In this post, I want to do three things: 1. to recognize a few outstanding people who are translators. 2. to rank order the best English translations of a short Greek passage. 3. to offer a bit of Bible translation by a feminist method.
It’s one thing to evaluate translations; it’s quite another thing actually to translate. And there’s more: it takes great courage and skill to do both. Great coaches are not the world-class athletes; and the competitors are not always doing what they intend to do, even at their peak, as the coaches’ video tapes later prove. Nonetheless, there are rare individuals who, as C. S. Lewis puts it, “play both sides of the net.” That is, people who translate not only do something but they also can reflect on what they’ve done and what they must do. I’m thinking now of exceptional persons, some of whom are well known and others less so. I’m thinking of Willis Barnstone who translates into English from Greek, from Chinese, from Hebrew, from Spanish, from the classics, from the Bible, from poetry, from novels, both as a talented individual and as a skilled collaborator; and of the same Barnstone who writes translation theory, history, and practice, and related histories of cultures and language, and related literary criticism. I’m thinking of Anne Carson who translates and speaks of theory of translation, and who writes poetry and essays on the classics and on comparative literature. I’m thinking of Karen H. Jobes who has translated books of the Bible both individually and in collaboration; and who is theorizing textual translation by analogies with oral translation. I’m thinking of Kenneth L. Pike, the maker of a theory of language that has had wide application in more than twenty different disciplines, that insists on “person above logic,” that is demonstrable monolingually, that is constantly aware of whether the person is an outsider going in or is already some sort of an insider; Pike’s a poet, a polyglot, and a practitioner of his translation theory. I’m thinking of Carolyn Custis James, Suzanne McCarthy, John F. Hobbins, Tyson Hausdoerffer, Bob MacDonald, and April DeConick, who not only blog and dialog with other theorists about translation but who also actually do translating, sometimes translation that is a bit different, that makes a good bit of difference. Pakaluk actually invites others in through his challenges.
Today, I want especially to recognize Wayne Leman, Peter Kirk, and one blogger named Nathan. They’ve responded to a translation challenge of mine of a previous post:
What’s the best English translation of the following Greek phrase? What’s your method of translation? How and why is your translation one of the best?
Ἰάκωβος θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος
“‘James, God and Jesus Christ's servant.’ Or for those who prefer to include the possessive suffix on both possessors, ‘James, God's and Jesus Christ's servant.’”
Peter likewise offers us the following wonderful translation, and an explanation:
“James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter does not label explicitly his methods for the translation. (He does begin parenthetically by noting that “
Finally Peter appeals to, but almost only hints at, another reason, the reason I think is his most important of all: “this may be partly a matter of my English dialect.” Such an appeal forms a more implicit contrast to
Wayne is all for “simply matching the meaning of the Greek form to an English form that has the same meaning”; in contrast to Peter, Wayne assumes and works from a much more general, abstract, and universal “Greek” albeit a Greek full of “the meaning.”
Before we move on to our third translator, let me just say this. The world class athletes may review the video tapes after they get the gold medals; they don’t always use the exact methods they’ve intended but look at what they’ve done! Bravo Wayne and Peter!
Nathan takes two days and works through four translations. They are these:
“James, slave to god and master Jesus the anointed one;”
“Yakob, slave to god and master Yehoshua the anointed one;”
“From: Ya'akov, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah;” [from the Complete Jewish Bible (Stern), to compare with Nathan’s previous two]
“Jacob, slave to god and master Joshua the Anointed;”
By way of method, Nathan wants to “offer something out of the norm.” And he likes to “label it ‘contextual translation’ or something along those lines.” Now his truly is a “literary translation”; Nathan is after both the “Jewish context” of names and also the Greek “word-play of master/slave; and perhaps theos [a]s not implying Father and Son but rather that Jesus is master/god.” The final translation Nathan provides is to avoid “a transliteration from either language” and to offer “purely English terminology” only. I have to say I really like Nathan’s English (non-transliteration) translation of Jacob’s Hebraic Greek; and I’ll say a bit more on that when I offer my own translation at the end of this post.
In addition to Wayne’s, Peter’s, and Nathan’s translations, I list below here some 48 other translations all published at one point or another. (Does anyone have a copy of Julia Evelina Smith Parker’s translation, the first complete translation of the Bible by a woman ever--in 1855, in the United States?) The other translations below are listed in rank order of my preference.
My first and most important criterion for a translation is that it makes and keeps as many personal connections as possible. The connections may be between the writer and the reader, between the translator and the new readers; between the denotations and connotations that make for word play (i.e., playfulness and wiggle room). The best translations are presented with both languages side by side for a trans-translation, or an “interlation” in the “stereotext” as Mikhail Epstein coins it. But I also think any “shock” (as Richard A. Rhodes and I both are very much for) must not just be the shock of the text (either original or translated) but must also be the shock beyond the text (as something the text or its author or translator cannot easily predict or precisely intend); now I’m talking about the subjective effect that a parable-heard has; or that an inside joke involuntarily laughed-at has; or that a hyperbolic statement makes; or that a miracle in nature effects. In section 3. here, I’ll say just a bit more about methods.
Without further ado then, here’s the list:
|From: Ya'akov, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah||NJPS||1|
|From Jacob, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:||Hackett||2|
|Ya`akov, a servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah,||HNV||3|
|JAMES, SLAVE OF GOD AND OF THE LORD Jesus Christ||Lattimore||4|
|From James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ,||NET Bible||5|
|From: James, a slave servant of God and of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One.||TSNT||6|
|This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.||NLT||7|
|I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus,||TM||8|
|James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:||HCSB||9|
|JAMES, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||Moffatt||9|
|From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah,||ISV||10|
|From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.||NJB||11|
|From James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.||CEV||12|
|From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:||GNT||12|
|From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.||GW||12|
|From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.||NCV||12|
|FROM James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.||REB||13|
|James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||NAB||15|
|James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||NASB||15|
|James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||NKJV||15|
|James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:||Weymouth||15|
|James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ||JB Philip's||16|
|James, of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ a servant,||Young||17|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||21st Cent||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||ASB||18|
|JAMES, A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||Amplified||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||BEB||18|
|Iames a seruaunt of God, and of the lorde Iesus Christ,||Bishop's||18|
|Iames the seruaunt of God and of the LORDE Iesus Christ||Coverdale||18|
|James the servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ,||D-R||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||ERV||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||ESV||18|
|Iames a seruant of God, and of the Lord Iesus Christ,||Geneva||18|
|Iames a seruant of God, and of the Lord Iesus Christ,||KJV||18|
|James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||Mace's||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||NIV||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||NRSV||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||RSV||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||Third Mill||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||TNIV||18|
|Iames the seruaut of God and of the Lorde Iesus Christ||Tyndale||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||WEB||18|
|James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,||Webster's||18|
|This letter is from James. I am a servant owned by God and the Lord Jesus Christ.||New Life||19|
|James, bondman of God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ,||Darby||20|
|James, the servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ,||Wycliffe||21|
|I, James, am writing this letter. I serve God and the Lord Jesus Christ.||NIrV||22|
|One of Jesus’ followers named James wrote the following letter||BLB||23|
Now just a bit more about the feminist method of translation. (Then a translation is offered.) I’m just going to refer readers to other places in this blog, to Nancy Mairs’ statements on women’s discourse. Or find Mairs’s books, or Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s or Cheryl Glenn’s or Andrea Lunsford’s or Sonja K. Foss's or Patricia Bizzell’s. They’ve all written much very well on the personal, even sometime physical, nature of rhetoric that women employ. (And I think I’ll add, since half of us are men, that I’ve written here in this blog elsewhere a bit on how Jesus, C.S. Lewis, Kenneth Pike, Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. have used such rhetoric in contrast to cold logic and objectivity). Personal position in and during and after translation cannot be avoided.
Now, when we’re talking about possession, we think also of the possession of one human by another. Slavery is one label for that. And when we talk about God, we think of a being who is over us earthlings, a person who created us even. Again, position, ours and the others’, is not unimportant.
And when we talk about James, we think of several in the New Testament who might have written the Greek words we’re translating into English. There’s great ambiguity here. Not only is this a human being who’s not claiming to be in the position of master; not only is he not God; but he’s also one of possibly many different men. In the gospels, if he’s not Jesus’s brother, then maybe he’s John’s brother, one of the two sons of Zebedee who’s wife brings them to Jesus to talk about being his right hand and his left hand men, to which Jesus replies something about being slaves. But whichever one in the New Testament he is (or is he Josephus’s scribe? Anyway!); anyway, whichever first century man he is, his namesake is also one of many Jacobs. And Josephus the historian does not distinguish between the Jewish patriarch and this letter writer, by name anyway: and so there’s this literary connection to twelve tribes (both from the heel wounded wrestler of God and from this letter writer). And just to be clear, A. T. Robertson, John Painter, and other contemporary scholars of the church writings agree that Ἰάκωβος and Ἰάκωβ (as a Greek transliteration without the later Greeky inflection) are variants of the same name. (Thanks to so Michael Kruse for bringing our attention to Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel's Story by Kenneth E. Bailey. I also like Gary Amirault's observations on Jacob for James).
So since we’re rambling a bit about Greek: the Jewish writer of this letter knows his Greek. Many theologians say he’s arguing with Paul over faith. But rhetoricians could just as easily contend he’s arguing with Aristotle over belief, a central concern of Greek rhetoric. Thus, blogger Nathan who claims his Greek and Hebrew aren’t very good does himself make very important, very personal connections, between the people who are Greek and Hebrew speakers and their God and his anointed one. Enough. Here’s an attempt at another translation, by a feminist method of humility, ambiguity, and personal positions of subjectivity and equal inclusivity:
Ἰάκωβος θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος
FROM: Jacob, slave, of God, and of Master Anointed Joshua