Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: translation

Midsummer rambles and rumbles

I spent the past few days visiting the brothers and sisters of the congregation at Roxton Falls, Quebec and worshipped with them last Sunday. The purpose of the trip was to wok on the editorial revision of a church history book recently translated into French.

The other three members of the French editorial committee are members of the Roxton Falls congregation. We have frequent on-line sessions but it boosts our productivity if we can get together once a year and actually sit around the same table. We did that last Friday and Saturday.

Nature produced some impressive sound and light shows while I have been away. My plane landed in Montreal last Thursday evening just as an impressive thunderstorm hit the area. Other planes delayed their takeoff until the storm abated, we sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes until our plane could move up to the loading ramp and we could disembark. A tornado associated with that storm system hit Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, north of Montreal, and caused major damages.

Late Sunday evening my wife informed me that a thunderstorm with strong winds that passed through our area and produced 18 mm of rain. Later, we heard that a plow wind from that storm system had earlier struck the town of Eston, about 150 km southwest of us, destroying the hangar at the local landing strip and one house and damaging many more. Still later, we heard that lightning had struck a shed on the yard of a cousin who lives west of Saskatoon.

Yesterday afternoon, before I arrived home, another thunderstorm went through this area and left as much rain as the one Sunday evening. No reports of damage this time. Despite the destruction caused to buildings by these storms there have been no people injured.

I’m taking a break

WestJet 737.jpg

Plans are that by the time this appears on line I will be sitting in a little church in Québec working on editing a book recently translated into French. Then I will stay to worship with the brethren there on Sunday and do a little visiting around before returning home.

I will return – to my home and to this blog by the middle of next week.

More meanings from the margins

Here are some more examples of marginal readings that give a somewhat different sense than the reading in the main text. I have highlighted the words in the regular text in orange, and the reading from the margin in green and added my own comment on the difference.

Genesis 4:26 – And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
Margin: to call themselves by the Name of the LORD
This is not when people first began to pray, but the time when there began to be a lineage of people who called themselves the people of the Lord to distinguish themselves from the lineage of Cain.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Margin: Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? whence should my help come?
Hebrew has no punctuation; but this verse is a question. Our help comes from God, not from the hills.

Isaiah 2:12 -16 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: . . .and upon all pleasant pictures.
Margin: pictures of desire
God is not against something just because it is nice to look at. But when our desire is set on a picture rather than on God, He will judge us.

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing
Margin: reasonings
This seems just a little stronger to me.

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward
Margin: judge against you
in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
Margin: Gr. being a voluntary in humility
Voluntary is of French origin and means of one’s own will. That is clearer in the marginal reading.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;
Margin: a purchased people
Peculiar has shifted in meaning since the translation was made, purchased is still very clear.

There are not a lot of instances like this, and the meaning is usually not very different. The translators were men of great learning, had access to texts in the original languages and translations into many others. There is a portrait of Lancelot Andrewes, the lead translator, in my post of four days ago. Andrewes was fluent in 15 modern and 6 ancient languages. Even with all this learning, the translators were careful not to let their own opinions override the Word of God, thus the reason for the alternate readings in the margin.

What do you think? Do examples like this prompt you to take a closer look at these verses to consider what the message really is?

The Beatitudes in Braid Scots

Matthew Chaptir Fyve

  1. And, seeing the thrang o’ folk, he gaed up intil a mountain; and when he was sutten-doon, his disciples gather’t aboot.
  2.  And he open’t his mooth, and instructit them; and quo he:
  3.  Happy the spirits that are lown and cannie: for the kingdom o’ Heeven is waitin’ for them!
  4.  Happy they wha are makin their maen; for they sal fin’ comfort and peace.
  5.  Happy the lowly and meek o’ the yirth: for the yirth sal be their ain haddin.
  6.  Happy they whase hunger and drouth are a’ for holiness: for they sal be satisfy’t!
  7.  Happy the pitifu’: for they sal win pitie theirsels!
  8.  Happy the pure-heartit: for their een sal dwal upon God!
  9.  Happy the makers-up o’ strife: for they sal be coontit for bairns o’ God!
  10.  Happy the ill-treatit anes for the sake o’ gude: for they’se hae the kingdom o’ God!
  11.  Happy sal ye be whan folk sal misca’ ye, and ill-treat ye, and say a’ things again ye wrangouslie for my sake!
  12.   Joy ye, and be blythe! for yere meed is great in Heeven! for e’en sae did they to the prophets afore ye!
  13. The saut o’ the yirth are ye: but gin the saut hae tint its tang, hoo’s it to be sautit? Is it no clean useless? to be cuisten oot, and trauchl’t under folks feet.
  14. Ye are the warld’s licht. A toon biggit on a hill-tap is aye seen.
  15.  Nor wad men licht a crusie, and pit it neath a cog, but set it up; and it gies licht to a’ the hoose.
  16. So lat yere licht gang abreid among men; that seein yere gude warks they may gie God glorie.

Translated by William Wye Smith, a minister of the gospel in Scottish communities in Ontario over 100 years ago. He translated the complete New Testament.

Glossary
braid – broad
lown – quiet
cannie – gentle
een – eyes
misca – slander
crusie – small open lamp
cog – vessel for holding liquids

Uncovering the well

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by James Stuart, already King James VI of Scotland. He became King James I of England, uniting the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland under his authority. James was a blend of imperious authority and humility. Tradition says that he told his portrait painter: “Paint me as I am, warts and all.” There is no historical record of those words being spoken, yet they must have been. The official portrait of James shows him with a prominent facial blemish, which would have led to the disappearance of both painter and painting under previous monarchs.

Two translations of the Bible were in use at the time. The Bishop’s Bible, used in worship services of the Church of England, was pompous, emphasized ecclesiastical authority and was not popular with lay people. The Geneva Bible, favoured by Puritans, was more readable, but contained notes and comments that were often critical of church hierarchy and the monarchy. The quirks of these translations, and the competing claims made for them, were in some measure hindrances to drawing the pure water of saving truth from the Word of God.

bible-1868359_640

James believed a new translation without the aggravating characteristics of the existing ones would ease tensions in the church. He chose the best scholars from both the traditionalists and the Puritans and commissioned them to create it. The Bible produced by this committee appeared in 1611 but James did not impose it on the Church of England as an official translation. It gradually supplanted the other two, but did not become the preferred translation until after the death of James in 1625.

That translation is referred to as the Authorized Version (AV) in England and much of the English-speaking world. The idea of calling it the King James Version originated in the USA. The notation on the title page, “Appointed to be read in churches,” may be mistaken by modern readers for evidence of an official status of this translation. Four hundred years ago, appointed meant furnished, arranged, perfected. In modern terms, the meaning would be “Optimized for reading out loud.” The goal of the translators was to produce the best possible translation for reading aloud.

Many people of that day were either illiterate or too poor to afford a Bible. The words read in church from this translation were retained in their minds and had an impact on the thoughts and intents of their hearts. It is still by far the easiest translation to memorize.

The translators were men of great scholarship. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester and director of the Company of Translators, was fluent in twenty-one languages, fifteen modern and six ancient. He was considered the greatest preacher of his time, a Lord of the church, yet he spent five hours in prayer every morning, with penitential tears confessing his great unworthiness. It was because of men like Lancelot Andrewes that a translation such as the AV was possible four hundred years ago and may not be possible in our day.

The translators were sticklers for accuracy, but that was not enough. After the six companies of translators had finished their work, two men from each were chosen to sit together as a review committee to bind it all together. They came with copies of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Scriptures and translations in French, Italian, German and other languages. The translation was read aloud, sentence by sentence, while they listened to judge the accuracy and the aptness of the words, and how they would sound to the people in the pews. If anyone thought something did not sound quite right, he would speak up and the passage would be adjusted until all were satisfied.

The result is a Bible that retains the essence of the wording in the original languages, yet speaks majestically in a simple English. The language is not the English that was commonly spoken in that day; it is a reverent language meant to convey the holiness of the subject matter. It is remarkable how much of this translation is done with words of one syllable, yet those words are arranged into a cadence that captures the attention of the ear, mind and heart of the hearer.

Modern translations claim to be more accurate, or easier to read, or both. Yet they sound singularly flat beside the words of the AV. The insipid nature of these translations, and the constant introduction of new and “better” translations, makes Scripture memorization seem almost pointless in our day.

The original long preface of the AV described the purpose of translation in these words:

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water.

This is what the AV has done for generations of English-speaking people.

Papa Panov should be Father Martin

Le Père Martin, a Christmas story about an old shoemaker who wanted to see Jesus, appeared over 130 years ago. It was the work of Ruben Saillens, writer, musician and Baptist pastor of Marseilles. Unbeknownst to him, the tale was soon translated into English and circulated without the name of the author.

The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy read the English translation of the tale, and, thinking it was an old English folk tale, made an adaptation in Russian. Tolstoy’s version quickly spread around the world, no doubt aided by the renown of his name.

When Ruben Saillens learned that his tale was circulating under the name of another, he wrote to Tolstloy, who apologized to him in 1888. Ten years later, seeing that the tale attributed to Tolstoy was still in circulation, Ruben Saillens again sent him a courteous complaint. Tolstoy replied with the following letter (written in French):

Sir,
As I have written to you, in all the Russian editions of my writings, it is said that the story Where love is, there is God, has been borrowed from a translation made from French. (1) With regard to the translations that are made of this story in America or elsewhere, it is completely impossible for me to control them, especially since more than 15 years ago I surrendered all of the copyrights for all my works published after 1881 in Russia as well as abroad.
Receive, Sir, the assurance of my distinguished feelings.
Leo Tolstoy
March 20, 1899
(1) and which is none other than your story: Father Martin

Tolstoy’s story, apart from being located in Russia, seems to give less importance to the Bible. In the tale by Ruben Saillens, the old shoemaker, Father Martin has had misfortunes in his life and it seems that he has recently obtained a large Bible that he is often seen reading. In Tolstoy’s story, Papa Panov searches for the old family Bible, which he has not read for a long time. From this point, the stories are almost identical.

If anyone wants to have the story written by Ruben Saillens, the copyright is now expired and I can send it by email (text only, without illustrations). Also, because I have been unable to find this tale in English I have translated it. Send me an email at the address found under Contact Me at the top to request this story in French or English, or both.

Apology

I want to apologize for posting a somewhat muddled English translation of the first part of the treatise on Antichrist. If you wish to go back and read it again, I believe you will find it much more coherent and easy to follow.

This is an important work and I regret making it somewhat incomprehensible by being too hasty in posting it.

Leaving on a jet plane

I used to get butterflies at the thought of climbing into a pressurized metal tube and being blasted through the skies at 700 kph at an altitude of 12 km. Those butterflies didn’t show up last weekend as I flew to Montréal and back. Maybe I’m beginning to enjoy air travel. Four hours on a jet plane is much more relaxing than three days of driving.

WestJet 737.jpg

The four of us on the French editing committee decided that we might get more done by spending two days together than we do in months of three hour Saturday night conference calls. Since the other three are members of the Roxton Falls congregation in Québec and I am the outlier, way out here in Saskatchewan, it was more economical for me to fly out there.

Thus I boarded a WestJet plane to Montréal on Thursday and Ronald, Philippe, Hugues and I spent the next two days editing a book that has recently been translated from English. Even considering the amount of time we spent hashing over plans for the future of our work, we got enough done that it appears that even when the cost of my ticket is included the amount of work done per hour is no more costly than when we do it by conference call. This trip worked out so well that we are talking about doing it again some time, if our individual schedules can be aligned. Ronald and I are semi-retired and more flexible but Philippe and Hugues have to find a time that does not conflict with their employment.

I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Québec. I have corresponded with Hugues by email, talked with him on the phone, but hadn’t seen him since he was nine years old. He is 24 now and it was good to see and work with him face to face. It was good to see Philippe again, he has married since I saw him three years ago and has a five-month-old son.

It was good to be in a place where the lawns are green, the trees tall, and the crops flourishing. (It has been a dry year here at home; I mowed the lawn once in each of the last three months. The grass is still more or less green and the crop yields only a little under the average, but it hasn’t been a year of abundance.)

I worshipped with the brothers and sisters in Roxton Falls on Sunday morning. I know most of them, some of them for many years, but some I met for the first time. That is a good thing, the congregation is growing.

Monday morning when I awoke it was 22° and humid. It was 30° by dinner time and then it began to pour rain. When I got into Saskatoon in the evening, it was 12° and still dry and dusty. But all the family was there to meet me and welcome me home.

Two keys

I have two keys that, to my eyes at least, appear to be identical. One was made with a state of the art key cutting machine; the other was made by an elderly gentleman using a grinding wheel. Guess which one works?

The machine-made key goes into the keyhole just a little bit roughly and will not turn. The man-made key slides in smooth as silk and turns to open the lock. This guy obviously knows about keys.

Years ago an acquaintance of mine decided to visit Québec. He didn’t know French but he was filled with confidence and enthusiasm because he had this marvelous hand held phrase translator. All he would have to do was find the phrase or question he wanted, press a button and the little electronic marvel would speak it in French. Then he was supposed to hand the device to the French-speaking person who would find the right phrase in French, press the button and it would be spoken aloud in English.

I probably don’t have to tell you that my friend’s enthusiasm took a severe hit when he tried to actually use the marvelous little gizmo. I believe it remained in the bottom of his suitcase after the first day.

I have used computer translation programs off and on over the years. I figured the first ones were about 40% accurate. Google translate has doubled that figure; it puts out readable text, but still doesn’t quite get it. Words in every language have a range of nuances and shades of meaning and to expect a machine to pick a matching word in another language with exactly the same shade of meaning is not realistic. Sometimes such a word does not exist in the other language. People don’t think the same in one language as they do in another. You are not fully bilingual until you understand the way of thinking and expressing oneself of both languages.

Some folks think about Chrisianity as a matter of learning to conform to an outward pattern. The pattern can range from dour conservatism in life and attitude all the way to pertetual joyous enthusiasm. Neither of those keys will unlock the door to heaven, unless they are accompanied by a genuine personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Darkness and light

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

The Scriptures speak of two kinds of darkness: the one a natural darkness which is simply the absence of natural light: the other a spiritual darkness that is opposed to God and which is the dwelling place of spiritual beings opposed to God. The original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible use different words to differentiate between the two forms of darkness. Many languages have two words for darkness, English has only one and that can lead to misunderstandings of the text.

In French Bibles the underlined word in the above text is rendered ténèbres. The dictionary defines this word as profound darkness, most often considered to be a material environment; in a religious sense, that which is opposed to the light of God.This captures well the meaning of the word used in the original Hebrew.

Understood this way, the verse is telling us that the forces of spiritual darkness were present on the earth from the beginning of creation. It also explains why God created light on the first day of creation, but the sun was not created until the fourth day. The light of the sun cannot drive away spiritual darkness, only the light of God’s presence can do that.

The next verse tells us that God divided the light from the darkness. The conflict between light and darkness has continued from that day and will continue until the end of the world. Natural night and day are realities that should remind us of the deeper reality of spiritual darkness and light.

Many cultures confused the light of the sun with the light of God and worshipped the sun. God showed His judgment of Egyptian sun worship by bringing darkness on the land of Egypt. The word used in Hebrew (and in the French translation) denotes spiritual darkness, but it also manifested itself as natural darkness. The land of Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, had light, both natural and spiritual.

Later on, when God called Moses to go up Mount Sinai, we are told that the mountain was covered by a cloud of thick darkness. The word used here simply means natural darkness. In French it is rendered obscurité. When Moses climbed up the mountain he was obscured from the view of the people below. When he reached the top of the mountain, the natural light of the sun was completely obscured and he was illuminated by the light of God’s presence.

Moving on to the New Testament, the gospel of John, speaking of Jesus, tells us: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:4-5) Here again, the underlined words are rendered ténèbres in French, an accurate translation of the Greek word in the original.

Here are a few more New Testament passages:

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness (ténèbres)rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness (ténèbres) of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness (ténèbres) even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness (ténèbres), and walketh in darkness (ténèbres), and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness (ténèbres) hath blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11

(This is a good verse for discerning those who profess enlightenment in social, environmental or spiritual matters, but react angrily to anyone who dares to disagree with their enlightenment. It should be first and foremost a standard to prove our own spirit in these and all other matters.)

Finally, there shall be an eternal separation between darkness and light:

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness (obscurité) of darkness (ténèbres) for ever. Jude verse 13

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Revelation 21:23

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