Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Woman Gets Paul's Greek Better

Women do count in Bible translation.  Here, I want to illustrate just one example of how a single woman translating the bible alone, by herself, renders Paul's Greek better than entire teams of men do.

First, let's (A) look at Paul's Greek and (B) one standard with which we might evaluate English translations.  Then let's see (C) the English of the men before we show (D) her translation.  Second, we'll tell who she is.

(A) Paul's Greek:  We're looking again at that neologistic phrase of his, (τὰ) πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.  He writes it to several Greek readers of Greek -- not only to Greek citizens but also both to Greekish Jewish readers and to Jewish Greek readers -- in different cities of Greece.  Presumably, they find it to be a striking, novel, and rather poetic turn of phrase.  The ones in Corinth get it twice in the very same letter. 

(B) One standard:  Sue, in a conversation several of us are having, reiterates a good standard for assessing a translation.  She says it's this (quoting John): "that a neologism should be translated 'in the same way across all of its occurrences'."  She goes on to make clear how this applies to the phrase Dannii has drawn attention to:  "It seems obvious that the phrase (τὰ) πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν should be translated in the same way in 1 Cor.12:6 and 1 Cor.15:28."

(C) The English translations of teams of men:  Sue goes on to show how certain teams of men have translated this Greek of Paul's, "fall[ing] sadly short" of the standard mentioned by their English renderings.  In particular, she shows both the NLT teams' translation and the ESV teams' translation.  Respectively, they are as follows (with my bolded italics to emphasize):
God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
We should remember that the ESV's is a team that entirely excludes women from translating the Bible for publication.  And we might recall that the NLT's is a team of 90 translators, 87 of whom are men and 3 of whom are women.  One of the women, Dr. Linda Belleville, worked on translating Paul's Greek in his second letter to the Corinthians (i.e., 2 Corinthians); but it was men only in this majority-male NLT team who worked on the translation of Paul's first letter (i.e., 1 Corinthians) to produce the translation above that, by John's standard which Sue repeats, "fall[s] sadly short."  I'm only emphasizing the men work and the women work here, really, to back track in history a bit.  There's a legacy in Bible translation that allows men to work on translation of the Bible a lot, but women?  No so much.  I'm not going to try to correlate the bunches of man only or mostly man translations with the failure to meet John's standard noted above.  I am going to give one woman's translation that does better than her male counterparts have done, by this same standard.

Let me first, however, give the translation that her contemporaries -- all males -- produced.  They were the Revised Version teams who completed their work in the late 1800s.  Specifically, they were three separate teams of 101 men, and no women.  They were updating the King James Version of the Bible.  So here's how they "better" the KJV when looking at Paul's Greek:

And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.

And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.
(D) her translation:
Her The Holy Bible

And there are distinctions of performances, and it is the same God performing all things in all.

And when all things be subjected to him, then also shall the Son himself be subjected to him having made all things subject to him, that God might be all things in all.
What is clear is that her translation (i.e., the English version and updating the KJV translation of Paul's Greek by this woman translating alone, all by herself) meets the one standard we've been using here.

Sue had already given the KJV, which she rightly notes "offers the insight that 1 Cor. 15:28 might be related to 1 Cor. 12:6" in the "underlying language" of Paul.  The KJV (for your comparison) is this:

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
So, this single woman updates the English of the version of the 1600s better than her male only counterparts in the 1800s.  She gets the underlying language of Paul and also offers the insight that his neologistic phrase is repeated and is related in his letter to Greek readers in Corinth, Greece.

Who is she?

She is one who was beguiled by men.  She is the one who would not be allowed by the Church of England to join the Revised Version translation projects, even the one in America where she lived.  She is one who was snubbed by the men teams of revising translators and whose translation was ignored by them too, although she was most knowledgeable and that translation of hers had been available for for some time.  She is the one who learned the underlying biblical languages in order to translate by the best standards she knew.  She is one who begins the preface to her translation this way:
It may seem presumptuous 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 male-only 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.... 
She is one of whom other women observed meeting various standards for excellence in Bible translation:
Frequently her wording is an improvement, or brings one closer to the original than the common translation. Thus in I. Corinthians viii, I, of the King James translation, we have: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” [Her] version: “Knowledge puffs up and love builds the house.” She uses “love” in place of “charity” every time. And her translation was made nearly forty years before the revised version of our day, which also does the same....  This word “charity” was one of the words that Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of English, charged Tyndale with mistranslating. The other two words were “priest” and “church,” Tyndale calling priests “seniors,” and church “congregation.” Both Julia Smith and the revised version call them priest and church. And she gives the word “Life” for “Eve:” “And Adam will call his wife’s name Life, for she was the mother of all living.”....  Her work has had the endorsement of various learned men. A Hebrew professor of Harvard College (Prof. Young)....  examined it. He was much astonished that she had translated so correctly without consulting some learned man....  She received many letters from scholars, all speaking of the exact, or literal translation. Some people have criticised this feature, which is the great merit of the book.

 She is Julia Evelina Smith Parker.

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