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Featured Translators Down Through the Ages

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by John of Japan, Nov 24, 2020.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I'm going to have some time this week during Thanksgiving vacation, so I thought I'd do a thread on a subject dear to me: Bible translators in history. Feel free to add your own comments or brief biographies of great Bible translators from history.

    The oldest translation of any part of the Bible we know of is the Septuagint (LXX). As most readers here will know, this is a translation of the Hebrew OT into Koine Greek in the centuries before Christ. It was apparently not a committee effort, but scholars believe it was put together over the decades by a series of translators or groups of translators who remain anonymous. This is based on the fact that some of it is overly literal, some of it is normally literal, and some of it is overly free.

    Some in the KJVO camp say that it was dated after Christ, but this theory appears to have been invented by Peter Ruckman, and is not scholarly. According to research done by one of our seminary grads, all of the KJVO writers who take this position go back to Peter Ruckman for the "evidence" of it. Note that not all writers of that persuasion follow Ruckman in this. (See Bill Grady, Final Authority, for a kind of positive mention of the LXX, p. 99.)

    There is a fake letter from the 3rd century BC that claims a miraculous beginning to the LXX, "The Letter of Aristeas." While being a forgery, this letter, clearly from before Christ, gives evidence that there was indeed an OT translation into Greek before Christ. Thus, Ruckman was wrong. Here is an interesting website on this issue: An evaluation of Ruckman’s denials of a pre-Christian Septuagint | Ruckmanism.org

    I'm out of time today, but may be able to post more about the LXX tomorrow, and will certainly post about one of my favorite Bible translators of all time. See you then!
     
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  2. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Had to be around before time of Jesus, as did not the Apostles look at it and know of it at time of their writings?
     
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  3. Just_Ahead

    Just_Ahead Active Member

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    John,
    Be sure to include yourself as one of the Bible translators in history. And maybe give us an update or two.
     
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  4. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    It LXX is believed to be from the mid 3rd century BC and or *2nd century BC. But all our copies are post NT.
    *LXX fragments dated to 150BC.
    Anyone have better info?
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Will do. In fact, since you ask I'll go ahead.

    For those who do not know, I am the lead translator for a Japanese New Testament done from the Textus Receptus. This is the first ever done from that text into modern Japanese, and only the second in history. The first was the Nagai Yaku, done in classical Japanese by a scholarly Japanese pastor. It has not been in print for years. As lead translator, I did a base translation from the Greek into Japanese of the entire NT. Our translation is called the Lifeline Japanese Bible (ライフライン聖書).

    God providentially led "Uncle Miya" Miyakawa to be my translating partner, and we worked together to put my base translation into good Japanese. Uncle Miya finished the project with me, and God took him to Heaven this year. Along the way, God also led various missionary linguists and Japanese pastors in and out of the project, including one of my Japanese Greek students. There was also the occasional "wannabe," like the American who didn't know Greek, didn't know Japanese, and wouldn't contribute financially because he didn't believe in mission boards. But he somehow thought he could help.:rolleyes:

    At this time, the final draft of the NT is finished, and we are almost done with the proofreading. We have passed out about 80,000 copies of "John and Romans" in Japan, and there are at least two ministries which will pass out portions of our translation at the Tokyo Olympics next year: one using Mark, and another a parallel Japanese-English John & Romans. I have proofing files for just one more book, and then as far as I know we are done with the project. However, my final editor (an excellent missionary linguist) recently sent out the PDF of the whole NT to a friend who is a Japanese physicist, a PhD working for NASA, and he's going to look for typos for us.

    I've started tentatively working on the OT. Uncle Miya and I did the Psalms through Psalm 40, I think it was, before we retired from Japan to teach here. I need to get my Hebrew up to speed to do a good job, but in the meantime I'm working slowly through the Psalms I just finished Psalm 51.
     
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  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    That's about what I know. "Numerous papyri have been discovered; some are from the 1st and 2nd centuries B. C." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev., vol. 4, p. 404).
     
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  7. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I have used the KJV all my life -- including coming back to it after a brief youthful stint of "newer is better." I preferred it long before I ever heard of a quack like Ruckman. All that to say, that on my own I came to the conclusion that the existence of the LXX and its use by NT writers supported the use of a Bible translation, rather than being a giant negative as Ruckman seems to have made it.
    Good point. We often dismiss such documents because they are spurious, and miss what they can tell us (as in this case).
    Looking forward to whom you will write about.
    I have no expertise in this area, so will defer to others who know more. Nevertheless, it seems fairly indisputable that some New Testament references to the Old Testament match up closer to the Greek translation than the Hebrew. If so, it must have been in existence and known to them.
     
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  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    One of my favorite translators of all time is Ulfilas (also spelled Ulphilas). Here is what I wrote about him in one of my History of Missions lectures:
    Ulfilas (c. 311-381; “Little Wolf”) created an alphabet and translated the Bible into the Gothic language in the late 4th century. His translation was said to be extremely literal. Ulfilas, worried about how the warlike Goths might react, skipped some of the Old Testament. “It embraced the whole Bible except the books of Samuel and Kings, which he omitted as likely to inflame the military temper of the Gothic race with their records of war and conquests.”[1]
    [1] Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 39.

    Here is what one church historian wrote about him:
    “What may have been his (Ulfilas) most noteworthy achievement was his translation of a large part of the Bible into the Gothic language. For this purpose he is said to have devised an alphabet. If that be true, we have here what is probably the first or second instance of what has since happened to hundreds of tongues–their reduction to writing by Christian missionaries and the translation into them by that medium of a part or all of the Scriptures. Portions of what seems to be this version by Ulfilas have survived. The translator appears to have been careful to give as nearly as possible a word-for-word rendering from the Greek, probably with some reference to the Latin versions. Yet he also sought to observe the Gothic idiom and, as is inevitable in translations, introduced something of his own interpretation.”
    From The First Five Centuries, by Kenneth Scott Latourette (A History of the expansion of Christianity, Vol. 1); Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 214.
     
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  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Back to the LXX for just a post. Here is what I wrote about it in a lecture:

    I. The Septuagint—The Old Testament in Greek
    A. The Septuagint (LXX) was translated from the Hebrew Old Testament by various Jews in the years before Christ. A fraudulent letter from the 2nd century BC, “The Letter of Aristeas,” claims a miraculous process of translation by 70 men. However, the truth is that the LXX was done by various anonymous translators over time.
    B. Some early Christians, including Augustine, claimed inspiration and inerrancy for it. Many times it is quoted in the Greek New Testament, but when it is mistaken the inspired authors do their own translation from the Hebrew.
    C. “The Pentateuch was translated into Greek in Egypt before the middle of the third century B. C. There is confirmatory evidence of this in the fact that the version of Genesis was used by a writer of the name of Demetrius, who lived in the last quarter of that century.”[1] To this day, unfortunately, the LXX is sometimes used as a source text for Bible translations, as with the ecumenical Japanese Shinkyodo version.

    [1] Frederic Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible (London: Duckworth, 1937), 25.
     
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  10. Origen

    Origen Active Member

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    Group One - Qumran
    4Q119 - Lev 26:2–16
    (Paleography/Date: 125 – 1 B.C.)

    4Q120 - Lev 1:1 (frag. 1); Lev 2:3–5 (frag. 2); Lev 2:7–8 (frag. 3); Lev 3:4 (frag. 4); Lev 3:7 (frag. 5); Lev 3:9–13 (frag. 6–7); Lev 3:13–14 (frag. 8); Lev 4:3–4 (frag. 9); Lev 4:4 (frag. 10–11); Lev 4:6–8 (frag. 12–15); Lev 4:10–11 (frag. 16); Lev 4:18–19 (frag. 17–18); Lev 4:26 (frag. 19); Lev 4:26–28 (frag. 20–21); Lev 4:30 (frag. 22); Lev 5:6 (frag. 23); Lev 5:8–10 (frag. 24–25); Lev 5:16–17 (frag. 26); Lev 5:18–6:5 (frag. 27–31)
    (Paleography/Date: 100 – 1 B.C.)

    4Q121- Num 3:40–43; Num 4:1?; Num 4:5–9; Num 4:11–16; Num 3:50–51; Num 3:29
    (Paleography/Date: 40 B.C. - 10 A.D.)

    4Q122 - Deut 11:4
    (Paleography/Date: 200–150 B.C.)

    7Q1 - Ex 28:4-6 (frag. 1); Ex 28:7 (frag. 2)
    Paleography/Date: 100 B.C.

    Group Two - Non-Qumran
    Papyrus Fouad 266 (Rahlfs 847, 848 and 942)
    847 - Deut 10:22; 11:1.10,11.16; 31:26-19; 32:2,4; 33:14-19.22-23.26-27
    848 - Deut 17:14 to 33:29 (gaps)
    942 - Gen 3:10-12; 4:5-7.23; 7:17-20; 37:34-38:1; 38:10-12
    "This papyrus is probably from the 1st or even 2nd century B.C.E..."
    "The papyrus fragments came from Fayyum, an oasis on the edge of the Libyan Desert..."
    (The Text of the Old Testament An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, 3rd Ed., Ernst Würthwein)

    Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3522 - Job 42:11-12 (1st Century A.D.) found Egypt

    8HevXII gr - Jon 1:14-16; 2:1-7 (col. II); Jon 3:2-5, 7-10; 4:1-2, 5 (col. III); Mic 1:1-7 (col. IV); Mic 1:7-8 (col. V); Mic 2:7-8; 3:5-6 (col. VI); Mic 4:3-5 (col. VII); Mic 4:6-10; 5:1-4 (col. VIII); Mic 5:4-6 (col. IX); Nah 1:13-14 (col. XIII); Nah 2:5-10, 14; 3:3 (col. XIV); Nah 3:6-17 (col. XV); Hab 1:5-11 (col. XVI); Hab 1:14-17; 2:1-8 (col. XVII); Hab 2:13-20 (col. XVIII); Hab 3:9-15 (col. XIX); Zeph 1:1-6 (col. XX); Zeph 1:13-18 (col. XXI); Zeph 2:9-10 (col. XXII); Zeph 3:6-7 (col. XXIII); Zech 1:1-4 (col. XXVIII); Zech 1:12-14 (col. XXXIX); Zech 2:2-4, 7-12 (col. XXX); Zech 2:16-17; 3:1-2, 4-7 (col. XXXI); Zech 8:19-21, 23 (col. B1); Zech 8:23; 9:1-5 (col. B2).
    Paleography/Date: 50–1 B.C.
    found Israel

    All dates are only approximations.
    4Q122 is the oldest, dated to the first half of the 2nd century B.C. Papyrus Fouad 266 is considered the second oldest.
     
    #10 Origen, Nov 25, 2020
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2020
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  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for the post, but I'm not sure of the significance. These are not translations, to the best of my knowledge. As far as I know, Qumran papyri are Hebrew.
     
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  12. Origen

    Origen Active Member

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    Not all of them. The ones I listed are Greek.

    There are also many other Greek fragments from Qumran.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls - Explore the Archive
     
    #12 Origen, Nov 25, 2020
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  13. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Did any of these fragments form the basis of the LXX? Or are they separate and apart?
     
  14. Conan

    Conan Active Member

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    The original LXX, or Old Greek predates the Dead Sea Scrolls.
     
  15. Just_Ahead

    Just_Ahead Active Member

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    John of Japan,
    In your opinion, what are some ear marks of a good Bible translation?
    :rolleyes:
     
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  16. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    From Josephus' account of the Letter of Aristeas. He notes earlier translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, earlier than the LXX.

    “Demetrius to the great king. When thou, O king, gavest me a charge concerning the collection of Books that were wanting to fill your library, and concerning the care that ought to be taken about such as are imperfect, I have used the utmost diligence about those matters. And I let you know, that we want the books of Jewish legislation, with some others; for they are written in the Hebrew characters, and being in the language of that nation, are to us unknown. It hath also happened to them, that they have been transcribed more carelessly than they should have been, because they have not had hitherto royal care taken about them. Now it is necessary that thou shouldst have accurate copies of them.
    Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 310–311.


    From a letter by AUGUSTINE where he expresses displeasure with Jerome’s plan to translate the Torah and Prophets directly from the Hebrew.
    What new truth can be gained by a new translation?

    I beseech you not to devote your labour to the work of translating into Latin the sacred canonical books, unless you follow the method in which you have translated Job, viz. with the addition of notes, to let it be seen plainly what differences there are between this version of yours and that of the LXX., whose authority is worthy of highest esteem. For my own part, I cannot sufficiently express my wonder that anything should at this date be found in the Hebrew MSS. which escaped so many translators perfectly acquainted with the language. I say nothing of the LXX., regarding whose harmony in mind and spirit, surpassing that which is found in even one man, I dare not in any way pronounce a decided opinion, except that in my judgment, beyond question, very high authority must in this work of translation be conceded to them. I am more perplexed by those translators who, though enjoying the advantage of labouring after the LXX. had completed their work, and although well acquainted, as it is reported, with the force of Hebrew words and phrases, and with Hebrew syntax, have not only failed to agree among themselves, but have left many things which, even after so long a time, still remain to be discovered and brought to light. Now these things were either obscure or plain: if they were obscure, it is believed that you are as likely to have been mistaken as the others; if they were plain, it is not believed that they [the LXX.] could possibly have been mistaken. Having stated the grounds of my perplexity, I appeal to your kindness to give me an answer regarding this matter.
    Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 251.
     
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  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Simply put, faithfulness to the original languages, and smooth readability in the target language. (There's more to it, but these are basic.) In 2nd semester Greek, I divide my class up into "missionary committees" to translate 1 John. I ask them to choose: a chairman, a lead translator to insure faithfulness to the Greek, and a "style expert" who is good in English, to correct awkward or wooden renderings into good English.
     
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  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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  19. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Jerome (the historical one, not the Baptist Board one ;)) is another one of my favorite translators, so thanks to Deacon for his relevant post. The history books usually say something like, "In the year 383, Pope Damasus urged Jerome (ca. 342-420), the most learned Christian scholar of his day, to produce a uniform and dependable text of the Latin Scriptures; he was not to make a totally new translation but to revise a text of the Bible in use at Rome" (The Bible in Translation, Bruce Metzger, 32). The problem with this is that there was no Catholic Church and no widely ruling Pope at that time, not until Gregory the Great in the 6th century. But I digress.

    Jerome said no to Damasus at first, but then agreed. He was already proficient in Greek, but to prepare himself he hired a Jewish rabbi to teach him Hebrew. The two lived in a cave until Jerome had Hebrew mastered, the story goes. Augustine objected being "LXX-Only, as Deacon has already quoted, but Jerome went ahead and did the translation. The Vulgate Latin Bible has proven to be one of the most resilient and popular translations down through the ages, so much so that during the Reformation there were "Vulgate-Only" advocates.

    The version Jerome was revising was an "Old Latin" text. There were a number of these versions, and the names of the translators are lost to history. They were a wide variety of quality, some well done and others poorly done. Yet they filled a gap in their day, allowing Latin speakers to read the Bible in their own language.

    Jerome's philosophy of translating was literal. (Whether or not the Vulgate is always literal is a different question.) He wrote in his "Letter to Pammachius, "For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek (except in the case of the holy scriptures where even the order of the words is a mystery) I render sense for sense and not word for word." (Read the whole letter here: Jerome "On the Best Method of Translating" (bible-researcher.com.)
     
  20. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    The site John mentions also includes some of the Correspondence of Augustine and Jerome concerning the Latin Translation of the Bible.
     
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