Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ann Nyland Translates the Psalms

Ann Nyland has just published The Psalms: Translation with Notes.  I'm especially excited about it because she's doing some things with translation that are fairly important and fairly rare.

Two remarkable things about Nyland's translation are these:

first, she keeps Jewish words Jewish (or rather "retains the divine names of the Hebrew");

second, she uses not just the newer Masoretic Text of Hebrew (MT) but also the older Septuagint (LXX) text of Greek (both reflections, of course, of even older Hebrew).

In addition, it's worth noting that Nyland is like Willis Barnstone and Richmond Lattimore in that she's a Greek scholar.  Her translation of the New Testament like theirs attends to Greek word meanings prior to the NT, including meanings in the Septuagint and early and ancient Greek classics.  And each of these classics translators has translated the NT alone, and not as part of committees.  (Here's a post that compares the way the three handle a Greek "hapax legomenon").

Nyland's Psalms are similar to Barnstone's New Testament books and letters in that they retain Hebrew (i.e., Jewish) names.  Moreover, Barnstone does not read the Christian translation tradition back into his Restored New Testament; likewise, Nyland "does not read the New Testament back into the text" of the Psalms.  (A comparison between how Barnstone and Nyland translate Matthew 16:15-19 is here; note that Nyland when translating the New Testament used the more Christianized transliterations for the names.).

Nyland, like Robert Alter, who also translates the Psalms, uses both the MT and the LXX to render the psalms into English.  The poetry of the original languages is some reflected in the English; Nyland puts it this way: "as this [the book of Psalms] is a poetic work, the translation does leave in some of the poetic style of the original at the expense of good English." Nyland also handles "several Hebrew words or sentences the meaning of which is uncertain or unknown" by "leav[ing them] ambiguous, with an endnote, instead of making a decision for the reader."  Alter, similarly, avoids what he calls the "heresy of explanation" in translation by using footnotes to mark textual issues that need clarification for the reader.

There are at least three fairly unique things to note about Nyland and Nyland's translation:

First, she, by her translation, "avoids the Biblish dialect, that is, the type of [English] language that follows the syntax of the original language."  For Nyland, such a dialect may cause a "translation error" in that it might "invent a tone that was not there in the original."  She gives several examples of biblish or "common [language] use with Christians" both in translations of the Bible and in social communication.

Second, Nyland's "translation does not attempt to translate the Psalms into poetry" as Alter's translation of the Psalms does and as Barnstone's translation of some of the gospel writings does.  Nyland does offer commentary on some of the poems in her endnotes; for example, she distinguishes Canaanite and Israelits poems and explains when the Septuagint but not the Hebrew Bible contains a poem.

Third, Nyland has had to work in ways that most men don't.  Neither Alter nor Barnstone nor Lattimore, of course, were ever disparaged for being a woman, for being a feminist, as Nyland has been so disparaged.  Her interview with Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog gets into some of that.  To be clear, Nyland has taken on the mostly male Bible translation establishment with essays such as in More Than Meets The Eye: THE CAMPAIGN TO CONTROL GENDER TRANSLATION BIBLES.  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 Nyland.  Her Bible Translation blog is worth a careful read:  http://womenministers.blogspot.com/

For a sample of Nyland's work on the Psalms, I've included her translation of Psalm 8 in another post today.

1 comment:

CD-Host said...

This is good news. I'd love to see an entire bible with the sort of work Nyland did on the source.