Results tagged “translation” from Kristin Swenson
I had the great good fortune to read a couple of new Bible translations and communicate, albeit briefly, with their creators for an article that will appear in Publishers Weekly Religion BookLine (10/28). In both cases, the translators are poets in their own right. Not only that, but both have worked for decades with these biblical texts, one with the Hebrew Hebrew Bible, the other with the Greek New Testament. The results -- beautiful, thought-provoking renderings with more poetry than English translations normally reflect.
Over the past couple of days, my editor, agent, and I have been scrambling to deal with an ironic case of mistaken identity in Bible Babel. In short: the main character's name isn't correct in the version poised to go out to reviewers and potential endorsers. Yikes! One of the reasons that I wrote Bible Babel was to help people understand big and little puzzlers such as why God is sometimes referred to as LORD (appearing as big capital L, small caps ORD) and other times Lord. The former, LORD, is the way many English translations render the Old Testament's four-letter, personal name for God (transliterated YHWH). This is THE NAME that God revealed to Moses, a stand-in for God's very presence in the Jerusalem Temple, and by which God's people could specially know their particular God. "Lord," on the other hand, is the translation of a different Hebrew word, a generic noun meaning just that -- "lord, master," or (brace yourselves, feminists) "husband." YHWH or LORD never appears in the New Testament, and the transition from LORD to Lord (especially the manner in which "the name of the Lord" functions in the New Testament) signals a provocative theological shift -- finally defining what makes a Christian a Christian. Well, just before the book's galleys (final form "lite" -- i.e., possibly containing typos, etc) were produced, a typesetter misunderstood copyediting instructions and changed some cases of Lord to LORD. The result -- sometimes there's an error that may confound though a reader wouldn't necessarily identify it as the typo it is, and sometimes the text simply doesn't make sense. Even though the galleys clearly state that this is an "uncorrected proof," to the credit of my superb editor and the team at HarperCollins, the plan now is to correct manually every instance in which the word appears erroneously before sending the copies out. Whew!
Work is underway on a new translation of the King James Version designed to correct what its authors call a "liberal bias" in modern translations. Conservapedia, which claims to be "the trustworthy encyclopedia," has determined to correct what it sees as "three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:
- lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
- lack of precision in modern language
- translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one."
Although the first two have some real problems (e.g., re: #1 exactly what does this mean?! Most of the Bible [all, for Jews] predates Jesus and so its meaning doesn't have anything to do with Jesus except perhaps by later Christian interpretation), it's the third that this group aims to correct. Laughable as a lot of this project is ("government" is too liberal a word), they've got a point... to a point. Every translator must make choices. So, any given translation depends on a number of things besides the original text from which it's translating. By the way, as one of my astute students observed, this project claims to be working not from the Hebrew and Greek of original biblical texts, but from English -- the KJV.
Earlier, I noted some of the difficulties that translators face when trying to render the ancient biblical texts in contemporary English for a modern audience. The biggest issue for the team reworking the NIV is how to handle the gender-bound language of the Bible's original context. Here's an articulate voice in favor of seeking gender neutral language -- to meet today's readers where they are.
I begin Bible Babel's chapter on translation by contemplating two quotes: this, from Miles Smith's preface to the first edition of the King James Version -- "translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light"; and the other from Umberto Eco -- "translation is the art of failure." Smith, with an optimistic tone; Eco pessimistic. And yet... No pithy statement here, but an invitation to consider the challenges of translation in the face of the very real fact that there is no perfect, once-and-for-all way to render the Bible into English.
N-E-W for the NIV? Twenty-five years after its blockbuster release, the New International Version is in for an update. The most popular version of the world's most popular book -- embraced by millions as the very word of God, well, you can imagine that reworking it is no small thing. Folks are already weighing in. (See blogs on Beliefnet , USAToday and Christian Science Monitor , e.g.) You can post your own remarks directly. Perhaps the most sticky sticking point in this go-round (and which derailed an earlier effort) has to do with gendered language -- for God, as well as for human beings (or "man," as some would have it).