Monday, December 21, 2009

Alternatives to Sexist, Exclusivist Translations of Luke 2:14

John Hobbins has a post that labels various blogger's translations of Luke 2:14 (i.e. plus or minus "sexist wording" and plus or minus "Calvinist construal"). The labeling is focused on how the translators render the Greek phrase ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.  Hobbins calls the alternatives to sexist translations "non-sexist." And somewhat surprisingly, he calls Suzanne McCarthy's translation "sexist" for her use of the English phrase, "to mankind whom God favours." He labels the word mankind as "male generic language... that politically correct translations like NRSV and TNIV studiously avoid." But, of course, McCarthy and plenty of others (including myself) disagree that the phrase "mankind" is necessarily unkind to or  exclusive of women. 

McCarthy is just as focused (as Hobbins and I are too) on how some translations are unnecessarily exclusivist (which is my term for what Hobbins calls "Calvinist").  His alternative is universalist. McCarthy runs with the term in a post "Universalism in Luke 2:14," where she links to a few conversations on the topic.  And in comments at BBB, she suggests study the translations may be of as much value as the "attempt to seek some definitive translation"; one revision McCarthy's offered to her first translation is this phrase: "to beloved humanity."  I like that! 

(Hobbins and McCarthy have both said kind things about my attempt at translation.  My phrase is a borrowing from David Kovacs translating of Greek:  "in blessed honor to mortals."  John has labeled that non-sexist and universalist.  I'm laughing because John calls what's happened a "a very merry Christmas" since we're agreeing on something this year.  And I chuckle in agreement with Suzanne that "'Mortals' sounds too somber for Christmas."  Then again, still smiling I think maybe it's because we're all mortals -- both men and women -- maybe it's because we are that the tidings of Christmas can be merry - yes, comfort and joy.)

What I want to do in the next post is to call for thinking about other labels.  I'm thinking not only about labels that mark whether a translation (as a product) is sexist or not or exclusivist or not.  But I'm wanting to consider theories and practices for translation (as processes).  These other labels may help us start to get at why there's exclusivism and sexism by translators when there doesn't have to be.  The subsequent post will look again at Willis Barnstone's labels for translation (and will go a bit beyond them). 

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