The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Feb 28, 2019

Teaching "Translation Issues in Hebrew": Postscript

In our brand-new MA in Bible Translation here at Baptist Theological Seminary, we currently have three students, two gentlemen and one lady. Last Friday was the culmination of the class "Translation Issues in Greek and Hebrew" (co-taught by my father and I), and the three students presented papers on: 
1. Translating Exodus into Mandarin Chinese, 
2. Translating the Psalms into Amharic, and 
3. Translating OT Prophetic Oracle into Fulfulde. 
An excellent job by all of them, with PowerPoint presentations that blew me away! [I would like to mention their names, but there's a chance one or all of them might end up ministering in restricted-access nations, so I will not].

Earlier I had blogged about the "Search for a textbook" for the Hebrew portion of this class. I ended up going with Dr. Ernst Wendland's book Analyzing the Psalms: With Exercises for Bible Students and Translators, 2nd ed., partly because it is one of the few books out there that actually deals with translating Hebrew into a non-English language. I did, however, require a lot of outside reading, including a fascinating essay by Dr. Lamin Sanneh on the social-religious role of Bible translations in Africa.

Reproduced below is a significant portion of our syllabus, with all the required reading (for both my father's and my portions of the class) and the description of the essay the students had to write about translating Hebrew into the various languages (each student was required to choose a non-English language).

Course Description:
 LI 631 Translation Issues in Greek and Hebrew (2 hours)
A study of specific issues particular to the translation of Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, especially addressing syntactic and semantic difficulties. 
Prerequisites: AL 202 and/or satisfactory performance on the Advanced Greek Entrance Exam, AL 522 and/or satisfactory performance on the Elements of Hebrew Entrance Exam; seminary Greek courses are strongly recommended.

Objectives for the Course:
(1) To learn the difficulties inherent in translating the Hebrew and koine Greek languages.
(2) To develop a solid understanding of lexical semantics, not just in relation to Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, but also in relation to foreign languages.
(3) To understand the complexities of transferring syntax and discourse structure from the original biblical languages into a target language.
(4) To develop a personal methodology that will assist in translating from the Bible in its original languages into a foreign language.
(5) To grapple with the role of genre and discourse in Bible translation.
(6) To understand the practicaldifferences between a generally “optimal equivalence” and “essentially literal” approach and a generally “functional equivalence” approach, developing a preference for the former while understanding that sometimes the line gets blurred.

Textbooks and Reading
The student should own the following three books:
1.Constantine R. Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015, 207 pp.
2.Wendland, Ernst R.  Analyzing the Psalms, with Exercises for Bible Students and Translators, 2nded. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2002, 256 pp.
3.Any grammar of a foreign language of the student’s choice (a language that is not native to the      student).

In addition, the student will read the following articles and essays and come ready to discuss them in class when they’re due (digital or physical copies will be provided to the student).
1. Martin Luther, “An Open Letter on Translating,” pages 1-13 (up until the line break).
2. David G. Horrell, “Familiar Friend or Alien Stranger? On Translating the Bible,” Expository Timesvol. 116.12 (2005): 402-408.
3. Paul A. Himes, “Rethinking the Translation of Διδακτικός in 1 Timothy 3.2 and 2 Timothy 2.24,” The Bible Translatorvol. 68.2 (2017): 189-208.
4. Maurice Robinson, “The Bondage of the Word: Copyright and the Bible” (available from the professors). ETS 48thAnnual Meeting, 1996.
5. J. Scott Horrell, “Translating ‘Son Of God’ For Muslim Contexts, Part 1: Tensions And The Witness of Scripture,” BibSacvol. 172.687 (October-December 2015).
6. J. Scott Horrell, “Translating ‘Son Of God’ For Muslim Contexts, Part 2: Historical and Theological Concerns,” BibSacvol. 172.687 (July-September 2015).
7. John Travis, “Producing and Using Meaningful Translations of the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil,” International Journal of Frontier Missionsvol. 23.2 (Summer 2006).
8. Kenneth J. Thomas, “Allah in Translations of the Bible,” International Journal of Frontier Missionsvol. 23:2 (Winter 2006).
9. Lamin Sanneh, “Domesticating the Transcendent, the African Transformation of Christianity: Comparative Reflections on Ethnicity and Religious Mobilization in Africa,” pages 70-85 in Bible Translation on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century, eds. Athalya Brenner and Jan Willem van Henten, The Library of Old Testament Studies (London: T. & T. Clark, 2002).
10. John Rogerson, “Can a Translation of the Bible Be Authoritative?” and Judith Frishman, “Why a Translation of the Bible Can’t Be Authoritative: A Response to John Rogerson,” pages 17-30 and 31-35 in Bible Translation on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century.
11. Everett Fox, “The Translation of Elijah: Issues and Challenges,” and A. J. C. 
Verheij, “A Response to Everett Fox,” pages 156-169 and 170-174, in Bible Translation on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century.
12. Philip A. Noss, “Translation to the Third and Fourth Generations: The Gbaya Bible and Gbaya Language Enrichment,” The Bible Translator69.2 (2018): 166-75.
13. Robert L. Hubbard, “The Hebrew Root PG‘as a Legal Term,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society27.2 (June 1984): 129-33.
14. Lénart J. de Regt, “Sacrificial and Festival Terms in the Old Testament: How Can We Translate Them?” The Bible Translator 68.2 (August 2017): 131-141. [Sadly, I was not able to acquire a PDF of this particular article in time to have the students actually read it].
15. Alexandr Flek, “Between Lying and Blaspheming: Czech Bible21 as a Contemporary Attempt at Communicative Equivalence,” pages 124-130 in Yearbook on the Science of Bible Translation: 13thBible Translation Forum 2017, ed. Eberhard Werner (Nürnberg, Germany: VTR, 2018).

OT Translation Project
Each student will be assigned a chapter from the Old Testament. The student will study that chapter in Hebrew and write an essay on translation issues in that chapter, utilizing the grammar of the non-English language that they chose earlier. The goal of this essay is to provide an introductory discussion on how the Old Testament passage might be rendered into their non-English target language. To be clear, the student does notneed to actually provide a translation (though occasionally the student might need to supply a gloss for a word in his or her target language), but simply a discussion of the issues (lexical, syntactical, and stylistic/discourse) that such a translation would face.
1.Each student will be assigned a chapter from the Hebrew Old Testament.
2.Each student will choose a non-English target language and gain a basic familiarity with that language via the grammar that they chose and purchased before class began.
3.The essay will begin with an opening paragraph discussing the genre of their passage.
4.The next paragraph will provide a basic overview of their target language and the basic characteristics of that language.
5.The remainder of the essay will discuss, verse-by-verse, the issues that the translator will confront when attempting to render the Hebrew into the target language.
6.No minimum or maximum page limits exist for the paper. The professor (P. Himes) reserves the right to have the student rewrite the paper if it bears the marks of “hurried work.”
7.Sources: all types of sources are “fair game” (i.e., the student is not limited to 
academic sources). The student is encouraged to utilize any helpful internet sources that directly deal with his or her target language. While there is no minimum or maximum requirement for sources, the use of the following sources is strongly encouraged:
a. Hebrew grammars and Hebrew syntaxes.
b. Technical commentaries on the Old Testament (esp. Word Biblical).
c. Bible translations in English, butlimited to the following: KJV, ESV, NIV.
d. Any Bible translation in your target language, but only after you have spent some time studying the chapter in Hebrew on your own. 
e. Any resource, written or digital, published or online, that deals with your target 
f. Any lexicons and concordances for either Hebrew or the target language, including online lexicons and concordances.
g. The student may even consult“google translate” or similar software, though the 
student should not rely on it. I.e., the basis of your analysis should not be  translation software; however, translation software such as “google translate” 
(which has improved considerably in the past decade!) may be consulted after 
the majority of your work on a particular verse has been done.
8.Citation: throughout the paper, the student should simply refer to their sources 
parenthetically, in as simple a form as possible. E.g., for a commentary: (Smith, 42); for a lexicon or dictionary: (Ringgren, TDOT, 50); for a grammar or syntax: 
(Suleski/Hiroko, 50). Even websites should be cited simply with the title of the 
website, e.g., (Jisho). At the end of the paper, the student will provide a comprehensive Works Cited page(s) that will include all publication information, including URLs for websites.
9.Formatting should, in general, follow standard BTS format (with the exception of parenthetical citation instead of footnotes). The title of the paper should be something along the lines of “Translation Issues when Rendering [Hebrew passage] into [Target Language].”
10.You are not trying to proveanything with this paper. You are simply introducing the reader to the various issues of translating your passage into your target language.
11.Paper presentation:sometime during the 9-week block, all students will present their findings orally. Both the undergraduate and graduate student body will be invited to attend (as well as BCM faculty and staff). Each student should plan on about 10 minutes of presentation, followed by 5 minutes open to Q&A. The date will be set by mutual agreement with the professor and students. The students are encouraged to utilize PowerPoint or other visual aids or audio aids.
*Sample discussion of a verse*
by P. Himes, on translating Psalm 2:1 into Japanese:
1.This verse in Hebrew has a simple chiasm: “Verb-Subject-waw-Subject-Verb” (though not a perfect chiasm, since the second half contains a d.o.). Sadly, it is virtually impossible, here and elsewhere, to render this structure into Japanese without creating an awkward translation. Certainly it would not sound very “poetic”!
2.The Hebrew רגשׁ is a hapax legomena, thus necessitating reliance on lexicons. 
Holladay has “be restless,” but most versions seem to translate it with more negative connotations, e.g., “rage” (KJV, ESV) and “conspire” (NIV). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament(via Accordance) has “conspire, plot,” more-or-less agreeing with the NIV. In light of the parallelism here with the second half of the verse, I’m inclined to favor the idea of “conspire.” Two good Japanese possibilities exist, I believe. I would suggest takurami, since that word seems to have more negative, sinister connotations in Japanese than hakaru.
3.One is forced here to discuss the nature of style and tone. Since Japanese, merely by its verb endings, can radically alter the tone and style (superior to subordinate, subordinate to superior, equals, enemy to enemy, etc.), deciding what sort of style to use is of more importance in Japanese than, for example, in English. I would recommend a “lower,” more colloquial style here, since the Psalmist is more-or-less sneering at those who oppose God. The tone of the whole Psalm is one of mockery of those who have the audacity to think they can oppose God, and this should, to a certain degree, dictate the style in Japanese.

Feb 8, 2019

Form Contributes to Meaning (Meaning is not simply the sum total of words)

The rise of discourse analysis in the past couple decades has been a great boon to biblical studies. The point is now being hammered home consistently: it is not enough to simply study words and sentences; rather, to truly grasp the entirety of meaning in Scripture, one must also study larger units of meaning, "discourse units," and how they interact with each other (e.g., how one "paragraph" leads into the other, etc.).

On the one hand, to borrow from Steve Runge's excellent work A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, discourse  affects "pragmatic meaning"--compare, for example, the different nuances between "Guess what our kid did today" vs. "Guess what your kid did today," in a conversation between husband and wife. Nothing has technically changed in regards to the overall meaning of the sentence, but the use of the 2nd person singular pronoun, a deviation from the norm here, hints at something ominous!

Even more than that, however, the arrangement of a simple waw conjunction in Hebrew can change how one should interpret a sentence. Consider Joshua chapter 4, specifically verse 9: "And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan . . ." (KJV). With most English translations, this raises problems: is this a second set of stones or did Joshua simply take the initial pile of stones and put them back in the river? Considering the fact that the middle of a river which would, soon, overflow its banks again would be a horrible place for a memorial, and considering the fact that chapter 4 focuses on "the place where they lodged" (v. 8) as the place of the memorial, verse 9 almost seems like a contradiction.

An understanding of Hebrew discourse here solves the issue and potentially offers up a new spiritual insight. 

To begin with, OT scholars universally acknowledge the waw-yiqtol (or waw-consecutive) syntactical construction as the indicator of past sequential action, i.e., the backbone of historical narrative ("Then Paul got into his car, then Paul drove it to the store, then Paul bought ice cream . . .").

Significantly, then, when the conjunction waw begins a clause attached to any other word but the imperfect (or, if you prefer, "preterite"--the identity of the specific conjugation is debated), then this often signifies the disruption of the sequential narrative, often for the purpose of providing background information (drawing from Runge again, kind of like the gar in Greek). 

For example: 
"Then Paul started [waw-yiqtol] his car, 
then Paul drove [waw-yiqtol] to the store, 
then Paul browsed [waw-yiqtol] the ice cream isle 
(now Paul had been hungry [disjunctive waw] for ice cream for quite a while), 
then Paul purchased [waw-yiqtol] ice cream . . ." etc. etc.

In Joshua 4, then, verse 8 has a heavy dose of waw-yiqtol verbs to carry it along--the actions of verse 8 are sequential. However, not so with verse 9a, which begins with a waw attached to the word for "two" followed by "ten" (i.e., "12"). In other words, the first part of verse 9 is most likely providing background information to what is going on: "Now Joshua had set up stones . . ." The waw-yiqtol pattern, i.e., the main story, resumes at the end of verse 9, "and they are there unto this day." The "there" (Hebrew sham) at the end of verse 9 links back to the very last word of verse 8, also "there" (sham).

Thus, in English, ". . . and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there (now Joshua had set up twelve stones . . .), and they are there [same place as verse 8] unto this day." 
[Note that, predictably, verse 10 does not start with the waw-yiqtol pattern] 

In other words, Joshua did not set up a second pile (what would be the point of having a memorial in the midst of a major river that would presumably soon be flowing again?), nor did he move a pile already set up as a memorial (v. 8). Rather, Joshua was responsible for getting the stones together, setting them near the priests, and thus facilitating the task of the twelve men he picked out. In other words, Joshua does not just give orders, he enables them! He engages in the task in such a way as to facilitate those who would carry them out. 

The lesson is this: anybody wishing to search for specific and precise spiritual lessons from Hebrew historical narrative, i.e., a significant portion of the Old Testament, had better study Hebrew discourse!