A couple of days ago I was out walking our dog, Pixie, when I ran into a neighbor and long time friend, Russ, who was out on a walk. Russ and I have known each other for more than 20 years. We met when I first started going to Berkeley Covenant shortly after moving to California. At the time he lived with his family in Oakland. Now we live about a mile apart in Castro Valley. We have a long and intimate history. Our children have been friends pretty much their whole lives. Russ lived with us for some months while his wife and kids were in North Carolina. She went back to school and to their great surprise (and consternation) he couldn’t arrange for a job transfer. Now Russ and his wife go to another church where they have an active and productive ministry that would never have been possible at Berkeley Cov.
While we walked together, Russ asked me about The Source by the Australian Greek scholar, Ann Nyland. There were a series of posts about it here on BBB in the summer of 2005 (here, here, here, and here). An elder in Russ’ church really likes it. In our discussion I was hard on it. But trying to articulate why was more difficult than I expected. And that led me to start thinking about translations in a way I hadn’t before.
If you’ve been watching any TV in the US recently, you’ve seen the commercials of dueling cell phone providers — Verizon claiming the most 3G coverage, AT&T claiming broader broadband 3G, and Sprint talking about its 4G technology. And it occurred to me that what I want is a 4G English translation. (For those who aren’t familiar with the lingo, that’s fourth generation.)
The first generation translations started with Tyndale translating from Greek (rather than Latin) and went through the KJV. They are based on a Greek text that precedes textual criticism.
It’s not well known that the KJV is deeply influenced by Tyndale’s translation, as can be seen from wordings which differ significantly from the Greek but are the same in Tyndale and the AV. For example, in Luke 2, which we have been discussing, there are a number of clear points.
Wycliffe: 7And sche bare hir first borun sone, and wlappide hym in clothis, and leide hym in a cratche, for ther was no place to hym in no chaumbir.
Tyndale: 7And she brought forth her fyrst begotten sonne and wrapped him in swadlynge cloothes and layed him in a manger because ther was no roume for them within in the ynne.
AV: 7And she brought foorth her first borne sonne, and wrapped him in swadling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no roome for them in the Inne.
TR: 7και ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εσπαργανωσεν αυτον και ανεκλινεν αυτον εν τη φατνη διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι
Wycliffe: 9And lo! the aungel of the Lord stood bisidis hem, and the cleernesse of God schinede aboute hem; and thei dredden with greet drede.
Tyndale: 9And loo: the angell of ye lorde stode harde by the and the brightnes of ye lorde shone rounde aboute them and they were soare afrayed.
AV: 9And loe, the Angel of the Lord came vpon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.
TR: 9και ιδου αγγελος κυριου επεστη αυτοις και δοξα κυριου περιελαμψεν αυτους και εφοβηθησαν φοβον μεγαν
The second generation translations are those that benefited from the 19th century scholarship that brought us textual criticism, the Neogrammarians, and the early lexicographic work on classical Greek, i.e., the Revised Versions, the English Revised Version and the American Standard Version. And since the ESV is based on the RSV, it, too, is only a 2G translation.
Third generation translations are based on two kinds of scholarly advances. First, the discovery of large numbers of Roman era papyri completely revised our view of the nature of the language of the NT. The 20th century editions of Greek lexicons benefited greatly — Liddell and Scott, and, specifically for Koine, Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen Urchristlichen Literatur, the fourth edition (1952) of which was translated into English by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich and first appeared in 1957. Second, mid-20th century developments in linguistics and translation theory were applied to Bible translation (mostly influenced by Eugene Nida), including the much misunderstood notion of dynamic equivalence. Third generation translations include the TEV/GNB family and the NIV translations — and The Source.
There are other translations and paraphrases that use this generation of scholarship: the Amplified Bible, The Message, and the Cotton Patch Bible.
But what I’m looking for is a 4G translation.
The 4G translation would fully incorporate the late 20th century developments in linguistics, particularly:
semantics, especially embodied metaphor theory and frame semantics,
pragmatics, information structure, speech act theory, and conversational implicature, including further developments of Grice’s maxim of relevance into relevance theory. (There have been earlier posts on relevance theory here and here. I mentioned places where you can learn about speech act theory and conversational implicature here.)
Here are two examples that I’ve talked about at some length before.
Getting the framing right: 2 Ti. 4:2 (discussed here)
2κήρυξον τὸν λόγον, ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, ἔλεγξον, ἐπιτίμησον, παρακάλεσον, ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ.
[I command you] 2to preach God’s message. Do it willingly, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. You must correct people and point out their sins. But also cheer them up, and when you instruct them, always be patient. (CEV)
2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (NIV)
A 4G translation with correct framing of ἐλέγχω (LSJ ‘to disgrace, put to shame’; BADG ‘expose; convince; reprove, correct; punish’; correctly framed meaning: ‘show [someone] their faults’) and ἐπιτιμάω (LSJ ‘rebuke, censure, of persons’, BADG ‘rebuke, reprove, censure’; correctly framed meaning: ‘tell [someone] to stop [doing what they are doing]’):
Preach the Word; make it a priority, no matter how inconvenient. Teach people what they are doing wrong and tell them to stop. Encourage them, doing it all with the utmost patience and care.
Get the information structure right: John 9:8-9 (discussed here)
8 οἱ οὖν γείτονες καὶ οἱ θεωροῦντες αὐτὸν τὸ πρότερον ὅτι προσαίτης ἦν ἔλεγον οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ καθήμενος καὶ προσαιτῶν 9 ἄλλοι ἔλεγον ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἄλλοι ἔλεγον οὐχί ἀλλὰ ὅμοιος αὐτῷ ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγεν ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι
To contextualize this verse (to meet Mike’s concerns about not atomizing Scripture), here is the larger context in a 3G translation:
1As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. 2Jesus’ disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?”
3“No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. “But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him. 4As long as it is day, we must do what the one who sent me wants me to do. When night comes, no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”
6After Jesus said this, he spit on the ground. He made some mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes. 7Then he said, “Go and wash off the mud in Siloam Pool.” The man went and washed in Siloam, which means “One Who Is Sent.” When he had washed off the mud, he could see.
8The man’s neighbors and the people who had seen him begging wondered if he really could be the same man. 9Some of them said he was the same beggar, while others said he only looked like him. But he told them, “I am that man.”
10“Then how can you see?” they asked.
11He answered, “Someone named Jesus made some mud and smeared it on my eyes. He told me to go and wash it off in Siloam Pool. When I did, I could see.”
12“Where is he now?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. (CEV)
Here’s another 3G translation:
8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” (NIV)
Here’s a 4G translation. (Note the use of italics to mark the stress in the final sentence.)
8His neighbors and those who had previously seen him begging asked, “Isn’t that the same man who used to sit and beg?”
9Some said it was. Others said, “No, it only looks like him.”
But he insisted, “It is me.”
Ironically, this passage in 4G translation is no less — and possibly even more — literal than the ESV version. (Note, in particular, the last clause.)
8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” (ESV)