new Jesus book divides Jamaicans

HT: David Ker

Translating the Bible into the vernacular often divides people, sometimes deeply. Why?


  1. Daniel Buck
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that the article gives a vulgar English transliteration along with the Patois text of Luke 1:28. But the claim that it was translated “from the original Greek” must be taken with at least a grain of salt. Witness “Mieri” which is clearly mediated through the English “Mary” from the French “Marie” before we can even start getting back to MARIAM, which is not even found in v. 28 of any Greek text I’ve ever seen.

  2. Daniel Buck
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    As if there were “the English Bible” that reads “along these lines” and “The Jamaican Bible” which reads as given. Actually, if one were to translate this particular edition of the Patois Bible back into English, it would probably read differently than any other English Bible in print(I don’t know of any English Bibles that have “Mary” twice in Luke 1:28)–but only if you translated it literally (which is what the ‘transliteration’ does–although with a bit of racially tinged consonant-dropping). If you translated it as loosely as is the correlation between “the original Greek” and this edition, any English Bible whatsoever would be a “faithful translation,” although the Cotton Patch Bible would probably sound the most authentic.

  3. Posted December 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    “Bishop Alvin Bailey, at the Portmore Holiness Church of God near Kingston, argues that Patois is too limited a language to represent the nuances of Biblical text, and has to resort to coarse expressions to makes its meaning clear.”

    This is sad. If Patois is sufficiently full for people to use it as their main method of communication, it is surely possible to use it for a Bible. Now, whether the translators resorted needlessly to overly-coarse paraphrase is something I’d know nothing about…but that’s not his complaint (if he’s quoted correctly). He seems to say that there are ideas that are coarse when expressed in Patois, but not when expressed in English. I suspect that there were people who said the same about the translation of the Bible from Latin into English…that some necessary English words were to coarse for use in a Bible. Yet those who spoke only English surely didn’t think those words were too coarse.

  4. Posted December 29, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Good thoughts, Jim. And the reverse is true. There are some words and expressions in the Bible which Bible translators consider too course for English speakers, if translated literally. So they are not translated literally in most Bible versions.

  5. Daniel Buck
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Actually, in Noah Webster’s opinion there WERE some English words too coarse to use in a Bible translation, and he replaced them in his edition.

  6. Posted January 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    A very thought-provoking post.

    I have little else to say at the moment, other than to note how language contributes to political identity.

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