First let me say that the camera I normally use to take photos of our events is not working so I don’t have any photos to share with you. On the other hand I have to say this is easily one of my favorite events. Mark was simply wonderful. A gracious man and a superb speaker he delivered one of the finest messages I’ve heard on Bible translation.
He started with a delightful passage from the book he coauthored with Gordon Fee How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth:
“Let’s face it: English is a crazy language . There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England or french fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writes write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So, one moose, two meese?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If what language do people recite a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? How can a slim chance and fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites?
When a house burns up, it burns down. You fill a form by filling it out and an alarm clock goes off by going on. When the stars are out they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible. And why is it that when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?” (45-46, The passage is actually a quote from Richard Lederer’s book Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride through Our Language.)
Strauss said early on that it is important that we use multiple translations. Why? For two reasons:
1) No translation captures all the meaning and,
2) All translations capture important aspects of meaning.
He gave a brief introduction to the two main translation philosophies: Formal Equivalence (Word-for-Word) and Functional Equivalence (thought-for-thought). He quickly disabused the notion that a literal translation is the accurate one. Part of this fallacy comes from thinking that words have one basic (literal) meaning. He asked us “What is the literal meaning of ‘key'”? For some it is an unlocking tool. But what about as a solution to a code, or a musical note, or a low offshore Island (Florida Keys)? Words don’t have a “literal” meaning they have a semantic range of meanings. He took as an example Mark 1:1 which reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Looking at each of these words you could say a literal meaning is “The source of the news about Josh who was smeared with oil.” How do you know which is the better reading? Context.
Mark gave numerous examples from Spanish, French, German and Greek showing that the intent of a translator is to communicate the proper meaning of the phrase and not just replace words. Mark also talked about the problem with translating idioms and collocations. Collocations are meanings achieved through a word’s relationship with another word. He offered the example with the word “make.” What can you “make” in English? “You can make pancakes, make trouble, make sergeant, make sense, make a shirt, make friends, make a place (catch), make a deal, make a difference, make a vow, make love, make a law, make someone leave, and make Paris in one day (= reach Paris in a day).” (How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, 51) To attempt a “literal” meaning of the word “make” would be futile.
Mark ended by noting the strengths of both a formal equivalent translation and a functional equivalent one. Both have a role to play. The former identifies the formal structures of the original languages and is a good source for beginning Greek students. It also shows repeated words and verbal allusions which can get lost in a functional equivalent translation. It can also reproduce important metaphors. The latter is good at communicating the meaning of the text and employs more natural language. It is also has the added advantage of clarity in its readings.
I thoroughly enjoyed the night. Thanks so much to Mark for taking time from his schedule to be with us and to Baker Publishing Group for making the arrangements.