Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Word of God...

I've just gotten into Leland Ryken's The Word of God in English, and it appears that it will be a good read. Ryken approaches the topic not as a translator but as a literary critic. His intent is to inform us as to the need for integrity within the presentation of the words of the Bible. Such a presentation, he posits, must remain faithful to the intent of the author. He states,
The Bible is a written book and as such shares certain qualities with other books. This is not to deny that the Bible is unique, having been inspired by God in a way that other books are not. In format, though, the Bible is an anthology of diverse literary writings, similar to other anthologies. The writers of the Bible themselves signal their awareness of literary genres (types of writings) by referring with technical precision to such forms as chronicle, psalm, song, proverb, parable, apocalypse, and many others. In keeping with the nature of the Bible itself, therefore, there is much that we can learn about how to handle the Bible in translation by paying attention to how we treat literary texts beyond the Bible. If anything, our reverence for the biblical text should be higher than the respect we accord to Shakespeare and Hawthorne. ...Translation of course introduces an element of variability into the situation, so that we can debate whether this or that English word best captures the meaning of the original. But there remains a decisive difference between essentially literal translations that attempt to convey the exact meaning of the original words and other translations that do not feel obliged to reproduce the precise wording of the original. (emphasis in original)

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