Two recent studies, in particular, have prompted my thoughts: Theological Interpretation of Scripture by Stephen E. Fowl (Cascade Books, 2009) and the volume on “Scripture”, published by Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics by Baylor University (2014).
Of course, as a Bible translator I have thought about translation for decades, beginning in 1958 when by wife and I, as members of SIL International and the Wycliffe Bible Translators, began working in Papua New Guinea. We had been assigned to work as linguist-translators with a group of people known as the Kewa, who resided in the Southern Highlands.
We need to first of all remind ourselves that all analogies break down at some point because we are comparing two things that are not completely alike. This one too breaks down at a number of points.
Let us suppose that a certain sport – say American baseball – is recognized as a professional sport. Upon what basis is this judgment made? First of all, the players are paid to play baseball, so it is professional in that sense. Someone or some agency or company supports them. We also note that one of the major considerations is the level of performance of the team, as determined by playing against other professional teams. Statistics are kept to support the claims.
Translators, as well as fieldworkers in general, are expected to conduct themselves according to certain ethical standards, which (for Christians) generally arise from the Bible. Therefore, it is important and helpful for them to be acquainted with the general system of and notion of ethics. This exercise is designed to help them.
- To introduce and discuss the concept and nature of ethics
- To apply ethical principles to fieldwork, either in SIL or with some other agency
- To apply ethical principles to personal interaction
In Bible translation the translators must understand the cultural values that are presented in the societies represented in the Old and New Testaments. However, they must also examine the part values play in any society. This presentation is designed to help students think through the matter of cultural values. We begin with some definitions.
It is not a simple matter to translate a Bible story—there are many cultural and grammatical (as well as exegetical) features to consider when choosing the “best” way to translate a text. This story of John 11:28-44 in West Kewa, which we take up at verse 28, points out a number of the components (but by no means all of them):