Friday, April 2, 2010

Better Bibles than those of Jesus or other Jews

The boys at Better Bibles Blog have said a number of consistent things about what makes and what does not make for better bibles.  Quite generally, they ignore what I call the feminist rhetorical translating that goes on with, around, and in much of the Jewish texts.  The bible of Jesus, and by Jesus too, for example, they don't always agree with.  Ironic stuff, huh?  My contention is that they are (unwittingly) influenced by Aristotle and by Aristotle's logic, his view of and practice with language (as "linguistics" if you will).  I'll have to come back to this in another post or more.  For now, I just want to recall some of the things that my blogger friends have said exactly:

"[W]e should not follow the practices of the authors of the N.T. or translators of the LXX when they translated." -- Wayne Leman

"I accept that in the original Hebrew there was very likely a deliberate word play....  My scepticism is about whether the LXX translators or the thinker Paul, pre-modern people ... would have recognised this word play and ... translated ... in order to preserve the word play." -- Peter Kirk

"He [God] just has to see that the writer He is inspiring gets point of the communication accurate. This is what gets us out of having stand on our heads theologically to deal with 'misquotes' from the LXX or questions about whether Jesus’ parables were true stories....  if you understand how humans actually communicate [as I do understand.... ]" -- Richard Rhodes

"Jesus was speaking to be understood and so we should expect a Bible translation of this passage to be understandable. If he used idioms of his era, they were used to bring impact to his message not mystery." -- David Ker

" I personally am not convinced by the argument that the Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible so it should be ours as well." -- David Ker

"the original is an idiom and so is the translation [e.g., 'Let this be a word to the wise']. Is the meaning accurate? If not, in what ways is it not accurate? In what ways is 'he who has ears to hear, let him hear' not accurate?" -- Mike Sangrey

"Thanks Mike, I think you’re on the right track, because I think you’re striving for a better Bible, which unfortunately I can’t say for some of the other commenters....  presumably all of Jesus’s listeners both had ears and were hearing him loud and clear… I wonder if it was almost a veiled insult. But [this] does not mean that the original words must stay, unless someone has evidence that in the Greek they too were odd and awkward!" -- Dannii Willis

"I wonder if the original phrase had the same authoritative sound. It’s very, very hard to determine that (which argues for as well as against!). You say that Jesus goes on to urge his hearers. That also works for your point as well as against it. If the idiom is quite confrontational to begin with, then why the extra effort to make the point even more authoritative?" -- Mike Sangrey


Bob MacDonald said...

I scanned a few of the recent posts. I had wondered why I wasn't getting them any more and then I remembered I deleted the feed from my reader. Ears but hear not. They don't have my 'no' any more on their posts.

J. K. Gayle said...

Bob, thanks for the comment always. You inspired me in a post this morning to focus a little more on the "ears / hear" phrase and its trnaslation.

David Ker said...

Not sure what Bob means there...

Thanks, JK. I think Jesus would oppose the pretentious nonsense of feminism just as heartily as he did the pharisees' of his time. And my nonsense too I suppose.

Bob MacDonald said...

Bob was ambiguous and impolite - you can assume he is the one without ears. But I would disagree with your comment on pretentious nonsense if you intend to apply it against the equality of women. Jesus does not find it either pretentious or nonsense. Your nonsense I won't speak for, brave soul. You can talk to Hashem about it just as I can talk to him about mine.

J. K. Gayle said...

Fair enough, David. But, just to be clear, you are talking about the Jesus who spoke in fables (i.e., parables) the way Toni Morrison did when she gave her lecture upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, aren't you? And you're referring to the same Jesus who often used the mashal (i.e.,parables) the way Naomi Graetz would do to find ways of
Unlocking The Garden
and of telling Biblical Stories, aren't you? And you're bringing up the same Jesus who might, with Rachel Barenblat (who so nonsensically calls
her-self the Velveteen Rabbi), re-views the violence in Holy Scripture, especially the ending of Esther, as perhaps a parable (and not always so clearly "real"), aren't you?

You are not pretentious, in my view. Hope I'm not in your either. I do think that a focus always (and only?) on clarity in the biblical (or even in the gospel's) message makes translation propositional and impositional in ways that the Bible (and the Gospel) is not. I do think that much of the logic of linguistics for much bible translation today is neo-Aristotelian and (at best) neo-Platonic (i.e., trying to use communicative pragmatics via "relevance theory") when Pikean linguistics worked just fine. The feminist labeling is so, to me, disparaging. But I think to women and others marginalized it also works just fine. I do hope this makes some sense, David. I hope we're not reducing the conversation now to a binary such as EITHER straightforward only-clear non-redundant "sense" OR nonsense.

(And Bob, I'm glad you're speaking for yourself. I'm not sure I'm always making the same meaning of comments that you commenters here do.)