I want a 4G translation

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

and notably

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,

and

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.

3G translations

[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)

17 Comments

  1. Posted January 2, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    This is why I like you, Rich.

  2. Posted January 2, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Great metaphor. And thanks for illustrating framing and giving references to previous posts.

  3. Posted January 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    An excellent post, Rich! I would, however, like an explanation as to why didache would be translated “care.” I could see the word used in the sense of professionalism, but that last word there might need rethinking. “The utmost patience and ____” is great, though.

    I hope to partake someday as a fourth-generation translator!

  4. Posted January 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Very nice. None of the translation techniques currently on tap are flexible enough to handle so-called simple dialogue. It’s no different from the Hebrew. It would be fun to exemplify.

  5. Rich Rhodes
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Gary, you’ve got a point. I was perplexed by the fact that patience and teaching don’t seem to make sense as conjuncts, so I was trying to rationalize it. But now that I look at it again, I think this probably hendiadys. (It’s also a little odd to use πᾶς to modify μακροθυμία.) So maybe that last phrase should be “doing it all with patient teaching”. Needs further research. I don’t know if there are other cases of hendiadys in the NT or LXX.

  6. Rich Rhodes
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    John, do you know anything about conversational analysis? I only know enough to teach that section in a basic undergrad course in discourse analysis, but there is a huge literature. A lot of it falls in the space between anthropology and linguistics. It’s generally taught as anthropology — and there is no small amount of psychology mixed in. (There is a now famous conversational analyst with a Berkeley PhD in anthropology, who, in her graduate student days in the 1970’s, avoided being mugged by manipulating the assailant conversationally. The story is still told as an example of how much we know about conversational analysis.)

    This is to say, the underpinnings are all there even though it hasn’t made it yet into the Bible translation literature.

  7. Posted January 3, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Rich,

    I know a bit about conversational analysis from reading I’ve done in cognitive linguistics. Not too long ago, I did a post or two on adjacency pairs, a typical trope of conversation. There are many in the Hebrew Bible that are not picked up in most or any translations. I give a few examples.

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/09/translation-issues-in-numbers-222830.html

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/09/ruth-1810-another-adjacency-pair.html

  8. Posted January 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    http://www.AV7.org/compare

  9. Posted January 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Rich, if I’m not mistaken, the only occurrence of the strengthened hapas in the pastorals also modifies makrothumia: 1 Timothy 1:16.

  10. Rich Rhodes
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Gary,
    I notice some translations say “with utmost patience” for that verse. But I’m more concerned with hendiadys. I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone talk about it in the Bible, but the more I think about it, the more ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ looks like a garden variety case. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can just whip out a concordance and find since the crucial piece is καί.

  11. Mike Sangrey
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Hendiadys makes sense to me; but, I’m saying so from intuition, not data. It seems to me that PASHi can carry the definiteness load usually lifted by an article in a hendiadys type of phrase. I’ve also suspected a preposition alone is capable of carrying that load. In any case, I haven’t laid out the data. So, I don’t know.

    Also, if it’s hendiadys, the translation would be more along the lines of “…with a lot of patient teaching.” It wouldn’t be “doing it all…” ‘All’ in that case, doesn’t modify the nouns, and PASHi modifies the two conjunct nouns.

    Lastly, the Granville-Sharp rule relates to hendiadys in the NT.

  12. Iver Larsen
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Rich wrote:

    Getting the framing right: 2 Ti. 4:2:

    κήρυξον τὸν λόγον, ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, ἔλεγξον, ἐπιτίμησον, παρακάλεσον, ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ.

    3G translations

    [I command you] 2 to 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)

    Preach 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.
    ——————
    My comments:

    I am not sure I fully understand what framing is, but I am wondering whether these various actions are not directed to different groups of people, and this is indicated by the words used and the usual collocation of those words.

    The first part: κήρυξον τὸν λόγον is directed to non-Christians. It is often connected to Christ as in Proclaim Christ or the gospel as in Proclaim the Gospel.

    The second part qualifies the first part:
    ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, Stand up (to proclaim the gospel) whether it seems (to you) convenient or not.

    The third part is ἔλεγξον, ἐπιτίμησον,
    Here I think the intended audience is false teachers. I enjoyed your explanation of the meaning of these words in Koine Greek. The first verb means to expose wrongdoings and the second refers to telling those people with the wrong teaching to stop it.

    The fourth part is παρακάλεσον ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ
    Appeal to them with a lot of patience and teaching.
    Although παρακάλεσον can mean to comfort or encourage if that is what is needed, it normally means to appeal to somebody to do something or change behaviour. Here I think the intended audience is the church members in general. Paul appeals to Timothy to tell the congregation (or individuals) to serve the Lord diligently and with the right understanding and to that end they need teaching.
    The Greek PAS in the Bible often does not mean “all” but “much, a lot”.

    Iver Larsen

  13. Rich Rhodes
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Iver,
    Maybe I should post about framing again. I trotted out my favorite example about what Elizabeth I did to Mary, Queen of Scots, here, but maybe it would be better just to go to the source. A brief, but accurate, overview is available on Wikipedia here and an overview of the detailed parts is found here.

    As for the use of πᾶς you’re right, but it didn’t occur to me until later in the post that the use of πᾶς here was one of those lexical functions of Juri Apresian and Igo Mel’chuk. (No nice place on the web that explains their approach simply.)

    The core idea is that collocations like deep sleep and strong taste have a common semantic piece, approximately A LOT OF (x), and this semantic piece can be looked at like a mathematical function. On argument for the existence of such functions is that if they have opposites, the opposites are sometimes quite unpredictable lexically: weak taste, but light sleep.

    There are about 50 such functions, some operate on verbs, some on nouns, some on modifiers, and they correspond to notions that are available to be lexicalized as derivational morphology cross-linguistically. So weak taste is like a diminutive and deep sleep is like an augmentative. The theory is more complex than this description suggests, because sometimes the function + argument is lexicalized as a single word A LOT OF (money) = “wads of money”, but LITTLE (money) = “broke”. And often the syntax is more restricted than one would predict. So ?light sleep is a tad odd. You say: He sleeps deeply. or He’s a deep sleeper. but not *He sleeps lightly., only He’s a light sleeper.. Finally the functions are not unique. So A LOT OF (sleep) can be either deep sleep or sound sleep. To the best of my knowledge all the details were never satisfactorily worked out. Mel’chuk spent years working on just the collocations of espoir in his French dictionary.

    All that’s important for us is to recognize the patterns of collocation that can be treated in this abstract semantic way — which at long last brings me to the point. πᾶσα μακροθυμία is one of these collocations. πᾶς is a lexical function on μακροθυμία, meaning A LOT OF (μακροθυμία), so in English an appropriate collocation for A LOT OF (patience) is “utmost patience”.

    Of course utmost can’t be used adverbially, so if ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ is hendiadys, as I’m now convinced it is, the way to say it in English, including the lexical functional use of πᾶς is: with very patient teaching. (And I still have to work out what the difference is between διδαχή and διδασκαλία.)

  14. iverlarsen
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Rich wrote among other things:

    Of course utmost can’t be used adverbially, so if ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ is hendiadys, as I’m now convinced it is, the way to say it in English, including the lexical functional use of πᾶς is: with very patient teaching. (And I still have to work out what the difference is between διδαχή and διδασκαλία.)
    ———-

    My English is rather low level, so I tend to use “a lot” a lot more than “utmost”. I am not convinced that we have a hendiadys here, but it is hard to know. If there is any difference between διδαχή and διδασκαλία in the NT I suspect that the first has focus on the activity of teaching and how that event is being perceived, while the second is more general and usually has focus on the content. However, I am not sure that all authors maintain such a distinction. John uses only the first word.
    So, Paul tells Timothy to do a lot of teaching activity, but also to have a lot of patience, whether he is teaching or admonishing people. I suppose it depends on how you understand the concept of teaching. I admit that I take this in a much more narrow sense than preaching.
    Iver

  15. Posted January 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I’d just like to say how thankful I am for this blog, and for this particular conversation. At the moment, I can’t decide if I want to pursue being a translator, or instead go with textual criticism. But I find this very instructive and exciting. And I’m thankful for Iver’s contributions here, too!

    Moving on… ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως: “Continue in good times and bad.” What sort of translation would this be? I realize that εὐκαίρως and ἀκαίρως refer to opportunity (in my limited experience), but could this smooth English phrase render the idea well? Generally “good times and bad” brings to mind, for me at least, economic situations. The other factors of “good times” and “bad times” don’t come to mind so quickly with this expression, whereas I am confident that here the Greek expression certainly refers to more than just the economy.

    I think Paul’s point is to get Timothy to do the action, to continue in it, and that is the pragmatic reason for telling him to “stand up” in good times and bad. What are some thoughts on translating ἐπίστηθι as “continue?”

  16. iver larsen
    Posted January 9, 2010 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Hi, Gary,
    Did I forget to mention that translator training includes textual criticism? You can be a textual critic without being a translator, but you cannot be a fully trained translator without also being a textual critic to some degree. So you’d better become a translator!
    In my view, too many translators adopt the NA27 Greek text too easily without considering alternatives. In a number of cases I believe the editors made a wrong decision. (I some cases I honestly don’t know which decision is best.) Recently I checked out Wieland Willken’s TC site at http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/index.html and I was happily surprised that he wants the NA text to be changed at Luke 2:2. On the other hand, some people want to follow the Byzantine text religiously without considering alternatives. There are a number of places where I think this text is probably original, but other places where it really cannot be.
    Considering ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως I was surprised to see that Louw and Nida suggests “continue” for 2 Tim 4:2 (and nowhere else). I don’t think this is within the semantic range of ἐφίστημι and it is not included in BAGD which for this verse suggests “stand by=be ready, be on hand.” The word may indicate “join us” or “come forth” or “come to a point where others already are.” (Check a concordance for the word.) I think Paul’s admonition should be seen in the light of 2 Tim 1:6-7. Timothy apparently felt intimidated, partly because of his relative youth in a culture where elders ruled, and Paul says that he was not given a “spirit of timiditiy”.
    Nor do I think that εὐκαίρως is related to economics. The word is only used one other time in the NT, namely in Mark 14:11 where Judas was waiting and looking for just the right time to make his move. A timid evangelist is likely to NOT come forth and preach the gospel unless he or she thinks everything has fallen into place and NOW is the right time. Yes, preach when it seems that everything is prepared for sharing the Good News, but also do it when you think the environment is hostile and unresponsive. Maybe Paul was thinking of his own situation when Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus. No Christian would have dared to preach to him because of his hostility, but he needed it so much more at that time which did not seem the right time from a human perspective.
    Iver

  17. Posted January 9, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Iver, I’m sure you’re right that the NA27 editors have made some mistakes. But I don’t agree that because of that ordinary translators in the field should be encouraged to second guess the international experts and make arbitrary corrections. Even if they do have some training in textual criticism they can hardly be expected to know better than Aland, Aland, Meztger et al. Yes, it is good for a translator to understand the textual issues, and to be prepared to depart from NA27 on the basis of good evidence provided by established experts. But I hope you are not suggesting that each translator should be encouraged to make their own textual decisions for a translation following an introductory course on textual criticism.


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  1. [...] [UPDATE] Rich Rhodes at the Better Bibles Blog has written a closely related post: I Want a 4G Translation. [...]

  2. [...] and they’re starting to get through (I hope). It’s what Rich Rhodes was talking about when he spoke of a 4G translation. Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Cognitive Linguistics, English, Greek, [...]

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