Why biblical literature resists translation (guest post)

A few weeks ago I invited John Hobbins who blogs at ancient hebrew poetry to guest blog at BBB the theoretical underpinnings of his preferred approach to Bible translation. In response, John has just posted on his own blog “Why biblical literature resists translation.” He has let me know that I am welcome to cross-post to BBB what he written. That is what this post is.

From John’s post it is clear that he shares much of what we emphasize at BBB: John believes, as we at BBB do, in “reproducing … the register of the original.” I don’t want to put words in John’s mouth, but I assume that he would consider accuracy to be the highest priority in translation, as we at BBB do, and that he would share our belief that an accurate translation reflects in the target language the varying genres of the original biblical texts. I’m sure that as I better understand how John’s approach to translation works out where the rubber meets the road, we will likely find points of disagreement. And that is just fine. I want to learn from him as I do from anyone else who takes Bible translation seriously. I hope John can find time to turn his thoughts on translation into a series which will give examples of translation which could be compared with how we might prefer to translate here at BBB.

Well, let’s hear John in his own words from this point on:

My friend Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles encouraged me not long ago to describe the theoretical foundations that undergird my take on Bible translation, since I often find myself at loggerheads with the Better Bibles board of directors, to a man well-trained in linguistics, to a man enamored with translations committed to clarity and naturalness of expression, whereas I prefer translations committed above all to reproducing the wording and register of the original, translating metaphors with metaphors, and sounding strange wherever the thought and language of the source text is strange relative to our cultural matrix.

    The first linguistic concept I would like to throw into the discussion – like a Molotov cocktail – is the distinction between lingua franca and vernacular. A lingua franca is an inter-language used as a medium of communication by people whose mother tongues are different. For a short-and-sweet introduction with examples, go here. A vernacular is the mother tongue of defined population groups; a mother tongue is often associated with a father land. A lingua franca is the linguistic coin of an empire, a commercial slash cultural network. A vernacular tends to be the linguistic coin of an (incurvatus in se) ethnos.

Turning now to the languages of the Bible: the bulk of the Bible is written in a vernacular: ancient Hebrew. Never mind that standard biblical Hebrew in particular was also, quite probably, a lingua franca relative to spoken dialects of Hebrew, regional or otherwise, in the late First through Second Temple periods, in the land of Israel and (as time went on, very importantly) in the diasporas of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic periods. The point here: at the same time, and of utmost importance relative to the cultural confrontation of which ethnoi then and now are vehicles, standard biblical Hebrew was a vernacular.

Not just the content expressed in “classical” Hebrew, but the written language per se, form part of an anti-colonial project, in opposition to the culture and propaganda of which (the neo-Assyrian version of) “standard Babylonian” was the vehicle – assuming that (some of) the scribes who gave us the Bible were literate in that language and the “course” or curriculum to which it gave expression (the thesis of people like David Wright and Bernard M. Levinson); in opposition to (content expressed in) the more pervasive (and perhaps less insidious, though one should never forget Jeremiah 10:11, to be read in strict conjunction with Ps 82) the more widely used (and still often unknown, or poorly known) lingua franca of the Assyrian empire, Aramaic. These facts form part of the background of a comment like that found in Isaiah 36:11 and the style-switching that Gary Rendsburg has noted.1 On “the invention of Hebrew,” on Hebrew as a vernacular and vehicle for culture expressive of oppositional political theory (a theology), see the volume by Seth Sanders of that title, introduced here.

Still don’t understand why the difference between a lingua franca and a vernacular is a big deal? Try this article on for size, by Tim Parks (HT Charles Halton for the link). The title alone is worth the price of admission: “Your English is Showing.”

To be clear, in the Hebrew Bible there are parts of the books of Ezra and Daniel that are written in the lingua franca of much of the ancient Near East: standard Aramaic (later: Syriac). But the Aramaic parts of Ezra and Daniel are incapsulated in the ethnic-religious vernacular, Hebrew. The embedment is not fortuituous. It is iconic.

All this changes with the New Testament and the Talmud. The NT is written in a lingua franca: the Greek of an empire (see the article by Parks, and its summary of the theses of Sheldon Pollock). Still, when I read the NT, I can’t help but think, in terms of genres, concepts, and the occasional calque, “Your Hebrew is showing,” or (I’m guessing; if only we had more of it from the right period and places for comparative purposes) “Your Aramaic is showing.” The Talmud is written in Aramaic but encapsulates a tremendous amount of Hebrew. Still, in this instance, one cannot help but think (Saul Lieberman docet), “Your Greek is showing.”

Everyone knows, or should know, that it is not particularly easy to translate from a vernacular par excellence (biblical Hebrew) to the greatest lingua franca the world has ever known (standard [American or Americanizing] English, the language of current Bible translations in the English language). But you might not notice if you read the Hebrew Bible in a post-modern translation, for example, NIV (especially NIV 2011), NLT (especially the first iteration; even more so, The Living Bible), and CEV (GNB was the pomo translation of my youth).2

In pomo translations, so much is made so easy. At what cost?

On the other hand, one might think that it ought at least to be easy to translate from one lingua franca (Hellenistic Greek) to another (standard English). It’s not easy, because (1)  Hebrew and Aramaic form a substrate in the Greek; and (2) the New Testament expresses a decolonizing anti-Unitarian theological project within the Hellenistic ecumene –  which amounts to the same thing (if you don’t get what I am hinting at, ask me to clarify in the comments).

The Bible resists translation because so much of the Bible’s focus, so much of its Sache, to paraphrase Tim Parks, consists of a mining of the linguistic richness of a vernacular, of a communicative iter tending to exclude, or simply be unconcerned about, “the question of having the text travel the world” across ethnic and linguistic barriers.

And yet the Bible has traveled the world. I blame the fact that no truer prophecy was ever spoken than the one found in Joel 3:1-4 (Hebrew verses) – though one has to know how to read apocalyptic language in order to “get” 3:3-4; and one has to read 3:1-2 in its expansive original sense, so different from the peculiarly religious sense the words are usually given.

1 A classic study: Peter Machinist, “Assyria and Its Image in the First Isaiah,” JAOS 103 (1983) 719-37. See further Gary A. Rendsburg, “Kabbir in Biblical Hebrew: evidence for style-switching and addressee-switching in the Hebrew Bible,” JAOS 112 (1992) 649-651, online here.

2 I am thinking of post-modernism in the sense of Fredric Jameson for whom it is the “dominant cultural logic of late capitalism,” more accurately, of “globalization.” This is my (reprehensible) thesis: the identification and privileging of “barrier-less” translations of the Bible in the language of the empire through fluency testing serves the the interests of the empire, whereas a translation of the Bible in a form of Biblish – i.e. in an ideolect with a narrower and deeper set of cross-references – has the advantage of creating a wedge between two cultures in conflict: that of market capitalism, built around a perverse notion of economic communion; that of the Bible, built around a commitment to the communion of the saints.

151 Comments

  1. Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure whether to respond to John here or there. I think its a terrific insight to separate the vernacular of the OT from the lingu-franca of the NT.

    I’d also like to take john up on the offer:
    On the other hand, one might think that it ought at least to be easy to translate from one lingua franca (Hellenistic Greek) to another (standard English). It’s not easy, because (1) Hebrew and Aramaic form a substrate in the Greek; and (2) the New Testament expresses a decolonizing anti-Unitarian theological project within the Hellenistic ecumene – which amounts to the same thing (if you don’t get what I am hinting at, ask me to clarify in the comments).

    I’d like some clarity on point (2).

    ____

    For the NT IMHO the issue is really not so much linguistic as cultural. The concepts simply don’t exist in 21st America to translate these ideas into. There are not the right destination words because we simply don’t have the same mental map. And moreover where we do have the same mental map, the cultural popularity is less.

    So for example its frequently quite easy to translate Paul’s astrology into modern astrology. But… modern Christianity isn’t astrological, modern culture has different attitudes towards astrology. There is simply no way to translate both the meaning and the feel.

    While I’m not as knowledge about the OT, I’m sure the problem is much much worse. I can be far far more embedded in American culture if I know I’m only speaking to other Americans. How would someone translate 2500 years from now, “I see. You are trying a ‘these aren’t the droids you are looking for’ sales pitch?”

  2. Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    That was a fun read, both Wayne’s introduction and John’s guest-posted re-post.

    Wayne has said, “I’m sure that as I better understand how John’s approach to translation works out where the rubber meets the road, we will likely find points of disagreement.” Well, John’s title is telling: “Why biblical literature resists translation.”

    First, John’s approach is “literature.” But isn’t the BBB more likely to have the approach more on “clear communication in common heart language”?

    Second, John suggests “translation” as something “biblical literature resists”; and he nuances “translation” as both “translations committed to clarity and naturalness of expression” and “post-modern translation”

    These are the two points of issue, two points of disagreement, right from the title. It’s not really that John thinks that the Bible resists translation. Rather it’s that he believes the bible to be literature and that that really does resist certain notions of translation (namely the BBB ideal and what John calls pomo). Translation, real translation, as John would have it consists of “translations committed above all to reproducing the wording and register of the original, translating metaphors with metaphors, and sounding strange wherever the thought and language of the source text is strange relative to our cultural matrix.” I’m thinking that there are already two clear disagreements to note and that our seeing these differences clearly shouldn’t hurt anybody.

  3. Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    My own two cents:

    Most biblical literature is already translation, whether it’s our Masoretic Text, our Septuagint, our New Testament fragments often very explicit about the fact that they are issuing a translation within and as the text.

    Two things follow:

    first, why not “translate” the way the biblical translators themselves translated? Was this always only “clear communication” or even always only “literature”?

    second, how do good translators translate translations? This is a most serious question. It’s sort of Yann Martel’s question of how to re-present the private talk in Japanese between two Japanese native speakers, a conversation the protagonist who speaks Indian English is not to understand but a conversation nonetheless that must be written in English for Martel’s own English-reading readers — see the end of The Life of Pi. Granted, this whole bit in question is already literature, since it’s Martel’s novel; but he’s also using heart-language North American English to represent heart-language Indian English which doesn’t understand very clear heart-language Japanese. And now what if a Japanese language translator in real life wanted to translate the novelist’s English novel into good Japanese? How would that work? This isn’t a pomo question, a communications science [i.e., relevance theory] question, or necessarily a purely literary critical question. Nor is it a rhetorical question. The scriptures are this full of very personal and rich wordplay, I believe, some accidental and some quite on purpose. This is what an “already-translated” text gives us. But why can’t it give us translation principles from such practices too?

    (I really am talking about already-in-translation, and not just foreign loan words, like John’s “per se” and “ethnoi” and “par excellence” and “lingua franca” and “vernacular” above. And I’m not talking about foreign-ish coins, like CD-Host’s “droids” above in his funny example. Even the Torah, the five books of Moses, as Robert Alter translates into English from, is a Hebrew, he says, that is a peculiar Hebrew, neither a lingua franca nor a vernacular; it’s a likely transposition from the spoken Hebrew vernacular. And then the NT clearly has Greek translation of spoken Aramaic, and some Latin, etc. That’s what I’m talking about.)

  4. Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    cross-posted:

    John commented on his post about BBBers:

    Are they going to reverse themselves and no longer privilege translations that value clarity and naturalness of expression above all? I expect not.

    Well, John, what can we say in response? It’s like trying to answer the question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

    We have insisted all along that accuracy trumps everything else, including clarity and naturalness. We have pointed out that a translation can be clear and natural but inaccurate. And the converse is true. I have given examples of each problem: good clarity but inaccurate, and poor clarity but accurate. Neither case is acceptable translation. Instead, as I have written repeatedly, a Bible translation should be a clear to its audience as the original biblical texts were to its audience. Due to cultural distances, something has to be done to bridge the cultural divide. Some main solutions are:

    1. Have a Bible teacher explain what is not culturally understood by translation users.
    2. Footnote explanations for cultural differences.
    3. Include some explication of culturally implicit information in the translation itself, but only what is necessary to keep that portion of translation from having zero or little meaning. Depend on #2 for filling in what would detract from the flow of the narrative or logic.

    We, like you, believe that the literary features of the biblical texts should be retained in translation. Translations should be in the same register and genre as their source texts.

    Be sure you are describing what we actually promote at BBB and not a caricature of it. I have not seen evidence yet in this post of any actual differences, but I know you believe that there are some, and so I look forward to further posts in this series which will demonstrate those differences. Then we will have something empirical with which to make comparisons.

  5. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Kurk, thanks for your comments. I lack enough information to understand what you are referring in your comments, so I’ll keep quiet until I can understand. I’m happy to wait until John provides examples of how translation theorists he follows (that’s where this discussion started) would translate parts of the Bible differently from translation approaches we have advocated here at BBB.

    Of course the Bible is literature. No one debates that. But literature can be translated, just as non-literary language can be. Much of the world’s literature has already been translated.

    It takes more work to respect literary features. But we at BBB have emphasized so many times that literary features must be honored in translation. I don’t think it will help for us to say it very many more times, however. Something else must take place before purported differences in translation can be understood. For me, that “something” is further explanation, with examples and comparisons of translations which difference according to the claimed different approaches. OK, I’ll wait for what I need.

  6. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    droid, n, mythical future creature mimicking manikin manners, from the Geek

    Putting meta-words to translation philosophy is as usual difficult without hand-waving and such.

    There is one real reason why I try to translate. I have something I think I share with the ancient writer that I want to let out of the bag today to whoever chances across my blog. I write I think for the same reason they wrote. Droids don’t get it yet nor will they ever as far as I can figure. They will be able to out-figure me but they won’t ever be able to figure me out.

  7. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Straw men are easily demolished.

    Wayne,
    I think you’re right. But straw men are easy to construct too. There seems to be too sharp a binary constructed between

    EITHER “translations committed to clarity and naturalness of expression” /

    OR “translations committed above all to reproducing the wording and register of the original, translating metaphors with metaphors, and sounding strange wherever the thought and language of the source text is strange relative to our cultural matrix.”

    One reason I wanted to add 2 cents is to go beyond the convenient labels. What happens when the literary contains the clear and natural? What happens with a clear and natural text includes a bit of the strange sounds too? What happens when a translation is the text that must be translated? And “pomo” is really a difficult box to put anybody into, for example. Good, clear “examples and comparisons of translations which difference according to the claimed different approaches” really would be nice.

  8. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    CD,

    In the Hellenistic period, as in ours, there were coordinated attempts by the imperial powers to create a container religion which allowed gods to be translated from one vernacular into another or, more to the point, into a metatheology which suited the needs of the empire. See:

    Mark S. Smith, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (FAT 57; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008; repr. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2010).

    This is sometimes called syncretism. Both the NT and the Talmud resist syncretism except on terms considered favorable to the inherited mental map. But free translation was attractive to many others, among Jews and pagans.

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/05/the-splendid-iao-the-identification-of-helios-with-iao-the-god-of-the-jews.html

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/05/pliny-the-elder-on-the-sun-as-god-par-excellence.html

    Wayne,

    I have appealed in the past to the considerations of Craig Blomberg according to which, when it comes to accuracy, a literal translation is to be preferred. I can dig out quotes again if you wish.

  9. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I agree, Kurk. There are clines, not binary distinctions. I also agree about labels. I don’t find them very helpful. For instance, I have no idea what “pomo” refers to with reference to Bible translation advocated here on BBB. I *thought* post-modernism referred to there being no intrinsic meaning in a text (or piece of music, art, etc.) but that there is meaning as each individual who interacts with that texts finds it. In other words, the meaning is relative to the reader/hearer/listener/viewer and not the original author. But my understanding of pomo may bear no resemblance to reality (assuming there is reality, of course!).

    I happen to have an epistemology that calls me to believe strongly in authorial intent. I believe that would position me about as far from pomo as possible. And I see no relationship between the kinds of English Bible translations I like and post-modernism. It seems to me that trying to compare the two is like trying to compare the proverbial apple and, uh, giraffe (oh, that one’s not proverbial yet?!).

    But I also happen to believe that pomos can do accurate Bible translation, as long as they do something scholarly with the language passages of the biblical language texts and don’t try to include their own commentary.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the continued discussion. So far I’m confused since I don’t understand what is being referred to. But I’m assuming that confusion will wane (!) and understanding will wax the more explanations are given.

  10. Dru Brooke-Taylor
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. Some thoughts, or queries, on this.

    First of all, because I’m English not American, does that mean that I speak my form of English as a vernacular, like Hebrew, rather than a lingua franca like koine?

    Second, on the Hobbins argument, when the AV was translated in 1611, English only existed as a vernacular. So are those who prefer the AV onto something, particularly as regards the Old Testament, even though they are expressing their preference in terms of a totally different rationale?

    Third, does John Hobbins’s argument suggest that Hebrew should be translated into a more vernacular form of English, and koine into a more international form?

    Fourth, and perhaps slightly weird question, does this mean that the REB, a translation that I happen to like, gives me a different reading experience to that which the REB gives North American readers or the NIV and NRSV (both translated into the equivalent of koine for both Testaments) gives me? And does the Message have a comparable resonance for North American readers to what I am suggesting may apply to the REB for me?

    Or fifthly, am I completely misunderstanding and writing rubbish?

  11. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    John wrote:

    I have appealed in the past to the considerations of Craig Blomberg according to which, when it comes to accuracy, a literal translation is to be preferred. I can dig out quotes again if you wish.

    Well, my friend Craig is mistaken. There is no relationship between degree of literalness and accurate translation. They are different parameters. Translations can be non-literal and inaccurate, non-literal and accurate, and literal and inaccurate.

    It’s not necessary to dig out the quote by Blomberg. I’m sure Craig said what you quoted him as saying. He has his preferences, which are the same as those of many who teach biblical languages at the post-graduate level. And Craig has worked on several different English Bible versions. But I don’t think he has had training to do Bible translation. Knowing biblical languages is not enough training to do translation. A doctor needs to have sufficient training in medicine to practice. A pilot needs to have training to perform as a pilot. A Bible translator needs to have training to be a Bible translator. The greatest weakness of almost every English Bible translation ever made has been that there has been little, if any, training for the translation part of the job.

    (Oh, Craig also plays a mean game of Boggle. I have beaten him in one or two games, but have never beaten him in a set. His knowledge of English words is super. And he does recognize the advantages and disadvantages of literal translations.)

    Don’t forget to include in your series the teachings of translation theorists Pym, Toury, and another scholar that you mentioned that you preferred over Nida, M. Larson, Mona Baker, et al. I’d like to learn how your preferred scholars would do Bible translation differently from how we at BBB advociate. That’s where this invitation for you to guest blog got started.

  12. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    John H —

    We are in agreement on what was going on historically. I’d agree that the whole point of Hellenistic Judaism was syncretism. And proto Christianity seems even more syncretic. And I think your examples are interesting and with regard to the identification of yahweh=theos=Helios, I’d agree, though I’m a bit shocked you are asserting this…

    But I’m still missing how that hinders translation.

  13. Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    CD,

    For the record, I don’t believe that either proto-Christianity or most forms of Hellenistic Judaism were particularly syncretistic, though some were.

    You seem to be ignoring the main directions that recent decades of NT studies have taken. You seem to want to return to old history-of-religions theses that I would consider to be thoroughly discredited.

    The groundbreaking work by Mark S. Smith suggests an overall understanding of the dynamics of religious change at deep odds with your own understanding. You might want to give it a read; it will challenge your Bultmannian sympathies.

    It is the New Age imperial theologies in particular which you leave unmentioned which were sycretistic or at least pseudo-syncretistic. On other occasions you have expressed a liking for New Age religion in our age. Suit yourself, but my point is the opposite of yours. Whereas you see Christianity moving in the direction of Deism and Unitarianism, I see it moving in the opposite direction. Just as it did in Greco-Roman antiquity, to which the New Testament is a powerful witness, as is the doctrine of the Trinity correctly understood. The Talmud is a powerful witness to an anti-sycretistism as well, though none of this can be absolutized. Which is why I also note that in the Talmud, the Greek substrate also shows.

  14. Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    John H —

    OK so now we don’t agree on syncretistic. I still don’t see how this hinders translation.

    As for the rest. Yes I’m old school, I don’t think it was discredited as much as it failed as a religious movement. The social gospel is dead, and the Christian support for the history of religions school went with it. As I said on your blog, Pearl Buck would be an atheist volunteer for the PeaceCore, not a Christian missionary in today’s world.

    But in so far as their is secular scholarship on biblical studies, the Walter Bauer school continues the history of religions basic theme. In most crucial respects its been vindicated not refuted. John Turner’s work with the Sethians gives us an almost fully formed case study of exactly how a proto-Christianity developed and how it interacted with more orthodox strains once it came in contact with them. The core point of dispute is
    1) proving the existence of Jewish Gnostic magical cults with messianic themes predating an orthodox Christianity
    2) proving that these cults were interacting in ways that had little dependency on specific historical events in Palestine

    But this discussion may take us very far afield.

  15. Posted June 17, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I had to translate a brochure today that would enable people to turn up at their teh training with both the right hardware and software. If I want them to have the software downloaded ahead of time, I had jolly well better say so in as clear a way possible, so excuse me if I take some time to adjust to this discussion.

    One can also see the odd functional translation in the LXX. Moses was described as saying

    ἐγὼ δὲ ἄλογός εἰμι

    ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἰσχνόφωνός εἰμι

    Is there perhaps a cultural reason why this metaphor was not translated? Perhaps there are times when strangeness does indicate that the metaphor should be abandoned.

  16. Posted June 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,
    Your comment, in part, inspired me to post here. Some of that may be relevant to this discussion.

  17. Posted June 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    CD,

    Bauer is still worth reading, don’t get me wrong. Bauer however would be in full agreement with what I am saying: orthodoxy was anti-syncretistic relative to the imperial theologies and a host of Christian heresies. Where we differ is his thesis that orthodoxy was an imposition of the episcopate in Rome. That’s not credible. With respect to Egypt, note Ari’s recent takedown of Bauer:

    http://sxcari.blogspot.com/2010/06/was-rome-in-control-walter-bauers.html

  18. Posted June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi everyone,

    Translating from a vernacular into a lingua franca poses specific challenges.

    So far as I know, these challenges have not been identified as such or discussed on BBB until now.

    The senses in which the Hebrew of the Bible is a vernacular and the senses in which Hellenistic Greek is a lingua franca but, in the hands of the NT authors, used for a purpose that is both nativizing and universalizing at the same time, deserve discussion precisely in the context of the practice of Bible translation.

    These are the kind of issues, even if they are not (yet) the same issues, that someone like Lawrence Venuti raises and which he presented – by invitation – to Bible translators at a Nida lecture in the context of SBL.

    Feel free to take a long hard look at the article by Tim Parks to which I link.

    Of course, Parks is not a linguist but a celebrated author. However, those of us who read widely in sociolinguistics will be the first to agree that Parks raises questions which echo throughout the secondary literature.

    The cross-referencing I did was with the work of Seth Sanders and Mark S. Smith in the field of biblical studies. The implications of their work for the practice of translation from the vernacular of biblical Hebrew to the lingua franca of 21st century globalized standard English have not been touched on, so far as I know, outside of my post.

    Wayne’s comeback is I think illuminating. He redirects the discussion into the tried and true paths of Bible translation theory to date. That is, the vernacular / lingua franca is put to one side and all energies are concentrated on thinking about the specific challenges posed in the work oft translating from a source text from a time and place which is strange from so many points of view relative to target language and target “mental map” (to take up CD’s language, borrowed from another discipline, cognitive linguistics).

    Dru’s queries and the bewilderment of many on this thread are an index of the extent to which the kind of questions Sheldon Pollock has raised are new to people. Still, they are very important questions, and they have implications for the practice of translation.

    I realize that I am asking a lot, but I nonetheless invite people to interact with the thesis I expressed in footnote 2 (if only Eddie Arthur were here; it is the kind of thesis he would warm to, even if he disagreed with it):

    The identification and privileging of “barrier-less” translations of the Bible in the language of the empire through fluency testing serves the interests of the empire, whereas a translation of the Bible in a form of Biblish – i.e. in an ideolect with a narrower and deeper set of cross-references – has the advantage of creating a wedge between two cultures in conflict: that of market capitalism, built around a perverse notion of economic communion; and that of the Bible, built around a commitment to the communion of the saints.

  19. Posted June 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    One more thing.

    My critique of the kind of translations that are preferred by BBB contributors on sociolinguistic grounds is not without precedent.

    I don’t have the references handy, but the Living Bible back in the days was buried in criticism of this kind.

    The history of the NLT is the history of a retreat from a highly familiarizing translation technique to a technique that respects to a progressively greater extent the strangeness of the source text’s diction and mapping. My one and only point: NLT2 still does not go far enough in the direction of respecting the strangeness. Not by a long shot.

  20. Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    cross-posted on John Hobbins’ blog where he answered a question of mine asking him to define his use of “post-modernism:

    John answered:

    See footnote 2 for the sense in which I am using the term “post-modern.”

    Thanks, John. I have read that footnote, but I don’t understand your English in it. Let me do some guessing and please tell me if I am at least getting in the ballpark.

    Are you alluding to the fact that translations such as GNB, CEV, and (much less so) NLT are “common language” translations (a technical term used by the Nida school)? As you probably know, the GNB was translated for those who speak English as a second language. Later, when it got such a warm reception among those whose first language is English, ABS promoted it as a translation for all English speakers.

    Is this the globalization you are referring to, which you consider post-modern? These are sincere questions, not rhetorical, since I have difficulty understanding the register of English you have written the footnote and entire post in and I want to understand your thinking about Bible translation.

    Much of your writing reflects the authors you have read but I have never heard of. That’s not meant as a criticism; it’s just an observation. If I am to understand what you have written, I either need a translation to my dialect of English, or I need to put down my work and spend a lot of time reading those you read and trying to work through what you have written for an audience which shares your background and vocabulary. Speaking of iconicity, in an interesting way, your passionate (a good thing) writing about something you care so much about is written in language which is foreign to most English speakers, the very thing which (I *think*) you laud in translations to English. Slowly, I think I am starting to understand the edges of this new pond of authors, vocabulary, and concepts, if I have guessed right about what it is that you mean by what you are writing.

    How did I do with my guessing?

  21. Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The history of the NLT is the history of a retreat from a highly familiarizing translation technique to a technique that respects to a progressively greater extent the strangeness of the source text’s diction and mapping. My one and only point: NLT2 still does not go far enough in the direction of respecting the strangeness. Not by a long shot.

    Wayne,
    Maybe we can find have some examples (and I’ll supply one here).

    John,
    The history of the LB / NLT / NLT2 is much clearer than that. Ken Taylor has said its initial audience was children, his own, and the whole effort had everything to do with familiarization with the KJV and RSV:

    “Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding the King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Version, which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders—they didn’t know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time.”

    Mark D. Taylor says the LB became the NLT in this way:

    “In the early stages, the revision task was seen as simply correcting any words, phrases, or verses where The Living Bible‘s exegesis (interpretation) was judged to be faulty. As the project unfolded, however, the translation team came to see that they were creating a new translation from the Hebrew and Greek (rather than simply a revised paraphrase) that followed the dynamic equivalence theory of translation.”

    Mark D. Taylor says the NLT became the NLT2 in this way:

    “When the NLT was first published in 1996, the Bible Translation Committee said, “This translation is so good, it’s a shame not to make it even better.” So Tyndale House encouraged the outside scholars to undertake a review of the entire text. The challenge was to raise the level of precision of translation without losing the dynamic qualities that were already making the NLT very popular. An example of improved precision is that the poetic passages of the Old Testament were recast into a poetic format rather than using the prose format of the original NLT translation.”

    So, here’s Ken Taylor’s eventual NLT paraphrase of Isaiah 7:7-9 –

    7 But the Lord GOD says, This plan will not succeed.
    8 for Damascus will remain the capital of Syria alone, and King Rezin’s kingdom will not increase its boundaries. And within sixty-five years Ephraim, too, will be crushed and broken.
    9 Samaria is the capital of Ephraim alone and King Pekah’s power will not increase. You don’t believe me? If you want me to protect you, you must learn to believe what I say.

    Now here’s the KJV that Ken Taylor was trying to make clearer for his children. “What’s head of Damascus and head of Syria?” they must have been asking him –

    7 Thus says the Lord GOD, “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass.
    8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken, So that it will not be a people.
    9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, And the head of Samaria is Remeliah’s son. If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.”

    The NLT2 team saw no reason to revise the NLT1; both versions have this:

    7 But this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “This invasion will never happen; it will never take place;
    8 for Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. As for Israel, within sixty-five years it will be crushed and completely destroyed.
    9 Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remeliah. Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”

    Here’s the NLT(2) explanation:

    The Hebrew text is almost cryptic in its poetic structure. The KJV, NKJV, NASB, and NIV all translate the passage quite literally, including the repetition of “head” in verses 8 and 9. In this instance, the NLT chooses to translate the meaning of the metaphor “head.” Commentators agree that twice it refers to the capitals of two countries (Syria and Israel), and twice it refers to the kings of these countries. Furthermore, the NLT clarifies that Isaiah is speaking of the weakness of these kings. For the benefit of the reader, the NLT also uses the more familiar term “Israel” rather than the literal term “Ephraim” (verses 8 and 9). And the NLT clarifies in verse 9 that the “son of Remeliah” is in fact “Pekah son of Remeliah.”

    Seems to me that the history shows consistent effort to clarity in translation. Also interesting to me is that the LB is in some ways closer to the KJV than the NLT(2), as the latter goes for “the more familiar.”

  22. Posted June 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Kurk,

    Thanks very much for the historical retrospect. It’s very helpful. What you do not explore in your comment is what happens – sociolinguistically, sociologically – when an adult adopts as their Bible a paraphrase of it intended for small children.

    Just as Wayne does not explore what happens when a translation – GNB – intended for the ESL community is adopted by people whose mother tongue is English.

    Explorations of such things belong to the subject matter of sociolinguistics.

    The typical criticism the Living Bible encountered from people with sociological and sociolinguistic sensibilities applies to a large extent to NLT and even to NIV.

    It went something like this (these are memories from the U of Toronto; perhaps Suzanne McCarthy has similar memories): The Living Bible is the Bible translated in conformity with North American middle class white evangelical expectations and sensibilities.

    I would take that to be a sociolinguistic commonplace applied to the field of translation. That is, a translation technique bent on clarity and familiarity in diction – I am not oonvinced by Wayne’s remark that a translation like NLT aims first of all for accuracy; it doesn’t even self-profile along those lines – will end up translating in ideolect and sociolect specific to its primary circle of reference sociologically speaking.

    Still North American white. Still middle class evangelical, Still assimilated to the postmodern mindset (in Jameson’s sense of globalized market capitalism).

    I don’t want to pick on members of my social location (I am all of the above). So here is my friend Robert Jewett, a NT scholar who helped with NRSV but became disillusioned with it:

    We’re facing, with the NRSV, liberal dishonesty in spades. The modern liberated perspective which imposes itself on the text is about as dishonest as you can be. All the way through the NRSV, implying that Paul has all these liberated concepts and so forth like the current politically correct person in an Ivy League school: I mean that’s just ridiculous. Here you have the imposition of liberal prejudice on the biblical text with the ridiculous assumption that our modern liberal views were Paul’s.

    Jewett’s remarks were published in WORLD magazine, vol. 16, no. 6 (Feb. 13, 1998).

  23. Posted June 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Wayne,

    You might start with Lawrence Venuti:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/02/the-colonial-nature-of-bible-translations-in-the-tev-cev-mold.html

    BTW I agree with Venuti in small part only. Yet, like the organizers of the Nida lectures, I think Bible translators would do very well to engage with his thought – even if he is declared anti-Nida.

    As for post-modernism in Jameson’s sense, you will have to read him. Summaries of his thought are readily available online. I admit he’s a hard read, but try this:

    http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/jameson/excerpts/postmod.html

    An interesting summary:

    http://cltrlstdies.blogspot.com/2007/10/postmodernism-and-consumer-society-by.html

  24. Posted June 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    What you do not explore in your comment is what happens – sociolinguistically, sociologically – when an adult adopts as their Bible a paraphrase of it intended for small children.

    John,
    The NLT(2) was intended to overcome the complaint by pastors, adults, that they wanted the LB more accurate while still being easy to read.

    So what do you think of the examples above? Can you discuss them in light of your post? How do the translators do with respect to Wayne’s ideals and yours for biblical literature translation?

  25. Posted June 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    John —

    (quoting Jewett) We’re facing, with the NRSV, liberal dishonesty in spades. The modern liberated perspective which imposes itself on the text is about as dishonest as you can be. All the way through the NRSV, implying that Paul has all these liberated concepts and so forth like the current politically correct person in an Ivy League school: I mean that’s just ridiculous. Here you have the imposition of liberal prejudice on the biblical text with the ridiculous assumption that our modern liberal views were Paul’s.

    I don’t agree with Jewett on this specific but that comes down to a question of modern English not ancient Greek. I.E. the grammer has shifted enough now that I’m not clear that using the masculine is not less accurate. But again this gets to the question of “God is speaking through the church” rather than absolute original meaning. Jewett is assuming the position I’ve taken and you’ve disagreed with that the orignal intent of the author is distinct from any later intent by the church, and that distinction should be properly noted.

    To keep pounding on my Venus example (because we agree its an example of exactly this problem) how can you argue that using 2011 English gender neutral to capture Greek gender is forbidden based on a demand to preserve meaning while at the same time arguing the church has the right to change meaning as their understanding advances.

    I agree its wrong to make Paul a liberal, in a formal translation. What I’m not sure about is why its then OK to make him a Protestant.

  26. Posted June 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    My other comment got lost somehow, (I think). I agree with Ari on Rome not clearly having that sort of power. I don’t think power was what was needed however, any kind of leadership looking to establish institutional structures is going to be opposed to the anti-authoritarian stream of thought of the “heretical” sects. They all agreed out of self interest and came together as natural allies. Rome didn’t need to conquer, everyone just signed up.

  27. Posted June 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    John wrote:

    That is, a translation technique bent on clarity and familiarity in diction – I am not oonvinced by Wayne’s remark that a translation like NLT aims first of all for accuracy; it doesn’t even self-profile along those lines – will end up translating in ideolect and sociolect specific to its primary circle of reference sociologically speaking.

    John, I never wrote anything about the NLT aiming “first of all for accuracy”. What I wrote with regard to accuracy was:

    “I don’t want to put words in John’s mouth, but I assume that he would consider accuracy to be the highest priority in translation, as we at BBB do, and that he would share our belief that an accurate translation reflects in the target language the varying genres of the original biblical texts.”

    I have written nothing about accuracy and the NLT.

    I wish I could continue this lively exchange, but my wife and I are flying to Alaska tomorrow (June 18). We will return August 3. I will have very limited Internet access. I hope I can find a wireless signal and check in to BBB and your blog and comment as I can, but most of the time I will not even have electricity or indoor plumbing. (No domesticizing!!)

    I would plead with you, John, especially while I am gone, not to make claims about BBB bloggers which you cannot say with direct quotes. Please do not tell others in blog posts or comments what we believe without direct quotes. You have written a number of things which we do not believe and it’s not fair to us or your audience for there to be this misinformation out there. As you know, once something appears in print (and blogging does put words out there like print), it takes on a life of its own. Blog readers require quite a bit of background to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff in blog posts. I realize that you never intentionally mislead anyone about what we promote at BBB. But your summaries, based on your own perspectives, sometimes do not align with what we actually believe and have written about in our posts. FWIW, it’s the BBB blogging and comment guideline #3. Thanks and have a good summer.

  28. Theophrastus
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I often see that quote from Jewett mentioned; but rarely is the context given. The quote was part of Jewett’s fundraising campaign for his own competing translation the Chicago Translation Project: “the only
    remaining obstacle to publication is the need for additional funds to complete the translation work.” Apparently Jewett’s search for money failed, because his translation is not to be found on Eerdman’s web site.

    The article claims that Jewett holds some interesting positions: “Mr. Jewett’s objection to gender-neutral language is based on his higher-critical approach to the Bible. Like others who do not see all Scripture as inspired, he believes that God is less patriarchal than writers like Paul. He also claims that earlier authors of Scripture had less understanding of God’s truth in this area than later authors, and that there is revolutionary change even in the course of Paul’s writing-from an early patriarchalism to a more egalitarian maturity. ”

    You can read the entire article here, and I recommend that you do, to get the full context.

  29. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    First, The Living Bible is the Bible translated in conformity with North American middle class white evangelical expectations and sensibilities.

    It was not my impression at the time. I thought that it was a vehicle for evangelism among late teens.

    In any case, several linguistic facts have not been acknowledged. First, I had always assumed that “brethren” and “men” referred to mixed gender groups, that they were inclusive, when we read and cited verses like 2 Tim 2:2 and used that as our motto in university. But this has definitely shifted. Now the predominant view of conservative Christians is that “brothers” and “men” refer to males. But at university, reading Greek and Hebrew I was taught that anthropos meant “human being” “adelphoi” was both Ptolemy and Cleopatra, and “ben adam” is also a human being. But over and over again, I have been offered the trash basket for my university training. I would have to say that women are asked to entirely reject academia for the nullifying slavery of the mind which I adopted for so many years, and have no further interest in.

  30. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    If the only interest here is to establish an academic justification for leaving “and sisters” out of the Bible, then please say so.

  31. Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Please can we all avoid letting this comment thread get diverted into gender issues, which are off the topic (certainly the explicit topic!) of this post. In Wayne’s absence the rest of us BBB bloggers don’t want to have to moderate everything!

  32. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Here is the difference. When John and I were at university we were taught that 2 Tim 2:2 referred to women just as much as men. Now we are taught that it doesn’t. My status in respect to this scripture has been lowered since we were in university. I am no longer one of those who can converse together as equals as in 2 Tim. 2:2.

    Jewitt did not wish to lower the status of women. He did not want to use the scripture in the way that Inter-Varsity did. He wanted to lower the status of the NRSV, I suppose.

    Those who think that the NT opens the way to heaven had better translate in a way that accords with modern legal translating, with functional equivalents. What if I tried some metaphorically transparent way to translate technological words into French and published that? Nobody would be able to understand or attend the workshops with the right equipment. Is that what we want for those reading the Bible?

  33. Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Suzanne —

    Wonderful to talk again! NLT has a teen product, I actually reviewed it: ( http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2008/12/review-of-tyndale-live-bible-teen.html ) which goes with their teen site ( http://roughedit.group.com/ ).

    I would agree with you though that NLT has had a much stronger evangelism focus than TNIV, HCSB, or ESV. And obviously evangalism is mainly an aim at teens sort of thing. But…

    Life Application Study Bible seems to be the core offering aimed at small group study. Wayne woud definitely appreciate the sentiments of that group, comparing formal translations to (their words not mine), “a poorly subtitled foreign film”. I’d say that most likely is aimed adult female.

    Anyway the late 1990s stuff on the NLTfe seemed to focus on the barriers it faced because it was seen as a paraphrase (supporting what John was saying) while trying to maintain the “heart language” [i] It’s the language that people use to communicate not only intellectually, but emotionally. It doesn’t take as much work and effort to understand, as a second language would. [/i] of the Living Bible. Again “heart language” sounds like a female pitch. Also getting rid of the Arminian “bias” of the TLB since that isn’t fashionable now.

    NLTse was clearly a move towards more formal, a more scholarly translation. Tyndale wanted to be Zondervan and given that the next most likely choice is Crossway, I sincerely wish Tyndale nothing but the best.

    The NLT brand identity is tied to things like readability (on which it is excellent) and while they do nice stuff with accuracy and I have found them to be good they clearly acknowledge the tradeoffs of their methods. I find Tyndale refreshingly honest and friendly.

  34. Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne, the Jewett quote was not explicitly about gender. We can discuss the quote if you like but not talk explicitly about gender. Talk about his “all these liberated concepts and so forth” if you like but don’t get more specific. We don’t want to turn this into another blogging war, or another reason to disable comments.

  35. Mike Sangrey
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Along with Wayne, I’m having trouble following you.

    However, let me “pull a Lemming” and jump right in.

    Are you trying to divorce the sociolinguistic, world-view fabric, woven into a document (any document) from the text itself? That is, are you hoping that a translation could somehow accomplish an a-sociolinguisitic effect by somehow mimicking the sociolinguistic effects which the original text presents?

    As I read your post and your comments, I keep thinking of Whorf (aka the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). So, I’m probably misunderstanding you, but let me walk a few steps down this thread. While I think that a language is conditioned by its conceptual framework (whether that be market capitalism or something else), I don’t believe that what one can talk about via that language is determined and constrained. To my mind, these are two different things. One has to do with exegesis to determine meaning, and the other has to do with using the language as it has been given to the translator in order to convey that meaning.

    So, I see your point (if I understand it at all) falling under the purview of exegesis and careful, self-conscious (or world-view conscious) translation. That is, I hear you saying that translators should be more in tuned with their socio-economic assumptions. However, I don’t see any argument (yet) for steering away from clarity and naturalness. These later two attributes simply mean we use the language we’re given.

  36. Posted June 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Wayne,

    I wish you a wonderful summer – away from interconnectivity.

    For the rest, I am going to continue the conversation over on my blog because I agree with Peter and want to be in a position to keep the conversation focused.

  37. Theophrastus
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Peter says: the Jewett quote was not explicitly about gender.

    I beg to differ. Once again, read the whole context.

  38. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Hi CD,

    Good to see you again. Sorry that we lost touch.

    Peter,

    The mention of Paul Jewett’s opinion on the NRSV, of a necessity brings us to gender language. I did not introduce it, someone else did. By using Jewett as code for “the NRSV is wrong when is includes ‘and sister'” the comment in a veiled manner excludes women, without the moderator of this blog realizing what has happened.

    Paul Jewett is not a scholar of classical Greek, so I have no idea what he bases his views on. When we have the evidence that goes along with his comments, then we can discuss it further.

  39. Posted June 18, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    For those who wish to read my responses to comments by CD, Kurk, Theo, and Mike Sangrey above, not to mention Rich Rhodes, Bryant Williams, and C. Stirling Bartholomew, who commented on my thread rather than this one, go here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2011/06/why-biblical-literature-resists-translation.html

  40. Posted June 18, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    I should have written Robert Jewett above. In any case, I do think that what is needed here is something more substantial than a citation by Mr. Bayly. I would like to see the evidence backing up the claim so that it can be discussed. In any case, the mention of the citation from World magazine clearly brings gender front and centre.

    Hi CD,

    Good to see you again. I am sorry that we lost touch.

  41. Posted June 18, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I am a little confused. In a comment above John cites the World magazine article written by Mr. Bayly, but on his own blog, he appears rather surprised that Theo provides a link to the Bayly article.

  42. Posted June 18, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    For a follow-up to this post and comment thread which will interest lovers of the history of Old English literature in particular, go here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2011/06/the-importance-of-reading-the-bible-in-a-vernacular.html#more

  43. Posted June 18, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    “He’s right on, I think, but you can count the number of people on one hand who care as much as he and I that the historical particularities of Pauline Christianity be brought out, not disguised, in translation.

    Another example is NRSV 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6, revised to be gender-inclusive though that warps the plainly androcentric focus of the passage which, furthermore, is about “procuring a vessel” = acquiring a wife (so, rightly, NAB), not controlling one’s body.”

    In support of the suggestion that Paul is referring to a wife when he says skeuos, we can find some rabbinical texts written several centuries after Paul. In support of the notion that skeuos refers to one’s own body, or the body of one’s spouse of either gender, we have Paul’s use of skeuos in his other letters, and the clear reciprocity of the marriage bed in 1 Cor. 7. To call this passage “plainly androcentric” is an overstatement.

  44. Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Theo, the Jewett quote as given in a previous comment, out of context, was not explicitly about gender. As such it was on topic. If the comment had been explicitly about gender that would have been off topic for this post and comment thread.

    Suzanne, if you want to discuss Jewett’s views on gender, may I suggest a post on your own blog, with a link back here.

  45. Theophrastus
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Peter: ironic — this blog post by John stresses the importance of context, and your own blog posts (such as this and this) stress context, and your own blog often discusses context. (And I might add that this focus on context shows the sensitivity and seriousness of John’s, yours, and BBB’s blog posts.)

    John gave Jewett’s quote with a citation to David Bayly’s article. He gave the publication and date, and even the volume and issue number, suggesting that he was inviting inviting us to look at its context. But now you indicate that it is off-topic to consider the context of Jewett’s quote.

  46. Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Theo, you are right that context is important. But it strikes me that people use quotations in two different ways. One is as an abbreviation for the whole context – they really want to repeat a whole discourse, or at least a large section, but for brevity they quote only a few words. This is probably how the New Testament authors usually quoted the Hebrew Bible. The other is that people take from another source some nice sounding words that fit their argument, and to avoid accusations of plagiarism they mark them as a quotation, but the original context of the words is quite irrelevant. Now I should have known that John wasn’t doing the latter. But it was easier to misunderstand him in this way – as so many New Testament interpreters misunderstand Old Testament quotations.

  47. Mike Sangrey
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Peter, there’s a third way, too, which is the one I see happening here.

    ‘B’ is in the context of ‘A’ where ‘A’ is the topic under consideration. However, ‘C’ is in the context of ‘B’, therefore (as is assumed so frequently in conversation) ‘C’ is in the context of ‘A’.

    This stream of linkages makes me think of sitting around a campfire with friends talking.

    To me it is quite obvious that gender is not part of John’s topic. The topic is about vernacular and lingua franca and the interface between the ‘socio’ and the ‘linguistic’. It’s about conceptual metaphor and world-view and how that relates to translation. I’m not saying I understand the rheme; but, at least (I think) I grasp the theme.

    Peter’s right. John’s post is not about gender.

  48. Posted June 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    John’s post is not about gender.

    But in the context of this thread, John was replying directly to me (making an immediately subsequent and separate comment to Wayne). And, as Theophrastus rightly points out, John gives us the context from which he finds to the quote. As importantly, John, in that same reply to me said: “these are memories from the U of Toronto; perhaps Suzanne McCarthy has similar memories.” And Suzanne does note the context of gender in the Jewett quote; but she does not introduce it in this thread. No. It’s CD-Host who does bring it up; he says: “I don’t agree with Jewett on this specific but that comes down to a question of modern English not ancient Greek. I.E. the grammer has shifted enough now that I’m not clear that using the masculine is not less accurate…. To keep pounding on my Venus example (because we agree its an example of exactly this problem) how can you argue that using 2011 English gender neutral to capture Greek gender is forbidden based on a demand to preserve meaning while at the same time arguing the church has the right to change meaning as their understanding advances.”

    When Suzanne does follow CD-Host in continuing to talk about Jewett and gender, then Peter warns her about staying on topic.

    “Suzanne, the Jewett quote was not explicitly about gender. We can discuss the quote if you like but not talk explicitly about gender.”

    Suzanne rightly replies:

    “The mention of Paul Jewett’s opinion on the NRSV, of a necessity brings us to gender language. I did not introduce it, someone else did. By using Jewett as code for “the NRSV is wrong when is includes ‘and sister’” the comment in a veiled manner excludes women, without the moderator of this blog realizing what has happened.”

    To me, this is an important context. John brings up Suzanne and then Jewett in the same reply to me. CD-Host rightly recognizes the gender issues in the context of Jewett’s quote that John provides. Nobody rebukes CD-Host. Peter rebukes Suzanne. Suzanne tries to explain. The discuss of “context” ensues without anyone noting the problem of mens’ silencing the only woman in the conversation. And silencing her when the conversation is really about her indirectly, and not so much at all an issue, personally, for any of them.

  49. Posted June 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    This and the conversation on John’s post have been fascinating – thanks. But re the vessel of Thessalonians – I doubt very much that this refers to a wife. It certainly does not for me.

  50. Posted June 18, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    One of the difficulties is that the Jewett quote does not seem to have any context other than its existance in the article written by David Bayly. John does not link to a larger article in which Jewett states his evidence or reasons. There is no place where I can read about Jewett weighing the evidence that adelphoi was the usual way to record all the siblings in one family, both brothers and sisters. If we were translating a tombstone, for example, which lists all the adelphoi> in a family, the list would include men and women. This pattern is common in Greek. This is the accepted standard. I have never seen any discussion of this by Jewett. Unfortunately, his name is not so well-known to me that I can accept his criticism without some background discussion and evidence.

    In any family now, if we mention the “brothers” there is no possible way to understand that the sisters are included. This is not due to a metaphor, or to the “strangeness” of the Greek language. This is just the normal way that Greek is.

    Another example is the uiothesia, normally translated as ‘placing as a son’ is the commonplace way to refer to adoption in Greek of EITHER a son or daughter. Luther got that. Nobody accuses Luther of a Stalinistic revision of the scripture?

  51. Posted June 19, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Bob,

    There are some who think that ktaomai can only refer to acquiring something that one does not have. But there is also the possibility that it means ‘to be the master of.’ For me, the overriding factor is that there is no transition in the epistle of Thessalonians from where the author addresses all the Christians, to where he addresses only the men. Adelphoi could refer to only men, true, but it cannot possibly designate a transition from “men and women” to “only men.” The larger discourse must be taken into account.

  52. Theophrastus
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    What puzzles me is the mixed metaphors. For example (emphasis added):

    (1) “The first linguistic concept I would like to throw into the discussion – like a Molotov cocktail

    (2) “post-modernism in the sense of Fredric Jameson for whom it is the ‘dominant cultural logic of late capitalism‘ ”

    (3) “market capitalism, built around a perverse notion of economic communion

    (4) (from the Jewett/Bayly article mentioned by John) “A gender-neutral translation that claims to be accurate is ‘almost as bad as Stalin’s revisions’ ”

    (5) (from the Jewett/Bayly article mentioned by John) “liberal dishonesty in spades…. Here you have the imposition of liberal prejudice on the biblical text with the ridiculous assumption that our modern liberal views were Paul’s.”

    The communist metaphors are unclear. It is all very exciting, with references to violence (“Molotov cocktail”, “Stalin”) but who is who? Who are the Soviets in this extended metaphor? Molotov John? Stalin NRSV? Who is the oppressed proletariat?

    It seems the Revolution is a comin’ (and it will not be televised), but exactly who is going to be the first one up against the wall when the Revolution comes? (My guess: when we meet the new boss, he’ll be the same as the old boss.)

  53. Posted June 19, 2011 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve asked a question on Hobbins blog about his assertions concerning translating between vernaculars and lingua francas.

    Though the discussion here seems to have strayed a bit from his main points (or I’m missing something that translation folks pick up on — as I wrote in my comment at Hobbins’, I’m neither a translator nor the son of a translator), I’m going to repeat my question here:

    The assertion that a vernacular cannot be translated into a lingua franca assumes that the lingua franca is somehow missing a layer (the metaphorical, cultural, etc., expressions?) that is in the vernacular. But every lingua franca was once a vernacular (and continues to be a vernacular in some location) and has simply been elevated, by socio-political circumstances, to function across communities.

    Would someone care to address this? I asked Hobbins for secondary literature support (ideally, literature that addresses the linguistic nature of vernaculars and lingua francas and the problems of translating between them) and examples. Perhaps someone here could provide either or both.

    As someone who looks at linguistic systems, both in terms of their formal grammar and their sociolinguistic functions, I just don’t see how translating vernacular-to-lingua franca is any different in basic process from translating vernacular-to-vernacular. But this is an intriguing idea and I’m willing to be enlightened!

  54. Theophrastus
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Robert: This seems to be a theory that in becoming a lingua franca, a language undergoes compromise and simplification (presumably, at a more rapid pace than languages typically evolve.)

    In support of this theory, one might argue that, Koine is considerably less rich than Attic.

    As an analogy, for most major American films, “domestic” (= US + Canada) box offices receipts are dwarfed by “foreign” box office receipts. Some observers believe that as a result, American cinema destined for export has emphasized films that have less linguistic complexity (in other words, they are watered down compared with “art films.”)

    See also “decline of generations.”

  55. Theophrastus
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I do not see how one could generate universally accepted empirical evidence of the relative difficulty of vernacular->lingua franca vs. vernacular->vernacular translations, since that would require an objective way of ranking translations (in particular, translations into different languages).

    Thus, it seems to be an intriguing idea, but scientifically a non-falsifiable theory.

  56. Posted June 19, 2011 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Theophrastus,

    Thanks for the response. Your second comment confirms my own suspicions.

    Your first comment gives me something to chew on. I wonder if the compromise and simplification (granting that it happens, for which I’ll have to search for arguments of greater depth) is a necessary quality of a lingua franca or is a feature of some but not others. I’ve not seen such argued for Akkadian in, say, the 14th century ANE or Aramaic during the late Babylonian or Persian periods.

    If anyone has any references, I would welcome them as summer reading.

  57. Posted June 19, 2011 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    I studied translation in several different contexts, and over and over again, the guiding principle was the function of the translation. An instruction booklet to be used by English as a second language speakers to assemble equipment had better be simple, simple, simple – and a lingua franca all the way. Laws translated from English into French has=ve to be developed using the terminology and concepts of the French civic code. It is a very complex process requiring harmonization between Quebec law and federal Canadian law.

    The necessary function of the translation is the ruling element – always. So, if the function of the NT is to tell people how to get to heaven then “simple, simple, simple – a lingua franca.” If the function of the translation is to communicate how strange and other the Hebrew concept of God was, then “literal, literal, literal” and nativistic. If the function is to set up a rule of faith for our day, then what?

  58. Posted June 19, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Robert,

    If you want to read about translation issues today relating to a lingua franca or a native language, then you should google the typical terms as follows –

    mother tongue
    regional language
    national language
    official language
    language of wider communication

    Many communities where translators work have three languages, typically the regional language/mother tongue
    the national or official language (not always the same, but sometimes the same)
    the language of wider communication

    There is a lot of current literature and it will revolve around the “function” of the language. I am not sure if there is a literature which relates this back to Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Certainly, we can recognize Hebrew as a national language, and Aramaic and Greek as languages of wider communication.

    But the Greek language had been a group of regional languages, became a national language, and an LWC and then was superceded by Latin. We may assume that the NT was in an LWC because it was to function as a means of salvation. So, one would have to translate accordingly. There would be a burden to make the translation fit the need.

    However, does this mean that the Hebrew scriptures belonged primarily to the Hebrew nation? Another feature of the Hebrew scriptures is that they were scrolls which could not be searched in the same way that a codex can. I suspect that this made even more of a difference than the nature of the language.

    Did Jesus read the passage from Isaiah in the synagogue because it happened that the scroll was open at that section that day, or did he have to wind through the scroll to find that place? I am really not sure, but this is a significant difference between the Greek and hebrew scriptures, the scroll and the codex.

  59. Posted June 19, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    A national language is the language of community and ethnic identity. If one is not sensitive to that in translation, then we lose the fact that this is about the beliefs and rituals of an ethnic group, a specific people.

    But an LWC is not anybody’s first language at the time of writing. It does not function as a vehicle of ethnic identity. It functions more as a vehicle of communication, and less as a symbol of ingroup identity.

  60. Theophrastus
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Robert — to be clear, I’m not taking a position in the question about the evolution of linga franca languages. I was merely trying to state my understanding of John’s view. (Of course, you should refer to his own notes for a much more definitive account of his view.)

    I could also try to argue that changes in the nature of English could be better explained by the rise of electronic mass media in the 20th century.

    Ultimately, I find these positions anecdotal, and I would prefer to see a rigorous statistical analysis.

  61. Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Kurk, my first comment asking people to keep off the gender issue was directed generally, not to Suzanne. I did not intend to blame anyone in particular for the gradual drift in this thread towards that issue. I named Suzanne only when she continued to comment about gender after my first polite request. No one has been silenced. John has chosen to leave the conversation, but everyone else seemed to carry on talking about gender despite my warning, up to Robert’s welcome intervention. Well, please don’t take this comment as an excuse to get back on to gender.

  62. Posted June 19, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Peter,
    Thanks for clarifying. I certainly didn’t want to imply that you were wishing anyone here “to carry on talking about gender” or even “to get back on to gender.” We’re all needing to respect and to follow your lead here.

    But I did want to point out the context in which you issued your direction “generally.” (And didn’t you issue it by starting your comment “Suzanne”? Of course, it seems so far now that you’ve allowed her and others of us to speak. Thank you!) The context here, nevertheless, can’t be reduced to what Jewett wrote or to what (as Mike put it) “John’s post is not about.” The context here is one you yourself referred to with agonistic language: “another blogging war, or another reason to disable comments.” John had used similar language before Wayne even guest posted or re-posted; in John’s first reply to his first commenter at his blog (which Wayne could see, of course), John said: “That’s all it is, Tim, a shot across the bow(s).” His post already contained the incendiary language that Theophrastus asks him about above (i.e., “Molotov cocktail”). Yes, you’ve rightly said, “John has chosen to leave the conversation”; and yet it’s not only that he left but also the context in which he did it and how that’s important in this conversation. John issued this parting comment that tagged your comment directed at Suzanne: “For the rest, I am going to continue the conversation over on my blog because I agree with Peter and want to be in a position to keep the conversation focused.” Does John let Suzanne talk about gender or about anything at his blog? Is it fair that he gets to name her while also bringing up Jewett but then she can’t really address this because it’s off topic now or out of context or not what John’s post was about to begin with? Please know that I’m not wanting “to get back on to gender.” I am wanting to suggest that the context of this conversation is gendered. The agonistic language and the difference between (1) how a men can talk about or to a woman by name but (2) how she herself is allowed by them talk about herself or about (her) gender really do make up this context.

    BTW, I was glad when Suzanne came into the conversation giving examples from the LXX and when Wayne kept calling for examples from John. Now, the conversation does seem more now to be on track since Robert Holmstedt came in asking “for secondary literature support … and examples.”

  63. Posted June 19, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    If the function is to set up a rule of faith for our day, then what?

    Then biased and inconsistent so as best to support the desires of the priestly class.

  64. Posted June 19, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Just to throw in my $.02 in lingua-franca vs. vernacular. I think Robert and John are both right but sound like they are in conflict because they are using the terms to mean different things.

    Robert is correct that a lingua-franca that is a used as a vernacular retains all the structure and depth of the vernacular. From a linguistic standpoint nothing is missing, there is no difference.

    John however is using the term in terms of what linguists would call “recipient design”. In other words speech needs to be modified based on the level of understanding of the recipient. He’s using lingua-franca to mean an oversimplified sort of language where rich structures are avoided. I don’t think he’s actually asserting they aren’t available.

    My post directly above this one is a good example of this. Sarcasm on the internet is dangerous, without verbal queues it can often be misunderstood. However since the recipients were the sorts of people who like to talk about translation issues, and most of them no I’m pretty far to the left, I felt rather comfortable expressing myself in a short humorous and indirect way. In other words using what John would have called the vernacular.

  65. Posted June 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the responses.

    @Suzanne — What you’ve described relates to language use, not grammar. So translating between two different types shouldn’t be any different than translating between two of the same type. And I used your terms in Google Scholar and haven’t yet found the type of “rigorous statistical analysis” that Theophrastus mentions (which is what I want to see, too).

    As for a LWC not being *anyone’s* first language at the time of writing — is, then, a LWC completely manufactured, like Esperanto? This makes no sense to me, unless one uses LWC not to refer to any language, per se, but to a set of conventions dictating language use. Then it makes sense. (And this is the type of nuance I was expecting to see here and over at Hobbins’ blog.)

    @CD-Host, yes, we can assume that John means something like recipient design, but then that should be clarified. Moreover, that position does not at all mean that a vernacular-based text cannot be translated into a lingua france unless one specifies that the translator is bound by the conventions limiting the lingua franca (i.e., not allowed access to the full depth of the language that serves as the lingua franca). This makes sense but was unstated (until your comment).

    Many thanks!

  66. Posted June 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Kurk, I know it’s easy to do among 65 comments, but you must have missed my first comment here Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm, which was general, no mention of Suzanne:

    Please can we all avoid letting this comment thread get diverted into gender issues, which are off the topic (certainly the explicit topic!) of this post. In Wayne’s absence the rest of us BBB bloggers don’t want to have to moderate everything!

    It was only after Suzanne appeared to ignore this that I named her and used stronger language about blogging wars and disabling comments. In retrospect, given the timings, I realise that Suzanne probably hadn’t seen my first warning when she started her comment which appears after it, so I was too quick to jump in naming her. So I apologise for that.

    If Suzanne is still not allowed to get involved in discussions on John’s blog, that is indeed unfair. And it is the reason I don’t read his blog. But that is a matter to take up with John, not me.

  67. Posted June 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Good morning, and Happy Father’s Day. My father, a very rare event, is up from Texas visiting. I hear his chatter in the background with his granddaughter Anna, who is a little bit overwhelmed. I have been telling her Grandpa stories for a long time, and now Grandpa is here. I have a few minutes before I go and preach (it’s Trinity Sunday).

    An aside: my father, a longtime supporter of Wycliffe, likes to volunteer at the GIAL:

    http://www.gial.edu/about/ilc.htm

    Thanks to Robert, it looks like this thread is back on track.

    As often happens in blogging no less than more scholarly venues, discussion is clarifying.

    Theo is right: what I have in mind, with the vernacular / lingua franca distinction, is the well-attested phenomenon that “in becoming a lingua franca, a language undergoes compromise and simplification (presumably, at a more rapid pace than languages typically evolve.)”

    In support of this theory, as he notes, “one might argue that, Koine is considerably less rich than Attic.”

    With respect to English, CD-Host’s comment is clarifying. In fact, linguists make a distinction between LFE (Lingua Franca English) and other kinds of English.

    It’s good to see these things fleshed out. I don’t think my starting points are particularly controversial, though of course everything is controversial in some sense – even my playful use of mixed metaphors, not to mention my choices about who to allow and not allow on my blog [mostly males on my banned list; that I even have to point this out says more about my inveterate critics than it does me. Peter, or anyone else: if you want to know more about my reasons, feel free to email me.)

    I was blindsided, I admit, by the degree to which the distinction I begin with is controversial, just as I was blindsided by Rich’s and Dannii’s comments who are puzzled by my classification of most of the Bible – Luke-Acts for example – as literature.

    It’s where I go with these premises that ought to interest Bible translators. The other premises I am working with:

    “Linguistic status is always a question of power – political, technological, economic, religious” (David Crystal: I quote from memory; it should not be hard to find the reference)

    “LFE is intersubjectively constructed in a situation- and participant-specific manner” (Suresh Canagarajah easy to find the reference online I imagine)

    I then make the claim that by using the field testing approach to determine what constitutes better diction in Bible translation, filed-tested translations end up being written in LFE.

    In the face of this trend, I wish to defend a range of translations that are more vernacular in one sense or another: Buber-Rosenzweig, Shapiro and Curzon, Alter; mimetic FE translations like the LXX, the Vulgate, and the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV-RSV-ESV translation traditions.

    Yes, this is anti-Nida, who wanted a lowest common denominator register for missional purposes, and found it through field-testing – it turns out, I suggest, to be a version of LFE, but that raises other questions: questions of power; questions of status, more generally, the kind of things critical theory traffics in.

    I am not sure that what I am getting at is all that different from what Lawrence Venuti was trying to get at in his anti-Nida Nida lecture at SBL a couple of years back. Anyway, these issues are bread and butter among theorists of literary translation (as opposed to translation of workaday documents; in the latter case, Suzanne’s functional approach to translation makes sense).

    All I have time for at the moment.

  68. Posted June 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    John, thank you for clarifying that in your mind the proper track for this thread is not the one which CD-Host and Suzanne took it along but the one which Robert brought it back to. Let’s keep it on that track.

  69. Dannii
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Rob said:

    @CD-Host, yes, we can assume that John means something like recipient design, but then that should be clarified. Moreover, that position does not at all mean that a vernacular-based text cannot be translated into a lingua france unless one specifies that the translator is bound by the conventions limiting the lingua franca (i.e., not allowed access to the full depth of the language that serves as the lingua franca). This makes sense but was unstated (until your comment).

    That makes a lot more sense to me!

    But, why talk about a translation limited to certain omnicultural genres and registers as being deficient at representing other genres and registers? Isn’t that a no brainer? If it’s aim is to deliberately limit the language that is used, then of course it won’t be able to express everything!

    And if that is what John means by lingua franca, I have to disagree with his assessment of the NIV and NLT being translated into lingua franca English (CEV: maybe.) I’m not aware of the translators of those versions saying that they were in any way limited to the conventions of a globialised English.

  70. Posted June 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    We have in the past discussed some of these issues, for example, the Bible in Basic English. For missionaries, there is an impetus to create a Bible in simple English because of the belief that understanding the word brings salvation. At the same time, missionaries are translating the scriptures into vernaculars that have no word for “sheep” “tree” and many other things. The difficulties far surpass the question what is the difference in translating from Hebrew or Greek.

    It is easier to translate narrative that essayist prose, so the gospels are often the first translated. But the tribal language of Genesis and Exodus also resonates.

    One reason that it is often so difficult to translate the scriptures into every vernacular is that the vernacular has not existed before as a written language and there is no sense of whose vernacular it is. Will only one village identify the vernacular as there own, or will all ten villages accept the vernacular? If only one village will accept the vernacular translation, do you start all over again for each of the other ten villages?

    So, do you try to create the notion of a regional or national language for those ten villages, and through education create a common orthography and a common lexicon. This becomes a highly political project.

    So, the difference between translating from Hebrew and from Greek is often lost in the shuffle. But there often develops a secondary literature in which the group identifies with the tribes of Israel. The group often identifies themselves with the Hebrews, and the larger colonizing powers are Egypt.

    I have seen this kind of thing happen here. But whether from Greek or Hebrew, there is still the problem of what to do for the missing vocabulary.

    Peter,

    Regarding the gender conversation, John Hobbins seems to be citing from Michael Marlowe who lacks a sense that women are the sons of God.

    http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2011/06/michael-marlowe.html

    Just let John know that on this blog women are equal and any insinuation that those who do not regard women as equal can be used as authoritative sources on gender language in the Bible is not welcome here. He can congratulate himself all he want on establishing a relationship with Michael, but he needs to keep that away from here.

  71. Posted June 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Dannii,

    As far as I can see, the main obstacle you face is at the level of premises, not conclusions. You haven’t come to the conclusion that the distinction between a vernacular and a lingua franca is of great importance; in fact, it looks like you want to do without it, and talk about registers only; and you don’t think that anything real attaches to the assertion that the Bible (or at least great parts of it) is literature.

    As long as the premises I adopt do not speak to you, there is no way that you are going to find the conclusions I point to as convincing.

    I have cited the scholarship of Pollock and Sanders. The latter is not available so far as I know online (I will contact Seth about this; perhaps this can be fixed in some way). I just discovered that that of Pollock is in part. If you are looking for great summer reading, try Pollock’s blockbuster, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. The introduction is available online:

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mesaas/faculty/directory/pollock_pub/Introduction,%20Language%20of%20the%20Gods.pdf

    Once the distinction starts clicking, it will be seen that it is way too optimistic to say: “a lingua franca is capable of expressing everything that is found in a vernacular, without remainder.” It doesn’t work that way.

    I concur with you about the differences among the translations. To be precise, from my perspective: CEV is more of a lingua franca translation than NLT, and NLT is more of a lingua franca translation than NIV; and NIV is more of a lingua franca translation than RSV/ESV. This correlates, I suggest, with the weight put on field-testing as a means to establish what diction to adopt.

  72. Posted June 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Dannii —

    And if that is what John means by lingua franca, I have to disagree with his assessment of the NIV and NLT being translated into lingua franca English (CEV: maybe.) I’m not aware of the translators of those versions saying that they were in any way limited to the conventions of a globialised English.

    I think John is at least agreeing with my framing on his blog. Assuming so… I I’d agree with John that the simplicity of the NLT and the NIV have often resulted in poor translations choices. Where I would disagree with John is that the ESV isn’t even worse.

    Aion has no English equivalent. How do I say simultaneously in English: this world, this place and time, this period in time, this particular phase of the Earth’s axial precession. Heck how do I even say “this particular phase of the Earth’s axial precession” to someone who doesn’t know Astrology? So instead what we get are “world” and “age” which are terrible, terrible translation of aion And because there isn’t a simple word in English for these ideas “eternal” which is absolutely not meant is often the word used.

    A non evangelical bible, an insider’s bible could handle this. Probably by just leaving aion untranslated. It shows up weil 100x in the bible, Christians would just learn what the word really meant. But you can’t simultaneously teach that:

    a) The bible (NT) is a Greek book, written by Hellenistic Jews about the theological debates of the 1st century
    b) The bible is God’s book addressed to you about your life

    You have to pick.

  73. Posted June 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Actually thinking back on my last post I should have closed a bit more general:

    a) Paul constantly talks in terms of Greek Astrology
    b) Paul’s comments can usually be accurately translated into English Astrology but that increases the complexity for the reader tremendously. Essentially they have to learn to understand a specialized form of English that’s not part of the basic lexicon. You have to assume a highly motivated reader.
    c) Paul’s comments can usually be translated into Christian theology by dropping the astrology, replacing his arguments with theological abstractions and dogmatic assertions. But doing that requires a specialized theological language, what Wayne calls “biblish”
    d) Paul’s comments can be in some sense translated into common speech by dropping both the astrology and the theology and making simple dogmatic assertions about common sense topics.

    Astrology is no longer part of our common heritage. So what is to be done? And this happens with respect to dozens of biblical topics, the bible is inundated with literary genres that assume an alien culture to be genuinely understandable. I think John’s use of lingua-franca and vernacular confuses the issue which is why I like the idea of recipient design.

    I think John would assert that the ESV gets up to (c) while the NIV and the NLT are at (d). I would disagree with him, I think they mainly differ on where they go for route (c) and (d) and what few specs they consider important enough to make (b).

  74. Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    John wrote:

    This correlates, I suggest, with the weight put on field-testing as a means to establish what diction to adopt.

    Field testing itself does not produce results more in line with any register, vernacular, or lingua franca. Field testing is simply a tool used to determine if a translation aligns with the linguistic intutions of whatever language community is being tested, whether a lingua franca, vernacular, pidgin, creole, or jargon. If we want a translation to serve English as Second Language (ESL) speakers, as was the initial intent of the Good News Bible, field testing would use subjects who are ESL speakers. If translators want their translation to be in the vernacular of some specific dialect of English, the speakers of that dialect would be the subjects of the testing. For those languages which differ by male vs. female speech, field testing would be done with whichever gender speak the gender dialect desired.

    The reason that British speakers feel that most recent English translations sound like they are written in American English (of which there are several main dialects) is due to the simple fact that most members of those translations’ translation committees are American English speakers. It is not enough to Anglicize spelling, “color” to “colour”, “judgment” to “judgement,” etc. The differences between British (with its various dialects) and American English are far more extensive than spelling changes.

    A claim that some English Bible version is written in a lingua franca or vernacular (or other categories of language since there are more than just these two) is, I suspect, largely a subjective opinion. The claim takes on some objectivity when one does the careful study of the linguistic differences between the various English vernaculars and lingua francas (there are more than one of each) and then supports one’s claim with a sufficient number of examples so that the claim begins to have some statistical significance in relation to all of the linguistic phenomena in the particular English Bible translations being studied. And even statistics can lie as we see so often when opposing politicians cite statistics that appear to support one’s own side in a debate (say, over mandated health insurance reform).

    “Tradurre e tradire” is the Italian proverb “Translation is treason.” Some would claim, I’m sure, that a translation in a vernacular is less treasonous than one written in a lingua franca. And there may be some truth in that claim. But if the target audience are precisely speakers of a lingua franca, then a vernacular translation is more treasonous for them. Every professional translator wrestles with culture- and time-based mismatches. These mismatches are a central part of any professional translation theory, including those which are more linguistic based and those which are more based on literary analysis. Ultimately, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If one prefers translating metaphors literally, then explaining what the mean outside of the translation, fine. Just be willing to be honest about the cognitive processing price that is paid, while promoting this translation approach. Similarly, if one prefers to translate the meaning of metaphors or match functionally equivalent metaphors between source and target language, another price is paid. For that matter, a price is paid whenever any translation of any kind is paid. The very act of translation is treason. It gives the idea to some people that the words of the target language translation were what was originally written. Some people seem to come close to believing that when they promote their favorite English translation as being more “inspired”, “pure,” etc. than any other English translations. Entire translation cults develop around such favoritism.

    Is there common ground to be found to reduce internecine warfare over English Bible versions, or even to return us to some “common” English Bible (which was not the KJV when it was first published)? I’m not so sure. But I am sure that the more that any translation team uses language to support its translation such as: “This is the most accurate translation ever produced,” or “This is the translation that best preserves God’s eternal truth,” or “This is the translation that best retains the forms of the biblical language texts,” we will increasing be divided into polarized camps, with functional equivalents of some being of Paul, Apollos, Peter, and best of all, of course, Jesus.

    Is there value in observing that some translations are more literary than others? Of course. Does that make a “literary” translation better? Well, as with so many translation questions relating to which Bible versions is better, the answer depends on better for what and better for whom?

    I am not ashamed to state upfront that I prefer an English translation to communicate as accurately as possible to as many English speakers as possible, at least what is reasonably possible before we might get to a certain breaking point where dialect differences become so great that a common translation for native speakers of those dialects is not possible if one wishes to retain the rich language of a vernacular translation. There is definitely a role to be played for specialized translations designed for specific audiences, such as conservative evangelical audiences who feel the need for there to be christological harmonization between the Old and New Testaments, scholarly audiences of various kinds, ideological audiences such as those who believe that male patriarchy in the Bible is reflected in masculine grammatical forms in the biblical languages which must be preserved in English vs. those who follow a mandate such as the NRSV translators which required them to remove as much of that male orientation as possible for current English speaker.

    There are always trade-offs in translation, including when one translates in a way that is pleasing to literary critics. Translation itself is a trade-off (or treason) in the very act of not using the original words and syntactic forms of the biblical language texts. Even the sometimes uttered solution of “teach them all English” or “teach them all the biblical languages” is a form of treason, since it takes a huge amount of time for anyone to learn a new language and its associated sociolinguistic and any other cultural nuances well enough for the gains desired to be greater than the losses incurred along the way when not hearing/reading a document in one’s first language.

    I also am sure that advocates of different approaches to translation can and should learn from each other. Exegetes really do need professional translation training. And advocates of different professional translation approaches need to listen to each other. And linguistically oriented translated need more exposure to the concerns of gatekeepers within the target audience, as well as exegetical scholars, and literary critics.

  75. Dannii
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    John, you seem to be talking as if once something is a lingua franca then it is no longer also a vernacular, which seems to me to be nonsense. I’ll try to find some time to read Pollock and Sanders.

    CD, thanks for talking a little about astrology. That is indeed a semantic domain we don’t share with the NT writers, and one that needs more thought. I think that there are two options when you come to new semantic domains and concepts: you can try to convey them, or you can try to replace them. Probably all translations do both, and differ based on which ones they consider important enough to convey. If you do convey them, the question then is how. I believe that languages have conventions for introducing readers/listeners to new concepts and even to new domains. “Biblish” translations ignore those conventions. So I guess I would say the ideal translation goes for B, but being very careful as to how it introduces the new concepts. I’m uncomfortably moving towards the idea that unless you go for D, the translation will need ancillary notes. I’m not sure whether Greek astrology is worth the effort of B, but perhaps it is.

    I don’t see how any of that relates to vernaculars and lingua francas though!

  76. Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Wayne,

    Well put.

    I won’t take a position w.r.t. translating and the nature of the product itself, since it’s not my area, but your 3rd paragraph (“A claim … “) is what I’ve been waiting for.

    – careful study of the linguistic differences
    – supporting one’s claim with a sufficient number of examples
    – statistical significance in relation to all of the linguistic phenomena

    Oh, what music to this linguist’s ears!

  77. Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    I have Sanders’ book and just got a copy of Pollock’s The Language of the Gods in the World of Men (2006). I’ve now skimmed Sanders again (noting where he cited Pollock) and cherry-picked Pollock.

    I simply don’t see how the latter’s discussion of the use of language and linguistic systems w.r.t. “culture-power” is directly relevant to the issue of translation. They are both interesting works, but seem to be red herrings in a discussion of the challenges of representing a text in one language into a second language, vernacular or not.

    But, perhaps I’m just missing the point.

  78. Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    CD,

    When you talked about “recipient design” and connected that with simplification, you caught a feature (one among many) of LFE and standardized Italian (I cite two examples I am intimately acquainted with).

    Can you give examples of where you think ESV is as awful as you say it is? In the congregation I currently serve we use RSV, which is virtually identical; now you have me worried.

    As for aion, I was taught that its astrological sense is in most cases bleeded out in Hellenistic Jewish literature. I can’t remember coming across something in the texts that suggests otherwise. Perhaps you can expand on that.

  79. Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    CD,

    You also say:

    “you can’t simultaneously teach that:

    a) The bible (NT) is a Greek book, written by Hellenistic Jews about the theological debates of the 1st century
    b) The bible is God’s book addressed to you about your life.”

    Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

    The New Testament is an anthology of writings from the 1st century that gradually came to form a closed canon the content of which, though never apart from the Old Testament, came to possess unique authority in the life of catholic Christianity, beginning, clearly enough, with authors like Irenaeus, and coming to maturity in authors like Athanasius and Augustine. In short, a set of writings was repurposed in Christian antiquity to serve as a rule of doctrine and faith and has continued to serve that purpose to this day.

    To be sure, since none of the words in the NT are addressed to you or me in particular and do not have our lives in particular in view, it takes a “strong reader” to appropriate them in a faithful and responsible way, with the content of faith and responsibility determined by the texts themselves contextualized in a specific stream of tradition. No wonder then, that the theory of interpretation has been front and center in the history of Christianity from Augustine to Schleiermacher and beyond.

  80. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Rob,

    Thanks for discussing the scholarship I cited. You note that you don’t see how the discussion of the use of language and linguistic systems w.r.t. “culture-power” is directly relevant to the issue of translation.

    It is directly relevant because translation is a quintessential example of the use of language and linguistic systems. If language is always a question of power, status, and privilege – political, technological, economic, and religious – translation is also a question of all of those things.

    Take even a cursory glance of the work of translation theorists like Anthony Pym and Lawrence Venuti and you will discover that they address these questions with vigor.

    In an earlier comment, you stated:

    “Specifically, it is not easy to establish confidently that any ancient text is in a vernacular or lingua franca.”

    I am wondering if you would clarify that. I continue to think that it is clear that ancient Hebrew was a vernacular over against Aramaic and standard Babylonian (for the view that ancient Hebrew scribes or at least some of them were versed in the Mesopotamian curriculum in the 8th-7th centuries BCE to sound plausible, you will have to have read Bernard Levinson, David Wright, and/or Gershon Galil [modern Hebrew]), and that hellenistic Greek was a lingua franca, though it was vernacularized to an extent in the Hellenistic Jewish community (just as LFE in vernacularized in India today).

  81. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Dannii —

    This may start to take us afield from John’s position. I like to use astrology because its non controversial. Unlike gender or mechanisms of salvation.

    Let me give you an example of one of the most crucial passages in the entire bible which is rendered as meaningless gobblygook gibberish as a result of trying to avoid astrology. Paul prefaces this passage with, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” So we are about to get the big secret, the nature of the real wisdom of God as distinguished from the nature of the world and further we know that crucifying Jesus was how the celestial powers were defeated here we get the why they fell into this trap. So lets start with the TNIV which is about average on handling this passage:

    1Cor2:6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
    “What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
    and what no human mind has conceived—
    these things God has prepared for those who love him”[b]—

    10 for God has revealed them to us by his Spirit.

    The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit within? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[c]

    Honestly, can you tell me that this is understandable in the slightest if you couldn’t read this in Greek? This reads like a salad of related sentences not a cohesive thought. What is the relationship between the spirit within each person, the Spirit of God and the Spirit who is from God? If the mystery is hidden why would the rulers of this age have understood it? Who is the “we” who is destined for glory by this mystery that was hidden? Is our Spirit aware of this mystery after its search?

    Contrast this with a translation that just throws about 10% of the astrology back in (the NEB):

    6 And yet I do speak words of wisdom to those who are ripe for it, not a wisdom belonging to this passing age, nor to any of its governing powers, which are declining to their end; 7 I speak God’s hidden wisdom, his secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our full glory. 8 The powers that rule the world have never known it; if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 [ Is.64.4, Ps.52.15. ] But, in the words of Scripture,
    ‘Things beyond our seeing,
    things beyond our hearing,
    things beyond our imagining,
    all prepared by God for those who love him’,

    10 these it is that God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit explores everything, even the depths of God’s own nature.
    11 Among men, who knows what a man is but the man’s own spirit within him? In the same way, only the Spirit of God knows what God is. 12 This is the Spirit that we have received from God, and not the spirit of the world, so that we may know all that God of his own grace gives us; 13 and, because we are interpreting spiritual truths to those who have the Spirit, we speak of these gifts of God in words found for us not by our human wisdom but by the Spirit.

    Suddenly its a cohesive thought. The spirit stuff is tied together. The connection between the mystery / wisdom and the governing powers and the age is present (in oversimplified form but present). In Greek we know who those “Governing powers” are, and that’s lost but… can you not see the difference? Don’t get me wrong there are still serious problems but what a difference!

    And that’s just adding a little bit of the astrology back in. Imagine what it would be like if we added it all back in. Can it be taken further, can we make it clear what Paul means by “this passing age” and why the governing powers are associated with “this age” in translation? And I admit that every step in that direction takes me one step further away from an easy to read bible. There is nothing easy about getting a 21st century American to picture a Ptolemaic cosmos filled with celestial powers at various levels of the heavens.

  82. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Wayne —

    Good points. I’ve said before there are really 5 views of translation:

    All translation is a commentary on the original. The purpose of a translation is to help someone understand the original in line with how one would read a commentary (call this the Jewish / Muslim position).

    Translation is an attempt to capture the ideas of the original. Because ideas don’t exist in a vacuum one needs to quite often make the translation less accurate so as to avoid “misunderstandings” which are a result of the new host language and / or come from lack of context (call this the Lutheran position).

    Translation is an attempt to capture the ideas and/or the wording of the original as understood by the church historically. Word level accuracy is to be considered preferable to phrasal accuracy but not at the expense of creating ambiguity regarding ancient heresies (call this the Conservative Protestant position).

    Translation should aim for the most accurate rendering possible at some predetermined unchanging level, be it word, phrase or paragraph. While church history can influence between otherwise equal choices the original should be held as superior to the understanding of the church (call this the Liberal Protestant position).

    Translation should aim to capture as best as possible the original intent of the writer as it would have been understood by contemporaneous readers. Word level accuracy should only give way to phrase level when absolutely needed to avoid problems in the new host language. Church history is likely to distort the original understanding and we need to deconstruct the translational tradition to find where “Orthodox corruption” in meaning has occurred. (call this the New school position).

  83. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    I admit that the lingua franca/ vernacular distinction is just as difficult to develop in a way that will satisfy everyone as is the distinction between literature and workaday documents. Regardless, I have not been saying that a language is either this or that, but that it is this in one sense and perhaps that in another.

    It is sometimes true that a vernacular and a lingua franca coincide. For example, it is easily shown (here statistics are uncontroversial, because they back up what we know to be the case by other means) that African American Vernacular English and White American Vernacular English diverge in significant ways; and that the latter and LFE converge to the point of coincidence.

    Perhaps the example just given will be helpful to those on this thread who struggle with the concept that how you say something and in what sociolect you say it are expressions of power differential, of status and privilege.

    Now, if you wish to turn around and claim that it is possible to successfully translate African American Vernacular English into White American Vernacular English – i.e., the lingua franca; if you wish to claim that a movie like Il Postino or an author like Andrea Camilleri, both of which switch back and forth between a lingua franca (standard Italian) and a vernacular (napolitano or siciliano) to great effect, could have succeeded just as well if they put everything in the lingua franca, I would simply say that you might want to reconsider the foundations of your optimism.

  84. Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    CD,

    Now I see what you mean by astrology: the lowest common denominator metaphysics shared by most in the Hellenistic ecumene.

    Your example is well-chosen. The most salient issue: whether to translate rules of this age or rulers of this world. In either case, I think [extra-translational] explanation is needed to bring out the assumed cosmology, but I see why “rulers of this world” might be preferable.

    “Rulers of this age” NIV, ESV, etc.
    “Rulers of this world” NLT, CEV, etc.

  85. Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    John, i don’t understand what point you’re trying to make. Whether you can translate between AAVE and WAVE would depend on what the text is, and on your metrics of success. Yes those Italian examples will miss out if translated flatly.

    i don’t think you’ll find opposition to that. so i don’t understand what you’re arguing.

  86. Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    John —

    Happy father’s day BTW.

    As for aion, I was taught that its astrological sense is in most cases bleeded out in Hellenistic Jewish literature. I can’t remember coming across something in the texts that suggests otherwise. Perhaps you can expand on that.

    By chance (I’m responding in order) the text I did for Dannii is a good example. Paul is using aion here, the passing age to mean the period of time of time for a precession to take place.

    Because there is a gravitational interplay of the Sun on the Moon, the Moon shifts its position which causes the earth axis of rotation to itself rotate slowly. This “great year” cycle completes a revolution every 26,000 years. As seen from Earth this causes the “heavens” to slowly shift position during certain fixed times of the year. The zodiac sign appear to be rotating about the earth both in an annual cycle and a greater cycle every 26,000 years. As we move from sign to sign, we are in an age (aion). At the time the New Testament was being written the earth was passing from one Zodiac postion to another. In other words the “planets” are realigning with respect to the stars into a new position. A new heaven, a new age was emerging.

    Here is a good image of the shift in the pole star: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Precession_N.gif
    and a so so image for the constellations:

    The rulers of this age, the stars are passing away to new rulers, new stars; and their associated demons.

    Now reread verse 1Cor 2:6 “…not a wisdom belonging to this passing age (aion), nor to any of its governing powers, which are declining to their end” and suddenly the verse makes perfect sense.

    As an aside in the year 2020 North America will hit the next procession, which the song from Hair described quite well:

    When the moon is in the Seventh House
    And Jupiter aligns with Mars
    Then peace will guide the planets
    And love will steer the stars

    This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
    The age of Aquarius
    Aquarius!
    Aquarius!

    So there is a perfect example of where just treating aion like age or worse “world” produces gibberish.

    Can you give examples of where you think ESV is as awful as you say it is? In the congregation I currently serve we use RSV, which is virtually identical; now you have me worried.

    I would have thought you’ve had enough of the ESV is the worst modern mainstream translation ever theme??? Anyway you and I kinda debated this on your anti NRSV threads.

    But if I have to compare to the RSV let me start off by saying I give a 1950s translation that helped break the strangle hold of the KJV much more slack than a 2001 translation. I generally say really nice stuff about the KJV, even though objectively its a worse translation than the ESV because 400 years buys you lots of slack and the language is just gorgeous. However, if the RSV came out today I’d consider it pretty poor.

    That being said it still made the OT worse by reading the NT in and not footnoting: to pick the key example:
    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
    From an “essentially literal” translation which claims to be based on the Hebrew.
    vs. the RSV: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el.

    To not footnote virgin in 2001 is extreme. Genesis 22:18 also not footnoted show this is a common pattern. I can understand the need for a theological overrides of the text. Though for a Protestant this is questionable. But generally when groups do theological overrides of the text they denote. For example the NWT’s overrides are all very well documented in the Kingdom Interlinear.

    And while we are on the topics of Interlinears having an interlinear which uses English word order to demonstrate an “essentially literal” quality that isn’t? Seriously can you with a straight face support that?

    Romans 5:3 where we rejoice more in our sufferings than the glory of God. rather than rejoicing in the glory of God and not only that in our sufferings.

    Or the great series that Mark Strauss did here: http://betterbibles.com/2008/11/27/esv-by-mark-strauss-links-to-each-part/

  87. Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Well one more before I go to bed to expand on John’s example. Black English vernacular makes bible translation much easier because you have an aorist tense in black English. To use it you use the verb to-be followed by an -ing verb.

    So: Romans 6:8 Now if we be dying (aorist) with Christ, we believe (present simple) that we shall live (future simple) with him.

    No way to do that in standard (white) English. I’ve argued that this would be a nice tradition for translators to just pick up on across the board.

  88. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    For example, it is easily shown (here statistics are uncontroversial, because they back up what we know to be the case by other means) that African American Vernacular English and White American Vernacular English

    While I am familiar with the term “African American Vernacular English,” I have never before heard the term “White American Vernacular English.” I am afraid I did check with the statistics and it seems out are people in the US who are neither black nor white.

    I wonder what they speak? For example, would one claim there is an “Asian American English”? Or would one classify them (following the example of the “Architect of Apartheid” Hendrik Verwoerd) as “honorary whites“?

    (I must confess that hearing English in “black” and “white” would make life wondrously simple, because then “white American” William Faulkner would sound like “white American” Ezra Pound.)

  89. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    For example, it is easily shown (here statistics are uncontroversial, because they back up what we know to be the case by other means) that African American Vernacular English and White American Vernacular English

    While I am familiar with the term “African American Vernacular English,” I have never before heard the term “White American Vernacular English.” I am afraid I did check with the statistics and it seems out are people in the US who are neither black nor white.

    I wonder what they speak? For example, would one claim there is an “Asian American English”? Or would one classify them (following the example of the “Architect of Apartheid” Hendrik Verwoerd) as “honorary whites“?

  90. Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I concur with you about the differences among the translations. To be precise, from my perspective: CEV is more of a lingua franca translation than NLT, and NLT is more of a lingua franca translation than NIV; and NIV is more of a lingua franca translation than RSV/ESV. This correlates, I suggest, with the weight put on field-testing as a means to establish what diction to adopt.

    It is interesting to note that the editors of the ESV believe that this version is missional and suitable for worldwide distribution in China and Africa in particular. The editor feels that it also it is easier to explain the way of salvation from this bible. (This is due to gender reasons, so I won’t go into it.)

    Are they mistaken? I think they would feel that the CEV/NLT were the vernacular Bibles and the ESV was more of a lingua franca.

    Perhaps one oddity of the ESV which greatly detracts from the Hebrew original is the addition of upper case letters in Psalm 2 and 110. This completely decontextualizes the phrases, and does not respect the fact that Hebrew was the vernacular of a particular nation.

  91. Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Wayne,

    It’s great to have you back, and I thank you for your careful and vigorous response. I will try to do it justice.

    Re: field-testing. You are right that field-testing can serve all kinds of purposes. I had in mind the purpose to which it has been put in the service of translations like NIV, NLT, and ISV. I regard these translations as relatively successful examples of translating the Bible into standard lingua franca English (which is, of course, Americanizing English; our British friends are right to point this out).

    I actually think we agree on the above point: you yourself sometimes speak of the need to translate into “standard English.” You are free to do statistical studies to your heart’s content in order to determine whether NIV, NLT, and ISV instantiate LFE however defined at 80%, 90% or perhaps only 60% levels. Whatever the results might be of such research, they would be irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion. All we need to agree on is that translations like the ones just mentioned instantiate LFE by any reasonable definition to a qualitatively greater extent than do translations like those as various but also alike as those of Robert Alter, KJV, and ESV. I will be surprised if we cannot agree on that. If not, perhaps you will lay out the reasons which make a consensus at this level of approximation impossible.

    After all, it is simply the case that standard English and LFE largely overlap; it is simply the case that translations like NIV, NLT, and ISV seek to translate the Bible in contemporary, natural, standard English, whereas translations like Alter, KJV, and RSV/NRSV/ESV have other priorities such that they tend to be as literal (mimetic) as possible in their choice of diction and syntax.

    To be sure, NIV (particularly of late), NLT (more so once upon a time), and ISV were field-tested in formal and perhaps mostly informal ways with goals in mind that went beyond the goals of clarity and naturalness of expression. I agree, but I remain convinced that clarity and naturalness of expression were goals of all of the above translations. I also realize that the goal in every case was not to sacrifice accuracy in the process.

    On the other hand – and I have given numerous examples of just that on my blog and in comment threads here – accuracy often *has* been sacrificed in precisely these translations.

    Time and again I have offered alternative translations in light of detail found in the source text. I have been up to this for about 5 years now.

    My own attempts at faithful translation caught the eye of David Curzon early on, a translator-poet who has given us marvelous “vernacular” translations of some of the Psalms and of Anglo-Saxon retellings of biblical narratives. Perhaps more interesting than all of these is the Buber-Rosenzweig translation. My translations, those of Curzon and Alter, and that of Buber-Rosenzweig might be labeled in various ways. Mimetic, defamiliarizing, vernacularizing (in the sense of deliberately rendering a text into a vernacular at odds with one’s own vernacular), “close” translation: all these labels fit to one extent or another.

    This style of translation effort, occasionally referred to as the “Puritan” approach among translators of literary texts, bears a number of similarities with the formal equivalence translation tradition of Bible translation of which the LXX, the Vulgate, and the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV-ESV translation traditions are all examples.

    No wonder then that someone like Robert Alter, guilty as it were of literary translation, is also an admirer of the KJV.

    The call for examples is a little stale at this point. As if the conversation we are now having is not a continuation of the one we have been having for years. To be sure, it is new for me to bring up the vernacular / lingua franca distinction.

    Yes, I was blindsided by the extent to which the distinction is not grasped/accepted by some, just as I am blindsided by the extent to which the distinction between literature and workaday documents is not accepted by some. But if you are still puzzling over the emphasis I have been putting on the notion that ancient Hebrew is a vernacular and NT Greek is vernacularized lingua franca, try rereading the discussion we had about hallowing God’s name in light of the distinction:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2011/04/what-does-it-mean-to-hallow-gods-name.html (and follow the links back to Theo’s observations)

    Without a commitment to representing the fine detail, the mental map, of the source text – a source text which, in the case of the Hebrew Bible, consists of vernacular, national, ethnic literature – the result is a de-judaization of content in the name of and for the sake of – universalization according to what I would call pseudo-Christian, or perhaps pseudo-Christian, politically correct standards.

    A de-judaization of NT content *in particular.* This is problematic for ten different reasons which I trust I need not go into for the purposes of this thread.

    On BBB, you have spoken about the translation technique you prefer as being “democratic.” No, I am not going to ask you do research to prove that it is, or provide statistics. I understand what you are trying to say. Rather, I am arguing for my own preferences, which tend in the other direction. Call it “anti-democratic.” As if I care. What I’m concerned about are things like this:

    “Translations that strive for dynamic equivalence (DE) are famous for taming the ambiguity occurent in the source text, adding explanation, shortening sentences, reducing lexical density, and lowering type-token ratios. Very oral texts become more written, and written texts become more oral (Schlesinger 1989). Metaphors and figures of speech tend to be replaced by straight-up propositional language. Poetry is washed away. The original readers of the texts in question were treated to full-bodied language rich in culture-specific concepts, figures of speech, and co-textual references. Why should readers of the texts in translation settle for anything less?”

    For more (and comments by my usual friendly critics):

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/02/defining-faithf.html.

    We have some very honest disagreements – thank God for Kurk who quickly pointed that out). If you want it spelled out in the jargon of (literary) translation theory – assuming you are not allergic to literary translation theory as Rich Rhodes as – here goes: per a classic article by van den Broeck (1981):

    According to Toury [1976] the translator is always confronted with a “basic choice between two polar alternatives deriving from the two major constituents of the ‘value’ in literary translation [...]: he either subjects himself to the original text, with its textual relations and the norms expressed by it and contained in it, or to the linguistic and literary norms active in the TL and in the target literary
    polysystem, or a certain section of it.”

    Although the translator’s practical decisions will rarely represent one or the other alternative in its ‘pure’ form – that is to say that the decisions made will thus generally be some combination of these two extremes – a description of metaphor translation in terms of initial norms can start from the following basic distinction:

    (1) If the translation adheres to the SL norm, metaphors will tend to be translated ‘sensu stricto,’ even if the resulting item in TL might prove to be incompatible with the target linguistic and/or literary norms. This retentive mode of translating is then responsible for the deviant (or ‘alienating’, i.e., exotic and/or archaic) character of translated metaphors.

    (2) If the second position is adopted, SL metaphors are most likely to be replaced by more or less corresponding (or equivalent) TL metaphors, or will at least often be adapted. The prevailing mode here is substitution by which original metaphors are domesticated, i.e., adapted to the prevailing norms of the target system, which eventually determine the acceptability of translational equivalents.

    End quote. I adopt the first position; you adopt the second. Can we agree that our disagreements fall along these faultlines?

    Full article here:

    http://trad1y2ffyl.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/vandenbroeck.pdf

    I am going to end on an entirely different note, because I sometimes fear, Wayne (and people who don’t know Rob Holmstedt and I in person – we are friends – may also get the wrong impression), that we are tempted to think that our disagreements on these matters matter a whole lot in the 1 Corinthians 13 frame of things.

    They do not.

    I spent a good part of Sunday with my father whom I love fiercely.

    I asked him to show me the Bible he reads (he is an inveterate Bible reader). At 78 years old, he lugs around a four translation Bible: KJV, ESV, NLT, and the Message.

    I asked him which translation he preferred. He replied, “The New Living. I also really like Peterson’s The Message.” I wasn’t too surprised. My father is a man of middle-brow tastes, which run from watching Miss America and Jag on television to listening to Garrison Keillor on public radio. Still, I had thought he might have been taught, at the megachurch Southern Baptist church he attends in Dallas, to prefer some other translation. I asked him what his preacher preaches from, what version is expounded from in Bible Study. The answer: NKJV (though NIV 1984 is the pew Bible; don’t ask me why).

    Did he understand why that is the case? “No,” he replied. I explained that for teaching purposes, a translation like NKJV is helpful because it sticks closely to the wording and structure of the Hebrew and Greek, which is the kind of translation you want if you believe that the Bible is verbally inspired. He got what I said immediately.

    Will he switch away from NLT and The Message for devotional purposes based on what I said? No, and I am not sure he should. Will he appreciate a little more the practice of his church to stick to NKJV for teaching and preaching? I am thinking he might. That suits me fine as well.

  92. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    Well, you can’t say I didn’t try.

    Theo,

    Please. You protest too much. I take both terms from a standard sociolinguistics textbook. Take your gripe up with Miriam Meyerhoff, the reasearchers she depends on. I note that Dannii even knows the standard acronyms for both terms.

    Perhaps you will have to get used to the fact that very few people offend as you do in stereotypical UC-Berkeley PC fashion.

    CD,

    That’s what I thought. It’s not ESV that bothers you (aside from a few details). It’s the people who produced it, and the reasons they did. Which is fine: you are being consistent with your liberal, left, anti-conservative profile, which you are open about.

    Which reminds me of a joke (joke alert).

    Conservatives are taught to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Liberals are taught to love the sin but hate the sinner. Ultra-liberals hate both.

  93. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    British speakers feel that most recent English translations sound like they are written in American English

    Wayne, I don’t feel that, except of The Message and in places the Living Bible, and perhaps to some extent the NLT. The more mainstream modern versions like NIV and ESV sound either like the generic international English we are getting very used to or like some strange archaic dialect spoken nowhere on earth. Perhaps it’s just that so much of the English we read and hear these days is British that we hardly notice the difference – except when there are allusions to cultural differences e.g. in sport which would be anachronistic in a Bible (but are not avoided in The Message). But another part of the reason is that translation committees like the CBT include British and other non-American members who probably catch any clear Americanisms. Then more Americanisms like “empathize” are removed when the versions are Anglicised – in this case inappropriately.

  94. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I meant to write “so much of the English we read and hear these days is American“. Sorry.

    ESV, as someone commented above, is marketed as if it were in lingua franca English. But in fact, it seems to me, if it is in any identifiable language at all it is in the vernacular of a rather specific faith community in the USA.

  95. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    very few people offend as you do

    John, I have requested before, and I now request again: please don’t engage in personal attacks.

    *******

    The term “White American Vernacular English” can hardly be common: Google returns only seven uses of the term. One of them conveniently happens to be the book from which you claim to have discovered the term. However, given your vast reading and great interest in the subject, one wonders why you rely on an Australian textbook (Meyerhoff) and an Australian speaker (Willis) to classify American dialects?

  96. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    For example, drawing on the most popular textbooks I find on Amazon, Wolfram & Schilling Estes American English: Dialects and Variations; Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics; Finnegan and Rickford, Language in the USA; and Rosina Lippi-Green, English with an Accent; all use the term Standard English or a variant such as Standard American English or Standard US English. This is the term I have always heard used.

    The point is a serious one — much great contemporary African-American literature (such as the speeches of Martin King) is written in Standard English not White English. I find it odd to think of King as a “White English Speaker.”

    People of many ethnic and racial backgrounds speak Standard English. On the other hand, there is wide regional variation among Caucasian speakers, so a fisherman from Maine may not speak Standard English even though he may be white and speak English. There are a wide variety of regional variations on English especially in the Southern United States.

  97. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Google counts

    “Standard English” — “About 2,720,000 results”
    “Standard American English — “About 197,000 results”
    “Standard U.S. English” — “About 287,000 results”
    “White American Vernacular English” — “About 6 results”

  98. Posted June 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    John,

    None of what you’ve said is new to me. I have kept an eye on language studies outside of formal syntax, though I bet you’re surprised by that. I don’t deny that how you say something or which sociolect you use relates to all sorts of power relationships.

    But, if you’ll stop dancing around as the nimble elf, you might remember that my original and abiding problem was your lack of support for a specific claim you made in your comments to your original post and reinforced in your follow-up post. In particular, you claim that translating between a vernacular and lingua franca is impossible.

    Why not give us a concrete example? You might even be able to rework one that you’ve already given on your blog. But in that example, I’d like you to identify precisely what linguistic elements are “vernacular” in the source text (I’m presuming a Hebrew Bible example) and what precise linguistic elements are missing in the language you identify as a lingua franca. And of course, this isn’t just about noting where one language may have a difficult time representing another (too easy), this is very specifically about the vernacular and lingua franca identifications, because that’s what you’ve been claiming. And that’s the claim that piqued my curiosity. In the process, I’m hoping to see just how you identify specific linguistic elements as “lingua franca-ish” and others as definitely not “lingua franca-ish.”

    You see, while I understand the issues that Pollock raises, his use of vernacular is heavily nuanced within his larger argument about Sanskrit. You’ve ported that into translation and my whole part in this discussion has been an attempt to ferret out from you or anyone else evidentially justification for this as it relates to Biblical Hebrew.

    If you can stick to my focused questions instead of lecturing me all around the subject (which I don’t need), then you’ll get rid of me.

  99. Posted June 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    John —

    The joke was pretty funny, I got a good chuckle out of that one. But getting serious for a second. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of my position. Essentially I accused the ESV of being highly dishonest. Since Michael Marlowe has already come up, let me pick a passage from his review of the Message:

    Here it seems that Peterson has simply replaced the teaching of the passage with its opposite.

    On what theory of translation does he suppose he can do all this? We note that in his introduction he makes some statements that hint at a philosophy of translation which theorists have called contextualization, in which contemporary ideas and ways of thinking are substituted for the concepts of the original text: “The goal is … to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak” (emphasis added), and he describes his work as “looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people.” This is the traditional function of a preacher, of course — the contemporization of the message. But it is not the proper function of a translator. Regarding his treatment of 1 Peter 3, it may be that Peterson felt that the passage was only meant to encourage women to conform to social expectations of the time, and so the ‘meaning for today’ would involve some corresponding affirmation of current morals.

    Peterson’s homiletic method of handling of the text should have been more clearly explained in the introduction, and in the advertising of the version.

    Here Marlowe is objecting to the message on the grounds that it is not a translation at all but a collection of homilies about the bible organized like the Bible. I essentially agree, I happen to think Peterson is a good writer but I wouldn’t mind if The Message was sold with a big red warning sticker on the front. And many Protestants have similar problems with The Clear Word (injects Ellen’s White’s interpretations into the text) or the NWT (Jehovah’s Witness translation) for similar reasons.

    I have serious problems with the ESV injecting theology into the text, and yes I think they are doing the same thing. And further I think the degree of problem varies by bible. I have less of a problem with the ESV Conservative Calvinist Translation in the context of “The Reformation Study Bible” when the purpose of the bible is to explicate Calvinist theology. I have much more of a problem when its the ESV Study Bible, when the claim is that this is actually an accurate translation that should be used by all Christians and anyone who disagrees with them lacks fidelity to God.

    And let me point out, just to prove this is not personal, I happen to really really like Ellen White. I think she’s been a wonderful influence on Christianity. I think she did terrific stuff in redirecting the Millerites and introduced wonderful social reforms to her church. I don’t happen to think she’s a particular good biblical scholar, but I don’t have anything but affection and appreciation towards the woman. Its not because I personally think Wayne Grudam is a jerk that I dislike the ESV, that’s minimizing.

    Yeah I have a problem with a translation that claims absolute perfect fidelity to the text and practices casual indifference to advance political agendas. And I do not think its a personal assault on the ESV translators for me to compare their behavior to other bibles with similar theological objectives and point how substantially less honest they are being.

    Peterson indicates unequivocally that the Message should not be used as a primary bible
    The Adventist Church forbids the use of the term “translation” and mandates phrasing like, “A devotional paraphrase of the Bible expanded for clarity”
    The Jehovah’s Witnesses publishes, and in the age of the internet makes freely available, an official church document, The Kingdom Interlinear indicating in perfect detail where they have engaged in theological overrides.

    The ESV removes footnotes, falsifies the Greek originals in their interlinear, publishes and heavily promotes an entire book which attacks other bibles that disagree with their translation for mistranslating the text so as to obscure their own actions as part of a disinformation campaign.

    Now lets contrast that with Tyndale, a bible you don’t like. All of their materials are designed to enhance bible study for the not particularly knowledge. They designed their in bible concordance to teach people how to use a concordance and work through a few examples in their study notes so that students see the value of a concordance. They reorganized Metzinger’s commentary on the Greek New Testament, so that a student with little background can genuinely understand the reasoning why the NA27 committee picked the manuscripts they did. Then their interlinear focuses on all the major translation and indicates where they choose variants from the Greek, explicating their choices as honestly as possible. Their entire emphasis is on building the student up to the point that they no longer need the NLT. Can you imagine Crossways doing that?

    No this is not just a personal slight because I’m a liberal. I have problems with Huey Long’s dishonesty even while endorsing his motivations, and supporting many of his policies. The ESV is a pack of lies. And with respect to some key issues that pack of lies is designed to hurt people.

  100. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    On the “attack” issue, it’s not unusual for someone to attack someone else not only online but in, say, peer-reviewed journals. There are many ways to attack someone, aren’t there? The attackee has a number of options at his or her disposal. When the perceived attack comes from an anonymous author – for example a very intelligent and resourceful one like yourself – one option the attackee has is to pull off the mask the attacker wears. I could do that if I wanted, since I know who you are and where you teach. On my own blog, commenters who use pseudonyms as a means to go into attack mode without suffering the consequences they might if they commented under their own name are banned sooner or later. I’m not going to belabor the point further on this thread; if you think I am being unfair, I encourage you to email me directly, as you have often done in the past.

    Now to the substance. Since you have access to a well-stocked library and the usual suite of academic databases, you might try looking at the following essays, from the CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts:

    “Black-White Language Contact through the Centuries: Diachronic Aspects of Linguistic Convergence or Divergence in the United States of America,” by Edgar W. Schneider, in LINGUISTIC CHANGE UNDER CONTACT CONDITIONS, Fisiak, Jacek [Ed], Berlin, Federal Republic Germany: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995, pp 237-252.

    Descriptors: *American English (02100) *Black Americans (09100) *Anglo Americans (02940) *United States of America (92750) *Language Contact (42100) *Dialects (18750) *Language Change (41850)

    Abstract: A historical outline of Black English is presented with descriptions of the origins of both the convergence & divergence hypotheses. Black-white relationships are addressed from a language-contact perspective, followed by a discussion of several linguistic features in the divergence theory of Black English: nonparticipation in white Southern English changes (eg, the fronting of back vowels & spreading of postvocalic /r/); special functions of the verbal -s morpheme; the lack of an agreement marker in the third person singular; & the use of “invariant be” to denote specific aspectual traits. It is suggested that the two varieties – Black English & Standard English – apart from remaining stable in most respects, diverged in certain features but also converged in others. 35 References. Identifiers: black/white American English varieties contact, convergence /divergence hypotheses

    “The Development of American Englishes: Some Questions from a Creole Genesis Perspective,” by Salikoko Mufwene, in FOCUS ON THE USA, Schneider, Edgar W. [Ed], Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Co, 1996, pp 231-264.

    Descriptors *Black English (09150) *American English (02100) *Nonstandard Dialects (58400) *Creoles (16150)

    Abstract: New avenues for the study of African-American English & white nonstandard varieties are suggested, & the question of why white American varieties of English (WAVE) are thought of as more natural descendants of English than are African-American varieties of English (AAVE) is examined. The application of the term “creole” to WAVE is considered, & it is proposed that both WAVE & AAVE may be studied by the same methodology. Attention is turned to the genesis of AAVE, & the competition-of-feature hypothesis is discussed. A creole perspective on the development of WAVEs is presented. 136 References. D. Weibel

    Identifiers: African-/white-American English varieties, creole perspective application

    For the rest, of course you’re right that Martin Luther King Jr spoke and wrote in the equivalent of the King’s English this side of the pond. Nothing I said can legitimately be taken to imply otherwise.

  101. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    CD,

    Speaking for myself, I think your rhetoric comes in the shape of a boomerang. This is not the place to go into the issues you raise. As you noted earlier, I have responded to claims like the ones you make before. I refer the readers of this thread to the following:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/06/examples-of-passages-in-which-esv-is-to-be-preferred-to-nrsv.html

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/06/esv-vs-nrsv-round-two.html

    I hope the BBB enforcers let your last comment stand, though it violates both the letter and the spirit of comment rules. Still, I know how hard BBB has sought not to be a place where people feel free to spew out anti-ESV bile. So I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes down.

  102. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    CD-Host,

    I’m really glad you made this comment! You’re not only defending yourself against the un-nuanced and un-qualified label with which you yourself have been labeled, but you also bring up examples of how translators do use their biases in making decisions. It’s better to be honest about this, you say.

    So if Peterson would be forthcoming, then Marlowe would have to shut up.

    Ellen White and the JWs are more honest than the ESV publishers, since the former don’t hide how their theology informs their linguistics, you try to say.

    And since another version’s translators have been “explicating their choices as honestly as possible,” then that ought to satisfy John, you would hope.

    Well, John likes Robert Alter. But when I try to point out that Alter has done what Marlowe accuses Peterson of having done (i.e., “has simply replaced the teaching of the passage with its opposite” because of theology), then John retreats, saying (at his blog): “Even Robert Alter can be improved on.” I was actually also hoping that John would concede that Alter, rightly, sees the Hebrew of Proverbs 14 as particularly “bumpy” — and yet Alter chooses not to convey this native and strange and foreign bumpiness (and this is John’s adjective) in his English. Alter’s English is not there really much different from the Common English Bible’s English. Both are relatively “smooth” (again John’s adjective). It’s hard, then, to know whether Alter intends his English translation to be “vernacular” or “lingua franca” or something more like (John says) that Wayne and the BBB writers would like.

    (In fact, Alter, looking at the Hebrew of Proverbs 14, sees lots of problems, which he attributes not to intentional bumpiness but to MT scribal errors of grammar, and/ or of lettering, and / or of theology. Alter believes that the LXX smooths these out. But in his footnote on Proverbs 14:32b, Alter says the MT is “problematic theologically.” Then he replaces the usual teaching of the passage with an alternative that he finds in the LXX and in “the Syriac.”

    Here’s where I try to show some of these examples:

    http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2011/06/proverbs-14-part-iii-clarifying.html

    )

  103. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    John,
    I posted my comment in response to CD-Host while you yourself were making your couple of responses. Thanks for the links to your blog where you deal with the ESV vs. NRSV. I’m going over there to re-read, but would you care to give examples from each version to support your thesis in this particular double-posted blogpost? Would you say that the ESV or the NRSV fits the classes you’ve discussed?

    EITHER “translations committed to clarity and naturalness of expression” /

    OR “translations committed above all to reproducing the wording and register of the original, translating metaphors with metaphors, and sounding strange wherever the thought and language of the source text is strange relative to our cultural matrix.”

    How so or how not?

  104. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Rob,

    Far be it from me to lecture you, my friend. You are being pretty nimble yourself, and I’m fine with it. When we go back and forth online, sometimes I feel like I am involved in a “Dancing with the Stars” episode.

    Your proposal that I provide an example or two in light of my two most recent posts is a good one – though of course I won’t do so in the terms you propose. You stack the deck against me through your un-nuanced characterization of my position and, in particular, by your silent admission (that is how I take it; correct me if I’m wrong) that I was right all along to (confidently!) characterize ancient Hebrew in the terms I did and koine and NT Greek in the ways I did. Yes, it is then much harder to weigh specific features in relation to global characterizations however self-evident. This is a very common situation both in linguistics and in life in general.

    I have a full plate in the upcoming days so I can’t promise an early response. In the meantime, you can look at one of Wayne’s files, from which I plan to quarry for the purpose at hand:

    http://bible-translation.110mb.com/standardnt.pdf

  105. Posted June 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    CD-Host, since others seem to like your comment, I think we can let it stand rather than apply the comment guidelines too literally. But please be careful to avoid personal attacks and sarcasm.

    Theophrastus and John, the same applies to both of you. This is not a place to carry on a personal conversation and certainly not to trade accusations. Theo, this is not a place to hide behind anonymity to make personal comments. John, this is not a place to threaten to unmask someone’s anonymity to keep them quiet.

    Some important issues are being discussed in this thread, so I’m sure no one wants it to be shut down. But that could be necessary if it descends into personal matters.

  106. Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Kurk,

    Thanks for the encouragement. See my last comment directed at Rob.

    I don’t think I was violating BBB rules by characterizing CD in the way I did; I adopted his self-identifications to the best of my ability.

    On another note, I could be wrong, but I think there is a risk that this thread has become for some an ESV bash-fest. Imputation of evil motives is once again acceptable, as are accusations of high crimes and misdemeanors.

    Fine, but I am convinced that this kind of rhetoric backfires. The net result will be that anyone who is not yet familiar with ESV who reads this thread will be encouraged to go out and buy a copy. And what will they find? A translation that is remarkably similar to RSV, with some changes for the better (as everyone will admit), and some changes of more questionable value.

    After all, many of the criticisms offered of ESV fail to take into consideration its social and confessional location, except as one more reason, or the main reason, to bash it. What I like about CD’s polemic is that he is perfectly up front about this.

    Just as I was encouraged to buy a copy of Rob Bell’s latest when he became the object of a bash-fest, I am encouraged now to give ESV a closer look in the confident expectation that I will be able to show (as I discovered with Rob Bell) that what others perceive as weaknesses may actually be strengths.

  107. Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Peter, for being the moderator of this thread.

    What a thankless task.

    I have issues with some of your decisions but given where you yourself stand on the topics under discussion, I think your choices are understandable.

  108. Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I would just like to mention for the record that this blog has discussed favourably the widest range of translations, from the Basic English to Alter, from the Anglo Saxon to Buber Rosenzweig. It is not as if bloggers here are ignorant of these translations, but perhaps they did not generate discussion at the time. Its possible that all of this was before John’s presence here as a commenter made me decide to leave as a blogger.

  109. Dannii
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    John/Theo: I hadn’t heard of White American Vernacular English before just now. Don’t take my initialising as support of the term! I don’t know the specifics enough to know whether there is a single dialect that could be classified as such.

    John: I get more confused when you take a term like vernacular and turn it into a verb! It seems that you’re no longer just using it to refer to the history and current state of some variety of a language, but that it can be used to refer to some type of political activism, which fits with your comments about a translation introducing entirely new registers into a language. While language use is indeed very political, I’m uncomfortable with using a general purpose translation for any such ends.

  110. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    It is in fact the case – Wayne has been very clear about this – that BBB is not the place to take specific aim at one translation in particular.

    It is a place where all translations can be held up for praise, including ESV. It is place where all translations can held up for criticism, including translations BBB bloggers and commenters on these threads have consulted on.

    We all make choices about where to blog. You are certainly welcome to your choices, and you are also welcome to blame me for your choice to stop blogging at BBB. I don’t take it personally.

  111. Posted June 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Dannii,

    I use language like everyone else. It is a wonderfully supple tool.

    You are right that I am deliberately using a single word, “vernacular,” in more than one way. I’m sure you’ve noticed that this occurs all the time, in the Bible no less. I am trusting in your ability to disambiguate along the way. I’m sorry that you are having a hard time of it. I’m not sure it can be helped, but keep asking questions if you wish.

  112. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    John — As far as I can tell, none of my criticisms in this thread (except for this one and my request to avoid personal attacks) have been been personally addressed to you, that is ad hominem.

    If you feel that I have, in some way, misrepresented your position, then it was unintentional, and you need merely state “You have misrepresented my position.” (Alternatively, you could simply e-mail me.) But in fact, serious discussion of ideas (not of personalities) is a sign of respect for them.

    Your own blog vigorously challenges many ideas on a regular basis.

    ***********

    Congratulations on figuring out where I teach. I think that most people with blogs have already figured out where I teach (because blogs log the origin of requests); but for the record: I am a full professor at UC Berkeley. And if anyone feels that he or she absolutely must know the specifics of my identity, please e-mail me.

    ***********

    Now as for the abstracts you give;you will notice that the first refers to “Standard English” (which is the term I usually see) and the second refers to “WAVE” as “white nonstandard varieties” (which is clearly a different meaning than you have). Again, a broad variety of of individuals of many races and ethnicities speak Standard English.

  113. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    It is in fact the case – Wayne has been very clear about this – that BBB is not the place to take specific aim at one translation in particular.

    I’m not sure from whence you find Suzanne “taking aim at one translation in particular” since she comments on a wide variety of translations.

    Before Wayne left, he made one request of you John:

    I would plead with you, John, especially while I am gone, not to make claims about BBB bloggers which you cannot say with direct quotes.

    I am sorry that only three days after that message, you are attributing statements to BBB bloggers without direct quotes.

    In fact, Wayne has set up a large number of threads explicitly for the purpose of discussing specific versions.

  114. Posted June 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    First of all, I thank you for the times in the past in which you have expressed regret for your online demeanor. This time around, as you know full well, I was responding to a comment of yours which, in context, was ad hominem.

    In my view, there was no need to provide direct quotes in the cases you mention, since the content I was replying to is directly up thread.

    For the very same reason, you did not provide direct quotes of what I said in your penultimate comment.

    All of this, I’m sure, is clear to everyone. But if it is still unclear to you what content I was referring to in this or that case, ask again and I will provide the direct quotes.

    I think you have painted yourself into a corner with your protests against the concepts deployed by a range of scholars on varieties of English. No one is denying that “a broad variety of of individuals of many races and ethnicities speak Standard English.” That is beside the point.

  115. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne: Thank you for reminding of how lopsided our discussion is. The blog has never fully recovered from your loss, and significantly, after several years it has not recruited another woman blogger (or black or Asian-descent blogger) to its ranks.

  116. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    John, as you state, I have no problem owning up if I make a mistake.

    But you are mistaken. No ad hominem attacks here.

    I think that some of the rhetoric you quote (“translated [for] … white evangelical expectations and sensibilities”; the Bayly article that called the NRSV “almost as bad as Stalin’s revisions”; “Molotov cocktail”) is over the top. And I think your attributing views to BBB participants and Wayne is out of line. But no attacks on your person.

  117. Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    John,

    We wouldn’t last very long on Dancing with the Stars as a couple — we both want to lead all the time. Plus, you’re too hairy for me.

    Back to topic: no, I’m not silently admitting that your characterization of Biblical Hebrew as a vernacular is correct. I haven’t made up my mind on that issue, since I’m not really sure how well the categories of vernacular or lingua franca applies unless they are nuanced a good bit. The problem, of course, is in the mobility of the writing community once the exile took place.

    Also, I still have all sorts of issues about the lack of nuance (ironic, since you say I set up un-nuanced categories) in the application of lingua franca to, say, the Aramaic of Daniel. To return to an earlier question you asked: why is it often difficult to classify ancient languages as this or that? Due to the dearth of evidence. Daniel is a great example: the book contains Aramaic words and phrases that are only found there, nowhere else in the extant Aramaic record. So, do those items simply represent lingua franca items that have not turned up elsewhere or were the author (and his community) using a dialect of Aramaic that cannot be considered lingua franca, since it is too grounded in the specific communities idiom? Needless to say, I don’t like your characterization of the Aramaic of Daniel as “lingua franca … incapsulated in the ethnic-religious vernacular, Hebrew”.

  118. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    John: It seems you have misunderstood my comment about direct quotes. So I will put it more simply.

    Wayne said:

    I would plead with you, John, especially while I am gone, not to make claims about BBB bloggers which you cannot say with direct quotes.

    But then you said:

    It is in fact the case – Wayne has been very clear about this – that BBB is not the place to take specific aim at one translation in particular.

    There was no direct quote. You simply attributed a quote to Wayne.

    In fact, Wayne set up links to discuss specific versions.

  119. Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    A couple of brief corrections. I could offer others, but I figure that would be overkill.

    It is you that quoted the Bayly article in the relevant portion (“Stalin’s revisions”), not me. You have attributed to me a quote that is your own.

    You missed the thrust of my comment about the purpose of BBB as I understand it. The most important paragraph was the following:

    “[BBB] is a place where all translations can be held up for praise, including ESV. It is place where all translations can [be] held up for criticism, including translations BBB bloggers and commenters on these threads have consulted on.”

    I too am happy to own up to mistakes. If Wayne thinks I misrepresented the purpose of BBB by my admittedly summary bereft-of-direct-quotes presentation (which you failed to interpret correctly, but I will blame that on me, not you), I trust he will make that clear. He has already been back once on this thread since he said he might not be around. Perhaps he will return again soon.

  120. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    It is you that quoted the Bayly article in the relevant portion (“Stalin’s revisions”), not me. You have attributed to me a quote that is your own.

    Not at all! John Hobbins gave a citation of the article with publication and date, but missing the author. Theo simply provided the link in order to give the context that this citation was related to gender and nothing else. John confirmed on his own blog that his concerns were related to gender issues in 1 Thess. 4:4. I don’t have time to cite this, but an exploration of John’s blog, with regard to 1 Thess. 4:4 should work.

    John has previously provided this same citation by R. Jewett from Marlowe’s site. I can find no other internet context for this citation, and I have carefully followed John’s citation.

  121. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    So I am working from the premise that the only context for Jewett’s quote is either Bayly or Marlowe, both of which provide the citation in the context of gender and with the intent of diminishing the “sonship” of women, as well as ensuring that the phrase “children of God” be eradicated from the scriptures.

    As a reader of the KJV, I do not see why women should tolerate this. I would also expect that when women are bullied, those men who are witnesses to this bullying stand up for women unequivocally. So far, some Christian men are often so preoccupied with maintaining solidarity with other Christian men that the basic human rights of women are not defended.

    Add to that the fact that significant numbers of people with a degree in biblical studies are unfamiliar with the translations of Erasmus, Pagnini and Buber-Rosenzweig and many other translations that have been discussed here, I do think that it is to be regreted that I have pulled back on my involvement in this community.

  122. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    John, you say

    Can you give examples of where you think ESV is as awful as you say it is?

    And then you turn around and say:

    On another note, I could be wrong, but I think there is a risk that this thread has become for some an ESV bash-fest.

    ***

    I thought this going to be a thread about your unique ideas of how “lingua franca” languages were somehow different in “linguistic richness” than “vernacular” languages. (I have to say it is a little hard for me to imagine the language of Woolf, Beckett, Joyce, Pound, Pynchon, Faulkner, Zukofsky, Rushdie, Eliot, Nabakov, Auden, G. Stein, Lawrence, Orwell, Conrad, Burroughs, Stevens, and R. Ellison as lacking “linguistic richness.”)

    How disappointing that it is just another “my favorite translation is better than yours” thread.

  123. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    My problem is that I am having trouble placing the KJV/RSV/ESV as a vernacular and the NLT as a lingua franca, when many others would reverse this model completely. Let’s do a statistical analysis and see which one tends to be more colloquial.

    If you want to compare Tyndale with the KJV in matters of Germanic vs Latinate vocabulary, I would be quite interested and in fact, blogged about this here in the past. I don’t remember John taking up that discussion.

  124. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I would like to say that I would welcome comments by Michael Marlowe here or anywhere else, as long as I am not prevented from responding to him and as long as his views on the subordination of women are not viewed favourably.

  125. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    JK —

    Thank you for the support. As for why the NRSV vs. the ESV I think you are asking a good question. Is the discussion over issues of “vernicular” vs. “lingua-franca” and literary translation vs. dynamic or is the discussion over the culture wars.

    Wayne Grudem in the 1990s originally wanted to produce an NRSV without the gender neutral pronouns. As time when on various other people at CBMW commented on other areas where the NRSV was deficient and they had trouble getting copyright. The idea moved to either a clean up of the RSV or a retranslation. Retranslation was dropped for cost. Later the CBMW connection was dropped for marketing reasons.

    http://www.baylyblog.com/2011/03/tim-while-moving-into-our-new-church-offices-i-found-a-new-piece-of-correspondence-documenting-the-origin-of-the-esv-in-th.html

    (note this link is from a former leader in CBMW)

    There really is not much change in literary structures between the RSV, NRSV and ESV. Of the 3 the NRSV is almost without exception the more accurate. If we wanted to talk about literary qualities the ESV brings needless heat / distraction to the table. Where the ESV diverges from the RSV/NRSV it does so mostly to serve the political agenda of the CBMW. Its like someone quoting the The New International Version: Inclusive Language Edition vs. just quoting the NIV.

  126. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne and Theo,

    Go back and look up thread with greater care. You will discover that I came at things from another direction – something that Peter grasped from the start.

    You will also discover that I was responding to an inflammatory remark by CD about ESV, not making ESV the focus of this post.

    Finally, it will be perfectly clear that Theo quoted the text that he says I quoted.

    The two of you have consistently sought to derail this conversation in a variety of ways. And I am fine with it. Keep it coming! It is a well-known truth that how we relate to others says a lot about us and almost nothing about the ones to whom we are relating.

    Given the direction and tenor of your questions, I am happy to leave them unanswered. I am confident that readers will draw the appropriate conclusions.

  127. Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    As I mentioned before, it really is not fair on John to take his quotation of some words of Jewett quoted in an article as implying that he agrees with and implicitly quoted the whole of the article where he found the quotation. Sometimes people deliberately cut quotations to avoid parts that they don’t want to put in focus. I do it. The Guardian journalist did it at the end of the video embedded in this post of mine. And, most tellingly of all, Jesus did it, in Luke 4:19 which deliberately stops short of “the day of vengeance” in Isaiah 61:2.

    And please let’s get back off the gender issues.

  128. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Peter — This hasn’t really been a thread about gender.

    And the analogy to the hand of Guardian reporters is not appropriate. In fact, it is exactly opposite.

    The Guardian quoted out-of-context. John quoted with a full reference, inviting us to look up the quote. Moreover, he relied on David Bayly as an accurate reporter.

  129. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    John: since now you are claiming you were quoted out of context, here is the full paragraph where you baited CD-Host:

    Can you give examples of where you think ESV is as awful as you say it is? In the congregation I currently serve we use RSV, which is virtually identical; now you have me worried.

    Now if I were being cynical, I might claim I detect a bit of sarcasm (contrary to Guideline #4 for this blog), but I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you were being completely straight and are in fact worried and seriously considering CD-Host’s criticisms.

    Here is how CD-Host responded:

    The ESV removes footnotes, falsifies the Greek originals in their interlinear, publishes and heavily promotes an entire book which attacks other bibles that disagree with their translation for mistranslating the text so as to obscure their own actions as part of a disinformation campaign.

    Now lets contrast that with Tyndale, a bible you don’t like. All of their materials are designed to enhance bible study for the not particularly knowledge. They designed their in bible concordance to teach people how to use a concordance and work through a few examples in their study notes so that students see the value of a concordance. They reorganized Metzinger’s commentary on the Greek New Testament, so that a student with little background can genuinely understand the reasoning why the NA27 committee picked the manuscripts they did. Then their interlinear focuses on all the major translation and indicates where they choose variants from the Greek, explicating their choices as honestly as possible. Their entire emphasis is on building the student up to the point that they no longer need the NLT. Can you imagine Crossways doing that?

    Now it seems to me that CD-Host responded in a serious way, to the best of his ability, to your request for opinions on the ESV. I would have hoped you would consider these with an open mind. Instead, you wrote:

    On another note, I could be wrong, but I think there is a risk that this thread has become for some an ESV bash-fest.

    And Peter: note that there was no reference to gender.

  130. Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Theo, I don’t accept that the Guardian quoted Marx out of context. At least the journalist clearly alluded to the words he did not quote about “the opium of the people”. But he also quite deliberately avoided quoting those well known but often misunderstood words. The people who quote Marx out of context are the ones who argue from these words that he was entirely opposed to religion.

  131. Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Theo and John, thank you for not mentioning gender, at least in your recent comments. My remark was directed at others.

  132. Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Peter.

    Per the usual on these threads, I’m afraid, ESV is not being given a fair shake. It’s an advertisement for ESV in its own way. It is clearer to me than ever that I will do well to spend time providing a balanced analysis of a set of translations including ESV on particular passages. When I have done that in the past, ESV sometimes shines in comparison to other translations, more often than many on these threads are willing to admit.

    It is detail work, the kind of work that Rob Holmstedt and I were trained to do at the UW-Madison, though I was also trained elsewhere, in Italy and Germany, where my interests in critical theory and cross-disciplinary work were sparked.

    Those with similar training and interests like my focus on Einzelexegese, those who like to pursue the big picture from a variety of points of view like the politically aware, inter-disciplinary reflections I offer. I can’t expect many people to like both.

    To directly quote Wayne Leman, something that Theo has been asking me to do with great insistence:

    John, this is the most detailed review of any ESV passage I have read. And it is thoroughly scholarly, lacking the ideological and endorsement references which are typical of so many affirmative posts re: the ESV. Yours is the kind of review I prefer to read, actually dealing with the text. Thanks.

    End quote. For the context of the remark, go here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/06/esv-psalm-2613-a-review.html

    Here’s a rule of thumb I have: if someone is unable to point out examples in which a particular translation has accomplished its goals brilliantly, a translation he does not prefer for whatever reason, he cannot be trusted in terms of objectivity.

    There are two ways to reflect on translation in general and translations in particular.

    (1) Detailed analysis. To be sure, the proof is in the pudding. Many translations do not fare well under the microscope if faithfulness to the fine detail of the source text is a criterion.

    (2) A discussion of social, confessional, and political location. Every translation has them. Many of the best translations were forged in the heat of great ideological conflict; this is by no means a strike against them.

    In future posts, I will develops both lines of reflection, in line with Wayne’s request for a theory-laden discussion of my take on translation, at some remove from the norm on BBB.

  133. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the quote John. But I wasn’t looking for you to quote congratulatory quotes. I was rather looking for a quote for this claim you made: It is in fact the case – Wayne has been very clear about this – that BBB is not the place to take specific aim at one translation in particular.

    *****

    Here’s a rule of thumb I have: if someone is unable to point out examples in which a particular translation has accomplished its goals brilliantly, a translation he does not prefer for whatever reason, he cannot be trusted in terms of objectivity.

    That’s a great rule of thumb, John. But strangely, you have heavily criticized a number of translations in this thread (e.g., the Living Bible), and yet have failed to “point out examples in which a particular translation has accomplished its goals brilliantly” — so I therefore will conclude that you “cannot be trusted in terms of objectivity.”

  134. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Wayne’s request for a theory-laden discussion of my take on translation

    Actually, John, you are once again attributing quotes to Wayne without direct quotation. It seems you love to do that, even though Wayne “pleaded” with you not to.

    True, you have no trouble quoting Wayne when he give you a compliment. But you aren’t willing to read him carefully when he takes you to task.

    In this case, a look at this thread reveals that a “theory-laden discussion” is exactly not what he asked for. Instead of asking for more theory, he rather asked for specific examples:

    I’m happy to wait until John provides examples of how translation theorists he follows (that’s where this discussion started) would translate parts of the Bible differently from translation approaches we have advocated here at BBB.

  135. Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Rob,

    I respect your need for more nuance, and the fact that you have not made up your mind about the validity of my central premise (the Hebrew of the Bible is best described as a vernacular).

    On the other hand, what I have represented as my most important conclusion is open-ended, and will as a matter of logic be valued to the degree that the distinction between lingua franca and vernacular is deemed to have explanatory power. I said early on:

    “Translating from a vernacular into a lingua franca poses specific challenges. So far as I know, these challenges have not been identified as such in internal discussion among Bible translators.”

    For the rest, I am not at all surprised that you are reading widely beyond your core specialization. I also believe that you have many helpful things to say on topics on which you are a generalist only.

    I want to be clear about one thing: I don’t think it is wise for specialists to chase off generalists; that is how you often come across to me. Here is a reason and an example you are sure to appreciate. I have often defended your take on word order in ancient Hebrew, not because I am specialist on the topic, but because I am a generalist with sufficient training in linguistics to see that you are almost self-evidently right.

    That is, once linguistic typology is deemed to have explanatory power – something I grant, though of course many do not; others simply have not made their mind up about it, and perhaps never will – and once statistics are put in their place and properly contextualized, it’s clear that Hebrew instantiates the kind of default word order you notice. Those interested in this topic will find a helpful series of posts on it over at Rob’s blog.

  136. Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    You know very well that I have done the things I describe as particularly valuable over and over again on my blog. Thank you for providing me with an occasion to collect and present a few examples on this thread. I will do so soon.

    You are wrong (again) about what I had in mind when I referred to “Wayne’s request.” I was referring to his original request, which you are not privy to unless you are hacking my email account.

    Furthermore, I responded at length, and pertinently, to the request of Wayne’s you refer to. You are free to consider my response, rather than go on as if I hadn’t formulated a project.

    It is common for people who prefer philology to linguistics (I base that statement on the subjects you have chosen to address over the years in your various online personae) to tire of linguistic theory, not to mention linguistic theory at the intersection of other disciplines like critical theory and cultural anthropology. I don’t hold it against you. You are certainly welcome to skip discussions of theory I will introduce in the next few months.

  137. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    As I mentioned before, it really is not fair on John to take his quotation of some words of Jewett quoted in an article as implying that he agrees with and implicitly quoted the whole of the article where he found the quotation. Sometimes people deliberately cut quotations to avoid parts that they don’t want to put in focus. I do it. The Guardian journalist did it at the end of the video embedded in this post of mine. And, most tellingly of all, Jesus did it, in Luke 4:19 which deliberately stops short of “the day of vengeance” in Isaiah 61:2.

    I think that we need to clarify this. I have always felt that I was responsible for the context of anything that I quoted. I find the suggestion that deliberately cutting quotations is acceptable. I always read and consider the direct context of anything I cite, and I felt that I was held to this level on this blog and elsewhere. If we are changing the standard, let me know.

  138. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    In honor of Theo’s thirst for exemplification, I will spend a few hours in the next few days on indexing my posts on blog which deal with translation theory and practice. The index will be of help to those like Suzanne and Theo who search my blog’s content for a sense of what I have said about this or that passage or translation that interests them.

    I am flattered by all the attention but I do have a day job, a wife and three children, and a large face-to-face social network that I must attend to, above and beyond my beloved detractors and the many profs and students who email me, in response to my blogging.

  139. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I intended to write, “I find the suggestion that deliberately cutting quotations is acceptable” to be novel. Never heard this approach before. A citation should represent what the author of the citation wanted to say.

    I am now intrigued. If Jewett was not refering to (the word that may not be mentioned) what was he referring to? In my study of the development of translation principles from the KJV, ERV, RSV, NRSV to ESV, I have not found any other basis for saying,

    “We’re facing, with the NRSV, liberal dishonesty in spades. The modern liberated perspective which imposes itself on the text is about as dishonest as you can be. All the way through the NRSV, implying that Paul has all these liberated concepts and so forth like the current politically correct person in an Ivy League school: I mean that’s just ridiculous. Here you have the imposition of liberal prejudice on the biblical text with the ridiculous assumption that our modern liberal views were Paul’s.”

    I have, on the contrary, felt that the NRSV has treated the Hebrew Bible as a text which represents the Hebrew nation at the time of writing, and not simply as a prequel to the Christian scriptures.

    I would like to see some evidence which refers explicitly to what Jewett himself is referring to. No doubt there might be some politically correct language in the NRSV, other than g******r, but I have still not seen any evidence that this is what Jewett was referring to.

  140. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    I can try contacting Jewett about this. But don’t get your hopes up. He has moved on to other things. If you read widely in his books and articles, you will discover that he often implicitly (rarely, explicitly) comes down quite hard on NRSV, but not on NRSV only.

  141. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    John wrote,

    It is a well-known truth that how we relate to others says a lot about us and almost nothing about the ones to whom we are relating.

    And that is why I will not instigate a post on my own blog where anonymous commenters can come and make ad hominem comments about you, John, as you have done with me. One time it happened, that someone felt free to make a comment about you on my blog that was backed up with evidence but was also personal, and I deleted it immediately and closed the comments on that post. This is the standard that I maintain on my blog.

    I would have expected something similar from someone calling themselves a Christian, but evidently not. Your post about me still stands as the top google result for my name, and it demonstrates the way a minister of the gospel allows anonymous commenters to take potshots at someone without accountability. It says nothing about me but some of my colleagues have had their view of Christianity altered by your treatment of me.

  142. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Thanks for mentioning my word order work.

    But I must protest your characterization of my interaction on blogs as chasing off generalists. If you go back to my initial comment on your blog post on this topic, you’ll see that I simply asked for you to support your arguments. This is what I expect of anything I read that I consider of interest and potential use in my research and teaching.

    If that’s being a specialist to you and thus constitutes chasing off generalists, then I’m guilty. But in the intellectual world in which I was raised (home, college, grad school), that was simply making a good argument … for anyone … at any level … in any medium.

    My perception of your responses I’ll keep to myself, since I’ve never been comfortable using a public forum for what are essentially private conversations.

    Since my part in this thread has come to this type of exchange instead of discussing the ideas (and the evidence), as it did on your blog, I’m going to sign off (as I did there).

  143. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Rob.

    It was not an easy conversation for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that it is always necessary to leave unsaid many things that we feel free to say to each other in private (or not).

  144. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    I can try contacting Jewett about this. But don’t get your hopes up. He has moved on to other things. If you read widely in his books and articles, you will discover that he often implicitly (rarely, explicitly) comes down quite hard on NRSV, but not on NRSV only.

    I won’t get my hopes up. In the meantime, I would appreciate some recognition of the fact that the only context I had in which to place Jewett’s citation was an article by Bayly and an article by Marlowe. I actually tried to find further information but was unable to. I am aware that you have used Jewett’s citation in the past, so I have actually tried to track this down, but came up with nothing else other than g****r.

    I have made every attempt to treat this citation and your remarks about the NRSV as honestly as possible. I cannot search your blog at work, however, since it is blocked for innappropriate content. ;)

  145. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    Here is the other example I gave on blog:

    [Jewett] was incensed by NRSV 2 Thes 3:12 because it has Paul exhorting people to work quietly and “earn their own living.” That, he said (Paul, the Apostle of America, p. 85), gave the text an individualistic, capitalistic bent whereas “the food that people ate” was consumed during communal meals, family-style in which the whole church was a “God-taught” family. This has to do with Jewett’s carefully argued thesis of tenement churches and a continuation of the Acts 2:42-45 model in Pauline Christianity.

    I then commented:

    He’s right on, I think, but you can count the number of people on one hand who care as much as he and I that the historical particularities of Pauline Christianity be brought out, not disguised, in translation.

    Your most recent complaint about content on my blog – beyond your basic disagreement with what I have to say about g****r, – is news to me, but I see the matter in a very different light than you do – and of course this is not the place to discuss it.

  146. Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    On a humorous note, I had to request the unblocking of my own blog at the university where I teach. It is in fact a bit of a nuisance to use blogs as a teaching resource in the classroom, since the default assumption seems to be that blogs contain inappropriate content.

  147. Suzanne McCarthy
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    John,

    So, now, I am terribly curious. Does the NRSV compare unfavourably to other translations in its own tradition, overall, in its treatment of the Hebrew scriptures?

    [Jewett] was incensed by NRSV 2 Thes 3:12 because it has Paul exhorting people to work quietly and “earn their own living.” That, he said (Paul, the Apostle of America, p. 85), gave the text an individualistic, capitalistic bent whereas “the food that people ate” was consumed during communal meals, family-style in which the whole church was a “God-taught” family. This has to do with Jewett’s carefully argued thesis of tenement churches and a continuation of the Acts 2:42-45 model in Pauline
    Christianity.

    That is a good example, but it this the main reason for Jewett’s comments, and how could I have found this out without a link or reference to more material from Jewett? I certinaly did read the reference you provided, by Bayly.

    And does the NRSV compare unfavourably to the ESV in the translation of the Hebrew scriptures? Isn’t that what we are talking about primarily with a discussion of translating a vernacular into a lingua franca?

    I then commented:

    He’s right on, I think, but you can count the number of people on one hand who care as much as he and I that the historical particularities of Pauline Christianity be brought out, not disguised, in translation.

    Fascinating!!!

    Your most recent complaint about content on my blog – beyond your basic disagreement with what I have to say about g****r, – is news to me, but I see the matter in a very different light than you do – and of course this is not the place to discuss it.

    I am NOT complaining about the content on your blog!! I am complaining about the spyware on my own system. I found it funny!! And I indicated that.

  148. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    You know very well that I have done the things I describe as particularly valuable over and over again on my blog.

    No John, actually, I never recall seeing you analyze the Living Bible favorably — a translation that you singled out (and differentiated from the NLT.). Perhaps you would give me a link.

  149. Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Theo. I missed that. I have analyzed examples of many translations on my blog, but not of the Living Bible. I’m not even sure I own a copy.

    Just for you, I will be happy to make good on that lack in the future.

    If you want to be helpful, you yourself can provide an example or two where the Living Bible shines, right here on this thread, to compensate for my unilaterally negative comments.

  150. Theophrastus
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    [Jewett] was incensed by NRSV 2 Thes 3:12 because it has Paul exhorting people to work quietly and “earn their own living.” That, he said (Paul, the Apostle of America, p. 85), gave the text an individualistic, capitalistic bent whereas “the food that people ate” was consumed during communal meals, family-style in which the whole church was a “God-taught” family. This has to do with Jewett’s carefully argued thesis of tenement churches and a continuation of the Acts 2:42-45 model in Pauline Christianity.

    In fact, this example, happens to be an interesting one, because (a) it dates back at least to the RSV; (b) the same words were chosen for the ESV; (c) it happens to be searchable from Google Books.

    To the extent that the NRSV depends on the RSV, we can only assign limited responsibility to the NRSV committee; we really should direct our concerns at the RSV committee.

    Was Jewett “incensed”? I invite you to look at his book and make your own judgment about whether John accurately reflected Jewett’s mood or whether hyperbole is involved here. Here is what Jewett actually said:

    The same linkage between handiwork, eating, earning bread for the community, and brotherhood is found in 2 Thess. 3:6-13, which includes the rule about not feeding persons who refuse to work and ends with the admonition, “brothers, do not be weary in doing good.” The good in this instance is not some euphemism about general responsibility; in this context it refers to supporting a community whose life centers in a Love Feast dependent on the contributions of each member. The translation of this passage needs to be carefully rendered so as to remove the individualistic and capitalistic slant that disguises the link to the communal meal. For example, the admonition in the NRSV that members should “do their own work quietly and earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:12) actually should read “working with quietness, they eat their own bread.” There is no implication in the Greek text that each person or family should be economically independent or eat separately but rather that the community as a whole should avoid dependency. The way to do so is for each person to continue doing the “good” of contributing to the common meal.

    (I have omitted footnotes from this quote.)

    Now several things to ask here:

    (1) Is Jewett’s interpretation sound? (I would say not, but that’s a topic that would take us wide afield)

    (2) Is Jewett “incensed”?

    (2) Does this represent a complaint about the NRSV only, or about the RSV and the ESV which also contain this language?

    (3) Does Jewett give any indication that he thinks this verse is typical of the NRSV? In other words, is this a problem that recurs in the NRSV, or is it attributable only to this verse (and perhaps in a small number of other places?

    (4) Why does Jewett switch from the masculine form “brotherhood” and “brother” to “person” at the end of the paragraph? Does he regard the term “brotherhood” or “brother” as having any gender meaning at all?

    It does not appear to me that John has correctly represented this quote by Jewett.

  151. Mike Sangrey
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I think this topic has run its courses. I’ll refrain from pointing out the considerable number of cases which, at a bare minimum, can be easily described as “flame bait.”

    If you wish to comment further, do so on John’s blog.

    Thank you.


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