Thursday, August 14, 2008

Women Count in Bible Translation

UPDATEs:
  • I've added links to personal websites of the women translators listed here.
  • Linda L. Belleville; Joyce Baldwin Caine; Marianne Meye Thompson; added to the list below (thanks to Suzanne McCarthy's directing us to Tremper Longman III's blogpost "Who cares who translated my Bible?" where he asks "So why does the NLT list the names of its ninety translators?" These translators are the 3 women woman of the team of 90).
  • Phyllis A. Bird; J. Cheryl Exum; Mary Lucetta Mowry; Katharine D. Sakenfeld all added (thanks to Paul Larson, commenting at BBB. These translators are the 4 women on the NRSV team of 30.)
  • And as any of you give recognition to other women translators of the Bible, I'll update further.

Just a quick post here for a few reasons:
1) Women who've translated the Bible are getting recognition by several bloggers;
2) Some men are saying that women "seriously" lessen the "merits" of their Bible translations when they identify themselves as women translators (or are identified by others as women);
3) The whole of Julia E. Smith's translation is freely available online for you to read and study.

1) Here are women translators of the Bible and where bloggers are discussing them:
  • Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Suzanne McCarthy has offered comments on or excerpts from Sidney here, here, and here. (And I've mentioned Sidney here, here, and here.)
  • Jane Aitken. McCarthy notes here that Aitken "is not a woman bible translator but" facilitates Bible translation as "[o]ne of the first American female printers. . . [and] also a bookseller, bookbinder, businesswoman, and employer during the early nineteenth century, a time when the independence of women was actively discouraged."
  • Julia Evelina Smith. McCarthy's post is here. (My notes on Smith are here).
  • Helen Spurrell. Rick Mansfield at ElShaddai Edward's blog inspires McCarthy's post here.
  • Helen Barrett Montgomery. Mansfield mentions Montgomery, and McCarthy add this post here.
  • Annie Cressman. McCarthy writes here, here, and here.
  • Frances Siewert. Edwards posts here.
  • Ann Nyland. Edwards offers a bit of a round up of some of the posts I'm mentioning here, and he points to a couple of posts on Nyland's translation. McCarthy posts here and here, comments here, and refers to an article by Nyland here. Wayne Leman posts here, and he offers an interview with Nyland here. Peter Kirk posts here. (I say a few things here, and give an excerpt of Nyland's translation here.)
  • Karen H. Jobes. Leman posts here and here. John F. Hobbins here and here; Kirk here; and James Getz here. (I've remarked here.)
  • Beth Shepperd. (I've linked here to the site listing Shepperd, the only woman on a translation team of men).
  • Linda Belleville. Some time back, Michael Kruse republished here four paragraphs from Belleville's “Teaching and Usurping Authority” an essay in Discovering Biblical Equality. Andreas J. Köstenberger critiques Belleville's work here. TC Robinson compares Belleville's views with certain mens' here. McCarthy posts here.
  • Joyce Baldwin Caine. Valerie Griffith writes on the late Baldwin Caine.
  • Marianne Meye Thompson. Chris Tilling posts here. Wes Kendall says she and her husband "helped guide me through my final years of seminary and helped prepare me for pastoral ministry." Nijay K. Gupta says that Marianne Meye Thompson is most qualified to contribute to Greg Beale’s and D.A. Carson’s (eds) Commentary on the NT Use of the Old Testament; Gupta also wishes Karen Jobes and Linda Belleville were in the book but notes "no women" are in the work.
  • Phyllis Bird. Mindawati Peranginganging posts some here (in English). Shawna R. B. Attenbury posts here sentences from Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities (Overtures to Biblical Theology).
  • J. Cheryl Exum. Ivoy mentions one of her theories here. Steve R. McEnvoy finds her doing something wonderful here. Karl Möller highlights Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)Versions of Biblical Narratives here.
  • Lucetta Mowry. Will no one blog on Mowry and her Poetry in the Synoptic Gospels and Revelation: A Study of Methods and Materials and her The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Early Church?
  • Katharine D. Sakenfeld. Larry Corbett took sermon notes from Sakenfeld, but is no one blogging about her works these days?
  • Joann Haugarud.  Here, I quote Louise Von Flowtow-Evans, who mentions and quotes Haugarud's The Word for Us: The Gospels of John and Mark, Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, Restated in Inclusive Language.
2) In the conversation after Edward's post on Siewart, there is the suggestion that a Bible translation is diminished when the translator is shown to be a woman.

Kirk says, "I think Ann would be unhappy to have The Source [i.e., her translation] listed as a translation by a woman because she wants it to be taken seriously on its own merits."

Edwards replies, "I agree that we shouldn’t qualify any translation work as by 'a woman', though I find it ironic that many translation committees seem to be under pressure from some quarters to include a wide sample of minority voices, including women and non-white ethnicities. It’s hugely ironic to me that on one hand we want a meritocracy that recognizes superior work as such, regardless of who did it, while on the other we want to give equal weighting to work from a diversity of backgrounds, regardless of quality."

Makes us wonder whether these two men have read (and believe) what Nyland writes in her More Than Meets The Eye: THE CAMPAIGN TO CONTROL GENDER TRANSLATION BIBLES.

Makes us listen more closely to how Julia E. Smith begins the Preface to her translation of the Bible:

"It may seem presumptious for an ordinary woman with no particular advantages of education to translate and publish alone, the most wonderful book that has ever appeared in the world, and thought to be the most difficult to translate. . . . Over twenty years ago, when I had four sisters, a friend met with us weekly, to search the Scriptures, we being desirous to learn . . . . We saw by the margin that the text [of the King James's forty-seven translators] had not been . . . . I had studied Latin and Greek at school, and began by translating the Greek New Testament, and the Septuagint. . . . I soon gave my attention to the Hebrew, and studied it thoroughly. . . "

Makes us wonder a little more at why Francis Ellen Burr and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women in The Women’s Bible make such a big deal out of being women, translators.

3) The whole of Julia E. Smith's translation is freely available online for you to read and study. Here it is!

11 comments:

ElShaddai Edwards said...

Thanks for the post and for the links. I've not read "More Than Meets The Eye", so I appreciate the recommendation.

Peter Kirk said...

I think I read a pre-publication draft of "More Than Meets The Eye", which was on the Internet around 2002. I found it an interesting if sometimes intemperate take on the gender in translation issue.

I note that both for this book and for The Source Ann identifies herself as "Dr A. Nyland". I'm sure I read somewhere, or perhaps heard privately, that she used her initial to avoid being known as a woman, so that her works would stand on their own merit and not be read or ignored because they are written by a woman. Does she say anything to deny this in her book?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

if sometimes intemperate take on the gender in translation issue.

I think Ann is right on in her critique of Bible translation today. If you remember, we checked out some of her claims and they were shown to be correct.

It is possible that she did not want her first name on her original edition. Its too bad. I don't find that a criticism of her but of the Christian community. I think that is how Kurk meant it.

J. K. Gayle said...

ElShaddai,
Hope you know I appreciate your posts; if you do read Nyland's account of gender bias in translation, then let us know what you think.

Peter,
I may be misunderstanding what you are saying. But for Nyland herself to hide as a woman seems out of character. She writes of William Tyndale, John Rogers, John Wycliffe and Larry Walker each "refusing to renounce [respectively] his translation work. Today's opposition to correct gender translation in Bibles has been political rather than physical." (page 22). The backcover of my copy of her book has this: "Dr Nyland is a Classical Greek scholar who served on Faculty in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New England, Australia. Her research field is Greek lexicography from Homeric to Hellenistic times. She has published academic papers and books in the fields of both Hittite and Greek lexicography, and is the translator of The Source New Testament." We don't need to belabor this, but Nyland has a blog at which she says this rather explicitly about herself: "I breed, ride and train the old-fashioned type of Arabian horses; also Quarab horses, am a Bible translator." And elsewhere on the Internet, she converses about translation as the woman Bible translator, Ann Nylan.

Suzanne,
Thanks for your many posts on women translators, and your own work in translation. Looking forward to more! Your point here (on the critique of the Christian community) is exactly right (and seems to suggest I may have misunderstood Peter's comment); Nyland does mention in a footnote that "John Rogers worked with Tyndale on a Bible translation under the pseudonym Thomas Matthews." So maybe she initially worked with her publisher under the initial A. for her first name.

Don B. Johnson said...

After reading Nyland's "More than meets the eye" you should realize at least 2 things:

1. Grudem is not a Greek scholar, at least at the time he wrote some things she references.

2. One can sense Nyland's pain about much of this.

Shawna Renee said...

Thank you for the link. This is a great compilation. I look forward digging into all the links this week.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't know Ann Nyland, but on some points I am in complete agreement with her. I share her pain, Don.

J. K. Gayle said...

Welcome Don. Welcome Shawna. Thank you for your comments. And thanks always for your candor, Suzanne.

Iyov said...

I have responded critically to Longman III here.

J. K. Gayle said...

Nyland's Bible Translation blog is worth a careful read, and then another one:

http://womenministers.blogspot.com/

J. K. Gayle said...

It's regrettable that the blogger Iyov is no longer blogging. All of Iyov's posts were most insightful, incredibly thoughtful, and usually full of research. (The link above is no longer public, and I just happened to have the post via an RSS feed). The critical response to Longman III began:

"Tremper Longman III reecently posted a religion-baiting post recently called “Who cares who translated my Bible?” In it, he argues (as we shall see) that even when the NRSV and NLT2 give the exact same translation possibilities, the NRSV is no good because it contains several Catholics, and a Jew and an Eastern Orthodox me[m]ber on the translation committee. He implies that the best translation is the ESV, which removed footnotes giving alternate translations from the RSV."

It took a "look at a responsible Evangelical translation, the NET Bible" and also a "look at a modern Jewish translation, the NJPS"

It carefully compared several translations (i.e., NLT2, NRSV, RSV, NJPS, NET, ESV) before coming to the following:

"So here is the rub. Despite Longman III’s claim that readers need to apply a theological litmus test in reading Genesis 1:1 based on whether the translators were all Protestant or also scholars who are dangerous and untrustworthy because they are Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish the NLT2 includes the exact same three possibilities for translation as the NRSV for Genesis 1:1. They are word for word the same!

So, Longman III is not talking about substance here. The translated verse he argues is theologically suspect (NRSV) give the exact same three possibilities as the translated verse he argues is theologically correct (NLT2). All he is doing is smearing Catholics, Jews, and Eastern Orthodox, not on the basis of their competence or academic background, not even on yielding different translations (because they yield the same translations) but merely because they have the temerity to have different opinions than Longman III. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you get the same answer – if you aren’t a solid Protestant, you are just wrong."

So, please do know that Iyov's careful, critical response is to Longman III's "code language for religious bigotry" (and is not necessarily a criticism of the NLT2 or any of its team members).

(If anyone can find any reason why, for example, Linda L. Belleville or the late Joyce Baldwin Caine might agree with Longman III's language -- as reviewed by Iyov, then please give it. It's clear that the third woman translator of the NLT team, namely Marianne Meye Thompson, has sought or at least referred to "contemporary Jewish literature" when producing scholarship such as her book, The Promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament.)