A History of Twentieth Century Translation Theory and Its Application to Bible Translation

I just had an article published in the Journal of Translation titled “A History of Twentieth Century Translation Theory and Its Application to Bible Translation”. It discusses theoretical developments in translation theory while advocating a perspective I support called ‘functionalism’ which, in short, argues that translations must be designed to fit particular needs. The logical end to this is that because there are multiple needs, there must be multiple ‘correct’ ways of translating the Bible. The one ‘best Bible’ translation doesn’t exist. The one ‘right’ way to translate doesn’t exist either. Sometimes you’ll need a literal translation, other times you’ll need an idiomatic translation, and both are ‘right’ in their particular situation.

Anyway, here’s the LINK (free registration required to view the paper online) and the abstract:

This article studies the development of twentieth century translation theory. This was a period during which significant theoretical contributions were made in both secular and Bible translation circles. These contributions have had a profound impact on the practice of translation throughout the twentieth century and since. The individuals who contributed to the present state of translation theory worked in both secular and Bible translation circles and this article examines contributions from both. A select history of theoretical developments, focusing on the most important ideas relevant to Bible translation work is given in order to examine the impact of such theories in the practice of Bible translation. These include the philosophical approaches of the early twentieth century; the linguistic era of the 1950s and 1960s; the rise of functionalism and descriptive translation studies; and, finally, the emergence of postcolonial and related foreignising approaches.

Andy Cheung, “A History of Twentieth Century Translation Theory and Its Application to Bible Translation”, Journal of Translation 9:1 (Apr 2013) 1-15. [Link]

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Dr Andy Cheung is Academic Dean at King’s Evangelical Divinity School.

Oxford Students Reject Israel Boycott

Ynet World News, among numerous other international news agencies, reported that Oxford University students voted 69 – 10 to defeat a motion that would have required them to support and promote the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Oxford’s constituent colleges held their own votes prior to the Student Union’s vote, and the majority of colleges also rejected the boycott proposal. The February 27th vote sends a clear signal that University students (unlike certain MPs) will not allow other students or anyone else to be marginalised based on their nationality.

Are You a Homophobic Bigot?

I wonder how many readers of this blog heard last week’s Any Questions (BBC Radio 4, 8pm, Friday 8th Feb 2013). The panel for the evening included feminist Julie Bindel. Ms Bindel describes herself as a ‘radical feminist, not the fun kind but an out and out proud lesbian.’ As the topic of ‘gay marriage’ is hot in the news at the moment, I listened carefully to her comments. Ms Bindel began by saying that ‘those who are opposed to equal marriage are either ‘homophobic, bigoted or are on nodding terms with bigots’ and commented that being against gay marriage is ‘gross discrimination’. Read more »

Fight the disjunction between ‘critical’ and ‘devotional’ reading of the Bible.

Here’s an excellent piece of advice from D. A. Carson. It comes from the excellent book The Pastor as Scholar & the Scholar as Pastor, available here free as a pdf download.

Fight with every fiber of your being the common disjunction between “objective study” of Scripture and “devotional reading” of Scripture, between “critical reading” of the Bible and “devotional reading” of the Bible. The place where this tension first becomes a problem is usually at seminary. Students enter with the habit of reading the Bible “devotionally” (as they see it). They enjoy reading the Bible, they feel warm and reverent as they do so, they encounter God through its pages, some have memorized many verses and some chapters, and so forth. Seminary soon teaches them the rudiments of Greek and Hebrew, principles of exegesis, hermeneutical reflection, something about textual variants, distinctions grounded in different literary genres, and more. In consequence, students learn to read the Bible “critically” or “objectively” for their assignments but still want to read the Bible “devotionally” in their quiet times.

Every year a handful of students end up at the door of assorted lecturers and professors asking how to handle this tension. They find themselves trying to have their devotions,
only to be harassed by intruding thoughts about textual variants. How should one keep such polarized forms of reading the Bible apart? This polarization, this disjunction, kept unchecked, may then characterize or even harass the biblical scholar for the rest of his or her life. That scholar may try to write a commentary on, say, Galatians, where at least part of the aim is to master the text, while preserving time for daily devotional reading.

My response, forcefully put, is to resist this disjunction, to eschew it, to do everything in your power to destroy it. Scripture remains Scripture, it is still the Word of God before which (as Isaiah reminds us) we are to tremble—the very words we are to revere, treasure, digest, meditate on, and hide in our hearts (minds?), whether we are reading the Bible at 5:30 am at the start of a day, or preparing an assignment for an exegesis class at 10:00 pm. If we try to keep apart these alleged two ways of reading, then we will be irritated and troubled when our “devotions” are interrupted by a sudden stray reflection about a textual variant or the precise force of a Greek genitive; alternatively, we may be taken off guard when we are supposed to be preparing a paper or a sermon and suddenly find ourselves distracted by a glimpse of God’s greatness that is supposed to be reserved for our “devotions.” So when you read “devotionally,” keep your mind engaged; when you read “critically” (i.e., with more diligent and focused study, deploying a panoply of “tools”), never, ever, forget whose Word this is. The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it. (p. 91)

KEDS student’s new pastorate in Australia

KEDS Student Chaplain Revd Chris Lazenby writes:

I’m sure all our students and tutors will wish to congratulate KEDS student Lee Wardle on his appointment as pastor of the Gospel Light Evangelical Church, Pymble, Sydney, NSW, Australia on 19th August this year. Lee, who originally hails from Scotland, UK, and has been a member of the church for around five years, tells us that he’ll be ‘carrying out all teaching and preaching duties (as well as all those other things a pastor does, evangelism, visiting, arranging church outings etc.’). Lee and wife, Lorraine, who have five children, Luke, David, Sarah, Lea Ann and Caleb, are looking forward to the many challenges to come.

Lee wishes to extend his appreciation and thanks to KEDS lecturers who have helped him over the years, adding that his experience with the college has enriched his growing knowledge of God’s word. He also wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to Lorraine ‘for the way she has fully supported and encouraged me to keep going despite all my health issues.’

On this latter point, I know Lee would value the prayers of our students and faculty regarding his recent heart problems – for healing, and for strength to deal with any problems to come. Let’s pray too, that God’s light truly will shine through Lee’s work in his new role as pastor. Further information about Lee and the church can be found at http://www.glechurch.com/about and http://www.glechurch.com/ respectively.

Foreignisation and Bible Translation

The current edition of Tyndale Bulletin (63.2, Nov 2012, 257-73) includes an article by KEDS tutor Dr Andy Cheung which considers the notion of foreignisation with respect to Bible translation, a concept which originated with Schleiermacher.

The title of the article is “Foreignising Bible Translation: Retaining Foreign Origins when Rendering Scripture.” In his summary of the article, Andy writes: ‘”Foreignising translation” aims to relocate the reader in the world of the source text and attempts to make obvious the alien origins of the original text.’ Although foreignisation is well established in “secular” translation studies, it is less commonly used in biblical translation.

The article, which will be of interest to all students who are currently studying exegesis and hermeneutics, is available online.