Vernaculars and Lingua Francas, Part Two: Translation Implications

I have already explained something about vernaculars and lingua francas. They are not two types of languages, but two uses of language, depending on whether or not the language is the mother tongue of the speakers or is an “other-than-mother-tongue” that speakers use to communicate with each other. I wouldn’t say that there is a contrast between vernaculars and lingua francas, but rather that there is a distinction that can be made between language as vernacular and language as lingua franca. The same language can be a vernacular in one context and a lingua franca in another.

So what does this have to do with literature and translation? Recently on this blog, an essay in the New York Review of Books by Tim Parks was referenced that brought the words “lingua franca” and “translation” together. Here, apparently, the term “lingua franca” was used as a sort of metaphor. Parks was drawing on an earlier article by Sheldon Pollock entitled “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular in History,” where instead of lingua franca, “cosmopolitan(ism)” is used in comparison and contrast with “vernacular.”

I like what Pollock has to say. He starts his article,

Few things seem to us as natural as the multiplicity of vernacular languages that different peoples use for making sense of life through texts, that is, for making literature. And few things seem as unnatural as their abandonment and gradual disappearance in the present. In fact, literary language loss is often viewed as part of a more general reduction of cultural diversity, one considered as dangerous as the reduction of biological diversity to which it is often compared. The homogenization of culture today, of which language loss is one aspect, seems without precedent in human history, at least for the scope, speed, and manner in which changes are taking place.

This common sense view of the world needs two important qualifications. First, the vernacular ways of being that we see vanishing everywhere were themselves created over time…. Second, by the very fact of their creation, the new vernaculars replaced a range of much older cultural practices. These earlier practices, which seemed to belong to everywhere in general and nowhere in particular, affiliated their users to a larger world rather than a smaller place. They were, in a sense to be argued out in this essay, cosmopolitan practices….

This quote agrees with my very democratic beliefs about languages (mother tongues/vernaculars) and my regrets that the major world languages like English might be crowding out the minority languages of the world, along with their associated literatures and views of the world.

Here is Tim Parks’ summary of Pollock: “We needn’t think about the spread of English as necessarily in conflict with the world’s vernaculars; he wants us to avoid thinking in terms of ‘either/or’ and work towards a relationship that is ‘both/and.’” That agrees with my disinclination toward structuralist approaches to language and my rejection of sharp dichotomies (if that is not a self contradiction).

So what does Parks say about vernacular vs. lingua franca in relation to translation? He makes an interesting observation, though it is not about approaches to translation. Rather, it is about original text authorship with translation in mind. Parks says that authors tend to write in a different style when they think of their language as a lingua franca than when they think of it as simply a vernacular. Or, to put it another way, if an author envisions his or her literary work being translated into other languages, that has a bearing on the writer’s style. Using a literary work written in Italian, for example, if the author’s intended audience is mother tongue speakers of Italian, the writing style will tend to take greater advantage of inwardly-turned, language-specific literary devices. However, if the author wants the work to be translated and brought to an international audience, then even if the work is written in Italian, it will be a different sort of Italian, a more easily-translated form of Italian that does not capitalize as much on language-specific literary devices. Awareness of translation and a desire to have one’s works understood as widely as possible will influence how someone writes.

Parks’ intuition (as he calls it) is that the contemporary writers he studied…

had already performed a translation within their own languages; they had discovered a lingua franca within their own vernacular, a particular straightforwardness, an agreed order for saying things and perceiving and reporting experience, that made translation easier and more effective. One might call it a simplification, or one might call it an alignment in different languages to an agreed way of going about things. Naturally, there was an impoverishment… but there was also a huge gain in communicability….

He observes that “there is a spirit abroad, especially in the world of fiction, that is seeking maximum communicability and that has fastened onto the world’s present lingua franca [viz., English] as something that can be absorbed and built into other vernaculars so that they can continue to exist while becoming more easily translated into each other.”

Parks’ essay was about the composition of original texts rather than the translation of those texts into other languages, except where he says, twice, that “the success of translation very largely depends on the levels of complexity in the original text.” His point was that as authors become aware of translation and a wider international audience, they tend to write in such a way as to make translation easier. A way of putting this is that the authors become aware of their language as being not just a vernacular, where the target audience is comprised of fellow speakers of the same language, but as a lingua franca, i.e., they are conscious of their language as a gateway for communication with speakers of other languages, through translation.

So how do we who are concerned with translation make use of this information? While it is not correct to say that some languages are vernaculars and other languages are lingua francas (except in the case of pidgins, which, by definitions are only lingua francas and not vernaculars), I think there is indeed a connection, in that translators, like authors, have to be aware of their target audience and its needs. In fact, translators have to be aware both of the original audience of the original text and of the target audience for the translation. One of the basic principles for any kind of communication is to know your audience. One of the cardinal principles of translation is to identify the target audience for the translation. It is not reasonable or wise to consider all the speakers of a certain language as being the target audience, especially in the case of a language with so many dialects and registers as English. There are translations directed toward children, translations directed toward speakers of English as a second language, translations for educated people who want to get as close to the source language as possible, translations for educated people who want to see the scriptures communicated in contemporary language, translations for reading aloud, translations for liturgical use, translations for very average North Americans without a lot of theological sophistication. It is not a matter of one-size-fits-all. In the case of English, we have so many translations of the Bible to choose from, and different translations each have at least the potential of being valid for their target audience and stated purpose. Obviously, though, translators, when going through so much effort, and publishers, when investing so much, are going to be concerned about getting as large a market share as possible.

Even in the case of languages that don’t have the luxury of multiple translations, Bible translators have to pinpoint their target audience and dialectal variety.

117 Comments

  1. Posted July 1, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, David, for interacting with Tim Parks’ essay.

    Let’s return for a moment to Toury’s “basic choice.” According to T (19760, 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.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in your post above, you recommend making several steps in the direction of accommodating the TL and the community of readers for whom the TL is, if not their vernacular, at least a lingua franca they understand, but none in the direction of the SL and the reproduction in translation of language and structure that is native to it.

    In the case of the Hebrew Bible, we have language that cannot be said to be characterized by simplification or alignment with an external lingua franca. The situation is the opposite of the one Parks describes as operative today among vernaculars like Italian vis-a-vis English, the lingua franca in context.

    No wonder: the Hebrew language, its script, its very existence as a written vernacular, the modes of address it privileges (see Sanders), are part and parcel of a national project in opposition to the empires of which the book of Daniel (for example) speaks in disparaging tones.

    How will *that* be expressed pragmatically, in a language like English, a lingua franca par excellence?

    [For an overview in passing of how the fact of being a lingua franca changes features of the language in question, go here:

    http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/linguistics/staff/kerswill/pkpubs/Kerswill2002KoineAcc.pdf%5D

    It should not be too surprising, I believe, if a commonly tried way of preserving something of the otherness of the Hebrew Bible is through close literal translation which mimics a variety of linguistic features of the original (phonology, as in Avraham and Moshe; syntax, as in preserving all the vav’s in translation; poetry, as in mimicking as closely as possible the metaphors, rhythms, and terseness of the original; word stock, as in preferring Anglo-Saxon to Latinate terms; etc.).

    In my view, mimetic translation goes some way toward meeting the challenge of translating a vernacular, Hebrew, into a lingua franca, English. The translation technique has some family resemblance with that employed by the first Jewish translation of the Bible, the Septuagint, and by the first Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew, by Jerome.

    In our day, mimetic translation is enjoying a renaissance. Buber and Rosenzweig’s translation is a one-of-a-kind example. The translations of Alter and Curzon of parts of the Hebrew Bible are successful examples of the same approach. The New Zurich Bible is informed by a number of the same translation principles. Compare the new Grail Psalms to the old. The list is long.

  2. Posted July 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    In fact, translators have to be aware both of the original audience of the original text and of the target audience for the translation.

    David,
    Thanks for this second, rich post! I really like how you’ve talked about translators needing to be “aware,” but when you go on to use the metaphors “pinpoint” and “target” then there’s a very unnecessary construct of language (whether used as a vernacular or a lingua france, and despite the group using it) that makes Language sound so formulaic and mechanical in a quite unhuman way.

    Instead of “target” and “source” languages, some Chinese (such as Lydia He Liu) have described them as “guest language” and “host language.” This gets at translator awareness of the sorts of human dimensions you’ve identified without reducing language to some sort of perfect two-language commensurable algebra.

    Similarly, someone like astrophysicist / acclaimed novelist Alan Lightman has confessed that he wants each translator of his Einstein’s Dreams, for example, to be aware of the rendering roles as if both a precise language scientist and also a freely creative language artist. This particular novel and other works of Lightman have been translated into 30 different languages. So it does matter to Lightman, the author. What does Einstein dreaming in the Bernese Alps (as Lightman constructs this first in English) sound like in Japanese to a subway passenger reading in Tokyo? In English, Lightman’s Einstein sounds like a German using the German language in Switzerland as a lingua franca. How should this Einstein sound in Japan? And what of the translation back into German for a Swiss readership? Lightman has also written physics textbooks and language essays in English. Must these works be any less clear in Chinese? But should the Chinese, then, not have any (creative) stylistic elements that Lightman’s English did not? Should the translator “target” Japanese or Chinese? I like what you said first better: the translator does well to have awareness of the uses of the languages (i.e., the precise but creative languages, the host and the guest languages).

    As an English reader of the Bible, I’m not sure I want the translator of biblical Hebrew targeting me and my English. (As if that’s possible for the translator or for me.) Rather, I’d like the translator to be aware of me as a reader, and of readers like me, and the ways we use our English. And I’d like the translator to be aware of the Hebrew more. I really like Everett Fox’s translations of the Hebrew because he’s keen on giving me an English-ish rendering of the original wordplays and the n-dimensionality of the biblical language. Fox has awareness! To a great degree, so does Alter for the Hebrew and Barnstone and Lattimore and Nyland for the Greek (NT).

  3. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Kurk,

    As expected, we are on the same page. However, I have issues with Fox’s translation on multiple levels. I’ve never bothered to develop them on-blog because I know of virtually no one among my colleagues who prefers Fox to Alter.

    In you are unfamiliar with Curzon’s translation work, my guess is that you will find it delightful:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/files/curzon_ten_psalms.pdf

  4. Theophrastus
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    However, I have issues with Fox’s translation on multiple levels. I’ve never bothered to develop them on-blog because I know of virtually no one among my colleagues who prefers Fox to Alter.

    Actually, I know quite a few scholars who prefer Fox to Alter.

    How would you respond to Fox’s critique of Alter?

  5. Theophrastus
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    For example, Marc Brettler is a well-known Bible scholar who has publicly praised Fox over Alter (although he likes both).

  6. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    That’s interesting. Can you name someone who has been public about it? I believe you; it’s just out of line with my own experience.

    I will take a look at the critique and get back to you.

  7. Theophrastus
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I think our messages crossed, but Marc Brettler has argued for the strength of Fox over Alter. He even put it on his personal web page</a?!

  8. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I can’t find the Brettler opinion which you allude to. But I note that Leveen (whom I don’t know personally) prefers Fox:

    http://huc.edu/faculty/faculty/leveen/bible1.html

  9. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    We crossed again. Thanks for the link.

  10. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    David, I wonder if Park’s distinction is not so much between texts intended to be translated and those not as between texts intended for an audience including non-mother tongue speakers and those not. I certainly speak differently to mother tongue English speakers and to foreigners. When I write at my blog, and commenting here, I am aware that many of my readers are not mother tongue English speakers and vary my language accordingly, avoiding rare words and complex word play. The New Testament authors probably knew that much of their audience spoke Koine Greek as a second language – but perhaps less so in the letters to cities in Greece. Some of the post-exilic Hebrew Bible authors may have thought the same of Hebrew, in an environment where many Jews were more fluent in Aramaic, but pre-exilic books would probably have been intended only for mother tongue Hebrew speakers. This difference could well be reflected in the biblical texts. If this is the distinction John is trying to make, then I can understand that it is a real one.

  11. Theophrastus
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I have not met (or even heard of) Adriane Leveen either, but I can assure you that Brettler is a serious researcher.

  12. Theophrastus
    Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I take that back — I have met her — but obviously she did not make a big impression, because it took me a while to remember her!

  13. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    It is what I have in mind, Peter. Part of it, anyway.

    Furthermore, the very fact that almost all of the Hebrew Bible is in Hebrew, even those parts which were or may have been written when Aramaic was the spoken vernacular of the author, says something about cultural priorities, perhaps even the sense that the “sacred map” was inexpressible except in Hebrew (I’m being descriptive here; not prescriptive).

  14. Posted July 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Brettler is of course a well known quantity to me. And you’re right, his opinion has weight.

  15. Posted July 2, 2011 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    I read Fox’s critique of Alter’s translations. His critical notes are fair and accurate. Like Fox, I am not happy with how Alter treats the vav, and what he does with chiasmus. The bizarre lapses of various kinds strewn here and there are an issue. He is not quite as concordant in translation technique as one might wish (though far better than most).

    But how does this get Fox’s translation off the hook? Here is James Kugel on Fox’s translation technique:

    “It may be fun for readers who don’t know Hebrew to imagine that they are somehow getting closer to the original through such contortions, but actually the opposite is true. This style of translating only succeeds in making the language sound bizarre.” (James L. Kugel, The Great Poems of the Bible: A Reader’s Companion with New Translations (New York: Free Press, 1999), page 16).

    I culled this opinion from Michael Marlowe’s site: http://www.bible-researcher.com/schocken.html

    I agree with Kugel.

    Alter’s translation technique – similar to Kugel’s let it be said, but more consistent – has weak spots, but Fox’s technique is problematic for reasons of its own.

    Last but not least, Fox’s translation is a letdown given the fact that he claims inspiration from the Buber-Rosenzweig translation. The latter however is superior in every way.

    My opinion, nothing more.

  16. Posted July 2, 2011 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    John commended translation from Biblical Hebrew to English:

    as in preserving all the vav’s in translation

    Yes, each should be preserved, but they do not each have the same meaning, nor does each map to the same English word, “and,” for instance. Many instances of vav, as R. Longacre and others have demonstrated, have rhetorical meaning at a higher level of language than the clause or sentence. This is especially evident in Hebrew narrative where vav helps move the action forward, rather than conjoining syntactic units. Such uses of Hebrew vav need to be translated to English forms that convey the same meaning as each vav. English “and” does not have the same semantic and pragmatic range as Hebrew vav, although the two words have significant areas of overlap between their sets of semantic ranges.

    Another way in which Hebrew vav and English “and” differ is in so-called Hebraic poetic parallelism. There Hebrew vav beautifully conjoins poetic parallels. English “and” prohibits it. I could say in Hebrew “I love my wife and I am enamored with my spouse,” but that sentence is disallowed by the syntax of English “and.”

    If we translate Hebrew poetic parallelism vav with English “and” we do not communicate the same meaning as the Hebrew has. That, of course, is inaccurate translation.

    To “preserve” Hebrew vav in poetic parallelism requires English forms which have the same meaning as the Hebrew vav in that context. One such English form is appositive syntax.

    So, I agree with you, John, as long as we clarify that each instance of “preserving” Hebrew vav in translation conveys in English the same meaning that vav had in its original context.

  17. Iver Larsen
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    David,

    You quoted Tim Parks as saying: “if an author envisions his or her literary work being translated into other languages, that has a bearing on the writer’s style.”

    My wife and I have translated many books from English to Danish, both the entire Bible and non-Biblical books, but I have yet to come across any author who envisioned his or her book being translated. Very often I have said to myself: If only the author had known that this was going to be translated, they would have chosen a more general illustration or said this in a different way. Actually, to make this kind of adjustment needs a linguistic and cross cultural awareness that most authors do not possess. Furthermore, the adjustments needed are often more cultural than linguistic, so it also depends on into which language and culture the book is being translated.

    I would say that the point Parks is making is a valid one and basic to Relevance Theory, but it has little practical importance, since authors of literary works rarely do this. The onus is upon the translator to make such adjustments in view of the known new audience and culture, precisely because the original author did not or could not do it. The translators have many advantages over the original author, because they know the receptor language and culture. When translating I have often made changes saying to myself: “If the author had known my receptor audience and culture, this is how she would have expressed it.” So, I go ahead and translate what the author intended to communicate rather than what she actually said word for word. I do this because I am convinced that the author wanted to communicate clearly rather than come across in the new language as a poor communicator. If I do not do this, the point the author is making is often lost or at least made obscure in the process.

    I expect John Hobbins to disagree with this as much as I disagree with his position.

  18. Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Yes, John, I’m sure that part of the post-exilic project of Nehemiah, Ezra etc was to re-establish Hebrew as the national language, and that is why their books are largely in Hebrew, although many of the people did not understand it well (Nehemiah 8:8). That doesn’t necessarily imply that Ezra and Nehemiah themselves, born in Babylonia but presumably in untypical elite families, were not themselves mother tongue speakers – and of course we don’t know who actually penned the books in their name. A few generations later Haggai, Zechariah and “Malachi” might have been mother tongue speakers of a re-established Hebrew.

    “It may be fun for readers who don’t know Hebrew to imagine that they are somehow getting closer to the original through such contortions, but actually the opposite is true. This style of translating only succeeds in making the language sound bizarre.”

    John, I am pleased that you accept these words of Kugel about Fox as valid criticism of a Bible translation. This is the basis of my objection to so-called foreignising translation, to the first of the options which you insist on attributing to Toury but which in fact come straight from Schleiermacher. There may be exceptions, but to me any foreignising translation, and for that matter any over-literal translation like ESV, fails to really bring readers closer to the original but “only succeeds in making the language sound bizarre”.

  19. Posted July 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    If only the author had known that this was going to be translated, they would have chosen a more general illustration or said this in a different way. Actually, to make this kind of adjustment [a translator] needs a linguistic and cross cultural awareness that most authors do not possess…. “If the author had known my receptor audience and culture, this is how she would have expressed it.”

    Iver, Your statements here are very interesting. If we think of the authority of the translator in this way, then we’re some moving away from the intent of the original author. I believe very much, for example, that Aristotle as author (or even his students as the authors of what we have as his Organon) would neither have anticipated nor would at all have desired for his works to be ours in Barbarian English! And didn’t Dante believe that he’d authored a work that no translator could alter through it’s communication via another tongue? So the translator, sometimes quite apart from the intention of the author, gets to play as author. This may be part and parcel of the game of some of the ancient Bible translation. The Talmud, for instance, has a version of the legend of the LXX translation, Naomi Seidman explains, that has its translators concealing the text (i.e., the Hebrew Bible’s author’s intentions) from the world (by using not a straight forward, Aristotelian Greek but a rather sophistic Greek that Aristotle would of have condemned). Likewise, the New Testament writers use the parables of Jesus and his wise retorts to his questions to great effect when writing them up (not in original Hebrew Aramaic but) in Greek. Similarly, how Paul and Jakob (i.e., James the epistle writer) and the writer of Hebrews use Greek phonology to great effect when conveying Hebrew ideas to fellow Jews and converts is quite telling; the “linguistic and cross cultural awareness” often shows that these three at least were translating/ authoring bits of text that operated much more like “inside jokes” than as ways to universally propagate the gospel. Even Peter’s letters use Hebraic metaphors (and once he acknowledges to his readers how very difficult Paul’s Greek letters are and gives some instruction, a warning really, about how [not] to interpret them).

    And yet today we tend to think of translation in a very different (yes very often a Relevance-Theory bound, straight-forward communication-science limited) sort of way.

  20. Mike Sangrey
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Similarly, how Paul and Jakob (i.e., James the epistle writer) and the writer of Hebrews use Greek phonology to great effect when conveying Hebrew ideas to fellow Jews and converts is quite telling; the “linguistic and cross cultural awareness” often shows that these three at least were translating/ authoring bits of text that operated much more like “inside jokes” than as ways to universally propagate the gospel.

    A comedian does much the same thing. However, if the jokes were inside jokes than many in his/her audience would “not get it.” And, obviously, a non-funny comedian wouldn’t be in business for very long.

    It’s more likely the author knew the audience and spoke in a way to accurately convey the content intended, and the author did so in a way that minimizes comprehension effort and maximizes cognitive impact. As I see it, your observations, good ones I think, help us understand the nature of the original audience. But, they say nothing about the intended audience of the translation. How could it? Why would it?

    This is also very much related to David’s point and the point of the post and why some authors are sensitive to an international audience (Peter’s observation) and others aren’t (as per Iver). By way of personal example, I find myself consciously moving to a lingua franca of English depending on my assumptions regarding the English expertise of the person I’m talking to. At the very least, I speak a little more slowly. I had this happen just recently with a small family from Romania we were helping. I substantially limited my vocabulary and sentence complexity. However, such an idea never occurs to me when speaking to a group of my English friends. Having a translator tell me directly that such speeches are more difficult to translate would be a concept so expected as to be surprising (unless being done so in the academic intent as Iver did above).

    I continue to find little value in trying to mimic original forms in the TL as a way of somehow communicating original intent to a translation’s audience. An audience which is not skilled or even informed that such foreign forms are being used. To me, this is like expecting mono-lingual people to get inter-lingual puns. The expectation shows a serious misunderstanding of what translation is all about.

    To be clear, I think this technic (conveying original forms via a TL) would be valuable to a certain segment of people who are skilled in using such a translation. Mainly, it has academic value and requires relatively substantial analytical skills. But, that audience, in practice, is relatively small. It is certainly not the audience circumscribed by a universal propagation of the gospel.

  21. Posted July 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mike,

    Sometimes I think the only difference between your viewpoint and mine is a sense of place. That is, you want a translation that does as much work as possible for the reader. Translation and explication run together in your approach.

    I want to keep the two separate. I know it’s impossible to do in the absolute sense. But that’s the goal I shoot for. There is the explanandum – that which needs to be explained. There is the explanans – the explanation.

    When I am reading and explaining the Bible in public, at the university or in church (worship or bible study), I strive to keep the two levels distinct. I have issues with each of the following translations, but I find these three best suited for the task: RSV, ESV, and NRSV. Yes, if I taught Bible in the English department, I would work from KJV. But I teach it in the Anthropology and Religious Studies Department, so I teach it from NRSV.

    Still, at the level of explanation, of course the tools of my trade include things like paraphrase and explicitation and slowing things down as you say.

  22. Posted July 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Peter,

    Well, you have your chronology mixed up. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi come first. Ezra and Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles, Esther, and Daniel come later, and form a relatively homogeneous linguistic bloc. The bloc is a witness of the extent to which Persian period Aramaic, a language in an adstrate relationship with coeval Hebrew then and thereafter such that features of Aramaic made their way into Hebrew and features of Hebrew into Aramaic in communities in which both were employed, impacted but also *failed* to impact Hebrew, with the Hebrew of the Hasmonean period (Daniel) de-Aramaized in some ways relative to earlier examples in the same bloc.

    It’s possible that Hebrew was retained as a mother tongue for centuries in the diasporas, but I wouldn’t bet on it. We have no evidence to that effect. The Elephantive archive is entirely in Aramaic, workaday documents as well as literature (Ahiqar in fact has a frame narrative in lingua franca Aramaic, whereas the aphorisms are in an exclusively literary dialect). Correspondence between the Jews of Elephantine and folks in Yehud and Samaria is in Aramaic, regardless of whether the addressees were Jews, non-Jews, or Samarians.

    Qohelet, Ben Sira, Hodayot, 4QMMT, the Bar Kochba letters and beyond are each different again. I would say that there is literature written in neo-classical Hebrew in the Hasmonean period and the early Roman period, but it’s a much debated topic and I won’t bore you with the details here. At the same time, we have literature in Aramaic such as the so-called Genesis Apocryphon, and an Aramaic Targum of Job (written in a less developed variety of Aramaic relative to the Targumim preserved and produced by the Sages).

  23. Mike Sangrey
    Posted July 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I think the only difference between your viewpoint and mine is a sense of place. That is, you want a translation that does as much work as possible for the reader. Translation and explication run together in your approach.

    I don’t think of “my” approach along the lines of “doing work for the reader.” That makes no sense. I don’t think of it as “doing work for the reader” in any way different than how the original text did not “do work for the original reader.” Is there a sense in which the original author “did work for the original reader?” Sure. Communication, by definition, does that. So, in that sense, the translation “does work for the reader.”

    Also, to the degree that a translation requires coupled explication in the translation language is the degree to which the “translation” is not a completed translation–pretty much by definition. The one endpoint of the cline would be leaving the original as is and coupling an explication to it. So, I think you’re probably right with your thinking of what “my” approach is. And to be clear: I am not referring to explicating the content. That’s beyond translation. I take your approach to require explicating the language and to do this explication outside of the text. That is not-yet translation.

    I’ve had two issues with your approach as you’ve stated it here. And, please understand I believe you are not alone (as I understand the approach) with this approach.

    1. I’ve never seen or heard anyone state that approach, and then go on to say that such an approach requires a set of skills. And then explicate those skills. The reader is left in the dark regarding what is actually required of them. In other words, if you’re going to keep translation and explication separate, then the reader had better be informed of the skills necessary to explicate so they can do this for themselves. As a corollary, the hearer of the explication had better be able to hold the explicator accountable. IMO, this later requirement is missing in many translations. There’s a fair amount of linguistic skill that is required to do such language explication. This is never mentioned.

    2. I’ve frequently heard stated that the approach is more accurate. I want to say, before getting my mind in gear, that such a statement is blatantly false. However, it is probably more accurate to think of the word ‘accurate’ in that sentence as simply polyvalent. And the typical reader or hearer of the statement doesn’t catch the subtle bait and switch.

    Basically, it takes a metric that is only useful to measure oranges and applies it to measure apples. The statement about accuracy assumes a metric that is so very tightly bound to the translation method that any translation which uses that method will always be accurate. So, to my mind, the metric has little explanatory power. It would be far better to use standard linguistic and translation metrics to define accuracy. Field testing with the intended audience would be one such way of determining whether the translation has succeeded by being accurate since it synthesizes many of the linguistic variables into a coherent result.

  24. Posted July 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Kurk wrote:

    And yet today we tend to think of translation in a very different (yes very often a Relevance-Theory bound, straight-forward communication-science limited) sort of way.

    Actually, Kurk, RT is the exact opposite of any straight-forward approach to communication. RT returns communication theory to how people actually speak and write, with all the indirect meanings, speech acts, hinting, veiled language, implicatures, etc. of real language. In contrast to RT is early Nida and much of SIL “code theory” approach to language, where the nuances and indirectness of so much language is removed so that the messages is as direct and clear as possible. SIL members have been debating RT’s applicability to Bible translation for a number of years, largely because RT has central to its communication principles that people often (usually) do not speak directly to each other. Instead, they use a variety of indirect ways of communicating for a variety of purposes, e.g. not to come across to someone else as too bossy, etc. In American English, anyway, we’d rather use indirect speech such as “It’s getting hot in here, isn’t it?” when our desire is for someone who is close to a window to open it. We consider “Open the window!” to be too direct, lacking sociolinguistic nuances which are culturally contextualized.

    RT, BTW, is not a theory of translation. It is an approach to the study of communication that recognizes indirectness of so much language through circumlocutions, unstated assumptions, and yes, even proverbs and poetry. But some translators believe that translating too directly, not following the indirect rules for “proper” communication in any sociolinguistic context, does not do justice to the often indirect communication of source language texts. When we study the sayings of Jesus, we find indirect speech (e.g. parables and other “veiled” language) all over the place, especially when Jesus believed that his audience would not accept what he was trying to teach them.

    Early Nida with his kernel sentences, transforms, and the like was “straight-forward”. RT is not.

  25. Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    John, thanks for the correction concerning Haggai and Zechariah, who of course come before the careers of Ezra and Nehemiah, but not before the events of Ezra 1:1-4:5. I’m not sure about Malachi. Of course the language of a text is not always a reflection of the dates of the events recorded.

    No reply to the second half of my comment?

  26. Posted July 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Wayne,

    You say:

    Another way in which Hebrew vav and English “and” differ is in so-called Hebraic poetic parallelism. There Hebrew vav beautifully conjoins poetic parallels. English “and” prohibits it. I could say in Hebrew “I love my wife and I am enamored with my spouse,” but that sentence is disallowed by the syntax of English “and.”

    If we translate Hebrew poetic parallelism vav with English “and” we do not communicate the same meaning as the Hebrew has. That, of course, is inaccurate translation.

    End quote. We are on the same page.

    Since Paola and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this week, I was rereading Prov 5:15-23. The author delights in the faithful exclusive relationship marriage in the classical Jewish and Christian sense involves. I concur with all the reasons the inspired author gives for having that kind of relationship, though I would add another one. If someone asked me, “Could you imagine betraying your wife?” I would instinctively answer, “I don’t know about that, but I could not imagine betraying my mother-in-law.” She, Pieracarla (she and her husband Valdo celebrated their 50th in January; they live in Genoa), called to say she caught sight on our anniversary of the flower she filled our wedding day with (she had to have them shipped from Liguria to Milan; it cost a small fortune). Agapanthus – here are some shots:

    http://www.imagejuicy.com/images/plants/a/agapanthus/2/

    Here is Prov 5:17 in multiple versions:

    KJV; NKJV: Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

    Two problems. (1) Is it clear enough that “your fountain” and “the wife of your youth” are one and the same? Of course the vav is a connective in the Hebrew, but it is slightly misleading to translate it with “and” in this instance. (2) “Rejoice with” doesn’t work, at least not in today’s English. This is not to say that I know of a single English translation that successfully captures the fine detail of the Hebrew (more on that below).

    NLT: Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
    Rejoice in the wife of your youth.

    The misleading “and” of KJV was avoided, but the period after “you” cannot be considered a successful rendering of a connective. “Rejoice in” captures the basic but not the full sense of the underlying Hebrew. “Let your wife …” is an explicating paraphrase. The terseness of the aphorism is not reproduced; it rules out by disambiguation much traditional interpretation (which tends to think that children are in view; blessed with children).

    RSV; ESV; NRSV: Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
    a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

    The misleading “and” is retained. The received verse division is set aside (so also NJPSV), with cause in my opinion, though I believe 5:17-18 need to be read as a unit. Issues: the calque of the Hebrew, “let your …” is not just open to a fullness of meaning (as metaphors should be); it is also opaque (the Hebrew isn’t). The full sense of the Hebrew “rejoice from the wife” has not been captured. Finally, is there a full stop after “doe”? I think not. Finally again, is it right to render Yaalah with “doe”? I have fond memories of caressing a young capra nubiana = Palestinian gazelle on the grounds of Kfar Giladi in Israel:

    http://www.zoochat.com/816/nubian-ibex-capra-nubiana-amp-palestine-188636/

    Not that I think NJPSV nails it: a loving doe, a graceful mountain goat.

    The last phrase will strike most readers as an oxymoron.

    Alter as always is worth consulting. I would adopt “a graceful gazelle” from Alter, but the rest is not memorable.

    Here goes my attempt at 5:15-19 (I render 5:16 as if “pen” dropped out of the Hebrew; cf. LXX):

    Drink water from your well,
    full streams from your cistern

    so that your springs do not spread outside,
    on the streetcorners, channels of its water;

    let them be for yourself alone,
    not for others along with you.

    Let your source be a blessing,
    drink with joy from the wife of your youth,
    a lovely doe, a graceful gazelle;

    her breasts will sate you every time,
    you will always be taken away by her love.

    Two notes. (1) Why “drink with joy from”? The Hebrew has “rejoice from”: a poetic combination of “rejoice [in}" and "[drink] from.” The trope is well-known in poetries from around the world; I don’t know the technical term for it; I don’t know if I am the first to notice it. If I am, I should probably publish it. (2) It is important to translate in view of the whole. The unit ends with 5:23: “He will die for want of reproof / in his folly be taken away.” An inclusio with 5:20 and 21; perhaps also with 5:19 “doe” [his folly = his doe-ishness].

  27. Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    I was *quoting* Toury, not Schleiermacher. But sure, S formulated the same dilemma. And yes, the latest translations in the KJV translation tradition, RSV, ESV, and NRSV, are over-literal often enough, in my opinion as well as yours.

    On the other hand, in my opinion, NIV and especially NLT are very often not literal enough. I guess that’s where we differ.

    Mike,

    You make an excellent point about the need to be clear about the set of helps a reader of Scripture needs, especially if they are asked to read it in a not-fully-conformed-to-TL-norms version.

    Here is a short list of the set of helps a reader of Scripture needs. I will use the language of the Christian community; it would not be hard to adjust the list to reflect Jewish sensibilities:

    (1) The Holy Spirit; the communion of saints which the Spirit enables
    (2) a flesh-and-blood community of faith in which the gifts of preaching and teaching are well-represented
    (3) deep knowledge of the OT in order to understand the NT
    (4) deep knowledge of the NT in order to understand the sense in which the Old is fulfilled in the New
    (5) a sense of the history of interpretation
    (6) the more knowledge the better of the historical and cultural circumstances in which the contents of Scripture were given.

    Without these helps, I contend, a modern reader of Scripture quite apart from what translation she reads is bound to go astray.

  28. Posted July 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    However, if the jokes were inside jokes than many in his/her audience would “not get it.” And, obviously, a non-funny comedian wouldn’t be in business for very long.

    RT, BTW, is not a theory of translation.

    Mike and Wayne,

    You’re both talking about what is not translation what is not translation theory. You’re talking past what I’m saying. (Of course a comedian wants to make as many people laugh as possible. And of course RT is more of a platonic theory of communication — a real misnomer since it’s not at all about relevance of a coded message at all; RT is only about how one gets “what is meant” from “what is said.” Plato’s Socrates would say it’s about how one looks at the shadows in the cave to discern that there’s something behind them. Similarly, Chomsky’s platonic notion of language is less concerned with “performance” than with what’s presumably deeper, namely “competence.” I’m not talking either about humor or “what is meant” regardless of “what is said.”)

    Let me try to be simple (not simplistic). The earliest translators of the Bible likely had emic messages for emic audiences, so that “what what said” did have real relevance. In this way they acted as original authors themselves (not necessarily the authors they were translating), and they didn’t necessarily want to communicate the deep structure, the competence, the “what is originally meant.” The translation often provided an enhancement of the first author’s meaning. The translation sometimes provided a misdirecting of the first author’s meaning. And there wasn’t this presumption that the first author had one and only one meaning to begin with. Ambiguities were flaunted, and the translator as new author sometimes created new ambiguities. Most of all, “what is said,” is important because the author(s) and the audiences created the meanings together. This is what I meant by the translations at that time being “like” an inside joke. If I were to speak the same syllable to you in Vietnamese six times, each time with a different emic tone, then as a non-Vietnamese speaker you might or might not get the difference. If you were to point to the sky and say, “the sky has a beautiful color today,” and then were to point to a tree and say, “that tree has a beautiful color today,” then if asked what the colors were, you’d likely say, “blue” and “green” because the difference is emic for English speakers. But Vietnamese speakers would not find the difference so significant in their color term “xanh,” and they would find each of the six syllables very significant. “What is said,” is important. I’m trying to give two-language examples here. I’m bilingual Vietnamese and English, so I get the differences easily, intuitively, instinctively. (But I also can study this consciously, “academically,” Mike. Mike, you say: “An audience which is not skilled or even informed that such foreign forms are being used. To me, this is like expecting mono-lingual people to get inter-lingual puns. The expectation shows a serious misunderstanding of what translation is all about.” I wish you wouldn’t accuse me of having “a serious misunderstanding of what translation is all about.” Please feel free to back up and say how you understand what translation is all about.)

    I’m talking about translation that is not necessarily focused on some platonic deep meaning that depends only on “what is meant” and can disregard “what is said.” Ken Pike used to ask, rhetorically, “Is IPA emic or etic?” Of course, it’s the International phonETIC Alphabet. So it’s etic. We’d laugh, however, because we all know that for phonemicists IPA is an insider’s language. You can “translate” etic or emic sounds using these IPA letters, and for just the initiated (i.e., just for the linguists or those trained in IPA) this special alphabet really does matter emically. What is written (i.e., the IPA notation) really is as relevant as What is meant. Do away with IPA for something else and then linguists are in real trouble. Ha!

    If Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John translated Jesus’s Hebrew Aramaic into Greek, as if they knew “what translation is all about,” perhaps may have only been wanting to get, platonically, at just “what Jesus meant” so that there could be some universal spread of the gospel. “What Jesus said” originally may not have mattered in the least, although we often do get some snippets of the Aramaic into sonic Greek transliterations, which we may disregard, of course, if they could be understood as just Greek, or now as just heart-language English, or Swahili, or Bororu, or whichever.

    But how much of the Hebraic-Aramaic syntax or lexicon or phonology were the NT writers or the LXX translators really carrying in their Greek? Could it be that “what is said” was really relevant? That the Greek, then, was used in various ways to carry that so that outsiders didn’t really get all that was there for the insider audiences and readers? Was there some singular message intent on universal and global and obvious-to-all communication by translation, regardless of what the Hebrew (and Aramaic) said or how it said it? I know you don’t like me asking these questions, Mike. But I do appreciate your listening (and correcting or at least asserting your opinion. I’m only asking questions, and I’m not trying to assert anything other than Tagmemicists once used to allow this sort of investigation.

  29. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    “I love my wife and I am enamored with my spouse.

    There is nothing syntactically wrong with that sentence in English — the problem is semantic (redundancy) and stylistic (passive verb).

  30. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    I’m not quite sure I understand your opinion John. You criticize Fox for “bizarre” language, but you like Buber-Rosenzweig despite “bizarre” language.

    In fact, B-R has much stranger German than Fox has English. Fox apologizes for this: In all these areas I have taken a more moderate view than my German mentors, partly because I think there are limitations to these principles and partly because recent scholarship points in broader directions. As a result, my translation is on the whole less radical and less strange in English than B-R was in German. This, however, does not mean that it is less different from conventional translations, or that I have abandoned the good fight for a fresh look at the Bible’s verbal power.

    Recall Fox’s statement of his goals: This translation is guided by the principle that the Hebrew Bible, like much of the literature of antiquity, was meant to be read aloud, and that consequently it must be translated with careful attention to rhythm and sound. The translation therefore tries to mimic the particular rhetoric of the Hebrew whenever possible, preserving such devices as repetition, allusion, alliteration, and wordplay. It is intended to echo the Hebrew, and to lead the reader back to the sound structure and form of the original.

    I can understand someone criticizing Fox for not going far enough. Or I can understand someone criticizing both Fox and Buber-Rosenzweig. But I don’t understand someone praising Buber-Rosenzweig while criticizing Fox for excesses.

  31. Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    The “and” is syntactically wrong in the cited instance because it doesn’t work in English to take semantically redundant clauses and join them with an “and.”

    For the same reason, it doesn’t work to say:

    “I love my dog and I cherish my pooch.”

    That is, the overall redundancy creates the expectation that “dog” and “pooch” are *not* redundant.

  32. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    John, I’m not sure you know what “syntax” means in linguistics. The sentence is derivable by generative grammar.

    By the way, it is also possible to use the sentence grammatically. Consider this paragraph.

    My wife is my spouse. She is enamored of movies. I am enamored of movies. I love my wife and I am enamored with my spouse. Together we are enamored of movies.

  33. Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    Theo,

    Examples of bizarre phrases in Alter are few and far between. They are the norm in Fox.

    You are taking Fox’s word for it that B-R is full of bizarre language. It’s not the case. B-R has this amazing feel to it that Fox does not have. If you know German:

    Im Anfang schuf Gott den Himmel und die Erde.

    Die Erde aber war Irrsal und Wirrsal.
    Finsternis über Urwirbels Antlitz.
    Braus Gottes schwingend über dem Antlitz der Wasser.
    Gott sprach: Licht werde! Licht ward. Gott sah das Licht: daß es gut ist.
    Gott schied zwischen dem Licht und der Finsternis.
    Gott rief dem Licht: Tag! und der Finsternis rief er: Nacht!
    Abend ward und Morgen ward: Ein Tag.

    There are problems with this translation, but it doesn’t sound contorted to me. Fox does.

    Or try this, the second of the ten words:

    Nicht sei dir
    andere Gottheit
    mir ins Angesicht.
    Nicht mache dir Schnitzgebild, –
    und alle Gestalt,
    die im Himmel oben, die auf Erden unten,
    die im Wasser unter der Erde ist,
    neige dich ihnen nicht,
    diene ihnen nicht,
    denn ICH dein Gott
    bin ein eifernder Gottherr,
    zuordnend Fehl von Vätern ihnen an Söhnen, am dritten und vierten Glied,
    denen die mich hassen,
    aber Huld tuend ins tausendste
    denen die mich lieben,
    denen, die meine Gebote wahren.

    From Isa 53:

    Dennoch:
    unsere Krankheiten hat der getragen,
    unsere Schmerzen sie hat er aufgeladen -
    und wir,
    wir achteten ihn für einen Schadengeplagten,
    einen von Gott Geschlagnen und Niedergebeugten!
    er aber,
    durchbohrt war er für unsre Abtrünnigkeiten,
    gemaimt für unsre Verfehlungen,
    Züchtigung uns zum Frieden war auf ihm,
    durch seine Strieme wurde uns Heilung:
    wir alle,
    wie Schmalvieh hatten wir uns verlaufen,
    jeder seines Wegs hatten wir uns gewandt, …

  34. Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Theo,

    No, you chose to misunderstand what I said. I meant the syntax is wrong in the sense that it sends the wrong message on the semantic level.

    You simply confirm my point from another direction: it is possible for a sentence to be syntactically correct but semantically unsuccessful.

    Which is just another way of saying that the syntax is not correct for the semantics at hand.

    I have no idea why you are intent on proving that linguists can be so thick.

  35. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    In my edition the German is formatted differently:

    Nicht sei dir andere Gottheit mir ins Angesicht.
    Nicht mache dir Schnitzgebild, – alle Gestalt
    des, was im Himmel oben, was auf Erden unten, was im Wasser unter der Erde ist,
    neige dich ihnen nicht, diene ihnen nicht,
    denn ICH dein Gott bin ein eifernder Gottherr,
    zuordnend Fehl von Vätern ihnen an Söhnen und am dritten und vierten Glied denen die mich hassen,
    aber Huld tuend ins tausendste denen die mich lieben, denen die meine Gebote wahren.

    To me this seems no more strange than Fox’s

    You are not to have other gods beside my presence.
    You are not to make yourself a carved-image of any form
    that is in the heavens above, that is on the earth beneath, that is in the waters beneath the earth.
    You are not to prostrate yourselves to them, you are not to serve them,
    for I, **** your God, am a jealous God,
    calling-to-account the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and to the fourth (generation) of those that hate me,
    but showing loyalty to thousands
    of those that love me, of those that keep my commandments.

    Actually, this doesn’t seem like contorted English at all to me. Except for the verse layout and the word “carved-image”, it seems completely natural. Similarly, Schnitzgebild seems an artificial word to me (and it is not in any of my dictionaries), although I am not a native speaker of German, so I will need to defer.

    Similarly, I have B-R:

    Im Anfang schuf Gott den Himmel und die Erde.
    Die Erde aber war Irrsal und Wirrsal.
    Finsternis über Urwirbels Antlitz.
    Braus Gottes schwingend über dem Antlitz der Wasser.
    Gott sprach: Licht werde! Licht ward.
    Gott sah das Licht: daß es gut ist.
    Gott schied zwischen dem Licht und der Finsternis.
    Gott rief dem Licht: Tag! und der Finsternis rief er: Nacht!
    Abend ward und Morgen ward: Ein Tag.

    While Fox has

    At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth,
    when the earth was wild and waste,
    darkness over the face of Ocean,
    rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters—
    God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
    God saw the light: that it was good.
    God separated the light from the darkness.
    God called the light: Day! and the darkness he called: Night!
    There was setting, there was dawning: one day.

    The only contorted portions seem to be:

    * the verse setting (same in B-R)
    * the use of a colon to denote quotes (same B-R)
    * the phrase rushing-spirit (but B-R has Braus)
    * the use of Ocean without an articles and like a proper name (but B-R does the same).

    Again, I’m not a native speaker of German, but this doesn’t seem like very contorted English to me.

  36. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Well, actually, you said that the sentence is “disallowed by syntax.” If you point is that syntax influences semantic meaning that is certainly true.

    In fact, using redundancy can achieve dramatic effects in English:

    “A rose is a rose is a rose.” (Gertrude Stein)

    “You’re my best friend, my love, my love.
    You’re my best friend, my love.
    My love you are my best friend.” (Jackson Five)

    “Although thou steal thee all my poverty” (Shakespeare)

  37. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Did you note how often Fox is translating from the German rather than the Hebrew. Not a minor issue!

    Here are the reasons Fox’s translation sounds contorted whereas B-R does not.

    (1) Word-order is more flexible in German than in English. Therefore B-R can create special effects with word order; when Fox attempts to do the same in English, it falls flat.

    (2) German is very productive of new coins via smashes. It doesn’t matter that Schnitzgebild is a new coin; it’s a natural new coin. Fox’s hyphenated monstrosities bear no relation to B-R’s new coins.

    (3) B-R strays from the Hebrew if one-for-one mimesis would produce nonsense.
    Thus we have “ins Angesicht” for Hebrew “upon my face.” Fox tries to improve on B-R, but the result in my opinion is unconvincing: “beside my presence.”

    (4) The use of parentheses in Fox. Please! This is supposed to be an aural text?

    If this is not a sufficient explanation of my misgivings, ask again, and you shall receive further exemplification.

  38. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Luther

    Am Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde.

    2Und die Erde war wüst und leer, und es war finster auf der Tiefe; und der Geist Gottes schwebte auf dem Wasser.

    3Und Gott sprach: Es werde Licht! und es ward Licht.

    4Und Gott sah, daß das Licht gut war. Da schied Gott das Licht von der Finsternis

    5und nannte das Licht Tag und die Finsternis Nacht. Da ward aus Abend und Morgen der erste Tag.

    B-R

    1 Im Anfangb schuf Gott den Himmel und die Erde.
    2 Die Erde aber war Irrsal und Wirrsal.
    Finsternis über Urwirbels Antlitz.
    Braus Gottes schwingend über dem Antlitz der Wasser.
    3 Gott sprach: Licht werde! Licht ward.
    4 Gott sah das Licht: daß es gut ist.
    Gott schied zwischen dem Licht und der Finsternis.
    5 Gott rief dem Licht: Tag! und der Finsternis rief er: Nacht!
    Abend ward und Morgen ward: Ein Tag.

    I think it should be clear that B-R was vastly different from Luther’s and was in some sense at least as bizarre in German as Fox’s is in English.

    Compare Luther and B-R in this line!

    und es war finster auf der Tiefe
    Finsternis über Urwirbels Antlitz.

  39. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    None of your examples of redundancy make use of the connective “and.” Just saying.

    It was *Wayne* who said that the sentence in question is “disallowed by syntax.” Of course a linguist trained up in the way of Chomsky will note that to phrase it that way is disallowed in generative grammar.

    My sense is that generative grammarians (my friend Robert Holmstedt included) need to cut “the rest of us” more slack. The subliminal message I often hear is: conform, or else! The message backfires.

    On another note, your paragraph in which you embed Wayne’s sentence in such a way that it works was brilliant.

  40. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    No one denies that B-R is vastly different than Luther’s translation. That doesn’t make it bizarre. It’s as if you are conflating “strange” and “bizarre.”

    B-R is in agreement with the principle invoked on behalf of the new Zurich Bible: Fremdes fremd sein lassen. But this is not what Fox does.

    I continue to agree with Kugel. Put it this way: B-R’s translation technique, transferred to English a la Fox, is contortionist.

  41. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I agree that Fox attempts to model B-R fairly closely, so at times it seems as if he is translating from German.

    I am not a native German speaker, so I hesitate to make my own observations on whether or not B-R is natural German or not. However, I did read severe criticism of B-R from native German speakers including Walter Benjamin and Siegried Kracauer. (Benjamin and Kracauer were both Jewish as well, and thus the “target audience” of the translation.) I find this hard to reconcile with your claims that it is beautiful German.

  42. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    From Fox’s preface,

    “Buber and Rosenzweig themselves came under fire for creating a strange new kind of German in their work; one critic in 1933 accused them of ‘unusual affectations.’”

    Luther’s German sounds like German normally would. B-R does not. Not to say that it isn’t good, but it appears to cross the boundaries of what was considered natural to the German language.

  43. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    John, you are right — that was a quote from Wayne. Since you responded to my comment, I somehow forgot that it was Wayne I was critiquing. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  44. Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    John wrote:

    Paola and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this week

    Congratulations to you both, and (!) a blessing on your house, mazel tov!

  45. Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    It’s true that Luther’s transation is closer to a dynamic equivalent (even gender inclusive in some very important significant ways.) So B-R’s translation would differ in many ways. However I tend to think there is something in the critique’s of B-R that have been cited. For instance, while it is easier to make newly formed compound words in German, native speakers of German do make jokes about this aspect of their language.

  46. Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Theo wrote:

    My wife is my spouse. She is enamored of movies. I am enamored of movies. I love my wife and I am enamored with my spouse. Together we are enamored of movies.

    Sentences 1 and 4 don’t work for me, Theo. But I sometimes have different intuitions about English acceptability than other people. Maybe you can email me privately how this paragraph works for you. I’d enjoy knowing. I wish I could get email or even the Internet on my primitive cell phone, but my occasional stops to pick up the coffee shop wi-fi is better than nothing.

  47. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Kracauer’s criticism of B-R has been translated into English as “The Bible in German: On the Translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig” by Thomas Levin and can be found in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (published by Harvard University Press).

    I am not aware of a translation of Benjamin’s criticism, but the original German can be found in Briefe (edited by Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno and published by Suhrkamp Verlag). An English summary of his views can be found in Benjamin Britt’s Walter Benjamin and the Bible (published by Continuum).

  48. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Wayne, it was a trick — based on your use of prepositions.

    The basic problem is that you used “enamored with” which can mean

    “I, together with someone else, am enamored”

    rather than the standard English form, “enamored of.”

    —-

    The statement, “My wife is my spouse” works because now in many locations, same-sex marriage is legal. Thus, it works in the same way as saying “My dog is my pet.”

  49. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    My dog is my pet.

    That was an unfortunate simile and I regreted it the moment I posted it.

    I should rather have said something like:

    “It works in the same way as saying ‘My queen [king] is my sovereign.’ “

  50. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Theo,

    I was taught to appreciate B-R by native German speakers, Alttestamentler, in Germany.

    Of course Benjamin and Kracauer didn’t like B-R. Here is a taste of their critique as presented by Brian Britt:

    While Buber and Rosenzweig saw biblical translation as a way to restore
    meaning to modern life, Benjamin and Kracauer tried instead to analyze modern
    life. For them, studying the contemporary world, especially new art forms such as film – was a necessary and more interesting basis for genuine understanding than Bible translation. From at least 1916, when he wrote an essay on language after a falling-out with Buber, Benjamin thought that modernity blocked direct access to revelation. In his harsh Frankfurter Zeitung review of the translation in 1925, Kracauer objected as much to the historical context of the translation as to its qualities:

    [T]hey have run aground on a form of language that is certainly not of
    today. But these tones do not resonate forth from the biblical era either.
    . . . [T]hey take the Luther text . . . and elevate it to the lofty German
    formulation “Thus HE scented the scent of assentment” [Da roch ER
    den Ruch der Befriedigung]. The stench of these alliterations stems not
    from the Bible but from runes of a Wagnerian sort.

    I admit that K’s critique is brilliant. But the quote is taken from K’s shot across the bow against B-R. The conversation developed further. Common ground was identified. K stepped back a bit. Benjamin was always more circumspect. Scholem, while not glossing over the issues, paid positive tribute to the finished translation in 1961.

    Britt’s recent article marks an advance over all previous discussion: Romantic roots of the debate on the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible, Prooftexts 20 (2000) 262-289. I am happy to send the article in attachment to anyone who asks.

    Finally, it would be nice to make available a copy of Alter’s trenchant critique of Fox’s translation -“It’s Not Always English, but It Captures the Hebrew,”New York Times Magazine, 22 October 1995. But I don’t have that.

  51. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Though I am not a native speaker of German either, what I find unusual about B-R for Genesis 1:1-5 (oder: 1Mose 1.1,5) is the “ist” of verse 4. The present tense sticks out a bit there. Even though object-complement construction of Hebrew carries no inherent time element, it still seems strange to use the present tense there.

    Even as a nonnative speaker, I don’t find Schnitzbild to be any more irregular than any other compound word in German. Schnitzen is to cut or to carve. Ein Bild is an image. At least this is a compound where the meaning is readily apparent from the etymology (or so the context would lead me to believe). My favorite German compound is the Hexangriff. The “witch attack” is actually a backache. Rueckschmerz is not the preferred term. So much for rationalism!

    German lends itself to compounds far more than English generally does to hyphenated compounds — though Ed Greenwood, one of my favorite medieval fiction authors, is rather fond of them. Perhaps, with regards to German, I just don’t have the native intuition of what does or does not accord with natural style.

    Recap: how awkward were the last two sentences of my first paragraph, given the repetition of “present tense” and “there”? Though I was aware of the redundancy in writing them, I didn’t think it important enough to edit.

  52. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    From Britt’s article, a summary of Gershom Scholem’s take:

    “What fills me with doubt is the excessive tonality of this prose, which leaps out almost uncannily from the particular wording. . . . If I search in the original for what your translation gives, I can succeed only by singing, i.e., “reciting” it; the mere text without music does not yield it. To the extent that I can speak from experience, in the case of such translations one cannot avoid deciding whether one is translating revelation or a “work of art,” and I believe that the translation of biblical prose and the extent to which singing it is included in it are, nolens volens, shaped by this
    determination.” Letter of Scholem to Buber, 27 April 1926, The Letters of Martin Buber, ed. Nahum Glatzer and Paul Mendes-Flohr, trans. Richard and Clara
    Winston and Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1991), pp. 338-39. Scholem
    also agrees with Kracauer’s criticism of the term Kuender for “prophet.”
    When the complete translation was published in 1961, Scholem addressed Buber in a public celebration: “When you and Rosenzweig began this undertaking there was a German Jewry; your work was intended to have a vital influence on them, to arouse them and lead them to the original. There also was a German language in which you could find a link with great traditions and achievements. . . . Seen historically, it is no longer a Gastgeschenk of the Jews to the Germans but rather, and it is not easy for me to say thisÐthe tombstone of a relationship that was extinguished in unspeakable horror. The Jews for whom you translated are no more” (The Messianic Idea in Judaism [New York: Schocken, 1971], p. 318). At that time, Scholem also praised the second edition of the translation as more urbane than the first, which he called somewhat “fanatical” (The Messianic Idea, pp. 316-17).

  53. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    To be clear: I did not list Scholem (who was Buber’s immediate colleague and thus unlikely to criticize him) as one of B-R’s critic.

    But I am not aware of anyone who maintains B-R was natural German.

    The Robert Alter review you mention was more favorable than critical.

    But more to the point, Frank Kermode on the very next page said: “The Buber-Rosenzweig translation, on which [Fox] has modeled his own work, had similar intentions and carried them through so boldly that some questioned whether the result was in German at all.”

    While Kermode has reservations about Fox’s approach, he concludes

    Still, Fox’s boldness has its rewards. As I read on I was persuaded that the division of the original prose into poetic segments and even the insistent repetition of key words do give one “a fresh look” at the old story. In this version, Noah’s flood actually swells and swells exceedingly in the prose as well as on the earth. King James’s bishops, or rather their 16th-century predecessors, almost got the idea: “the waters prevailed . . . the waters prevailed exceedingly.” “Prevail” is good, but a touch obsolete; “swells, swells exceedingly” is better and bolder; it suits the ambition of this devoted translator.

  54. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Gary, actually, it is “Schnitzgebild.” I understand your point, but I am not sure how German native speakers would regard “Schnitzgebild.” I will ask some highly educated native speakers next week for their opinions.

    But if we look at Fox’s English:

    You are not to make yourself a carved-image of any form

    the only thing strange about it is the dash between “carved” and “image.” I’m not sure that is enough to qualify as contorted English.

    (In this case, it does seem that Fox is more trying to imitate B-R’s effect more than to translate פסל.)

  55. Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    “Thus HE scented the scent of assentment” [Da roch ER
    den Ruch der Befriedigung]. …

    I admit that K’s critique is brilliant.

    It looks to me as if the brilliance here comes from Kracauer’s translator, who has “improved” the quote from B-R by enhancing the alliteration, meanwhile rendering a perfectly normal (I think) German word with an obscure English one. But why “assentment” rather than “assent”? Has the translator of the review taken this line from Fox? Or is this your translation, John?

  56. Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    I don’t think you have succeeded in saving Fox’s translation from the criticism it merits.

    A line-by-line comparison of F’s translation with the Hebrew *and* B-R is enough to convince anyone who is fliessend in German to stick to B-R. There is no reason to read F’s tranversion of B-R into English if one can read B-R.

    You get things exactly backwards when you say:

    I can understand someone criticizing Fox for not going far enough. Or I can understand someone criticizing both Fox and Buber-Rosenzweig. But I don’t understand someone praising Buber-Rosenzweig while criticizing Fox for excesses.

    Au contraire. There is nothing illogical about praising B-R while criticizing Fox for excesses. Fox’s systematic attempt to transfer B-R into English in the name of fidelity to the Hebrew is an excess of the first order – an unsuccessful one at that. In addition, Fox seeks to out-B-R B-R on numerous occasions. Another excess. Why? English is not as tractable as German to the specific techniques B-R deploys, and Fox re-deploys.

    It’s as simple as that.

    My sense is that those who praise Fox’s translation have failed to notice the extent to which Fox is translating B-R, not the Hebrew.

    I do not mean to suggest that Fox’s translation does not have moments in which it shines. It does. So do all translations in my experience. I will put it as charitably as possible. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In my view, this is a fair characterization of Fox’s translation.

  57. Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Peter,

    It’s not my translation. It’s taken from Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament, trans. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995) 195.

    I agree with you that Levin the translator tried to make Kracauer’s point with more of a flourish than K did.

  58. Dannii
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    John H said:

    (1) The Holy Spirit; the communion of saints which the Spirit enables
    (2) a flesh-and-blood community of faith in which the gifts of preaching and teaching are well-represented
    (3) deep knowledge of the OT in order to understand the NT
    (4) deep knowledge of the NT in order to understand the sense in which the Old is fulfilled in the New
    (5) a sense of the history of interpretation
    (6) the more knowledge the better of the historical and cultural circumstances in which the contents of Scripture were given.

    Without these helps, I contend, a modern reader of Scripture quite apart from what translation she reads is bound to go astray.

    What a dismal view of Bible translation you have! With an ideal translation I don’t think nothing more than (1) would be needed to understand most of the Bible. Now I’ve never seen anything even approaching what I’d consider an ideal translations, but it would be very feasible to get close to the ideal.

    Now that I understand that you effectively don’t believe that Bible translations can be successful I’ll know how to read your posts.

  59. Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Dannii, that sounds like the classic pastor’s, and pre-Reformation priest’s, advice: you can only understand the Bible if you join OUR church and submit to OUR teaching about the Bible and its background – and until you have done that we don’t even want you reading it. That is what Tyndale among other Reformers rebelled against, and what I also rebel against as I uphold the key Reformation teaching of the clarity of Scripture.

  60. Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Dannii,

    As you say, nothing like the ideal translation you pine for yet exists. Should you come up with one that approaches your ideal, I promise to field-test it for free among readers who do not have the benefit of a community of faith, have little or no prior familiarity with the OT and NT, have never read a page of commentary, and can’t say the first thing about how life differed in ancient Egypt under Pharaoh, Israel under Hezekiah, and Palestine under Rome. You are one optimistic person if you think they will understand more of what they read than did the Ethiopian eunuch.

    Peter,

    Your Anabaptist colors are showing. Which is fine, but there is no basis for such an approach in Scripture itself – a paradox lost on Bible-only and especially NT-only Christians.

    As you know, none of the “magisterial” Reformers – Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Cranmer, Perkins etc., absolutized the doctrine of scripture as its own interpreter in the sense you do. Neither the Catholic church nor the Orthodox churches hold to a view of scripture divorced from tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6) as you do.

    If you are saying that a translation of the kind you prefer, NIV for example, is designed to speak to our “inner Anabaptist,” that would be a reason to disprefer it – from the point of view of Christians who are not so enamored with “me, the Bible, and I” Christianity.

  61. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Theo: thank you for the correction there. I had spent an hour and a half reading this comment thread all the way through, and it was about 1:30 in the morning. Mutatis mutandis, I stand by what I said earlier: Schnitz[ge]bild doesn’t seem particularly strange, at least to this Fremdsprachler. (Wie heißt der, der nicht Muttersprachler ist?)

    Thank you also for the correction about the Japanese ano a while back. My Japanese is definitely more schrecklich than my German.

  62. Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for this stimulating discussion and the link to Fox’s critique of Alter. He gives a number of specific infelicities but one would not want to agree with every criticism. The discussion of ‘and’ raises questions for me as a technician. There are and- and or- gates in logic theory and the conjunction ‘and’ can even be used to indicate conditionals. And you do this I will be unhappy, or some such.

    But I didn’t agree with Fox on psalm 145:20. (Shin verse)
    Showing protection is יְהוָה
    to all loving him
    and all the wicked he will exterminate

    The contrast between wicked and righteous after the Psalter has been read should be different for the reader from the thoughts when first reading the contrast in psalm 1. 145:20 doesn’t need the abutment of a ‘but’ but it needs the reminder that the beloved-elect have had much to answer for in the body of the text.

    For me vav is connector par excellence. It joins the clothing of the tabernacle to its frame. The filigreed raiment so formed may show various aspects of the work of the clothier that allow us a freedom to over-and and under-but if necessary. I agree one ought to be able to perform the result of a translation without helps from the guest language, thus creating the guest in us all.

  63. Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    (1) The Holy Spirit; the communion of saints which the Spirit enables
    (2) a flesh-and-blood community of faith in which the gifts of preaching and teaching are well-represented
    (3) deep knowledge of the OT in order to understand the NT
    (4) deep knowledge of the NT in order to understand the sense in which the Old is fulfilled in the New
    (5) a sense of the history of interpretation
    (6) the more knowledge the better of the historical and cultural circumstances in which the contents of Scripture were given.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to read again the way John ended that comment: “Without these helps, I contend, a modern reader of Scripture quite apart from what translation she reads is bound to go astray.”

    Two questions emerge in seeking to understand John’s thought here:
    1. How broad of a time frame does John have in mind? Surely he doesn’t expect a neophyte to meet all six criteria.
    2. To what extent does he mean “lead astray?” Does he refer to minor errors or to heresy?
    (Truthfully, other questions of extent could be asked as well.)

    Part of the listening process, which is translated into exegesis when dealing with written communication, is asking questions of clarification. They definitely can help in avoiding misunderstandings or speaking rashly.

    Having the Holy Spirit and communion of the saints is central to understanding the impact of salvation. Having a community of faith with teaching and preaching is pretty much necessary for walking the Christian life. As time goes on, an appreciating (both as “increasing” and as “having affection for”) understanding of both testaments and their interrelation will provide further illumination. And, beyond that, having a basic awareness of the history of interpretation and the cultural-historical context will be beneficial.

    Yet I find something lacking here. I would be glad to add a capstone to John’s list:
    7) an inquiring mind and an open, humble heart.

    This element must be present throughout the growing and learning process. Without this, which I am thankful to say was emphasized when I first learned exegesis, one’s confirmation bias will interfere with the learning process.

    While only 1) is needed in the beginning, as time goes on, I believe growth would necessarily include the elements as presented here.

    Without some basic awareness of the history of interpretation, people can definitely go astray. Consider the deacon with an interlinear Bible software who discovers that Elohim in Genesis 1 is [grammatically] plural. He then concludes that Genesis 1 clearly teaches the Trinity. Gee. Then every single Jew who knows any Hebrew must be very obstinate and stupid for not getting that when it is so clear to someone with software to parse for him.

    Or consider the youth pastor who sees that Ephesians 2:10 uses ποίημα, which clearly means we are God’s poem. Gee. I guess every single English Bible translator totally missed that, but a guy with one year of Greek several years back knows what he’s doing.

    I’ve seen both of these errors, and they aren’t uncommon.

    I leave it to John to clarify his statements, polyvalent as they are. But I simply point out that one could interpret him with a hermeneutic of charity.

  64. Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    “with a hermeneutic of charity.”

    If we achieve a translation which makes this clear “to love one’s neighbour as oneself” we would do well.

  65. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    A line-by-line comparison of F’s translation with the Hebrew *and* B-R is enough to convince anyone who is fliessend in German to stick to B-R. There is no reason to read F’s tranversion of B-R into English if one can read B-R.

    This may be true. But I think it is a fair assumption that Fox translated for those who primarily speak English, not German — and the audience which reads German and English equally well is quite small. (Further I did not claim it is inconsistent to prefer B-R to Fox — I claimed it was inconsistent to maintain Fox was contorted while B-R was not contorted.)

    Fox’s systematic attempt to transfer B-R into English in the name of fidelity to the Hebrew is an excess of the first order – an unsuccessful one at that

    A more careful analysis of Fox reveals that while he modeled his translation on B-R, he also separated from them at numerous occassions.

    Your comment that Fox was unsuccessful is an unsupported conclusory assertion — the only evidence you have presented is a second-hand opinion by Kugel. You have not at all analyzed Fox directly.

    Fox seeks to out-B-R B-R on numerous occasions.

    You have not give any examples of this. In fact, you have given no examples from Fox. You gave three examples from B-R (one of which has no corresponding English translation by Fox), but did not analyze Fox’s corresponding translation.

    English is not as tractable as German to the specific techniques B-R deploys, and Fox re-deploys.

    I am unconvinced of this. For example, For’s corresponding translation to the fragments you identified are mostly natural in English (I analyzed this above). You claim that they are natural in German; but h I am a little more cautious about making assertions about “naturalness” in a language I do not speak as a native.

    Thus, for example, native speaker Kraucer claims that while hybrid terms may be tolerable in German, the translators are tone-deaf as to its effect:

    The language is to a great extent archaizing. As a result of considerations that fail to take account of their effects, the translation uses precisely those utterly delegitimated “castle and court words” that Luther deliberately rejected…. The linguistic hinterland that these misplaced word demarcate is cultivated to the fullest effect by the translators — a practice that is all the more burdensome since both mean for language to be treated with respect, and Wilhelm Michel can remark that Buber belongs “among the foremost contemporary German voices.” Their belief in the atemporal ontological power of the German they have created lures them out of the domesticated realm of the word “altar” [Altar] and toward the wild “slaughterplace” [Schlachtstatt]; it prompts them to replace Luther’s idiomatic “all the world” [alle Welt] or “all the lands” [alle Lande] with the expression “folk of the earth” [Erdvolk], which smacks of pseudo-native soil. But instead of bringing the fixed distance of Scripture into the present, these ur-German expressions drag Scripture into an ur-German that is only a few decades old…. According to the publisher’s brochure, the book of Chronicles will become the books of “Incidents” [Begebenheiten] and the prophets will become “harbingers” [Künder] — a coinage that seems to be taken less from the Old Testament than from Stefan George’s “Stern des Bundes.”

    (We can see from this comparison how Fox is more conservative than B-R — he uses “altar” [although he sometimes also uses "slaughter-site"]; he uses “prophet,” etc.; he does not change the names of “Genesis”, “Exodus”, etc. Further, while we have English translations that could be fairly called artificially archaic [NKJV], I have not heard any accusation of Fox’s translation being archaic.)

    You claimed that the fragments you chose to analyze were natural German. (More precisely, you said “it doesn’t sound contorted to me.”) I think a better test would be to find passages that do sound artificial or unnatural to a native-German speaker and then read the corresponding translation in Fox’s English.

  66. Posted July 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Gary,

    You say:

    “With a hermeneutic of charity.”

    Why would anyone do that? That would take the fun out of it.

    I like your number (7). Joseph Kelly, a great blogger who deserves more readers, recently posted about “the ethics of interpretation.”

    http://kolhaadam.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/the-ethics-of-interpretation/

    He quotes Richard Briggs, who recently penned a book about the “virtuous reader”:

    Implicit in the Old Testament’s handling of a wide range of moral and ethical categories, we find a rich and thought-provoking portrait (or perhaps series of portraits) of the kind of character most eagerly to be sought after, and this in turn is the implied character of one who would read these texts, especially one in search of their own purposes and values.

    This goes to 7).

  67. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    It’s great to see you stand by your man. Your contributions to this thread are a tribute to your boundless loyalty to a translation you apparently like very much. It’s touching in its own way that you are fine with misrepresenting my views and those of others *just enough* to win the argument from your point of view.

    I am confident that a sufficient number of examples appear in the above thread to allow readers conversant in Hebrew, German, and English to judge for themselves as to whether and to what extent Fox’s translation project can be judged a success.

    This is my experience; if yours is different, say so. When I compare Fox with the Hebrew, I am often at a loss as to how he comes up with what he does, until I consult B-R. My guess is that your experience is similar. You are simply loathe to admit what this says about Fox’s translation technique.

  68. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    when the earth was wild and waste,
    darkness over the face of Ocean,
    rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters—

    Und die Erde war wüst und leer, und es war finster auf der Tiefe; und der Geist Gottes schwebte auf dem Wasser.

    Die Erde aber war Irrsal und Wirrsal.
    Finsternis über Urwirbels Antlitz.
    Braus Gottes schwingend über dem Antlitz der Wasser.

    If we take this one verse we can note several things

    1. Luther’s translation of this verse is a dynamic equivalent, so the expextations of Germans tends less towards the notion that the Bible is in Biblish. This would make the B-R sound odd, since most English speakers already accept that the Bible can be in KJVish.

    2. B-R invents two words in this verse to provide alliteration and assonance.

    3. B-R choses the less familiar words in German where Fox choses more familiar words – Ocean rather than Urwirbels (eddy), face rather than Antlitz (countenance).

    So I am going to suggest first that B-R may seem stranger to Germans, than Fox does to English speakers, because Germans expect a cynamic equivalent Bible. On the other hand, the B-R translation really does use a more unusual vocabulary in German than Fox uses in English.

    In one area, Fox’s translation makes a poor visual impression using /, () and – and so on. These go counter to our expectations. But if what he claims is true, that it is a translation to be appreciated on reading aloud, then we should discount these features.

  69. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    “You are simply loathe to admit what this says about Fox’s translation technique.”

    Which translators did not look at all available previous translations?

  70. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I meant: Luther’s translation of this verse is a dynamic equivalent, so the expectation of Germans tends less towards the notion that the Bible is in Biblish. This would make the B-R sound odd, since most English speakers already accept that the Bible can be in KJVish.

  71. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    John, to allude to a previous part of this thread, both many Christians and ““me, the Bible, and I” Christianity” are enamoured together of God. While I rather like NIV for my own purposes, because I do have your (1) to (6) at least to a reasonable extent, I would not consider it a suitable version for those who lack these advantages.

    Meanwhile I am happy to accept your “inner Anabaptist” epithet. But I can’t help thinking that your hypothetical rejection of a Bible translation just for alleged Anabaptist tendencies shows something of the same attitude that Calvin and Zwingli had towards Anabaptists i.e. that they should not be allowed to live. I trust that you don’t want to have me burned or drowned.

  72. Theophrastus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I am confident that a sufficient number of examples appear in the above thread

    The only examples of Fox’s translation given in this thread are the ones I have given (some of which Suzanne has repeated.)

    When I compare Fox with the Hebrew, I am often at a loss as to how he comes up with what he does, until I consult B-R. My guess is that your experience is similar. You are simply loathe to admit what this says about Fox’s translation technique.

    Interesting. Can you give an example where Fox matches B-R, B-R matches Hebrew, but Fox does not match the Hebrew?

    Even if what you are saying is true, there is no dishonesty here — Fox clearly admits his debt to B-R in his preface. However, it is not correct to claim that Fox has produced a translation of B-R; for example, as I previously mentioned, Fox differs from B-R in using terms such as “prophet,” “altar,” the traditional names for Biblical books, etc. In this way he revises B-R and is more conservative than B-R.

    You seem to be claiming that mimicking language from previous translations is verboten. What I do not understand is why you do not apply this criteria to translations you admire (Geneva, KJV, RSV, ESV).

    Worse, almost every reader of the KJV is capable of reading Tyndale, but only a tiny fraction of English readers can read German, and only a tiny fraction of those can read German with sufficient fluency to appreciate B-R. In this way, Fox is making B-R more accessible, but it cannot be said that the KJV is making Tyndale more accessible.

  73. Posted July 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    I do not expect we will agree anytime soon on doctrines and personalities who have a polarizing effect among Christians. In the past, you have characterized people like Augustine and Calvin in very negative terms. The ethos and theology and way of reading Scripture of both are central to my Christian identity. You have praised a personage like Todd Bentley. I do my best to keep people away from someone like him. So we are poles apart on many things of importance.

    On the other hand, you confirm what I thought I knew, that you no less than I see my numbers #1 – #6 (not to mention Gary’s #7) as *benefits* for a reader of Scripture. And you are certainly right that a reader of NIV is *not* a suitable version for those who lack said advantages. That is a very important point of agreement.

  74. Posted July 3, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    You know Luther’s Bible well enough to know that you are cherry-picking. Luther’s translation is freer than its main competitor among German Protestants at the time, the Zurich Bible. But both are far more literal in general than translations produced in the last fifty years in the dynamic equivalence – functional equivalence tradition. The great translations of the Reformation (for example, Luther, Tyndale, Zurich, Geneva, Olivetan, Diodati, KJV) differ among themselves but are still relatively close to each other in translation technique. GNB, AAT, NLT, CEV, etc. are birds of another feather.

    I would also question your claim that Luther’s translation avoided Biblish. Countless examples of Biblish in Luther’s diction might be given. He also did not mind importing NT diction into the Old Testament. For an example, go here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/04/a-splendid-new.html

  75. Posted July 3, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    John, I can confirm that I consider your six points to be beneficial for a person. Also they do help people to read most currently available Bible translations. But I would not say they are in abstract terms “*benefits* for a reader of Scripture”.

    Yes, we are worlds apart on various issues, not just Bible translation. Let’s hope we will not be worlds apart in a more literal sense in the age to come.

  76. Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    Indeed, the examples *you* offered of Fox’s translation are sufficient to allow readers who know Hebrew to judge for themselves whether you are right, that Fox makes use of “natural” English (your adjective), or Kugel and I are right, that Fox’s translation is fundamentally unsuccessful.

    There was no need to offer additional examples. Many of the things I criticize in Fox’s translation are in full view in your examples: hyphenated monstrosities; improvement on B-R which is anything but; the use of parentheses in a translation that is supposed to be designed for oral recitation; translations of B-R, not the Hebrew (you yourself noted an example; I won’t repeat it here).

    I invite you to read the following passages from the ten words:

    לֹא יִהְיֶה־לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל־פָּנָיַ

    פֹּקֵד עֲוֺן אָבֹת עַל־בָּנִים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִים לְשֹׂנְאָי

    Now read Fox:

    You are not to have other gods beside my presence.

    calling-to-account the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and to the fourth (generation) of those that hate me

    In both instances, B-R has a tonality (Scholem’s word) that is far superior to that of Fox’s translation. It is not necessary to be a native speaker of German to appreciate this.

  77. Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    I remember well the word you received, that you were to model “gentle wisdom.” When you do this, you are a gift to us all.

    My gifts and calling as I understand them lie elsewhere. But let’s make a covenant. Here is a passage we both know well; I cite it according to HCSB:

    But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

    [The last “But” does not seem right to me.}

    On these threads, when you think I am in violation of the intent of that passage, bring it to my attention. I will do the same for you.

  78. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    You know Luther’s Bible well enough to know that you are cherry-picking.

    First, you say that I am cherry picking, when I simply picked up the cherry picked by Theo.

    But later you say,

    There was no need to offer additional examples. That is to make some other point.

    I don’t have Fox’s translation, so no I did not cherry pick. And I know few people who think that Luther’s translation is of the same type as the KJV. I would compare Luther, not to the NLT but to the NIV.

    He also did not mind importing NT diction into the Old Testament. For an example, go here:

    And that would agree with my point, since a freer translation often imports NT meaning into the OT.

    But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

    I vaguely remember my personality being disparaged in a place where I was not able to rebut. But I am comforted to know that there is predestination for the participants of that conversation.

  79. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    John: I must first express my disappointment that you did not clarify your rule on mimicking previous translations — which somehow Fox violates, but which for some reason Geneva/KJV/RSV/ESV do not.

    ——

    Now, I would like to address your concerns point by point.

    Kugel and I are right, that Fox’s translation is fundamentally unsuccessful

    You appear to be attributing a view to Kugel that I have not seen him express, that Fox’s translation is “fundamentally unsuccessful.” Kugel only says Fox’s “language sound[s] bizarre.” He does not, for example, claim that Kugel’s translation is semantically inaccurate.

    hyphenated monstrosities

    It is true that Kugel uses hyphenated expressions, analogous to B-R’s Mammutwörter (note, however, that the recent Rechtschreibreform recommends hyphenated words in German. Again, I do not trust my (or other non-native German speaker’s) ability to detect German naturalness, but Kraucer claims “these ur-German expressions drag Scripture into an ur-German that is only a few decades old.” So I do not see a fundamental difference between B-R and Fox here.

    improvement on B-R which is anything but

    It is true that Fox “holds back” in his translation and is not as radical as B-R. But this is not your argument. Your argument is that B-R is not alien to natural German, but that Fox is.

    the use of parentheses in a translation that is supposed to be designed for oral recitation

    It is true that Fox, as part of his conservative turn, does this — but so do B-R (for example, in the book of Exekiel alone, B-R do this five times 25:10, 40:19 41:6, 41:16, 48:13 — and by my estimate they do this several hundred times in their translation.) I do not understand why you criticize this in Fox but not B-R. Similarly, the ESV has hundreds of parentheses in its translation, but you do not complain about those.

    translations of B-R, not the Hebrew (you yourself noted an example)

    It is true that I gave an example above.g Fox translates פסל as “carved-image.” But B-R translates this as “Schnitzgebild” which is no less natural a translation. Moreover, similar construction appears in other English translations that you admire. For example, the ESV translates this as “carved image.” I do not see why you complain against Fox but not ESV on this example.

    Next you point to Deuteronomy 5:7:

    B-R: Nicht sei dir andere Gottheit mir ins Angesicht.
    Fox: You are not to have other gods beside my presence.
    ESV: You shall have no other gods before me.

    I do not see how Fox is more awkward than B-R. In fact, I do not see how Fox is more awkward than ESV. The familiarity of the KJV language may have acclimated us to the expression, but one can hardly imagine it in contemporary English. One would not imagine a man telling his girlfriend, for example: “You shall have no other boyfriends before me.”

    Next you point to Deuteronomy 5:9:

    B-R: neige dich ihnen nicht, diene ihnen nicht,
    denn ICH dein Gott bin ein eifernder Gottherr,
    zuordnend Fehl von Vätern ihnen an Söhnen und am dritten und vierten Glied denen die mich hassen,

    Fox: You are not to prostrate yourselves to them, you are not to serve them,
    for I, **** your God, am a jealous God,
    calling-to-account the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and to the fourth (generation) of those that hate me,

    ESV:You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

    I do not see how Fox is more awkward (except perhaps in its use of the Tetragrammaton) than B-R here. Further, the only substantive differences Fox and the ESV here are:

    * Fox’s use of poetic layout (following B-R)

    * Fox’s use of “calling-to-account” rather than “visiting.” I agree that this particular example is awkward. But arguably it is more accurate than “visiting.”

    * Fox’s use of parentheses to indicate the interpolated word “generation” in English (which is implied by the Hebrew idiiom, but for which no analogous English expression exists.) Perhaps Fox would be better advised to use italics, as the KJV does. Nonetheless, it is not essentially different than what the KJV does — it simply uses a different orthography.

    B-R has a tonality (Scholem’s word)

    I am not sure you fully appreciate Scholem’s situation vis-a-vis Buber. As you know, they both taught at Hebrew University. Scholem was appointed to a controversial position — as a professor of Jewish mysticism, he was frequently under attack by those who felt that such a field should not be dignified by a modern scientific university such as Hebrew University. Buber was one of Scholem’s strongest supporters. For this reason, I do not regard Scholem as an impartial judge of Buber.

    ——

    In summary, it seems to me that you are applying different standards to judge Fox and B-R (and for that matter, are also applying different standards to judge Fox and ESV.)

    If it offends you that Fox depends so much on B-R, then I suggest you regard Fox as a translation of B-R (with extensive revision) rather than an independent translation of the Hebrew (and, in fact, that perspective has more than a little truth to it.) Nonetheless, a work as remarkable as B-R certainly deserves translation. If someone cares to make a better translation of B-R than Fox, I would certainly welcome that. But it seems to me that given B-R’s extensive wordplay, any translation of Fox will end up pushing the limits of English.

  80. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I simply picked up the cherry picked by Theo

    In fact, I simply used the examples chosen by John. He mentioned three fragments of B-R that he regarded as superlative. One was from a part of the Bible not translated by Fox, the other two used very similar structures to B-R.

    So, in the end, if anyone was doing cherry-picking here, it was John.

  81. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I think we have gone full circle then.

  82. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Suzanne,

    If you reread what I wrote, you will note that I was referring to comments and exemplification made by you relative to the translation of Luther, not of Fox.

    That’s an interesting claim you make, that Luther’s translation technique is comparable to NIV (which is not a DE translation; thanks for the silent qualification), *rather than* GNB, NLT, AAT, or CEV. I don’t think you are far off, though HCSB may be closer still.

    As for disparaging remarks made about you online, yes, you are not in a position to rebut them on blogs from which you have been banned. But you can always rebut them on your own blog.

  83. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    That’s an interesting claim you make, that Luther’s translation technique is comparable to NIV (which is not a DE translation; thanks for the silent qualification), *rather than* GNB, NLT, AAT, or CEV. I don’t think you are far off, though HCSB may be closer still.

    As we all know, DE and FE are relative. In comparison to KJV, Luther’s translation is towards DE. However, it does not belong in the same class as modern DE Bibles which you list. Unforunately I cannot discuss the ways in which the treatment of gender sets Luther’s Bible off from the HCSB. But briefly, Luther’s Bible does not accord with the CS Gender Guidelines and the HCSB does.

    As for disparaging remarks made about you online, yes, you are not in a position to rebut them on blogs from which you have been banned.

    I would like to ask participants of that conversation why there would be ad hominem comments made about me at all.

  84. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    What does everyone think of Fox’s translation values? Fox says this:

    “The success of a translation, in my view, is defined by the extent to which it is able to move an audience closer to its source text. The integrity of a translation, on the other hand, lies in the faithfulness with which the translator adheres to his or her particular principles.”

    Can we say Fox’s translation brings its readers closer to its source text? Even if his source text also is B-R, then are readers of both brought closer to the Hebrew? Well, yes, I think so. Can we say this of Luther?

    B-R adhere faithfully to their principles. Fox, moreover, adheres faithfully to his principles. Luther probably does too, perhaps. Fox is not sure that Alter is so good here. And these two sentences above, of course, are from Fox’s review of Alter’s translation’s success and integrity. It’s an interesting critique, calling Alter a good critic but not so good a translator; Fox is taking on the role of literary critic reviewing and translation; fascinating! Thanks again to Theophrastus for sharing this review.

  85. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    The success of a translation, in my view, is defined by the extent to which it is able to move an audience closer to its source text.

    This is an excellent quotation, Kurk. In particularly, I want to point out how “Jewish” this sentiment is: the majority Jewish view is that a translation is a commentary on the original. (There are of course, Jews who have different views on translation, but I feel that I am safe in calling this the majority view.)

    In contrast, it seems to me that many Christians value different things in translation: an example of some things valued by some Christians (I am hardly claiming that all Christians value all of these include:

    * accessibility,
    * elegance,
    * adherence to Christian messianic traditions (“the NT in the OT”),
    * conformity between the Jewish and Christian scriptures,
    * “cultural translation” (putting Ancient Near Eastern concepts in contemporary terms),
    * self-completeness

    Alter’s and Fox’s translation have similarities in philosophy — in the introduction to Alter’s Five Books of Moses, Alter calls out Fox’s translation specifically as an exception to the tendencies he complains about in other contemporary English translations, and Alter’s and Fox’s cultural backgrounds are not dissimilar. For this reason, while Alter would certainly disagree with Fox’s conclusions in his review, I suspect he would agree with this particular sentiment.

  86. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Theo,

    There are many subjects you know more about than I do. It just so happens, however, that we are discussing aspects of German Jewish intellectual history that I happen to be at home in. I’m guessing you are not, and I don’t mean that as a criticism in any way.

    Scholem’s original appraisal of B-R *predates* the days in which he and Buber were colleagues at Hebrew U in Jerusalem. S noted the melodic tonality of B-R (a quality, I repeat, which Fox’s translation does not possess) in a letter to Buber of 1926. I gave the cite above. Not that Scholem thought that redeemed B-R. He didn’t, based on considerations that overlap with those of Benjamin.

    Buber did not make aliyah until 1938, after fierce battles on multiple fronts in Germany which he waged with integrity and courage. He began his career at H U in 1938, if I remember my history, as a lecturer in anthropology and introductory sociology.

    Scholem on the other hand emigrated in 1923, joined the staff of the Hebrew University as a librarian (1923-1927); was a lecturer (from 1925) and a professor from 1933.

    These intellectual giants squared off against each other and on each other’s behalf in a complex back-and-forth that defies the kind of logic you impute to Scholem’s opinion of B-R.

    It is true that S’s opinion of B-R softened over time. He also adjusted his views in light of the 2nd edition.

    If you reread my comments and cites, you will see that I distinguish between S’s views in 1926 and his views in 1961. The attribution of melodic tonality to B-R – a tonality S thought was affected – dates to 1926.

  87. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    John, thanks for the clarification on the dates of Scholem’s statements.

    My comments on the relationship between Buber and Scholem derive from comments I heard at Hebrew University — in many cases from contemporaries of both Buber and Scholem.

  88. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Everett Fox:

    The success of a translation, in my view, is defined by the extent to which it is able to move an audience closer to its source text.

    End quote. But what if a translation like that of Fox fails as much as it succeeds in precisely this sense?

    This is where my disagreement will remain vigorous: just because Fox (or anyone else) says the techniques they use move an audience closer to the source text *doesn’t make it so.* Fox’s translation fails in ways B-R does not because German is more hospitable than English to the techniques B-R deploys and F re-deploys, this time in English.

  89. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    I just looked up that private 1926 letter from Scholem to Buber that you cited. It seems to me that Scholem’s concern is somewhat confused. For example, it seems that Scholem also feels that Luther’s translation suffers from features as Buber (this was in the ellipsis in your quote above):

    Chapter 49 is not very revealing, because in final analysis it is incomprehensible in Hebrew as well, and your translation bears the same relation to the Hebrew text as Luther’s version of Job 30 does to the original; in the translation, the original simply bursts open and the translators seem to have auditiones.

    The translators have a footnote at this word and claim:

    The Latin word denotes the hearing of a voice psychically rather than with one’s ears — an experience thus analagous to a vision.

    In any case, Scholem was junior to Buber (he was younger by 19 years) and was influenced by Buber since their original meeting in 1916.

  90. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    On a more distensive note, I would like to draw attention to the archive of videos about Hebrew University available on youtube. For example:

  91. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    John,

    It looks as if I have missed something in this long thread. Could you sum up your points with a) examples to support your strong assertion, and b) a native speaker citation.

    I admit they may be embedded in the comments, but I would like to see this pulled together.

    I also think that you perhaps did not see my question about the appropriateness of ad hominem comments. I would like to see it established that they are allowable in the biblioblogosphere, and then I will know what I am up against.

  92. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    just because Fox (or anyone else) says the techniques they use move an audience closer to the source text *doesn’t make it so.*

    Undoubtedly true. But you have not argued with the semantics of Fox’s translation; you have not argued (nor has Kugel) that Fox is substantially less accurate in his translation than any other major translation. Rather, what you have argued is that Fox’s translation is inferior because of his liberties with English.

    Up until now, you have argued that Fox is (1) a bad writer; and (2) too dependent on B-R. But now you seem to be raising a third (unsupported) claim: that Fox is too often wrong. (Of course, every translations will have errors, but you seem to especially criticizing Fox on this score.)

    Now perhaps you feel that Fox both uses contorted English and is far less accurate than other contemporary translations. I have not seen that argument, though, and I am not sure what shape it would take.

  93. Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Theo,

    Kugel’s discomfort with Fox’s translation is deep and wide. You minimize it for the purposes of your argument. Here is Kugel’s critique again – I will put the operative phrases between asterisks:

    “It may be fun for readers who don’t know Hebrew to imagine that they are somehow getting closer to the original through *such contortions*, but actually *the opposite* is true. This style of translating only succeeds in making the language sound *bizarre.*”

    I agree with Kugel and have motivated my agreement at length. I consider your attempts to deflect my arguments by making them apply equally to translations of a different type such as KJV or ESV, or to a translation of the same type, B-R, which is far more successful for the reasons I note, to be obvious flaws in your argument.

    You are moving further and further away from my own words in your summary of my position. I don’t recognize my positions in the ones you attribute to me. The knots you tie yourself up in are of your own invention. As far as I’m concerned, your verbal contortions are a sign that it is time to break this delightful conversation off. It was fun while it lasted.

    Suzanne,

    The same applies to you. I have laid out my arguments with care. If you can’t follow them, that’s on you. Your feigned unfamiliarity with what you are up against in the biblioblogosphere is charming. I will give you that.

  94. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    John: I notice that you omit the sentence immediately before made by Kugel:

    But there is really no reason to translate the Hebrew words for “generations” as “begettings,” “altar” as “slaughter-site,” “offering” as “grainsgift,” or “bed” as “place of lying,” and so forth.

    This is almost exactly the same as Kraucer’s complaint against the B-R:

    Their belief in the atemporal ontological power of the German they have created lures them out of the domesticated realm of the word “altar” [Altar] and toward the wild “slaughterplace” [Schlachtstatt]; it prompts them to replace Luther’s idiomatic “all the world” [alle Welt] or “all the lands” [alle Lande] with the expression “folk of the earth” [Erdvolk], which smacks of pseudo-native soil.

    In fact, not that both of the complain about altar/Altar being replaced with slaughter-site/Schlachtstatt. Now you have mentioned that you consider this less serious in German because it allows Mammutwörter terms. Yet, for a highly-educated native speaker, this was a cause for complaint. Even Scholem, the most favorable German-Jewish critic you cite, complained about this aspect of B-R.

    So I find it inconsistent on the one hand to dismiss these complaints against B-R and then apply them to Fox.

    Moreover, Kugel’s complaints are the opinion of one person. Thus, for example, Alter (who in general is a critic of Fox) cheerfully regards Fox as the English equivalent of B-R, says that Fox’s “English has the great virtue of reminding us verse after verse of the strangeness of the Hebrew original,” says Fox has “terminological consistency,” and calls Fox “the most boldly literal of modern Bible translators.”

    And, even Michael Marlowe (who you explicitly state as the source of your Kugel quote views Fox’s translation much more charitably than you:

    The introduction to this section is insightful and interesting. In its fourth paragraph, Fox shows his skill as a literary critic, comparing several formal elements of the section with the narrative of Abraham’s call in Genesis 12. This is the kind of commentary one rarely encounters in an edition of the Bible; it will be much appreciated by readers who are interested in literary features of the text….

    After giving Kugel’s quote, Marlowe immediately qualifies it by saying:

    It should be understood, however, that Fox’s purpose here is to give readers a sense for many things in the ancient Hebrew text that cannot be translated into idiomatic English, and his foreignizing translation does partly achieve this purpose, if the reader is prepared to meet him halfway….

    ———

    You then say:

    I consider your attempts to deflect my arguments by making them apply equally to translations of a different type such as KJV or ESV, or to a translation of the same type, B-R, which is far more successful for the reasons I note, to be obvious flaws in your argument.

    In fact, this is a point you have not yet addressed. You wrote:

    When I compare Fox with the Hebrew, I am often at a loss as to how he comes up with what he does, until I consult B-R. My guess is that your experience is similar. You are simply loathe to admit what this says about Fox’s translation technique.

    I asked you how this rule applies to Geneva/KJV/RSV/ESV. Yet you have not explained why this is kosher for KJV and ESV but not for Fox. Instead, you simply claim that this question is an “obvious flaw[]” in my argument. I do not understand how applying consistent standards can be an “obvious flaw.” It seems to me that you are begging the question.

    ———

    Suzanne asked you “Could you sum up your points with a) examples to support your strong assertion, and b) a native speaker citation. I admit they may be embedded in the comments, but I would like to see this pulled together.”

    I have to say I think they are fair questions.

    (a) I also did not find any quotes from German native speakers arguing for the naturalness (or, if you prefer the “non-contortedness”) of the B-R version. I know many German native speakers who appreciate B-R, but all of them feel that the German is rather artificial.

    (b) You did give quotes above of Deuteronomy 5:7 and 5:9 (the only quotes you give from Fox.) However, as I pointed out, your same criticism could largely be applied to the ESV. (I am not claiming that the ESV is equivalent Fox — but rather than the criteria and examples you give apply more or less equally to Fox and ESV.)

    You refuse to answer her question, and instead attack her personally:

    The same applies to you. I have laid out my arguments with care. If you can’t follow them, that’s on you. Your feigned unfamiliarity with what you are up against in the biblioblogosphere is charming. I will give you that.

    It seems to me that your personal attack and sarcasm here clearly is against the spirit of BBB rules 2 and 4.

    ———

    In the end, your statements appear conclusory to me, and your support is limited to quoting Kugel out of context. Your unfamiliarity with the frequent use of parentheses in B-R leads me to question how much time you have spent with that translation. You have not answered direct questions posed to you, instead vaguely asserting, “I have laid out my arguments with care.” In the end, rather than arguing on the merits, you have engaged in ad hominem attacks on the intelligence of BBB commenters.

    I do respect your right to terminate your participation in this discussion. But it is unfortunate that your final words on the subject had to be in the form of a personal insult.

  95. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    It seems to me to be an untenable position to argue against any neologisms in Bible translations. As others have pointed out, concepts in Hebrew do not necessarily have precise English equivalents.

    However, more to the point, it is a grand tradition of English literature to create new words. As an example, Shakesepeare used 17,677 words; of which 1700 (almost 10%) were first used by Shakespeare.

    I note that many words invented by Shakespeare are used in this very thread, such as “critic,” “critical,” “lapse,” and “misplaced.” If we can tolerate these “barbaric neologisms” perhaps we can learn to appreciate “slaughter-site.”

  96. Posted July 4, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    So, let’s recap the thread thus far:

    David Frank, in the opening post, seeks to clarify the way speakers use their languages as either a vernacular or a lingua franca based on whether they anticipate their work being translated. Those with the foresight and/or hubris to expect to be translated generally seek to speak in a way that generates less translation-friction.

    Comment one: John Hobbins responds that the Hebrew Bible is the inverse situation of David Frank’s proposed scenario: instead of an Italian writer speaking a streamlined Italian so as to generate less translation-friction, the writers of [latter parts of?] the Hebrew Bible specifically wrote in a vernacular style with an intentional insensitivity towards translatability due to the need to circle the wagons against Babylonian & Persian cultural influences (not to mention Canaanite, Syrian, and Philistine).

    Comment two: Kurk Gayle replies by reiterating something he’d said on another thread: “TL” and “SL” may not be the best way to frame these concepts. “Host” and “Guest” languages, per Lydia He Liu and some other Chinese dialects, would be more felicitous terms for us to use in “accommodating” a message, and moreover, the guest language’s culture.

    Comment three: John Hobbins agrees. He also mentions a particular translation.

    Comments four through ninety-four: Something about a German translation that dares to coin words, and an English translation that seeks to follow suit to some degree. Something about Luther. Something about personal attacks. Something about Calvin’s distaste for pacifists. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

    Comment ninety-five: Theophrastus salvages the thread by focusing on the validity of neologisms in Bible translation.

    Comment ninety-six: insightful recap and attempt to move forward.

    In re-ply to Theophrastus: Your point is valid. Bible translations should actually re-flect the way the host/target language is used. But since all living languages still pick up neo-logisms, it would be short-sighted to assess today’s English (or German, unserweiter) without due con-sideration for the fact that readers can adapt to some degree of new ex-perience and still make sense of it, whether that be at the lexical or syn-tactical level. How much newness, and precisely how new, is certainly up for discussion, however.

    I think biblical neo-logisms are fan-holy-tastic — and so are hy-phens!

    My favorite is at-one-ment.

  97. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    There are some gems in comments four through ninety-four.

    For example, this comment are that comment are by a brilliant comment-ator named Gary.

  98. Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    John, thanks for your comment at 11:37 pm last night. I certainly don’t call you, or consider you, a fool or a moron. On the contrary, you are highly intelligent and have some very sensible ideas, such as choosing an Italian wife! But we must agree to differ on some points.

    How did you manage to get a YouTube video into a comment?

    Theo, you write as if “first used by Shakespeare”, presumably meaning in extant literature, implies “invented by Shakespeare”. It does not. Considering the limited amount of surviving earlier written works in English and the always broad non-literary vocabulary, it is far more likely that Shakespeare was in most cases using rare or colloquial words that he already knew, rather than inventing words. And of course words like “critic” were borrowed, from Greek in this case, rather than invented. So I don’t think you can really compare B-R with Shakespeare in this respect.

  99. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    What is interesting about Matthew 5:22 is the way it prefigures the much later discussion of lashon ha-ra (“the evil tongue”) among the Sages.

    The comment in the ESV Study Bible is pertinent: The anger Jesus targets involves “a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally.” Calling someone a fool involves “a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. Thus Jesus warns that the person who violates another person in this grievous way is liable to the hell of fire.”

    Gary,

    Nice parody of hyphenated words. Relative to the question of guest and host languages, one might consider a bon mot of Goethe:

    Die Gewalt einer Sprache ist nicht,
    dass sie das Fremde abweist,
    sondern dass sie es verschlingt.

    The power of a language is not,
    that it refuses the foreign,
    but that it consumes it.

    I find Goethe’s maxim disturbing.

    With respect to neologisms, a useful distinction is that introduced by Lyons and developed by Bauer, between productivity and creativity. An example illustrative of both is “headhunter.” The complex lexeme is a rule-based innovation, whereas its metaphorical extension to refer to someone who recruits executives for a corporation is creative to a greater degree; the rule it instantiates is hard and perhaps impossible to stipulate.

    The ways productivity and creativity work are language-specific. Relatively natural ways in German are, alas for Everett Fox, not so natural in English.

    For more on productivity and creativity and types of new coins natural to English, I recommend Leonhard Lipka’s English lexicology: lexical structure, word semantics & word-formation, chapter 3.

  100. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    The power of a language is not,
    that it refuses the foreign,
    but that it consumes it.

    Indeed. Early modern English consumed the Bible, and the result was the KJV. Today’s English wants to consume the Bible. People like Fox and Alter, and yourself, John, are trying to make the Bible so unpalatable that English refuses to consume it. They can do that only by making it unpalatable to English speaking people. But is that the kind of gospel witness we want to put forward?

  101. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The ways productivity and creativity work are language-specific.

    “Consumption” is a weird metaphor, at least in my English. Is that how you translate Goethe, John? Clearly, you’re trying to be a relativist with respect to language; but aren’t you being a bit absolutist with respect to translation now? And are you paying attention to which absolute direction you’ve moved toward?

    And Peter, is the only alternative to this one absolute its diametric opposite? Why this binary, men?

    Everett Fox measures a translation by “the extent to which it is able to move an audience closer to its source text.” Theophrastus notes how Jewish this notion of translation is. That, it seems to me, is very very profound. It’s quite different from Aristotle, I think; and different still from Luther, even the post-aristotelelian common-German “consuming?”

    What gets around the “either/ or” binary, what is universal (not in an absolutist sense) is the Hebrew translator’s Hebrew. And the Hebrew plays. Hence B-R does. Hence Fox does with his English. The pluralities of the creator and of the gendered human(s) He’s created are expressed in the text. They are expressed in our gendered bodies, male and female. This is not something apart from the topic that David Frank has posted on. It’s relevant to how Suzanne is able and prohibited from talking freely. We’re dealing with not just abstractions of Language (as Chomsky would conceive them) but with where we live and how we actually talk in the space of our physical contexts. If we were all only men, then this really might work better for us. (Now I’m being a little silly. But it’s no laughing matter for your mother, your daughter, your sister, or your co-conversant blogger who’s sexed female.) What does Hebrew word-play allow, en-courage?

    Lydia H. Liu, a Chinese scholar living in America researching Chinese appropriations of Western modernism, a woman, finds that Chinese translators tend to view Translation as a host (language) and a guest (language) coming together sharing, not necessarily one consuming the other. Theirs is not the view of a source (language) penetrating a target (language). Similarly, Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping, an American man (Willis Barnstone’s son) and a Chinese man, in their book of English-translated Chinese poetry, compare translation to auto-bodyshop work. “Consumption” beyond recognition? Or moving readers of one language close to the Other? Mikhail Epstein prefers to think of translation as interlation, as two languages contributing new things to one another. The UN simultaneous interpreters give Karen Jobes a fresh way to think about Bible translation, as “bilingual quotation.” Mary Daly puns words and reads double intentions into many (almost as well as Gary does) :). Several feminist translators in Canada tend intentionally to “overtranslate,” that is to make themselves present in the translated text, and to make silences and margins a bit more noticeable. Translators of Jesus in the gospels, the gospel writers themselves, would follow him in using hyperbole, parable, not just metaphysics but hyperphysia, and humor — things not allowed in Aristotle’s logos consumed by logic. When John the gospel writer and translator started his gospel, he startled the world of Greek language by saying “In the beginning was the Logos.” Which logos? That’s the question, exactly. And a very Jewish one we might agree.

  102. Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Kurk,

    You are right that this view of translation is not Aristotelian, but rather was exemplified in the neo-Platonism of the Kabbala. In the 16th century, Hebrew was considered to be the primal language of humankind, that moves one closer to God. It was the language out of which the world was made, and so of interest not only theologically, but for philosophers and scientists. Through Hebrew one would acquire universal knowledge of God, humankind, and the world. The Hebrew letters, their sound and shape, and their sequence, the Hebrew roots, were all of extreme importance.

  103. Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Kurk, the binary distinction is from Goethe. As a literary construct it is a good one, but of course as in most cases the literal truth is not so black and white.

  104. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Theo, you write as if “first used by Shakespeare”, presumably meaning in extant literature, implies “invented by Shakespeare”. It does not. Considering the limited amount of surviving earlier written works in English and the always broad non-literary vocabulary, it is far more likely that Shakespeare was in most cases using rare or colloquial words that he already knew, rather than inventing words. And of course words like “critic” were borrowed, from Greek in this case, rather than invented.

    Actually, we have a very broad variety of surviving works in Elizabethan English — certainly far, far more than we have surviving Ancient Greek literature. And a term like “slaughter-site” is also borrowed. So I don’t think the analogy is false.

  105. Theophrastus
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Peter:

    re embedding youtube videos in wordpress.

  106. Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Theo. I didn’t know it worked in comments. Maybe it’s only on wordpress.com. I’ll have to try it on my self-hosted wordpress.org blog.

  107. Theophrastus
    Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Suzanne wrote: But briefly, Luther’s Bible does not accord with the CS Gender Guidelines and the HCSB does.

    Related to this, Rod Decker recently analyzed Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for inclusive language and reports some surprising results.

  108. Posted July 8, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Interesting, Theo, especially that Grudem is using singular “they” in a context where he probably thinks all the possible referents, the biblical authors, are male.

    But is there any evidence for Rod’s assertion that Grudem is “one of the most vocal critics of … NIV11″? I haven’t seen any comment from him on NIV 2011. Has anyone else?

    I would respond to Rod if he allowed comments but I am not going to set up an account just for his blog.

  109. Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    Wayne Grudem hasn’t published any recent comment on the NIV 2011. However, his complaint is not only with its gender neutral English but also with its dynamic equivalence. I’m not sure he’ll ever announce that the NIV 2011 has improved over the TNIV. The best he could do when hearing about the NIV 2011 was to note that Biblica, the Committee on Bible Translation, and Zondervan finally had “honesty” about their failure to get the “Christian public who value accuracy in translating the word of God” accepting the TNIV:

    “Wheaton (Illinois) College English professor Leland Ryken, however, is unimpressed with the NIV translators’ use of a ‘dynamic equivalency’ translation that he says ‘departs from what the author actually wrote and adds an editorial layer of judgment and commentary.’

    He and Grudem both worked on a literal word-for-word translation, the English Standard Version, published in 2001.

    Grudem said Tuesday [9/1/2009], ‘I’m delighted to see they have realized the TNIV was simply never going to be accepted by the Christian public who value accuracy in translating the word of God. I’m thankful for their honesty.’”

  110. Posted July 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Kurk. But I was thinking of comment by Grudem on the actual text of NIV 2011, not simply on the announcement that it was on the way.

    Compare what I wrote on my own blog about the lukewarm reaction of most people to NIV 2011.

  111. Theophrastus
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I have not read much of Grudem’s writings, so I cannot state what his opinions on the NIV11 are. However, I have read reviews by Kirk and others that suggest that the NIV11 is closer to the TNIV than the NIV84, and I have read statements by Grudem that decry inclusive language.

    So, if Rod Decker’s analysis is correct, it is ironic that Grudem uses inclusive language so extensively in his theology textbook. It is my understanding that is the best known of Grudem’s works, and presumably Grudem believes his theology is rooted in biblical reasoning.

  112. Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    There is a review here which summarizes some of the controversial aspects of his recent book.

    http://krishk.com/2011/06/politics-grudem/

    1) Rubbishing the claims that human interaction has anything to do with climate change.
    2) Arguing for the carrying of concealed firearms.
    3) Arguing for the use of torture, particularly waterboarding on terror suspects.
    4) Arguing that freemarket capitalism is the only biblically justifiable economic system.
    5) Arguing against a welfare state.

    On the other hand, in this paper

    he mentions “Emphasis on personal freedom not subject to tyranny of govt.; freedom to work, build, accumulate wealth”

    But this is only for a certain half of the world population, not something everyone should have.

  113. Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I would like to add a correction. I am not aware that Grudem writes in his most recent book that women may not “work, build, and accumulate wealth.” But I believe that the subordination of women, precludes a woman building a career or accumulating wealth in her own name.

  114. Posted July 9, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Theo, I agree that there is an irony here and that Rod did well to point it out. My point is simply that on one point his facts were inaccurate.

    I have written more about this in my new post Politics in the Bible, Wayne Grudem, and NIV 2011.

    Suzanne, I had not seen Krish Kandiah’s review of Politics – According to the Bible. Thank you. I will read it now. Perhaps this will destroy the generally quite positive impression I had of the book based on the Acton Institute interview.

  115. Mike Sangrey
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    So, if Rod Decker’s analysis is correct, it is ironic that Grudem uses inclusive language so extensively in his theology textbook.

    Agreed.

    There seems to be something very deep seated going on within (or underlying) Grudem’s arguments about inclusive language. He allows himself to use the language of his audience in order to communicate to them. In fact, “allows himself” is probably overstated–I doubt he was even self-conscious about his doing it. However, he has put considerable energy and effort into preventing the same level of communicability for the Bible.

    Because Grudem applies two different communicability metrics to two different books (his and the Bible), the decisive factor can not be linguistic. Something else drives it.

  116. Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Je suis arrivé sur votre site par hasard et puis je ne le regrette
    pas du tout !!!


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