I borrowed this book from the Hewitson Library because I was interested as a language creator to see where criticism of bible translation was going.  The book reads like the product of a symposium, especially after four chapters a response is given, and then again another response as the conclusion of the book.  Part one, the first four chapters and the response is entitled <deep breath>Exploring the Intersection of Translation Studies and Critical Theory in Biblical Studies</deep breath>, and the second part, eight chapters and the conclusion are entitled Sites in Translation.

It turns out the way people create languages and Bible translation is pretty similar.

Here’s some thoughts before I return the book.

Many Bible translations are using English as an authority language.  How did this happen?  Are the original languages of the Bible being displaced?

The Bible is a narrative made out of the writings from another language based on an oral tradition, much of which is in a third language or languages.  Jesus in the Gospels is a literary character based on an oral tradition in the third language: from spoken First Century Aramaic, to written Koine Greek, to New English.

Who is the translation for? the author, the translator, or the reader?

What authority does a translation have if it by-passes  the literary traditions in which a language may share?  These literary translations are not neutral in themselves and may impose an outside local authority over the literary traditions of a target language.

Is the mission creating Christians in a language group or creating super-cultural Christians?

Faithfulness in translation versus transparency is a re-occurring theme.

There is even less consultation for the source text in children’s bibles.

A fascinating couple of chapters on the Greenlandic Bible.  I would have liked a lot more information about the language and its pidgins.  There is a fascinating account of a shamanic spirituality.

Behind the visible world there was an unseen one that could by approached by the shamans, the so-called angakkut.  Everything visible had its own spirit, inua.  This word was the same as inuk, “person” or “owner”, inflected in the possessed singular, literally meaning “its owner”. … The shamans and their helping spirits mediated between the perceptible and the unseen world.  Every shaman had his (or, rarely, her) own personal helping spirits, toornat.  The most important one among them the shaman called his toornaarsuk, which probably means “the special helping spirit”.

The demonization of traditional beliefs made the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil very complicated in translation, and new meaning  was added to it unintentionally.  Egede had no word for “temptation” so instead he wrote that Jesus was frightened by toornaarsuk.  To the Greenlandic audience of the day this must have conveyed the impression that Jesus was a shaman-to-be who had left his village and gone into the wilderness to meet his helping spirit. … [T]his must have meant that Jesus refused to be a shaman and receive the help of a special helping spirit.  Instead he was served by angels.  [The missionary] rejected the Greenlandic toornaq and borrowed the Danish word engel into his Bible translation.

The missionaries created a literary language and changed the society of which it was a part.  Greenland moved from local religious practices to part of Christianity.

Can we live with the translation “In the beginning was the dreaming, the dreaming was with god, and the dreaming was god”?

A tension exists between  those who are translating to prove the superiority of their culture to enforce conversion and seeking universals from the unconverted culture that reveal god at work in the target culture (and conversion potentially unnecessary).

I do not wish to say much on the translation of the Gospels into Yiddish.  I am interested that the translators used rebe, rabbi, for master, teacher, restoring a title for Jesus that the authors of the Gospels  in the First Century rejected in translation into Greek.

If the foreign world is unfamiliar then what are the foreign words from English?

The Klingon Bible gets a mention, on the last page of the conclusion.

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