The Bible of Lausanne

I had a long chat this afternoon with my sister who is just back from Geneva. In between paragliding and hiking she slipped in a visit to the Museum of the Reformation in Geneva which opened in April 2005. One of the exhibits was about Louis Gaussen, the Swiss pastor, who, in 1840, so clearly articulated the Doctrine of Théopneustie, the doctrine that scripture is God-breathed.

Reading up on Gaussen I came upon an exemplary site on all the French translations of the Bible – La-Bible.net with an article on the history of Bible translation in French. Finally I am able to catch up a bit on the translations of the reformation in Suisse-Romande.

So here is Gaussen’s core teaching on the inspiration,

    Gaussen’s defense of the full and detailed inspiration of Scripture by God is one of the principal works on this subject by any Christian theologian. He advocates what has come to be called the “organic” view of inspiration, a word that unfortunately conveys little information to the reader’s mind. His view, based firmly and completely on Scripture itself, is that God not only controlled which words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs were to be set down as Scripture, but also controlled all human history so that at the exact time chosen, the author of those words would be properly prepared and available to write the words that God dictated to him. The result is an exact statement of God’s thoughts in human language, language perfectly adequate to express divine thoughts.

Reading up on Gaussen I came upon an exemplary site on all the French translations of the Bible – La-Bible.net with an article on the history of Bible translation in French. Finally I am able to catch up a bit on the translations of the reformation in Suisse-Romande. Here is a description of Gaussen’s Bible,

La Bible de Lausanne

    Motivated by the conviction that the Scriptures communicate the very mind of God, a group of Piétistes Protestants set to work under the direction of Louis Gaussen then Louis Burnier. The translation principle is that of a concordance (cohérence) pushed to the extreme: each time that it can, the same Greek word is rendered by the same French word. Certain not very comprehensible passages, are not artificially illumined by a translation which would aim at glossing over the difficulties of the original text. Certain words, come into the language from through Latin, are avoided: one does not speak any more a “Evangel” but of “good news”, of “Church” but of “assembly”, of “apostle” but of “envoy”. The vocabulary grows rich thus by several hundreds of new words. The team itself corrects certain passages where literalism had been pushed too far. The New Testament appears initially in 1839, then the Psalms in 1854 and the remainder of the Old Testment between 1861 and 1872. This Bible of Lausanne knew a very broad audience among the specialists. It deeply influenced the work of Louis Ségond.

What is fascinating is that while this work did not have a wide readership itself, it provided a foundation for a later Bible, the Louis Ségond Bible, which became a classic version. This Bible of Lausanne was not a revision, but a scholarly concordant Bible, not really fit for wide use but nevertheless a effort which contributed to later representation of the scriptures in French.

Let’s not forget that while translations have connections over time, there is also tremendous crossover between languages. Think of the connections between Luther and Tyndale, or Gaussen, Darby and Eberfelder, Bible translation stew. The Good News Bible that had so many international connections and many more.

4 Comments

  1. Damian
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    There’s something truly odd about that passage concerning La Bible de Lausanne:
    “Certains mots usés par leur passage à travers le latin sont évités: on ne parle plus d’« Évangile » mais de « bonne nouvelle », d’« Église » mais d’« assemblée », d’« apôtre » mais d’« envoyé ».”

    All three of these words derive from Greek not from Latin. A simple mix-up??? They’ve definitely been “latinized”, but it’s still a strange way to put it.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Yes, I noticed that but I don’t have an answer except that it does say in French “a travers le latin” – that is through Latin, these words have come into French “through Latin” and I have mistranslated it. I was not sure what the author meant at that point. If the words had come from Greek but not “through” Latin, would that make them okay. A true puzzle. It may come from some other statement that possibly the author of this precis misunderstood.

  3. Glennsp
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    On that basis the parts of scripture you object to so strongly regarding the leadership of His Church shouldn’t be set aside by you. (or anyone else for that matter) They were put there by Gods design and intent.

  4. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Glenn,

    I do not object to scripture, I object to the interpretation of scripture which leads others to mistranslate it. But certain interpretations have indeed been set aside.

    Have we not set aside the necessity for a man to work the soil, may he not earn a living in some other manner? May he not be supported by others if in real need? May a slave not leave a master, and may a citizen not leave a police state?

    May the United States of America not claim legitimacy even though they rebelled against the monarch God gave them? Do we hold others to the ancient submissions, man to the soil, slave to master, subject to sovereign, colony to empire?

    But woman, given to man as “ezer” an equal ally and companion, so that a human might experience communion – woman is subordinated and held to a pervasive and perpetual submission.


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