Monday, March 17, 2008

The problem with sounding 'Bible-y'

My comment at the Better Bibles Blog:

I'm a believer in Peterson's rationale and results. We so often forget that the Bible was not supposed to sound "Bible-y," not lofty and ceremonial, not dull and distant, but is in fact the living breath of God. Just yesterday I was in a church that prayed the Lord's Prayer with "thy"'s and wondered why we cling so fiercely to archaisms--simply out of overwrought reverence, it seems to me.

I do think a few checks are in order:

1) First, many of the arguments made by supporters of formal equivalence hold some water when it comes to academic study of the text. A word-for-word emphasis is useful in this setting--of course, my preference in academic study is to consult the ultimate word-for-word: an interlinear.

2) Second, I should try to be as disappointed in dynamic equivalences & paraphrases that blur the distinctions between genres as I am in formal equivalent translations that make all biblical books sound the same. The Greek of Mark is not the Greek of Hebrews is not the Greek of Revelation; Hebrew poetry is a whole different world from Hebrew narrative. I haven't looked hard enough, or broadly enough, at the Message, to see how much Peterson varies his rhetoric according to the genre of the book. But how many translations make us feel like we're dealing with multiple books--which we actually are--rather than one monolithic big book?

Update: Lingamish introduces a relevant and useful distinction: boring vs. bizarre

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