Friday, May 04, 2012

Translational Notes 2

Additional sources for textual information
In addition to the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac version, there are two more major sources for tracing differences in translations. These are the targums and the Dead Sea scrolls materials. The targums are Aramaic translations/paraphrases of the Old Testament text. The primary Targum of the Pentateuch is Targum Onkelos (or Onqelos), while that on the prophets is Targum Jonathan. There has never been any primary or official Targum for the third section of the Hebrew Bible, the Writings. The quality of the targums varies, sometimes being very close to the Hebrew text, sometimes adding material.

The Dead Sea scrolls (DSS) material has become increasingly significant as the various scrolls and fragments have been published, especially over the last twenty years. Almost all the books of the Old Testament are represented among the scrolls, though some of the remains are only fragmentary. In general, the DSS have served to confirm the high quality and faithfulness of the copying of the Hebrew texts over the centuries as they eventually developed into today’s printed Hebrew Bibles. However, they remain a source for study relative to particular passages.

Additional Bible versions not treated
In addition to the versions mentioned in the first post, there are two commonly-used versions that I will not deal with. First, these versions are not ordinarily used by evangelicals. Second, the translation philosophies are heavily influenced by a commitment to theological liberalism. The first is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The NRSV appeared in 1989, and is the standard academic translation of the Bible in the USA. Most editions of the Bible required in college and university Bible classes use the NRSV text. Perhaps the most widely used editions are the Oxford Annotated Bible and the HarperCollins Study Bible. Until recently, the NRSV was widely used in the mainline churches, such as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church and others. In fact, it is probably still widely used in those denominations. However, in 2011, the Common English Bible (CEB) appeared under the auspices of the PC (USA), Episcopal Church Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. As with the NRSV, it is committed to a gender-neutral approach to translating, as well as having the theologically liberal slant of its supporting denominations. The primary difference between the two is that the CEB is a simple-language translation, while the NRSV is more formal in style and in word choice.

One additional note
In the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, there is a system of text-critical notes made by the scribes. These are cases where the consonantal text says one thing, but the received understanding of the text says something else. Rather than change the characters in the text, the scribes would simply mark the text, and give the correct form in the margin. It would be something like is an English text said “than” but was supposed to say “then” and rather than changing the text, editors simply marked the word and gave the correct reading in the margin. This system is called Ketiv-Qere, and I will say more about it next time in explaining Psalm 100:3.

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