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17328Re: SSNET: Christ - love & obey

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  • Tony Zbaraschuk
    Jun 7, 2014
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      On Wed, Jun 04, 2014 at 09:10:52PM -0400, Kevin Riley wrote:
      > There has been a huge cultural shift in the area of reading that
      > accounts for most of these differences.  The KJV was written
      near
      > the end of the period when when writing was intended to be heard,
      > and even fluent readers usually read out loud. 

      Also it should be noted that, while a lot of Puritans read, and literacy
      was relatively high in England, there were still a lot of people who
      didn't read at all, so it was _important_ to have something that
      sounded good in public reading.

      > Then writing came to be seen as something that should be seen
      > rather than heard.  The KJV translators were greatly - one
      could
      > almost say 'naturally' - tuned in to how a sentence or passage
      > would sound when heard.  That awareness of the spoken word -
      and
      > its power - is something almost all translators since have not had.

      I would say that the point in question was the advent of radio and
      television, which made for _major_ changes in oratory and style.
      But I would agree that oratory is largely a dead art these days.

      > We still have not produced scholars who can faithfully preserve
      > both the tone and the flow of the Biblical language in translation,
      > while faithfully presenting the message of the text in good English.

      This is because it's _extremely hard work_, as any translator will
      tell you.  I like Everett Fox's translations of the Old Testament,
      which try _hard_ to express the Hebrew puns, wordplay, and other
      stylistic features -- but I would be the first to agree that it
      _isn't_ colloquial English, and it's very far from it.

      Robert Alter comments, in the introduction to one of his translations
      (I think it was Genesis but it may have been Psalms) that many modern
      translations go for clarity of meaning, but in so doing miss out on
      some of the deliberate ambiguity and imagery in the Hebrew language
      (e.g., translating "zerah", "seed", as "descendants" in God's
      promise to Abraham, which gets across the basic point but misses
      the allusion to agricultural growth and increase, as well as
      several other features -- read the whole thing, if you can get a
      copy.)

      > The KJV is no better in this respect, as it reduces all varieties
      > of Greek and Hebrew - from colloquial to classical - to the same
      > exulted and somewhat archaic (even when written) Elizabethan
      English. 

      To be fair, I don't think we knew _nearly_ as much about the history
      of the Hebrew language in the 16th century as we do today, when we
      have a lot of material from contemporaries who spoke closely
      related languages.

      And it would be another Very Hard job to properly relate the
      different styles to our present-day English and its various older
      versions, to translate (say) the Song of the Sea into something
      Elizabethan while putting Paul or Luke into modern colloquialisms.
      Would it help readers' comprehension, or would we just throw up our
      hands and not know enough about the history of our own language
      to recognize what the translators were doing?  You or I would,
      probably, but who's the intended audience?  And where do you find
      the stylists who can compose in the prose and poetics of all the
      different periods?  Tolkien could have done it, maybe, but who else?

      > All our translations - from the earliest Anglo-Saxon to the latest
      > modern English versions - are adequate, but far from perfect,
      > translations.

      No translation is perfect; no translation is totally wrong, either.
      And this may not matter as much as we sometimes think.  Even a
      very bad translation can still kindle the fire of God in the
      heart that hears it and listens to the promptings of the Spirit
      as it does.


      Tony Zbaraschuk

      --
      Love is a garden that needs regular watering, and weeding,
      but produces all sorts of unexpected delights and surprises.
       


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