Thursday, 12 June 2014 08:48

Panel 06: Innovation in Bible Translation: History, Theory, Practice

Innovation in Bible Translation: History, Theory, Practice
Jacobus Naude and Cynthia Miller-Naude
University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa)


Although Bible translation is rightly considered a variety of religious translation, in many respects Bible translators have operated outside of the field of translation studies in general. This panel seeks to bring Bible translation into conversation with translation studies by highlighting recent developments in Bible translation with respect to the implementation of the sociological turn in translation studies.

There are three main areas to be examined: (1) The writing of histories of Bible translation with special attention to their social and cultural impact. Included in this area are the ways in which Bible translation has impacted language groups socially and culturally with respect, for example, to language development and social and economic development. (2) The theory of Bible translation, especially concerning direct and indirect translation, translation as interpretation, and intersemiotic translation. Included in this area are the ways in which Bible translation has approached the issues of foreignisation and indigenisation and the question of respect for the cultural and religious values of the target culture. (3) The practice of Bible translation, especially with respect to orality and non-print media, performance criticism, and technological developments.

For informal enquiries: [millerclATufsDOTacDOTza]

Cynthia and JacobusJacobus A. Naudé (University of the Free State) is a member of the Afrikaans Bible translation project and serves on the advisory board of the Handbook of Translation Studies. He edited Contemporary Translation Studies and Bible Translations (2002), Language Practice: One Profession; Many Applications (2007), Socio-constructive Language Practice: Training in the South African Context (2008), Bible Translation and the Indigenous (2009).

Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé (University of the Free State) has been a consultant for Bible translators in Africa since 1992. She has published on the translation of biblical proverbs in African languages (2005), religious translation in Africa (2011), Lamentations in the King James Version (2012), ideology and translation strategy in Bible translation (2013), alterity, orality and performance in Bible translation.


Each paper is allocated with a 20 minutes time slot + 10 minutes discussion.

Discussion time at the end of each paper


Introduction to the panel

Title: Innovation in Bible Translation

Speaker: Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, University of the Free State


Cynthia Miller-Naudé (University of the Free State) has been a consultant for Bible translators in Africa since 1992. She has published on the translation of biblical proverbs in African languages (2005), religious translation in Africa (2011), Lamentations in the King James Version (2012), ideology and translation strategy in Bible translation (2013), alterity, orality and performance in Bible translation.



Title: PARATEXT: SOFTWARE FOR BIBLE TRANSLATORS - Staying Close to the Cutting Edge

Speaker: Reinier de Blois

Abstract: Since 1997 thousands of Bible translators worldwide have been working with Paratext, a suite of programs, created by the United Bible Societies (UBS) for Bible Translation staff. In 2011 UBS and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) decided to merge Paratext with SIL's Translation Editor (TE) and continue developing the resulting tool together under the name ParaTExt. Other tools of the suite are Publishing Assistant, Concordance Builder, Names Index Builder, the Digital Bible Library, and the Global Bible Catalogue. Together these programs offer Bible translators, publishers, and archivists a set of tools that cover almost all phases of the Bible Translation lifecycle. As a result, ParaTExt has become the de-facto standard in the Bible Translation world.

This paper will give a brief history of the development of this tool, followed by a description of the entire suite and the place of each individual tool within the Bible Translation lifecycle. The main focus will be on ParaTExt and the special functionality that it offers to Bible translators that are not usually included in other Bible software packages. We will see how Project MARBLE offers access to high quality resources to serve Bible translators all over the globe, including those that do not know Hebrew and Greek. We will also pay attention to ParaTExt's powerful Scripture editing and text checking functionality. In addition, there will be a section that demonstrates how ParaTExt can help ensure the consistency of a translation with the help of the Biblical Terms and Parallel Passage tools. We will also pay attention to a number of advanced features of the software, such as ParaTExt's statistical glossing technology. The paper will conclude with a brief description of several other tools that are part of the ParaTExt suite.

Bionote: Reinier de Blois has an MA in African Linguistics (University of Leiden) and a PhD in Biblical Hebrew Linguistics (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). His area of specialization is Hebrew Lexicography. He is the editor of the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew (SDBH, He has worked with the United Bible Societies as Translation Consultant in Africa from 1990 until 2011. Since 2011 he is the Global Coordinator for the Institute of Computer Assisted Publishing


Title: From Orality to Orality: A Sensual Story of Bible Translation

Speaker: James Maxey

Abstract: The histories of the Christian Bible offer a fertile space for the consideration of translation and media. Beyond the sheer number of cultures, languages, and translated material, the sociological dimensions of Bible translation demonstrate the multilateral interactions of commissioners, translators and host communities in highly charged ideological situations. This is particularly evident during the missionary era of the 18-20th centuries, in which Bible translation is implicated in the colonial projects of Europe and North America carried out in the global south. Of the many facets of these colonial projects, the printed book as the preferred medium of translation reflects the bias of those involved in the Bible Translation (BT) industry. In the late 20th century, research in several disciplines – from the classics to ethnopoetics to religious studies to translation studies – highlighted the questions of media and translation. These studies have slowly begun to inform BT. While many in BT have simply substituted oral for the print media while maintaining their ideological agendas, others have understood the epistemological implications in a shift of media and the ideological, theoretical, and methodological ramifications of such a shift. This is evidenced in the emerging theory of Biblical Performance Criticism (BPC). An assertion of BPC is that oral performance was the primary means of communication in antiquity and that this informed how the early biblical material was composed and disseminated. That is to say, that the biblical material was composed to be heard and experienced in performance rather than to be read silently and in isolation from community. This assertion has tremendous implications for the interpretation and translation of the Bible today. The set of questions and the methods for translation change dramatically if one understands the Bible as a result of the interface of media and its portrayal as oral performance. This current study develops themes from previous research in the translation and performance of biblical material in one project in central Cameroon as well as personal experiences of performance and translation. One of the main assertions made in this regard is that this activity is more than translation for performance, but understands performance as translation. Translation studies' view of translation as a creative act and rewriting rather than as an act of recuperation with the results constantly being measured by equivalence encourages BT to be prospective rather than retrospective in its views. This perspective invites BPC to promote the creative production of biblical material that contributes to a sociological understanding of BT beyond linguistics to cultural issues of identity and power along with audience interaction.

Bionote: James Maxey is Associate Dean of the Nida Institute and Dean of Faculty for the Nida School of Translation Studies. He has been involved in translation work in Africa for more than twenty years. His research interests include performance and translation, as well as cultural studies. In addition to numerous journal articles, he is author of From Orality to Orality: A New Paradigm for Contextual Translation of the Bible (Wipf & Stock, 2009) and co-editor of Translating Scripture for Sound and Performance: New Directions in Biblical Studies (Wipf & Stock, 2012).


Title: Bible Translation as Intercultural Encounter: Translation as an Interrogative Paradigm

Speaker: Deborah Shadd

Abstract: Recent decades have seen a significant expansion in the theorization of translation and increased complexification of our very understanding of the concept, due in large part to the ongoing elaboration of postcolonial thought and of other theoretical perspectives which have developed in its wake. Moving beyond the notion of translation as a strictly textual process, a number of scholars have begun to recognize translation as a valuable paradigm for interrogating certain other disjunctive cultural and social experiences that increasingly mark our existence in a globalized world and that contribute fundamentally to the formation of identities. In the introduction to their book Post-Colonial Translation: Theory and Practice, for example, Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi suggest that colonies could usefully be considered translations of their European originals. Building on this historical example, others have employed a similar paradigm in writing about experiences from migration to education to the construction of multicultural societies as processes of translation. Each of these studies, as well as others like them, presents a concept of translation that is far from prototypical; instead, what emerges is a metaphorical, or better, paradigmatic view of translation that allows us to apply what has been learned from centuries of dialogue about the social and cultural negotiations demanded by textual translation to other non-textual transformative processes. Bible translation is a clear example of a practice positioned at the very juncture of these two broad conceptions of translation – the prototypical and the paradigmatic – being initially concerned with a textual transformation, but inevitably carrying with it much broader implications for a whole series of other potential transformations of identity and community. Having first surveyed the ways this translational paradigm has been employed by scholars to date, this paper will go on to explore how such a paradigm might be usefully applied to the theorization of Bible translation, positioning the textual act of Bible translation as but one element of a broader socially transformative process and providing a single framework within which to address not only linguistic, but also contextual, cultural and social disruptures. Drawing on examples of several Bible translation projects carried out within the Canadian context, this paper will ask whether and to what extent the notion of a translational paradigm may be a useful tool both for deepening our understanding of past conflicts which have emerged in relation to sacred text translation and for helping us envision new and generative possibilities for better situating such projects in the future. In other words, how might expanding the breadth of our translational thinking inform our theorizing of Bible translation, as well as our practice of engaging with the cultural and social aspects of this cross-cultural undertaking?


Deborah Shadd holds the position of Translation Training and Scholarship Associate at the Nida Institute and is Dean of Associates for the Nida School of Translation Studies. Her research focuses on the role of language and education policy in the formation of cultural identities, postcolonial translation theory, and the maintenance and management of Canadian multiculturalism. She has worked as a freelance translator and published a number of articles, including "The Other Side of the Coin: A New Perspective on Translation and Metaphor" (In Other Words, 2009) and "Chasing Ricoeur: In Pursuit of the Translational Paradigm" (New Voices in Translation Studies, 2012).


Title: Bible Translation and Alterity from an Orthodox Perspective

Speaker: Simon Crisp

Abstract: Much recent discussion in Bible translation has turned on questions of alterity. The wish to reflect in translation the essential otherness of the biblical text has come more clearly into focus as readers have increasingly become dissatisfied with the so-called functionally equivalent Bible translations which predominated in the second half of the twentieth century, largely as a result of the work of Eugene Nida. The sharp distinction made by Nida between equivalence of form and equivalence of meaning, together with a strong emphasis on idiomatic communication of meaning at the expense of the form of the source text, has over time been found unsatisfactory by readers looking for translations which reflect more clearly the status of the Bible as sacred text. In part these concerns have been driven by an increasing engagement of Bible translators with the wider world of Translation Studies. Functionalist theory of translation (Vermeer, Nord) in particular has become influential, and Relevance theory (Sperber, Wilson) has been systematically applied to Bible translation by some scholars (Gutt, Pattemore). Most recently attempts have been made to explore ways in which concepts of alterity, developed primarily in literary theory (Kristeva) and social psychology (Levinas), can usefully be applied to Bible translation (Beal, Towner). Nonetheless there remains a significant gap between this more theoretical level of reflection and the actual practice of making Bible translations. Most attempts to preserve in translation the otherness of the biblical text come down to more or less extremely literal renderings which essentially reflect very closely the form of the source text. This paper will suggest that the Orthodox Christian tradition of the understanding of Scripture, with its emphasis upon mystery on the one hand and continuity with Tradition on the other, can provide the basis for an approach to Bible translation which respects alterity without simply turning it into extreme literalness. Illustrative examples from a range of Orthodox-sponsored Bible translation projects will be presented and analysed in support of this claim, and some conclusions will be drawn about Orthodox Bible translation in English in the light of discussions about translation and alterity.

Bionote: Simon Crisp holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford and an MA from the University of Birmingham. He has worked in the field of Bible translation for more than thirty years, and currently serves as Coordinator for Scholarly Editions and Translation Standards with the United Bible Societies. He is partially seconded to the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship at the American Bible Society, where he has particular responsibility for program development in the Orthodox world. He has published widely in the areas of Bible translation, hermeneutics and biblical text criticism, and holds an honorary fellowship at the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham.


Title: A Case Study of the Chinese Union Version of the Holy Bible from the feminist perspective

Speaker: Debbie Sou

Abstract: The translation practice of the Holy Bible has been of the most challenging intercultural and interracial activity for the bible translators at all times because of the rapid and constant growth of a wide readership around the world. The myriads of retranslated and revised versions of this Holy Scripture indicate that there has always been a need for greater accuracy and the consideration of readers' response. Most versions of the Holy Bible in use nowadays are the products of patriarchy, and thus inevitably carry some gender-biased elements, which can appear to be perplexing or even unacceptable in an era when 'Feminist influences have penetrated every denomination' of Christianity. The vernacular Bible in the patriarchal language may create negative perceptions of women in the target culture. Although there are already many revised versions of the Holy Bible paying special attention to the use of gender-neutral or gender-inclusive terms, did the translators of the latest version of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) pay attention to the issue of gender? Have some of the gender issues that exist in various English versions of the Holy Bible been 'automatically' resolved as the text is rendered into contemporary Chinese? And if they did, how is the translator's gender consciousness reflected in the use of third-person pronouns in the two Chinese Union Versions? Citing translation theorists W. Benjamin (1968), S. Simon (1996) and some feminist discourse on Bible translation, this thesis examines the Chinese Union Version Bible (1919) and its updated version, the (RCUV) Revised Chinese Union Version (2010) to see if the RCUV is more gender-conscious than its predecessor. For the purpose of the investigation, the biblical 'fault lines' and the gender-biased language challenged and revised by the feminists are selected and studied together with their corresponding Chinese verses in the CUV and the RCUV. The study has found that the gender-biased lexes in the Chinese Union Version have been updated in the Revised Chinese Union Version; moreover, it is also perceived that an increasing number of Chinese biblical theologians and Chinese readers of the Bible are holding an open attitude towards reading the Bible from the feminist perspective. Therefore, the findings in the paper will provide reference for checking the gender-biased elements in the existing and future revisions of the Chinese Bible.

Bionote: Debbie Sou completed her Master's Degree in Translation Studies two years ago with her Master's thesis in Bible translation from the University of Macau. She also received her Bachelor's Degree in English Studies and Post-graduate Education diploma in the same university. She is now working as an English teacher in a secondary school in Macau. For translation practice, Debbie has been involved constantly in some church simultaneous interpretation services both in English and Chinese since 2009 in her own church in Macau. Her interest is to study any Bible translation work and interpretation practice rendered in today's Chinese Christian denominations.


Title: Oral-Written Style and Bible Translation

Speaker: Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé and Jacobus A. Naudé

Abstract: Recent research has shown that the Bible, in general, and the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), in particular, were composed both by way of oral tradition and scribal activity and that, furthermore, these two aspects cannot be absolutely separated, either chronologically or in terms of importance (Carr 2005, 2011; de Vries 2012; Walton and Sandy 2013). This oral-written interface means that, on the one hand, there are oral features of the biblical tradition, some of which we have access to as "fossilized" remnants within the written text (Rhoads 2012). On the other hand, there are written features that relate both to the literary style of the author(s) and to the influence of scribal redaction and transmission (Polak 1998, 2012). The new field of Biblical Performance Criticism has highlighted the oral background of the biblical text and has suggested that translation must attend to translation of performance, translation for performance and translation as performance (Maxey 2009, 2012; Makutoane, Miller-Naudé and Naudé forthcoming)

In this paper, we examine various aspects of the oral and written styles within the Hebrew source text of the Old Testament as they relate to the ways in which speech and the perception of speech are represented. When speech is retold or represented within a story, the storyteller has the option to provide a metapragmatic analysis of the "original" speech event. Most commonly, these metapragmatic comments take the shape of quotative frames, which introduce the represented speech and specify various pragmatic features of it, such as the original speaker, the original addressee, the nature of the speech event, or the reason for the speech event. The metapragmatic variety encountered within the Hebrew Bible is usually described as the work of authors/redactors and attributed to written literary style. In this paper we first examine evidence which suggests that at least some of the metapragmatic variety relates instead to strategies employed by the storytellers/performers of oral texts. We then explore the ways in which various kinds of oral and written style may be encountered in translations of the biblical text.

Bionote: Cynthia Miller-Naudé (University of the Free State) has been a consultant for Bible translators in Africa since 1992. She has published on the translation of biblical proverbs in African languages (2005), religious translation in Africa (2011), Lamentations in the King James Version (2012), ideology and translation strategy in Bible translation (2013), alterity, orality and performance in Bible translation.

Jacobus Naudé (University of the Free State) is a member of the Afrikaans Bible translation project and serves on the advisory board of the Handbook of Translation Studies. He edited Contemporary Translation Studies and Bible Translations (2002), Language Practice: One Profession; Many Applications (2007), Socio-constructive Language Practice: Training in the South African Context (2008), Bible Translation and the Indigenous (2009).


Title: Power and Progress: a look at the Baoule Bible Translation Project

Speaker: Lynell Marchese Zogbo


Missionary-based and missionary-directed Bible translations in Africa were the norm rather than the exception during the major part of the twentieth century. However, due to a number of factors impacting the continent(the end of colonialism and the subsequent waves of anti-colonialism, the 'predicted' expansion of Christianity and rise in church growth, along with the emergence of high level training institutions and a well educated Christian leadership), new attitudes, procedures and structures have emerged. There has been a very noticeable power shift as expatriate-dominated translation projects have given way to African-directed ones. Not surprisingly, such radical change presents tremendous challenges and cannot occur without some degree of conflict.

This paper focuses on a specific translation project in Côte d'Ivoire, the Baoule Bible, begun by American missionaries in the 30's (giving rise to a succession of New Testament versions), a project which continued on from 1960's, in collaboration with UBS and the Alliance biblique de Côte d'Ivoire, culminating in the 1998 publication of a very popular and widely used Baoule Bible. Today a revision of that Bible is almost completed, along with a mother tongue study Bible, the first of its kind in the country. In this paper, we will examine shifts which have occurred as indigenous translators' profiles, training and status have changed, as well as the impact of such shifts on the translation itself.

The translation has obligatorily moved from a rather strict evangelical perspective to a wide inter-confessional one. As the translation becomes more community-oriented, translation style has radically changed, moving away from a free dynamic style to renderings closer to the source. At times, team knowledge of literary stylisics has led to an improved translation. Metaphors which were not permitted in the first Bible (God is 'rock'), due to the potential of cultural mismatch, are now judged admissible. Issues of foreignization and domestication are carefully weighed. How do translation agents (translators, exegetes, consultants, sponsoring organizations) "live" these numerous changes? What tensions arise between the community's desires and vision and the publisher's need for international quality standards?

A history of this project is traced, concentrating on the impact of social change on the inner workings of the translation team and the impact of these shifts on the translation itself.

Bionote: Lynell Marchese Zogbo has a PhD in Linguistics from UCLA (1979). She taught linguistics at the University of Ilorin and San Jose State University. She served as Bible Translation Consultant 1986-2013 with the United Bible Societies and as professor in the Department of Translation, FATEAC, Cote d'Ivoire. She is presently a research associate and visiting lecturer at the University of the Free State (South Africa)

Concluding comments and discussion

Title: Future Innovation in Bible Translation

Speaker: Jacobus A. Naudé

Bionote: Jacobus Naudé (University of the Free State) is a member of the Afrikaans Bible translation project and serves on the advisory board of the Handbook of Translation Studies. He edited Contemporary Translation Studies and Bible Translations (2002), Language Practice: One Profession; Many Applications (2007), Socio-constructive Language Practice: Training in the South African Context (2008), Bible Translation and the Indigenous (2009).


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