation and literary translation - the translation of the Bible is a subcategory of the latter.

In literary translation there is an attention to detail that can only produce decent results given a tremendous investment in terms of knowledge, time, and gifts. If you are translating the Bible, Marx, or a classic like Shakespeare, an attention to detail at the level of diction and fine nuance is expected. This is content that is understood to be in need of slow and deliberate reading (even if such was not the intention of the original author, who may have tossed off a letter or an essay with great haste).

There is of course more than one school of literary translation. I am arguing that it is better to err on the side of the "Puritans," whereas you may prefer to err on the side of the "Cavaliers." For the distinction, go here:

http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1550/article_detail.asp

For further discussion:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2011/06/the-difference-between-faithful-and-unfaithful-translation-of-biblical-literature.html

Better yet, of course: read the Bible, Marx, Homer, and Dante in the original languages.

John Hobbins

Hi Mike,

I'll be honest and say that little to no Greek and Hebrew combined with Strong's Concordance is a dangerous thing. Sure, you are going to see patterns that you will otherwise miss. But it will be very easy to draw the wrong conclusions based on insufficient foundations.

I am big believer in the concept behind Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule. Gladwell claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Applied to the case of the knowledge of the fine detail of biblical literature, I would add that those 10,000 hours need to be spent with the text in the original languages.

We expect that doctors and engineers and lawyers clock those kind of hours in their respective disciplines. We expect that of athletes and entertainers.

It's about time that we expect the same from those who claim to be biblical scholars, and from at least a subset of those teaching on the front lines (pastors, priests, rabbis).

Mike Gantt

John, thanks for your candor.

I concede your point about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. I'd only add that it needs to be balanced against the need for laymen to cope with a professional class who split ranks on important issues with considerable frequency.

John Hobbins

Point taken. Those in the best position to grasp the plain sense meaning of a text nonetheless often disagree about that sense is. Even a little knowledge can sometimes be useful in weeding out eccentric views among the literati.

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