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Ideology, Culture, and Translation

Ideology, Culture, and Translation

Scott S. Elliott
Roland Boer
  • Book Info
    Ideology, Culture, and Translation
    Book Description:

    Translation is a fundamental aspect of biblical scholarship and an ever-present reality in a global context. Scholars interested in more than linguistically oriented translation problems of a traditional nature often struggle to find an interdisciplinary venue in which to share their work. These essays, by means of critical engagement with the translation, translation practices, and translation history of texts relevant to the study of Bible and ancient and modern Christianity, explore theoretical dimensions and contemporary implications of translations and translation practice. The contributors are George Aichele, Roland Boer, Virginia Burrus, Alan Cadwallader, K. Jason Coker, John Eipper, Scott S. Elliott, Raj Nadella, Flemming A. J. Nielsen, Christina Petterson, Naomi Seidman, Jaqueline du Toit, Esteban Voth, and Matt Waggoner.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-706-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Scott S. Elliott and Roland Boer

    Translation: we all do it, but we spasmodically think about how and why we do it. As scholars who work with ancient texts, translation is our bread and butter, our daily task. Without it, we would not be who we are. In the act of translation, we create the texts that create us—a recurring theme in the essays that make up this volume. Yet we reflect on that act far less often than we should. The purpose of this volume is to offer a series of reflections on that process of translation. Drawn together from a number of years...

  4. Part 1: Exploring the Intersection of Translation Studies and Critical Theory in Biblical Studies

    • The Dynamic Equivalence Caper
      (pp. 13-24)
      Roland Boer

      About a decade ago I was presenting a paper criticizing the dominance of “dynamic equivalence” among Bible translators. My particular target was Eugene Nida, who I assumed would be on death’s doorstep, if not already past it (he was born in 1914). However, at the end of my paper, I got the fright of my life: Nida himself stood up to ask me a question. A decade later I would like to return to that unfinished critique, especially since the ghost of Nida still haunts me.¹

      Dynamic (or functional) equivalence, as is well known, focuses on the message. Everything may...

    • Translating from This Place: Social Location and Translation
      (pp. 25-38)
      K. Jason Coker

      From 2006 to 2007 I was the project coordinator for the building of a child development center, medical clinic, kitchen, and water well for AIDS/HIV orphans in the Western Province of Kenya. This area of Kenya is one of the most devastated parts of the country in relation to AIDS/HIV. The poverty is overwhelming and the solutions seem out of sight. So, to my amazement, when I asked many of the locals what they needed most and how we could be helpful for them, many told me that they needed Bibles. Of all the things that our group was prepared...

    • Translation and Narrative: Transfiguring Jesus
      (pp. 39-48)
      Scott S. Elliott

      Since its emergence following World War II, the field of translation studies, like so many other academic disciplines, has undergone significant expansion, increased diversification, and critical shifts in focus. Its scope has broadened to incorporate theories and methods from a range of fields and disciplines related to and influenced by the work of translation. No longer concerned primarily or solely with equivalence or fidelity, modern translation studies now attend to frames of reference, ethics, ideology, identity, and so forth. The result of this diversification and reformulation is a field rife with potential and bursting with energy, but also one difficult...

    • Postcolonialism, Translation, and Colonial Mimicry
      (pp. 49-58)
      Raj Nadella

      Translation studies in the area of biblical studies have generally been characterized by an explicit focus on the issue of dichotomy between “literal” and “dynamic” equivalencies in the process of transferring meaning from source language to target language. While such focus is not without merit, translation theorists and biblical scholars with keen interest in translation studies have not given sufficient attention to the various ways in which the translation enterprise has historically intersected with, and has been impacted by, colonialism, its ideology, and its attendant structures. Specifically, there has not been much focus on the various types and layers of...

    • The Translator’s Dilemma: A Response to Boer, Coker, Elliott, and Nadella
      (pp. 59-66)
      George Aichele

      I want to thank Scott Elliott for his invitation to respond to the papers given at the Ideology, Culture, and Translation panel in the 2008 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Boston, and again for inviting me to respond to published versions of some of those papers in this volume.

      To Roland Boer’s description of dynamic equivalence, I would add only that this approach to translation is profoundly logocentric. As Jacques Derrida says, for logocentrism, “reading and writing, the production or interpretation of signs, the text in general as fabric of signs … [is] preceded by a truth, or...

  5. Part 2: Sites in Translation

    • Augustine’s Bible
      (pp. 69-82)
      Virginia Burrus

      For Christians, the Bible is characterized by its radical translatability, for Jews by its essential Hebraicness: so goes a familiar account. Yet Jews are also frequently depicted as consummate translators—on the one hand, native informants reluctantly yielding the secrets of the Hebraica veritas to the colonizing impulse of Christian exegesis; on the other hand, tricksterish denizens of cultural borderlands where linguistic identities are both built up and broken down, even as all truths prove duplicitous. Is Yiddish itself not evidence that the boundaries between languages do not hold—and that translation does not merely introduce old texts to new...

    • “His Love Has Been Our Banner on Our Road”: Identity Politics and the Revised Version
      (pp. 83-100)
      Alan H. Cadwallader

      “His Love has been our banner on our road.” This is a line from a hymnlike poem composed by Edward Bickersteth.¹ It was offered by private printing to his fellow members of the Company for the Revision of the Authorized Version of the New Testament.² The engineered warmth of self-congratulations among the twenty-four members was occasioned by the conclusion of the second draft revision in late 1878.

      It had been a long haul of almost nine years since the work of revision began in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. There had been bonds of friendship forged between members of...

    • Seeing Is Believing: Children’s Bibles as Negotiated Translation
      (pp. 101-112)
      Jaqueline S. du Toit

      Two challenges to the understanding of children’s Bibles form the basis of this chapter. First, appreciating the contribution of “narrative representation” (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996) or “the delicate counterpoint between image and written text” (Lathey 2010, 8) for the enterprise of cross-generational knowledge transfer; and second, the “invisibility” (Venuti 2008) or “transparency” (Lathey 2010, 5) of authors/storytellers/translators of children’s Bibles, including how the motivation for such transparency differs from translators’ invisibility in secular adult literature as alluded to by Lawrence Venuti.

      The reading of images and the preoccupation with visual appeal are important but underappreciated components for understanding the...

    • The Earliest Greenlandic Bible: A Study of the Ur-Text from 1725
      (pp. 113-138)
      Flemming A. J. Nielsen

      Christianity was brought to Greenland when the Norwegian missionary Hans Egede (1686–1758) arrived in 1721. Already three years later, by November 1724, he was able to produce the earliest Greenlandic translation of a biblical text, Gen 1:1–11:9, and during the following months, a number of New Testament texts were added (H. Egede 1725a, 150). In June 1725, a manuscript containing these and other Greenlandic texts was sent to Copenhagen, capital of the then dual monarchy of Denmark and Norway (H. Egede 1725b). Hans Egede’s attempts at writing Greenlandic constitute the earliest continuous texts written in any Eskaleut language.¹...

    • Configuring the Language to Convert the People: Translating the Bible in Greenland
      (pp. 139-150)
      Christina Petterson

      The landscape of western Greenland is strikingly rocky. No trees, only shrubs of varying kinds. From October to April the ground is covered in snow—a bit further in from the coast the land is covered in ice all year.¹ In 1721 the primary food was seal, whose skins, intestines, and fur served multiple purposes. Reindeer and walrus, as well as different kinds of birds, whales, and fish were also main ingredients in the diet. These were the conditions that met the Danish missionaries when they first arrived in Greenland in 1721. So how would you translate Matt 7:16: “Are...

    • “A Gift for the Jewish People”: Einspruch’s Der Bris Khadoshe as Missionary Translation and Yiddish Literature
      (pp. 151-168)
      Naomi Seidman

      The earliest known Yiddish translation of the New Testament, by the convert Paul Helic, appeared in Kraków in 1540, less than two decades after Luther’s 1522 German version and closely following its formulations. Yiddish translations of the New Testament and other publications designed for missionary work among Yiddish-speaking Jews continued to appear through the seventeenth and, especially, eighteenth centuries, along with other material designed to help Christians understand Europe’s Jews through the medium of their language.¹

      But the most sustained efforts to proselytize Jews through New Testament translations occurred in the context of the much broader phenomenon of the nineteenth-...

    • Masculinidad en la traducción de la Biblia en Latinoamérica
      (pp. 169-186)
      Esteban Voth

      ¡Toda traducción es traición! Así lo ha definido un famoso dicho italiano que dice traduttore traditore: “El traductor es un traidor.” Si esto es cierto para la práctica de la traducción en general, cuánto más cierto es para la traducción de la Biblia, siendo que este es un documento tan antiguo y proviene de una cultura tan diferente a la occidental. Es bien sabido que ninguna traducción es objetiva ni neutra. Esta afirmación es igualmente cierta respecto de las traducciones de la Biblia. Durante muchos años la iglesia cristiana vivió bajo una especie de ilusión de que el texto que...

    • Is There Justice in Translation?
      (pp. 187-200)
      Matt Waggoner

      The theory and practice of translation runs thick with layers of social meaning and political myth. It necessitates attention to issues of difference and identity, host, home and the other, identity, plurality, assimilation, cultural consumption, incorporability, origin and genesis, and various kinds of cultural and political fantasies that mark the desire to speak to the other, to be spoken by the other, or to make the other speak. In other words, translation tinkers with what the Hegelians call the politics of recognition: the risky, uneven process in which self-consciousness is, not without difficulty, confirmed by seeing oneself in another, seen...

    • Language, Power, and the “T-Word”
      (pp. 201-206)
      John Eipper

      I was flattered—and to no small degree intimidated—by Scott Elliott’s invitation to comment on the essays assembled in this volume. First, let me air the necessary disclaimers: I am a Hispanist by training and trade, and though I was reared in the United Methodist tradition, I have been a practicing agnostic (can this be called a “practice”?) since my college days. I have no Hebrew, and as for Greek—well, we know what they say about Greek. Translation, to be sure, has always been central to my work: I have grappled with the cadence and surreal metaphors of...

  6. Works Consulted
    (pp. 207-226)
  7. Contributors
    (pp. 227-228)