Translation Theory of a Biblioblog Bible

Last week I brought up the possibility of an online Wiki style Bible to which scholars and serious Bible students could contribute their insights into the text and skills of translation. The product would be a dynamic translation (not static, always being discussed, debated, and improved) that would serve those who want a more academic oriented translation that also provides a window into the scholarly discussion behind the translation of biblical texts. The feedback I received was incredible and demonstrated both the challenges and potential posed by a project such as this.

It was clear in the feedback that the project could not commence before outlining the orientation of the translation. In this particular post, I am interested in exploring the translation theory that would lend itself to a project of this nature. John Hobbins recently discussed the importance of stylistically faithful translation, citing A. Z. Foreman:

A good translator doesn’t just translate “into” something already existing in the target tradition, but brings something new to the target language from the original. And that requires using one’s target tradition in a foreign way at some level. . . . They offer the reader something new that they can’t get from their own tradition. The original must, after all, usually be something new if it justifies the reader’s attention or the translator’s effort.

What I believe Robert Alter has contributed to English translations of the Torah/Pentateuch in his Five Books of Moses is the stylistic sense one receives when one reads the Torah/Pentateuch in Hebrew. A stylistically faithful translation would certainly provide something new that is not yet available, in a pan-biblical sense, in English translations.

What do you think? Would such a project lend itself to a stylistically faithful translation? Would this nearly encompass the translation theory, or be merely a component? What other components should belong to the theory of a dynamic translation project?

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4 thoughts on “Translation Theory of a Biblioblog Bible

    1. Alter writes, “The present translation is an experiment in re-presenting the Bible–and, above all, biblical narrative prose–in a language that conveys with some precision the semantic nuances and the lively orchestration of the literary effects of the Hebrew and at the same time has stylistic and rhythmic integrity as literary English.”

      He explains this in further detail, xvii-xlv, so I would point you there for further detail.

  1. I am also inclined to think that a translation–almost regardless of its goals–is going to have to *stretch* the target language a good bit. (Some goals will result in more stretching than others.) I am more of a descriptionist than a prescriptionist concerning English grammar, and like to be surprised by uses of my native (English) tongue.

    1. Yes! I am very much sympathetic to what you are suggesting. Prescriptivists are like systematic theologians; descriptivists are like biblical theologians. I prefer the latter in both respects. I am looking forward to your own post on this subject!

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