Lost in Translation (8 Jan 2021)
Last night I enjoyed some chocolate. I shared some with my wife even though, “It’s not for girls.” (2002 Ad) It was a Yorkie bar. Currently it’s hard to think of this sort of nonsense as ever being acceptable, let alone a positive form of advertising.
By 2012 this phrase was replaced by, “Man fuel for Man stuff.” Ten years to get that improvement. So where are we in 2021? Any better?
I started to set up my new MacBook with the same bible study tools I’ve been using on Windows for years. I downloaded my e-sword software library again and discovered so many new versions of the bibles I have been using, even with the same name.
NIV, which version, 1978, 1984 or 2011? Is it the UK version? Don’t forget the 1996 NIrV, the readers NIV. NASB versions 1971, 1977, 1995… I went for the latest 2020 version, because this must be best. Right?
Have the original Greek or Hebrew texts changed? New translations may include work from recently found earlier manuscripts produced nearer the time of the originals. That’s the past. It seems to me the greatest translation challenge is the point of delivery. Culture, context and language continually changes.
How does one create a formal equivalence so that the reader understands what the writer intended, irrespective of time and societal divide?
Ongoing personal experience influences our reaction, involvement and understanding. When I had more than full time work, I was envious and puzzled by those able to rest. Unable to work full time I am now envious of those with the health and energy to do so. Context in relation to self is powerful and as varied as people.
It’s no wonder we have so many versions of the bible. People find different versions helpful to them. I’ve also been helped by different versions at different times. The Message, Good News, Amplified, Living and New Revised Standard versions also find their way into my downloaded e-sword and Tecarta Android phone software.
I also download different Greek New Testament versions into e-sword. I’ll not go into dictionaries, commentaries, maps and other resources, electronic or physical.
The most recent bible purchased and downloaded is NASB 2020. So what’s new?
I remember asking my parents why it was OK to say that we did not want God, even when sat in Church. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1 NASB 1995 and many other versions) My parents explanation was probably clear enough but I was too afraid to follow it up with, “so why do they say ‘not want’ then?”
I simply had not grasped the importance of a comma, but even with one, “The LORD is my shepherd, I will not be in need.” (Psalm 23:1 NASB 2020) might have been better for the primary aged me in the 70’s. The Good News, NIrV, Amplified or Message translations might help with this now.
And gender issues…
Currently we still talk about “man” when “humankind” may better label what we are referring to. And that’s before the complexity of translation from another language. The Greek ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos) used to be translated as “men” or “man” in the NASB. It’s now often translated as “person” or “people” unless referring explicitly to males.
The prefix “Anthropo-” means relating to humans in the Cambridge dictionary I checked.
“And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mat 4:19 NASB 1995) “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of people.” (Mat 4:19 NASB 2020)
“He who” has also been changed. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Mat 7:8 NASB 1995) “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (MAT 4:19 NASB 2020)
What of “brothers”? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Mat 5:47 NASB 1995) “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” (Mat 5:47 NASB 2020) In the 2020 version, “and sisters” has been added in italic, here and elsewhere.
Matthew comes up first in New Testament computer searches but these changes are quick find examples now seen elsewhere too. However, the masculine terms have been retained in the NASB 2020 when the context suggests it’s referring explicitly to males. Changes other than gender…
Actions speak louder than words. “Let us go” in the 1995 NASB has been changed to “Let’s go” in the 2020 NASB version. For example, Mark 1:38 “He said to them, ‘Let us go (now Let’s go in 2020) somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.’ ” (Mark 1:38 NASB 1995)
Why has “Let us Go” been changed in 2020 in this and other verses? In English, in some verses we can understand “let us” as “allow us.”
It’s not about permission. The 2020 “Let’s” translation clarifies that it’s a call for action.
What should we be translating and including? I’ll leave the currently obscure/hidden things, “apocryphal” books for another time. Canon, deuterocanonical? Text approved by who, for who, for when for another time.
A variety of texts continue to be used to different extents in Catholic and Protestant liturgy. The Sunday Service of the Methodists? I have a good friend who often mentions the Gospel of Thomas which has many quotes from Jesus.
Translation is far from simple. I’m the simple one and certainly no trained theologian. God is for everyone.
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.” (Galatians 3: 28:29 The Message, other versions are equally clear)
What Jesus said is sometimes in red. Verbal and written communications do not always align.
Back to food-based analogy. There were 30 cows and 28 chickens, so how many didn’t? This may be answerable if heard, but not as written. Too much knowledge can be a hinderance too. If you know cows are vegetarian this is harder to grasp even when heard. Let me offer a different version. There were 30 cows and 20 ate chickens, so how many didn’t? 10!
Communication is exceptionally complex. I find it difficult and frustrating following brain injury, particularly when tired.
Our contemporary understanding of gender, manhood and Jesus is flawed.
Jesus is not just the, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” in the song by Charles Wesley. He is powerful, the most powerful. “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His compensation is with Him, And His reward before Him.” (Isaiah 40:10 NASB)
The Greek from which we get, ‘the stronger one‘ translated, “One is coming who is mightier than I” (Mark 1:7 NASB) is John’s signposts to Jesus. It has the same Greek root word as found in the Septuagint for Isaiah 40:10. The Septuagint is the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew.
The parable with the unforgivable sin has a strong man too. “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man,” (Mark 3:27 NASB) This parable is yet another example of Jesus explaining himself to teachers of the law.
Being a man, is not about sin, status, speed, sport and sexual success.
“Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”” (Mark 3:28-30 NASB)
Jesus conquered sin and death through self-sacrifice as a suffering saviour servant for all. (cf. Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12) His strength tied up Satan and sin securely. We must recognise and accept this work of God. (v28)
“Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org”