Saturday, May 24, 2008

writing is an art

I think writing as in blogs or even books I would imagine, or anywhere is much more an art than a science. It's more than a cold blooded transmission of ideas, truth, facts. It's a communication of one's very self, I think. Something of one's heart, for after all, if our heart isn't in something, it's quite empty. In the case of conveying the truth of God it should be a communication of the heart of God. We do try to find just the right words to express the truth, but it must be expressed in love, in the right tone to be the truth as it is in Jesus.

Now let me get off onto a tiny (I hope) soapbox. Translating is an art more than a science, as well. The kick to get back to "literal" translation I think is a move away from the reality that all interpretation consists of interpretation. Yes, it's not an interpretation according to one's wish or whim. One is trying to get at the meaning of the writer's intent or communication. But it's evident that a literal rendering from one language to another can lose the meaning altogether. And the Biblical language is no less human than it is of God. At the same time this is not an endorsement of loose paraphrastic translations, which serve best as devotional guides rather than for serious study. If you have the time, listen to this helpful talk on choosing a Bible translation.

Writing has a feel to it. For us in Jesus all we do and say and write should have the feel of Jesus about it. Or aspiration by faith in the grace of God in Jesus.

Plenty more to say here, I suppose. But I'll stop here.

What thoughts would you like to add to this?

Tomorrow, along with "the prayer of the week" usually taken from the Book of Common Prayer I will begin "the quote of the week."


Andrew said...

I used to be of the mindset that the truest of translations were the most "literal"--so I ran out and bought an NASB95, which I've used for years for study. But there's something about the NIV that keeps me reading that whenever possible--its clarity of thought and that I don't need to "find my way" through a sentence.

I agree that translation is theological work, even artwork if you will; it's interpreting an ancient text for our modern ears. Sure, as much as possible we need to leave in all those "gars" and "hotis" and whatnot (I think the NIV leaves gar untranslated 44 times in Romans) to help the flow of the text. But certainly we need to update a lot so that it tells the story better, so that we're hearing what the audience was hearing in 712 B.C. or whenever.

On that basis, the NRSV would probably be the best translation out there, if it weren't for (a) its awkward implementation of gender-neutral language, (b) its nearly glaring liberal biases, and (c) the lack of decent study editions. I would really love a "conservative" version of the NRSV -- which, I guess, is really the ESV (sigh).

Ted M. Gossard said...

I used to avidly study Bible translations, at least compared to what I do now.

None is perfect, they all have their problems.

I'm not sold on so-called literal translations, because they're inconsistent, all of them, but if you just take them for what they are with their limitations, they're good.

I don't know about the liberal bias built into the NRSV, guess I'm not studied up on that. I find it quite clumsy in some of the words it uses, and grammar, though overall it's alright that way. Tries to steer a course between the NIV and NASB or ESV kind of translation, I guess.

NLT I tried again recently, and its short sentences drove me crazy.

There may be more interpretation with a thought translation, that tries to preserve as much of original feel as possible, yet is true to the receptor language.

I'm more for a translation that tries to be true to both the original as well as receptor languages, so that means alot of literal renderings are gone, which is true in your KJV, NASB, ESV translations, anyhow, just a bit less so.

I'm less fond of the freer translations which probably have their niche with young Christians or beginning reader, a translation like the CEV, but for me are far too loose in their rendering.

And The Message is good for devotional or personal reading, but not for study.

So that leaves me wanting to get back into the Greek and Hebrew, and opting for probably the TNIV and the NRSV. (ESV is going through another revision, as is nature of all translations nowdays).

NRSV does go overboard on the gender translating. But one shouldn't translate "anthropos" as man, or mankind; it means humankind or humanity. And I'm for changing the generic pronouns such as "he" to a rendering that shows their intent. That's the part in me that wants to communicate it in a way that we think and speak, and with the meaning I believe it actually has.

But the older I get, the less concerned I am about what translation people use. Get comfortable in one and use it.

(I wish the IBS people behind the NIV/TNIV would permit them to translate the apocrypha. Reading on that now, and there's alot we can learn from the apocrypha. NRSV will have to do for me on that -I do have three other besides, but NRSV is more scholarly).

A heated issue again, I'm afraid. I think the TNIV is a sound improvement over the NIV. I wouldn't use the NIV because some of its renderings are weak.

Just my take.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Translating by nature is problematical as it ALWAYS involves interpretation if it's a good translation, the syntax being so important.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I want to add this. We're so blessed with all the translations we have, and it can be a stumbling block to us.

I'd gladly use the NIV and a host of other standard translations, if that was all that was available.

But English is a living, changing language and we must be willing to revise where needed, as well as in light of linguistic and manuscript/source studies.

Anonymous said...

i needed to hear the words...

espressed in love.

not is the context of what you were writing about...but, it applied to something that has been on my heart.

Anonymous said...

i mean read the words and hear them with my heart.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, the words need to speak to our hearts. Exactly what Scripture is intended to do, in Jesus.

By the Spirit. It must be by the Spirit for the words to come to us as the love of God for us in Jesus. We need that, but we also need every other way the Lord wants to speak to us, sometimes making us uncomfortable or bringing some pain, but always done in love.

Andrew said...

I would disagree on anthropos. The biblical thrust is that Adam (Man) is our covenant head and representative, therefore what's true of him is true of us. The Bible's story, esp. in Pauline theology, is that we're either "in Adam" or "in Christ." Therefore "MANkind" might actually be more truthful even when XY-karyotypes aren't the sole folks in view.