Author Topic: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament  (Read 1039 times)

loschwitz

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David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« on: January 31, 2018, 11:48:37 AM »
Has anyone picked of a copy of the recently published translation by Hart.  It has sparked a great deal of discussion.  Any thoughts or comments?  Is it worth getting a copy?

David Garner

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2018, 12:16:40 PM »
It's been pretty widely panned by Orthodox folks I know. 

Not for nothing, N.T. Wright has criticized it pretty heavily too:

https://www.christiancentury.org/review/books/new-testament-strange-words-david-bentley-hart

"Greek and English, as Hart knows well, do not work the same way. Pretending that they do produces not literal translation but the kind of thing you get in an interlinear version, as with “the one making me well, that one told me” (John 5:11), or “going and washing, I saw” (John 9:11). Hart frequently translates houtos and ekeinos as “this one” and “that one,” as in “having received the morsel, that one [i.e., Judas] immediately departed” (John 13:30). The strange English here has nothing to do with a cultural clash between the first Chris­tians and ourselves.

The definite article, or its absence, creates further problems. Hart knows that Greek often uses the article where English does not—for example, with abstract nouns (and so he does not translate hē agapē in 1 Corinthians 13 as “the love”). The converse is true, too: Greek often omits the article in cases where the English indefinite article (“a” or “an”) would be misleading. Yet Hart elevates the Greek nonuse of the article into a strict principle of his literal rendition, so that we frequently find mention of “a Holy Spirit.” In Luke 4:1, “Jesus, full of a Holy Spirit . . . was guided in the wilderness by the Spirit.” Sometimes this oddity is compounded by the switching of upper and lower case in quick succession: we have access “in one Spirit” to the Father, but we are “built up in spirit into God’s dwelling place” (Eph. 2:18, 22). Granted, the word pneuma was multivalent for Paul and in his context, but the combination of these two puzzles (capitalization and article) produces neither clarity nor beauty.

The use of obsolete English words (“climes” for regions, “chaplet” for crown, “alee” as a nautical term, and so on) offers a different sort of strangeness. Jacob’s well has become a “font” (John 4:6). “You are God’s tilth” will mean nothing to most readers, and anyone hearing “one such as was rapt up all the way” will think of parcels, or perhaps overcoats, not heavenly journeys (1 Cor. 3:9, 2 Cor. 12:2). There’s also the occasional glaring error—such as the omission of “not” in Romans 8:12, where Hart’s version makes the mindboggling claim that “we are debtors to the flesh.”"
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Voelker

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2018, 12:28:22 PM »
Has anyone picked of a copy of the recently published translation by Hart.  It has sparked a great deal of discussion.  Any thoughts or comments?  Is it worth getting a copy?
Idiosyncratic, and not in the good way.

Keith Falk

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2018, 01:30:23 PM »
Well... N.T. Wright isn't exactly without his own set of issues.


Here's Hart's response to Wright


Here's a review by Dr. Wesley Hill, who teaches at Trinity School for Ministry (where the North American Lutheran Seminary, of the NALC, is located).


I still tend to think that any one translation of Scripture by one author is going to be fraught with difficulties.



Rev. Keith Falk, STS

Mark Brown

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2018, 02:48:19 PM »
I've read it, or enough of it to get the flavor.  Three thoughts.
1. It accomplishes what it set out to do which was to create in English a translation that contains the weirdness of the originals and jars a reader out of their complacency.
2. In many ways it reminds of Young's Literal Translation.  (I appreciate YLT as I do my weekly translations simply because it is a version that is not clunking around in my head.  It forces me to actually look at a word and think about it.)
3. It misses the mark of what we really need, and hence is a failed project.  We have plenty of committee translations that have polished off all the rough edges and strangeness.  The results of those are fine translations that typically fail to grab the imagination which let's face it is the result of work by committee.  We also already have a few of things that fill the space describe above in Young's Literal, The Message, The Living Bible, The Good News Bible and various other more idiosyncratic attempts.  What we don't have is a translation by a skilled artist.  Skilled meaning having the requisite skill with the original languages not to fall into the "disrespected goofball" pit.  Artist meaning largely by one person with enough skill in the target language to make something old seem new, without falling into awkwardness or overly technical language.  Hart could have done both.  The fact that someone paid him to translate and wanted to publish says so.  But I think he chicken out and went after a much lower target.  Instead of swinging for the fences to be the new Tyndale, he chickened out.

Harvey_Mozolak

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2018, 03:44:57 PM »
Mark, do you think we will ever get such an artist-translator?  I suspect there are too many groups of us in the English speaking world to find one that will resonate across so much terrain and there are so many theological needs and prejudices that act as stumbling blocks everywhere.  Most pastors today (it is exemplified in our liturgical propensities) feel they can, at least somewhat, do and say it better than anyone else for themselves and their own and keeps anyone from rising to top in acceptibility.  But maybe do you disagree?  Are enough folks being trained in Greek and Hebrew for someone to be the right figure?    After I get comfortable with a translation: RSV, TEV and Jerusalem, NIV... then folks tell me why I should get with the program and change now to the ESV for instance....   I like my marked up RSV and my used NIV.
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Dave Benke

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2018, 03:55:04 PM »
Mark, do you think we will ever get such an artist-translator?  I suspect there are too many groups of us in the English speaking world to find one that will resonate across so much terrain and there are so many theological needs and prejudices that act as stumbling blocks everywhere.  Most pastors today (it is exemplified in our liturgical propensities) feel they can, at least somewhat, do and say it better than anyone else for themselves and their own and keeps anyone from rising to top in acceptibility.  But maybe do you disagree?  Are enough folks being trained in Greek and Hebrew for someone to be the right figure?    After I get comfortable with a translation: RSV, TEV and Jerusalem, NIV... then folks tell me why I should get with the program and change now to the ESV for instance....   I like my marked up RSV and my used NIV.

I'm sure there are individuals or at least very small groups that could be the artist-translators needed.  And I agree that a lot of the team translations are pablum-y, especially in an age when the Bible is competing with Star Wars and every other imaginable communication form and format. 

"In the beginning was the Word" is not a phrase about a book, it's a phrase about the Godhead and about the spoken word - "God said....and there was..."

I tried a couple of powerpoint messages/teachings early this year.  They're not bad, but what the parishioners treasure is me speaking directly from the chosen text to their lives in the way that I would do that.  Powerpoint inhibits that directness. 

Anyway, I agree with your and Mark's basic point.

Dave Benke

Mark Brown

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2018, 05:36:00 PM »
Mark, do you think we will ever get such an artist-translator?  I suspect there are too many groups of us in the English speaking world to find one that will resonate across so much terrain and there are so many theological needs and prejudices that act as stumbling blocks everywhere.  Most pastors today (it is exemplified in our liturgical propensities) feel they can, at least somewhat, do and say it better than anyone else for themselves and their own and keeps anyone from rising to top in acceptibility.  But maybe do you disagree?  Are enough folks being trained in Greek and Hebrew for someone to be the right figure?    After I get comfortable with a translation: RSV, TEV and Jerusalem, NIV... then folks tell me why I should get with the program and change now to the ESV for instance....   I like my marked up RSV and my used NIV.

Do I think we could?  Yes, in general I do, although I tend to think that person would have to come from outside of the theological schools.  They would probably come from the classics departments.  Those departments are desperate enough for students that they take rouges and are open to true scholarship.  I'm hoping that Sarah Ruden gets a shot at it.  She had a book of notes on some "tough passages" recently (The Face of the Water) that was excellent.  She has the native language chops without at this point the centuries of ax grinding of theological schools.  She is also poet enough to pull it off.  And, she has an amazing grasp of the gospel to boot.  Her translation of Augustine's Confessions is a revelation.

As far as numbers and acceptability, two thoughts.  80K in renaissance Florence produced most of the great works.  Small communities of love (Lollards and the that around Tyndale) produced the original English.  It is really about having such a community.  And because the classics are not cared about by the modern academy, too many dead white males, they actually have life.  Acceptability is the easy one.  When people see it, it doesn't matter what you or I or any other "authority" would say.  A true work of art has an authority all its own.  Kind of like the Word itself.  (The Living Bible, that paraphrase almost had it.)
   

Weedon

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2018, 06:06:39 PM »
I wish Philipps had done the entire Scripture because I DO think he pulls that off with his NT, a translation by a genuine word artist that was remarkably faithful to the original without using the ecclesiastical jargon.

On the Hart translation, I did download the free sample and enjoyed it somewhat. But I do think the trick of taking a perfectly ordinary way of saying something in Greek and then rendering it into bad English for us to get the feel of the Greek fails somewhat. An exception might be the nice historical present in Mark. I think that actually DOES work in English and makes the story pop.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 06:12:35 PM by Weedon »

Harvey_Mozolak

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Re: David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2018, 06:51:28 PM »
there was once (I had a copy in my Libs and sold it six years ago for pennies when I retired) a Bible that had like 60 (not sure of number) or so different translations... each verse would have a large selection of the most different ones on that verse... of course it was a text you could only use to compare and slowly determine what you wanted to out of a given verse or two... 
Harvey S. Mozolak
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