Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who Killed the Bible? Last Words on Translating the Holy Scriptures by Ian Robinson

publication 5 October 2006

Most modern translators of the Bible are confident that they can render the meaning more accurately than the older versions by applying the theory of dynamic equivalence. Even many of their opponents grant that rigorous linguistic science is on the side of the dynamists, based as it is on the earlier linguistics of Noam Chomsky. Mr Robinson (whose book on Chomsky, The New Grammarians’ Funeral was originally published by Cambridge University Press) argues that as linguistics the theory is radically mistaken and that the more seriously it is taken the more inaccuracy is caused. Moreover, the essentially literal theory of the opponents of the dynamists is no better. All the new translations go wrong because they put into practice both mistaken theories and a mistaken notion of theory. The reliance on theory which gives the translators their confidence is itself the product of an anti-religious culture. Mr Robinson’s argument needs to be followed in detail, and will be hard to refute.

Later chapters discuss how context affects meaning, how the Bible is one book, and why the rhythm of translation is so important. The contention that the Bible, as a unity, needs to be translated in a way that allows it to carry the styles and world of the original with it, is supported by detailed examples.

No Bible can be the written word of God except by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life of the faithful seeker, but modern versions make it much harder for Christians to receive the word. This is a serious matter. Millions of people who believe that the Bible is the written Word of God, as well as millions who do not, rely on versions that cannot be the word of anything but the present world.

The Author

This discussion is, unusually, from the point of view of a linguist and literary critic. Ian Robinson has no claim to expert knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, though he thinks he knows enough for the present purpose, but has published discussions of transformational-generative grammar and componential-analysis semantics, an account of the development of modern prose (Cranmer’s Sentences) and criticisms of the contemporary styles of journalism, love, poetry and religion.

After a first in English at Cambridge (England)—he was a pupil and later editor of F. R. Leavis—Ian Robinson lectured for a long time at the University of Wales, Swansea. He claims to be the first person to have got a letter to the press published about the New English Bible, since when he has issued one book (Prayers for the New Babel), two parts of others, and some twenty essays and reviews, on the English of religion. He is now the series editor of Edgeways Books.

isbns 0 907839 49 5 978 0 907839 49 1

140 pp. paper covers demy 8vo rrp £7.80

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