Archive for the ‘translation’ Category
You know sometimes you read something and you can’t quite believe it says what you thought it says so you have to read it twice? This is from an article by a very youthful John Piper (originally written in 1976 for JETS, but now available on the Desiring God site) explaining why the grammatical-historical method of exegesis is the only theologically acceptable method:
Hearing the Word of God in the oral or written proclamation of the Scriptures is absolutely dependent on hearing the Scriptures in an understandable language. Hearing the Word of God is thus dependent on a faithful translation of the Greek and Hebrew. But translation is only possible and successful when the specific meanings of the ancient documents are understood. Most of those meanings can be determined only by an analysis of the grammatical and historical context that displays the author’s intention. Therefore, it is wrong to say that theology and devotion do not depend on the recovery of the historically-verified intention of the Biblical writer/redactor.
He illustrates this with an example:
Suppose a translator comes upon the word zelos in the New Testament. Should he translate it “jealousy” with a negative connotation or “zeal” with a positive connotation? There is only one way to decide, and that is by determining from the context how the author intended it to be taken. If the translator chooses wrongly, the twentieth-century reader will be inhibited from hearing the Word of God.
So, let’s get this right. The intended meaning of the first-century author writing in Greek must fit precisely into the categories of twentieth-century English. And also, one presumes, seventeenth-century English, and eleventh-century French, and mediaeval Latin and… well, you get the picture. And, of course, there is no possibility that the NT author deliberately used a word with a certain ambiguity. Or that the word might have a precise meaning in one place but still carry with it an allusion to a place where it’s used in a different way.
I wonder if John Piper has read this article recently and if he still thinks the same thing.
Translating Ps 51, I notice that the ESV has for v.14 ‘Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God.’
The Hebrew has dammim, ‘bloods’, or more likely ‘spilt blood’.
But aside from the over-interpretive translation, what were they thinking?! ‘Bloodguiltiness‘! That’s not a word. What’s wrong with ‘bloodguilt’?