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17329Re: SSNET: Christ - love & obey

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  • Tony Zbaraschuk
    Jun 7, 2014
      On Thu, Jun 05, 2014 at 09:47:24AM -0400, Joshua Pennerman wrote:
      > Why did the KJV translators write Elizabethan English?  Because
      > they were Elizabethans.  They lived in the Elizabethan period
      > wrote in the common language of their day -- which happened to be
      > one of the high points in the development of the English language
      > in terms of poetic expression.

      The KJV isn't quite common English of its period; it's a revision
      of earlier translations, and it was deliberately made a little
      statelier and more formal, a little more archaic (one of the instructions
      to the translators was to alter the old wording as little as possible).

      > It is true that there is a certain uniformity to their style.  It
      > would have been nice to have reflected the differences in the
      > language between, for example, Judges 4 and Judges 5,  to show
      > the delightfully archaic nature of the Song of Deborah.  That
      > somehow got preserved in a more archaic form of Hebrew than is
      > found in most of the rest of the OT -- a little bit like putting a
      > few stanzas from Edmund Spenser into a Shakespearean play. 

      Or maybe like Shakespearean English in a 20th-century TV show.
      Some people can pull this off (e.g., Winston Churchill), but
      not everyone can.

      > However, to their credit, most of the translators were natively
      > literate in Greek and Latin, and pretty good in Hebrew.  They
      > an educated lot, and there were poets among them, rumored to
      > include even Shakespeare himself,

      Given the general tendency among divines of the time to regard actors
      and everyone associated with them as something loose, licentious,
      dangerous, and revolting, I doubt that Shakespeare was involved --
      but certainly he and the translators shared quite a bit of knowledge
      and style and the spirit of their world.

      > and the overall result is more
      > poetic than is usually given credit for.
      > Note the relative poetic value of the KJV vs., for example,
      > Peterson's "The Message."

      <snip comparison I largely agree with>
      > Except for one line, so flat and lifeless it would be embarrassing
      > to read out loud in public.

      It might work in private devotion, though, at least for its intended

      > Not all modern translations are that bad.  The New English Bible
      > makes a good try at poesie, often failing rather broadly, largely
      > perhaps because of the general poetic weakness of contemporary
      > but its rendering of the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, may be the
      > best yet in the English language.

      I may have to take another look at that, but usually the NEB gives
      me hives when I try to read it.
      > Because the KJV was meant to be read out loud, at a time when
      > reading out loud was an art unto itself, it carries an inherent
      > elegance and power that I think has never been matched in any
      > subsequent Bible translation.

      Generally granted, but elegance and power are things that exist in
      the hearer's mind as well as in the translation (or, more correctly,
      in the interface between the two).  The Elizabethans were more
      accustomed to that sort of language and style, but no style works
      if you're not familiar with it, if you aren't trained to it.  This
      is as true of modern slang as it is of Shakespeare's plays.

      Tyndale wanted to make sure that "every boy at the plow" could
      know Scripture.  We need to keep that in mind: if the masses
      don't respond to it, it _doesn't matter_ how good the prose is,
      or the poetry.  The orator must consider the audience, as well
      as the text.

      > That is a separate issue from textual and doctrinal accuracy. 

      Yes.  We do need to keep the issues separate.

      > But in these respects the KJV fares no worse on average than most
      > modern translations. 

      Well, except for the part where we know a lot more about the Greek
      and Hebrew of the time, and about the Biblical texts, than the KJV
      translators did.  There's a lot of detail work in this, and I think
      the issues are sometimes overblown, but there _are_ differences.
      I could wish that modern translators would pay more attention to
      readability and style than they do, though.

      > Being for the most part "dynamic," the newer translations often
      > substitute the theological biases of their translators for the
      > actual text in an attempt to make the text "more
      readable," so what
      > their "more readable" Bible says is often not what the
      > writers meant.

      I don't think the KJV translators were entirely immune from that
      sort of bias, either.  This is why it's usually a good idea to
      compare translations and see if you can see what they were aiming
      at.  And why we train pastors and theologians to read the text in
      the original languages.

      But we can't allow the necessary inadequacies of translation to
      stop us from preaching, and teaching, and studying, the Word of

      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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