Friday, September 16, 2005

Consensus Building

A great discussion bogged down as we have no way to identify consensus once established. There are some solid proposals including:

This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus the Chosen One.

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

The Gospel of Jesus, who is the Messiah, begins:

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus, the Chosen One.

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus, the Appointed One[1], the Son of God:[2]

[1] Gr. Christos, lit. "Anointed One," equivalent to Heb. Messiah.
[2] Some early manuscripts omit "the Son of God."

Shall we do this democratically and set up an online poll? Any other ideas for establishing consensus?


The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Request to fellow authors

Could I ask that blog-authors keep their comments (unless they're just asides) to the main body of the blog, rather than using the comments section? It rather defeats the purpose of having authors if significant parts of the debate are tucked away out of the main arena. If you're making an important point, I'd ask that you log in and write an actual entry. It also makes the blog livelier and far more attractive to returning readers.


Mark 1:1: The main issues so far

I've enjoyed the dialogue so far, including those who've commented. Let me distill the main issues yet to be resolved in translating Mark 1:1:
a. Heading or opening sentence?
b. Translation of euangelion
c. How to render the genitive: "of" or "about"?
d. Translation of Christou
a. I opt for either a heading or for the rendering "This is the beginning". Someone mentioned that this would be an "addition", but in fact good translation (and perhaps this is something others may want to argue against) sometimes needs to use different forms in order to get the same meaning. In modern English, "The beginning of" etc is simply not a sentence. It could be a heading, or it could be made plain with "This is".

b. I think "Good News" (capitalized) is the best rendering of euangelion suggested so far. It resolves the ambiguity of "gospel" and the capitalization helps to retain something of the sense of specialness in the original Greek.

c. For the sake of clarity, I agree with Wayne that the genitive should be rendered "about": "The Good News about Jesus".

d. In the comments, Sarah asks whether "Messiah" is plain enough English. On the one hand, it is hard to avoid technical terms sometimes in translating biblical Greek words, since by its very nature the Bible contains technical words for which other cultures have no direct equivalent. On the other hand, I like Kenny Pearce's suggestion of "the Chosen One". Far better than "Anointed One", and its meaning is quite plain to the modern reader.

I'm proposing this translation of Mark 1:1:
This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus the Chosen One.
What to do with huios theou is another wrench in the works.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Revised proposal for Verse 1

Given everything that has taken place so far, I propose the translation for Mark 1:1:

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah.

I do not opt for "the God News about Jesus" as that would seem to connote "the Good News concerning Jesus" whereas what follows in the Gospel of Mark sounds to me more open ended; both the Good News concerning Jesus and the Good News which comes from and in a sense belongs to Jesus.

Shall we dive in further to this verse? How does the translation above read to everyone?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

Monday, July 04, 2005

Beginning in the Middle: Mark 1

I just stumbled across this other blog which has posts which will be interesting to those who are working on Mark 1 on this blog. Click on the title to my post here to view the other blog. The post is part of a series on Mark 1, and you can read more of that blog's series by clicking on a link in the right margin of that blog.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Good news of Jesus the Messiah?

(Still on Mark 1:1) Taking for granted "good news" for a moment, commenter Pat suggested "Jesus the Messiah" for Iesou Christou. I am tempted to agree. It is hard to come up with an English translation without plumping for a technical term. "Christ", as our commenter points out, has come to lose all meaning, and people tend to think of it as Jesus' last name!

I also like Pat's suggestion to add "This is", making the whole first verse read:
This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Messiah.
Now I read over that, I wonder if it couldn't become
This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah.
Perhaps capitalizing "Good News" would be the way of capturing euangelion's specialness?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Understanding Euangelion

The best source I have on hand for tracking this down is the 10-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (often referred to as Kittel for it's primary editor) which has a 30-page article on Euangleion and words from the same root.

The article (pages 707-737 in Volume II) starts with the comparable Old Testament Hebrew word, which is Basar and notes that in the Old Testament it "has the general sense of 'proclaiming good news' (1 Kings 1:42), e.g. the birth of a son (Jeremiah 20:15)." Perhaps the most important Old Testament reference is Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
which Luke chapter 4 gives as the appointed portion of scripture Jesus reads in the synagogue in Nazareth as he begins his ministry. That proclamation of "Good News" promised in Isaiah would have been very important to an early Christian understanding of euangelion.

On page 714, the TDNT notes in Palestinian Judaism basar "usually means 'to proclaim good news.'" And on the following page goes on to state, "It is of great significance that in Palestinian Judaism we still find the same conception of the one who brings good tidings as in Deutero Isaiah. When the Mibasar comes, and the Messianic age dawns." Mibasar in the messenger of good news or "the one bringing good news."

On page 716, the TDNT states, "The OT expectation of the Mibasar was still alive in the time of Jesus. The examples given bracket the period of early Christianity." Then the dictionary article notes there are prophetic references and rabbinic references on either side of Jesus life and ministry pointing to this expectation.

An interesting side note is that page 726-727 note a play on words used by Rabbis early in the common era to poke fun at the new sect which would come to be called Christianity. The play on words possible in the Greek, but not in Aramaic or Hebrew. Rabbi Meir (c. 150) called the gospels Aven-Gillajon meaning "writing of destruction" while Rabbi Jochanon (d. 279) called them Avon-Gillajon meaning "writing of sins."

The article goes on at some length, but in every reference the term "good news" is used following the etymology of euangelion: eu meaning "good" and angelion meaning "news." I stand by my earlier translation.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church
King of

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Is the translation of Mark 1:1 so straightforward?

Mark 1:1:
Arche tou euangeliou Iesou Christou [huios theos].
(By the way, if someone knows how to get special characters, especially the line that indicates a lengthened vowel, please let me know!)

tou euangeliou
The biggest translational issue I see here is how to render tou euangeliou, lit "of the good news". Since we are aiming at plain English, "gospel" is problematic, as it is hardly contemporary English and is so laden with associations by various sectors of contemporary Christianity that perhaps it should be ditched altogether. But did the Greek word euangelion have a technical meaning that the generic term "good news" lacks? Did the original audience hear simply "good news" (any news that happens to be good) or did it have connotations of a particular kind of message, perhaps from a particular kind of person? If so, is there a modern English word that captures something of that specialness? To give some idea where I'm going, the English terms "announcement" and "message" can have quite a different feel to them, depending on the context.

What we really need to do, then, is investigate that word euangelion and try to hear what those first hearers heard. In what other contexts did euangelion appear at that time, and what were its associations and connotations?

Perhaps you can pitch in, Frank, and I shall try to do some research myself.

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The first verse is straightforward to translate. Similar to John's Gospel, Mark begins with Arche, the Greek word for beginning. John added en so that his Gospel starts with "In the beginnning" echoing the words of Genesis. The author's intent here seems to be to title the whole work that will follow.

I have translated the Greek euangeliou as "Good News" which is its literal meaning. The word "gospel" could also be used. Gospel is the Middle English word from the Old English godspel (god=good, spel=news). As the word gospel was itself a translation of the Greek, I opted to move the word euangeliou to present English usage.

While some early editions of Mark do not include uiou Theou, meaning "the son of God," some do. For this reason, some Bibles translate this portion of the verse and leave it in brackets, while others translate this verse and leave it in the text as I have decided to do here.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church

Welcome to new contributors

I should lay down a few ground rules before we begin. Since we already have two contributors (myself and Frank), there is no reason why we should not get started. But let me suggest a few guidelines:
  • To ensure consistency, we will use this online Greek New Testament for reference
  • Deal with one verse at a time
  • Do not move on to another verse until the discussion has reached a natural conclusion. You may feel the issue is settled, but others may want to respond
  • Try to give a clear, non-generic heading to your post, so it is clearly identifiable, e.g. My response to the debate over euangelion
  • Transliterate Greek words into English rather than using the original characters
  • Put transliterations of the text in italics
  • Put your own translations in bold
  • When quoting the text or other contributors and sources, use the blockquote function
  • Use links to sources where possible, including links to the original text when specific Bible verses are referenced

What I envisage

I envisage a lot of dialogue and learning taking place here. I'm not so much bothered about the end product as how we arrive there. I will rely on the more experienced scholars to fill in the gaps in my education as we go along, and hopefully everyone can keep the discussion on a plain-English level, for the benefit of readers (within reason, i.e. assuming a general interest in academic matters and an ability to follow an intellectual conversation). Less common technical terms can be explained as we go along.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

About the New Testament in Plain English

Inspired by Wayne Leman's Better Bibles Blog, this blog will be a multi-authored project to translate the New Testament into plain English. Although if it is ever finished the result will be a full Bible translation, the process of translation will be the aim in itself. The discussions and debates will themselves be the whole point, with the final translation almost a by-product.

What are Dave Rattigan's qualifications?
I make no pretence of being a qualified Bible scholar or linguist. I do, however, have a degree in Biblical-Theological Studies, and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education in Religious Education (I'm a qualified teacher of secondary RE, in other words). My own private studies have given me a grasp of the New Testament beyond my college education, and I also have a solid informal background (again my own reading and studies) in language and Linguistics in general.

Who can contribute?
Those who are suitably qualified. Formal qualifications aren't strictly necessary, but to avoid this becoming a free-for-all, there will need to be some evidence of knowledge and understanding of the issues at an academic level. Do you have a background in Biblical Studies? Have you written before on scholarly issues? Do you have a good understanding of language and Linguistics? I will invite a number of people to contribute at first, and others will be invited to apply if they are nominated by an existing contributor. You are welcome to request a nomination, but have a think about whether you are really qualified first -- I'd hate to have to embarrass someone by turning them down.

Is it Christians-only?
No. Anyone suitably qualified and with a scholarly interest in the Bible can apply.

How do I contribute?
If your application is successful, you'll be added to the blog as an author, which means you can log into Blogger at any time and add or update an entry. There is no requirement for how much you post or how often, but your contribution should fall into one of these categories:
  • A translation of a verse or passage
  • A defence of, argument for or discussion about a translation or translation issue
  • A response or contribution to a particular discussion on the blog
For the sake of clarity, the project will begin with just one book of the New Testament (since that is my area of expertise, in so far as I am "expert" at all), and will be confined to one passage initially. I suggest a gospel, probably Mark, but I will see how far I get finding some contributors before I/we decide.