Christ as Authoritative or Loving?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    In the Gospels, should a translation portray Christ as authoritative or loving?

    Japanese has several levels of politeness. The boss of a company, the police chief and others with similar authority will speak on a plain level. Having Christ speak like this would give Him an air of authority, and we know that "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). A Japanese master of a traditional art (martial arts, flower arranging, tea ceremony) would usually speak to his or her disciples this way.

    The other option is to have Christ speak on a normal, polite level. This is how the average Japanese speaks to others, especially people he doesn't know and those equal to him in society. A translation consultant in the States suggested to me that having Christ speak like this would convey His love for all people.

    What do you think?
     
  2. matt wade

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    I'm certainly not a Bible scholar, so my opinion might not be worth much :).

    I think it may depend of the situation in which Jesus is speaking.

    A quick breakdown may be that Matthew and John are written with Jesus' authoritative voice and Mark and Luke are written with his "loving" voice.
     
  3. annsni

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    I personally think that the first - authoritative - style is what the Scriptures communicate.

    How is it in the Greek?
     
  4. annsni

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    Can you have someone switching back and forth?
     
  5. John of Japan

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    As far as is known, koine Greek had no honorifics or levels of politeness. It would be interesting to know how people talked to the Roman emperor, though!
     
    #5 John of Japan, Apr 11, 2012
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  6. John of Japan

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    Well, for sure you'd want Jesus using an authoritative tone with demons. It might be up in the air as to whether Jesus would speak to the Pharisees and Saducees with a plain or polite form of address.
     
  7. matt wade

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    Again, I'm no Bible scholar. I just know that Matthew portrays Jesus as King, John as God, Mark as a servant, and Luke as a man.
     
  8. John of Japan

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    This is perceptive. Translators sometimes use a linguistic tool called discourse to examine a discourse (like one of the Gospels or just one of the parables) to decide the functions of the language throughout that discourse. A discourse analysis of each of the Gospels might make a translator decide to translate with a different level of politeness for each Gospel! (I haven't done one of each Gospel yet.)
     
    #8 John of Japan, Apr 11, 2012
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  9. annsni

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    John - I have to say that when you post stuff like this, it makes me realize just how much most people don't understand just how many details there are to translating! It's certainly not a "word->word" kind of thing.
     
  10. Deacon

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    He came to us as one of us.

    In him the fullness of God dwells yet he came in the form of a servant.

    I could see him talking to the crowds on the mount in a plain, authoritative way.

    I could easily see him talking to Pilate in a humble, polite way.

    To the Pharisees, IMHO, he would talk as an authority, which would rankle their feathers a bit.

    You'd have to look carefully when Jesus talks to the disciples, the decision would be on a case-by-case basis.

    An interesting spot for the interchanging the methods of politeness might be John 21:15f when the risen Jesus speaks to Peter, "Do you love me?"

    It almost makes me want to learn Japanese to see how you deal with this translational issue.

    Rob
     
  11. annsni

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    See, the question to me is - is it typical for a person to speak both kind of speech to otherS? I understand family and close friends but do they switch back and forth for others depending on the situation or do they speak based on their position in life?
     
    #11 annsni, Apr 12, 2012
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  12. Yeshua1

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    Good Question!

    Would say that couple of different things involved here!

    one would be have to factor in just what "speaking with authority" tone would be to your culture, and another would be when jesus adressed weather, demons, pharisees etc his tone much different than when talking to 'common people!"
     
  13. Oldtimer

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    Just 2-cents on something I know little about with regards to the challenge you face in translating the scriptures.

    In the Japanese family structure, are the levels of authority expressed, as they are in a traditional conservative Christian American family?

    That is, each of the parents speak according to the situation at the moment. A father can speak with authority and with love many times during a day to his wife and children. He will have a commanding voice/verbage when he tells junior to stay out of the street. He will have a loving voice when he helps bandage a skinned knee. He will speak as a servant when he talks about our Lord.

    Born again, we are all members of the family of God. Thus, our language usage should reflect that relationship, rather than using some other guidepost. Something that comes to mind is that in my past I've had to write materials geared to specific readers.

    A letter to a judge trying to get an employee out of jury duty has a stiff formal presentation with an underlying grovelling approach to the bench to beg for consideration.

    Press releases written with the intent of flaunting something our company did in order to obtain more attention from "free" advertising.

    Each of these has a different "style" of language usage. As is switching to writing to the home folks where'n it ain't no need to put on dem formal airs of kin wid they's nose stuck in up in de air.

    So, in closing, it's just my 2-cents, that approaching the scriptures for translation purposes, a "family" approach, as indicated above, should convey all the aspects of being born again in Him. That is unless the Japanese culture is much different with regards to family as we would like to see it here.

    Hope this makes sense.
     
  14. annsni

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    See, the issue is that you have to understand the culture. My husband worked with many Japanese as he sold his business to a Japanese company and the culture is VERY different than America. It's not a "putting on airs" sort of thing but an honor thing. Respect. It took time for my husband to understand it all but with coaching from Aki, the man who was sent here to the States, he finally got it all figured out. :)
     
  15. John of Japan

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    Only people who have never translated think it's a simple task!

    Concerning the "word for word" idea, a term from secular translating is "verbatim translating." If the contract calls for a verbatim translation, the translator must make sure the meaning of every word of the original appears in the translated document. I think I like this term better than "word for word."
     
  16. John of Japan

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    I'll spill part of the beans here. We originally translated with Christ speaking in the plain form--which I felt showed authority. I was trying to innovate.

    However, our trial version of John is out, and I've gotten feedback from a Japanese pastor who is also a linguist in English (translated a whole songbook full of songs!) who believes that Christ should speak politely to all but demons, showing His love for people. Traditionally, this is what Japanese versions have done, though they might have Him speaking plainly to Pharisees.
     
  17. annsni

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    Right. But also what I'm saying is that "verbatim translating" is not what ANYONE does in translating because there are terms that make no sense to us. So it's MUCH more difficult because you need to understand the cultural language you are translating from and understand the one you are translating to! Man, I really respect you guys for doing this. :)
     
  18. John of Japan

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    Japanese society is based on Confucianism, which teaches that relationships are paramount. They say our society is horizontal since we believe all are equal, but their society is vertical, meaning you must always know if the person you are talking to us above you or below you in society. So you will speak plain language to those below you, plain or polite to those equal to you, and polite to those above you. To someone extremely important, like a judge, you'll use an even higher level of politeness, which sometimes even has its own vocabulary and grammar.
     
  19. Yeshua1

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    that reminds me of reading where in one culture there was no word for lamb, so used closest equivalent, and that was the "goat of God!"
     
  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    The Japanese family is a different subject, even more complicated. Is it the first born son speaking? Is he speaking to his father or his mother? What is the occasion? Are they in their home or out in public? Are they at the library or an amusement park?
     

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