This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Translation Debates

i barely even take people's fuss about translations seriously anymore, but a thought did occur to me the other day. The New Testament writers largely used and quoted from the Septuagint. The Septuagint was a translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. Wouldn't it be interesting to determine the kind of the translation it is? How accurate of a translation is the Septuagint? Does it use strict formal equivalence, or is there some dynamic equivalence used? If the Septuagint fudged in places and if any dynamic equivalence was used, wouldn't it then be interesting if Jesus and the apostles used that translation? How could strict KJV-only or strict formal equivalence advocates deal with that fact?

i imagine someone has already done the kind of work i'm proposing, but i haven't come across it myself.

1 comment:

Job said...

Here is a quote from N.T. Wright in his book "The Resurrection of the Son of God", in which he compares/contrasts the hebrew and greek translations of the Old Testament. Its kind of long but good. LXX means septuagint. Anyways here is the quote that is food for thought or greater confusion on bible translations:

(ii)Resurrection in the Bible: The More Greek the Better

It is might impossible, at this stage of our knoweldge of early text-forms, to be sure in any given case that when we compare even the best modern editions of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles we are in touch with either the Hebrew that the original LXX translators used or the Greek that they first wrote. In may cases it is quite possible that the LXX gives us access to an earlier Hebrew form, though in many others the LXX seems to represent a sharp move away from the original. However, with these notes of caution, certain things stand out.
First, the passages which already speak unambiguously of bodily resurrection come through loud and clear, there is no attempt to soften them. Daniel 12:2-3, 13, and the relevant passages in 2 Maccabees all use what became the standard 'resurrection' language, namely the Greek verbs anistemi and egeiro and their cognates. We find the same with Isaiah 26, both in the verse that denies resurrection (14) and the verse that affirms it (19). They both emerge clearly in the Greek: 26.14 declares that the dead will not see life (hoi nekroi zoen ou me idosin), and that 'the doctor' will not rise (oude iatroi ou me anastesosin),. In its turn, 26.19 insists that the dead will be raised (anastesontai hoi nekroi), and that those in the tombs will be aroused (egerthesontai hoi en tois mnemeiois). Similary, the passage in Hosea (6.2) that some think (whatever its original meaning) is also explicit in the Greek: on the third day we shall be raised and live in his presence (anastesometha kai zesometha enopion autou).
Cavallin lists other passages where, despite the lack of actual refrence in the original, the translators may have intended to refer to resurrection. These include Deuteronomy 32.39, Psalms 1.5 and 21.30(22.29). In addition, he notes the striking way in which the LXX has reversed the sense of Job 14.14; instead of a blank denial of a future life ('if a man die, shall he live again?'), the LXX declares boldly, 'If a man dies, he shall live' (ean apothane anthropos zesetai). In the same way, the deeply obscure passage Job 19.26a ('after my skin has been thus destroyed') has been turned around: God 'will resurrect my skin' (anastesai to derma mou). Finally, the LXX adds a post-script to the book. After 42.17, where Job dies, an old man and full of days, it adds (42.17a LXX): 'It is written of him that he will rise again with those whom the Lord will raise' (gegraptai de auton palin anastesesthai methhon ho kyrios anistesin). Clearly, whoever drafted the translation of LXX Job had no doubt both of the bodily resurrection and of the propriety of making sure the biblical text affirmed it.
A similar point emerges from the LXX of Hosea 13.14. The Hebrew asks, 'Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death?' and expects the answer 'No'. The LXX, however, has turned this into a positive statement: I shall rescue them from the hand of Hades, and I shall redeem them from death. (ek cheiros Hadoi rhusomai autous kai ek thanatou lutrosomai autous).
All the indications are that those who translated the Septuagint, and those who read it thereafter, would have understood the key Old Testament passages in terms of a more definite 'resurrection' sense than the Hebrew would necessarily warrant, and might very likely have heard overtones of 'resurrection' in many places where the Hebrew would not have suggested it.

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