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Jacobus A Naudé. Metatext as a mediating tool of religious conflict in the translation of sacred texts. Background. N ot everything about a source text can be rendered in a translation Translators tell readers something about the source text, while simultaneously hiding much of it

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Metatext as a mediating tool of religious conflict in the translation of sacred texts


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background
Background
  • Not everything about a source text can be rendered in a translation
  • Translators tell readers something about the source text, while simultaneously hiding much of it
  • The ‘correct’ established meaning must be protected
  • Any translation diverging from the accepted interpretation is likely to be deemed heretical and to be banned
  • Translators defend their translations by utilizing metatexts to narrate the nature of the specific translation
aim of the paper
Aim of the paper

To show that the metatext of a sacred text

  • regulates the reader’s mental preparation for free translation to ensure that free interpretations will be orthodox
  • serves as a mediating tool of religious conflict in the translation of sacred texts

Three metatexts will be utilised

  • Luther’s Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Circular Letter on Translation)
  • The Aristeas Book
  • The metatext for the Bible in Afrikaans about capital letters for so-called messianic names/references
outline of the paper
Outline of the paper
  • Approach for describing and explaining the role of metatexts: Narrative Frame Theory
  • Acceptability issues concerning the translation of sacred texts:

translation dimensions of sacred texts

  • Discussion of metatexts
frames and framing in translation
Frames and Framing in Translation
  • Baker (2006) argues that the nature of human knowledge is narrative in nature
  • There is no neutral knowledge, and no neutral translation
  • Narratives are the stories we tell ourselves and others about the world(s) in which we live
frames and framing in translation 2
Frames and Framing in Translation (2)

Narratives are constituted through four interdependent features:

  • Temporality: narratives are embedded in time and space
  • Relationality: it is impossible for the human mind to make sense of isolated events or of a patchwork of events
  • Selective appropriation: as realized in patterns of omission and addition, which are designed to suppress, accentuate or elaborate particular aspects of a narrative
  • Causal emplotment: when independent propositions are placed within a plot structure, they are transformed into an intelligible sequence about which we can form an opinion
frames and framing in translation 3
Frames and Framing in Translation (3)
  • The process of framing events involves setting up structures of anticipation that guide others’ interpretation of events
  • Every choice in translation acts as a kind of index that activates a narrative, a story of what the world or some aspect of the world is like
  • The point, then, is not to treat any specific translational choice as random, with no implications in the real world. Instead, the framework of narrative theory encourages us to think of individual choices as embedded in, and contributing to, the elaboration of concrete social reality
frames and framing in translation 4
Frames and Framing in Translation (4)
  • Processes of framing can draw on practically any linguistic or non-linguistic resource to set up an interpretive context for the reader or hearer
  • In translations, these include exploiting paralinguistic devices such as typography, visual resources (colour, image and layout), linguistic devices (e.g. deixis, code switching, euphemisms)
  • Metatexts are useful to trace the contours of literary ideology and expose the socio-cultural context which commands literary exchanges
  • The metatext has the function of calling attention to the translator as co-signer of the work; the metatext calls attention to the intervention of another hand and cultural context
the translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts
The translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts

These dimensions reflect the reality in the aggregate, not in every minute detail

  • Unregulated translation: Anyone is free to ask for a translation, and anyone capable of making one is free to make it; without any regulation
  • Regulation of the act of translation: Regulated translation involves the imposition of strict controls on who translates what, how, and especially for whom, and whether and how, and with whom the resulting translations are shared and discussed
the translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts 2
The translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts (2)
  • Regulation of the comprehensibility of actual translation: Typical of this dimension is a translation, which serves the purpose of keeping the sacred text largely incomprehensible to the masses
  • Regulation of the reader’s mental preparation for translation: The sacrality of sacred texts no longer means that they are dangerous to the unlearned or that they must therefore be kept from the profane.

This openness does not mean absolute freedom

the translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts 3
The translation dimensions of sacred texts and metatexts (3)
  • This dimension seeks to control the reader’s mental preparation for translation so as to ensure that free interpretations will be orthodox
  • Metatexts have been used as mediating tools for religious conflict that arises from the translation of sacred texts:

Jerome’s Letter to Pammachius

circular letter on translation and the luther bible translation
Circular Letter on Translation and the Luther Bible Translation
  • The preoccupation of the Roman Catholic Church was for the ‘correct’ meaning of the Bible to be protected
  • Any translation diverging from the accepted interpretation was banned

William Tyndale

Etienne Dolet

circular letter on translation and the luther bible translation 2
Circular Letter on Translation and the Luther Bible Translation (2)
  • Non-literal or non-accepted translation came to be seen and used as a weapon against the Church
  • Martin Luther translated into East Central German, a regional yet socially broad dialect
  • Luther follows St Jerome in rejecting a word-for-word translation strategy:

Vulgate: Ex abundantia cordis os loquitur (Matthew 12:34)

Word-for-word: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (KJV)

Luther: Wes das Herz voll ist, des geht der mund über (common German proverb)

The idiom means ‘to speak straight from the heart’

circular letter on translation and the luther bible translation 3
Circular Letter on Translation and the Luther Bible Translation (3)
  • Martin Luther was accused of adding the world allein (alone/only) in the translation of Romans 3:28

Arbitramus hominem iustificari ex fide absque operibus

Wir halten, dass der Mensch gerecht werde one des Gesetzes Werk, allein durch den Glauben

We hold, that man is justified without the work of the law, only through faith

  • The charge was that the German implies that the individual’s belief is sufficient for a good life, making ‘the work of the law’ (i.e. religious law) redundant
circular letter on translation and the luther bible translation 4
Circular Letter on Translation and the Luther Bible Translation (4)
  • He defended himself in his famous Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Circular Letter on Translation) of 1530
  • He justified his translation as necessary for clarity in German: he was translating from originals and not translations into pure, clear German, where allein would be used for emphasis
  • Luther added essential traits of the ideal translator in the circular to justify his translation
  • Aristeas’ letter fulfilled a similar function as a metatext?
aristeas book and the septuagint
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint

Aristeas’ story is presented in the guise of a letter to his brother Philocrates ...

The Book of Aristeas as Pseudepigraphon

  • Humphrey Hody (1705)demonstrates the fictitious nature of the Book of Aristeas
  • John Wevers (1985): intent of B.Ar. is to detail the origins of the Greek Pentateuch, but as fiction – not to accept anything stated in B.Ar.
  • Abraham & David Wasserstein (2006): legend with no historical value
aristeas book and the septuagint 2
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint (2)

The Book of Aristeas as historiography

Nina Collins: B.Ar. should indeed be taken seriously as a historical document

Sylvie Honigman: Intention is to perceive B.Ar. as ‘true history’, a charter myth

Noah Hacham: Narrative recounting of the expedition to Eleazar and its outcomes. Combination of loyalty to Judaism and involvement with the Hellenistic culture

aristeas book and the septuagint 3
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint (3)
  • Brock’s conclusion that Aristeas does not have to do with the origins of the LXX but rather with its reception history is accepted in scholarly circles
  • Aristeas is perhaps part of a debate within Diaspora Judaism concerning the true nature of Jewish heritage and its interpretation of the Jewish Law
  • It is suggested that the Book of Aristeas fulfilled a function as a metatext
aristeas book and the septuagint 4
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint (4)
  • Little is said about the translation of the LXX. The letter is divided into 322 sections. The work of the translation is found in sections 301 to 322. The intervening 250 sections give a description of the temple and the Holy Land
  • Aristeas insists on the LXX’s Palestinian origin. Its parent text was not an Alexandrian Hebrew text, but an ornate exemplar sent by the Jerusalem high priest. It was not the Alexandrian Jews who made the translation, but official representatives: six from each of the 12 tribes, selected by the high priest. The translation is rendered official by adoption by the Jewish assembly. Like the Hebrew original it was not allowed to undergo any revision
aristeas book and the septuagint 5
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint (5)
  • The role of the law of Moses in the Septuagint Proverbs has a more prominent role than is the case in the Hebrew by underlining of the negative with an emphasis on evil

Greek: Wicked progeny curses its father versus

Hebrew: There are those who curse their fathers (Prov 30:11)

  • Greek contains more contrasts than the Hebrew.

Proverbs 31:1-9 was moved by the translator in order to place 31:10 adjacent to 29:27 for purposes of contrast. In this way the translator contrasts an unjust man with a virtuous wife

aristeas book and the septuagint 6
Aristeas Book and the Septuagint (6)
  • The B.Ar. is similar to the Dolmetschen of Luther
  • The B.Ar. as a narrative is not a legend, nor a historical account of the origin of the LXX, neither is it an apology to justify the translation of the LXX
  • Rather, B.Ar. was written after the translation of the LXX was completed
  • It was a mediation tool to facilitate the differences between the Greek and Hebrew in such a way that free interpretations in the LXX would be viewed as orthodox
the metatext on capital letters for messianic references
The metatext on capital letters for messianic references
  • The Dutch Authorised Bible translation of 1639 indicates with notes which texts can be understood as messianic
  • Since the twentieth century footnotes and margin notes were not represented in the Dutch Authorised Bible translation anymore
  • Capital letters are used in the first letter of a word to indicate messianic terms in the Old Testament which refer to the New Testament (cf Isaiah 9:5 ‘a Child has been born for us, a Son given to us ...’; pronominal references and the word ‘Servant’ in Isaiah 53)
  • The 1933 Afrikaans translation and its 1953 revision follow this model
  • The Afrikaans translation of 1983 does not use capital letters for messianic terms in the Old Testament
the metatext on capital letters for messianic references 2
The metatext on capital letters for messianic references (2)
  • In the design of the Bible in Afrikaans it was decided that footnotes would be used to indicate which of the OT texts could be understood as messianic. It was similar to the model of the Dutch Authorised Bible translation of 1639
  • The translation project was initiated in 2005 by the Afrikaans-speaking churches in South Africa as a project of the Bible Society of South Africa. All churches using Afrikaans as language of communication were involved in the project. The translation team reflected mainly the mainstream viewpoints. The project is being done in 5 phases. Until the end of 2010 the project will be in phase 1 and 2. Phase 3 will involve the feedback of churches
the metatext on capital letters for messianic references 3
The metatext on capital letters for messianic references (3)
  • On 25 February 2008 documents were received from a (fundamentalist) group with the title ‘Would you like an Old Testament without the name of Christ?’
  • The steering committee answered them in a circular ‘The use of capital letters in parts of Old Testament referring by the New Testament as references to the Messiah.’ It consisted of the following sections:

Orientation reflecting the background on the use of capital letters

Evidence of the source texts and other translations

The translation principles of this project

The difference between dogmatic interpretation and translation

conclusion
Conclusion

Metatexts reveal shifting relationship between author and translator

trace the contours of literary ideology, and

expose socio-cultural context

Luther justified in his Circular Letter on Translation his free Bible translation as necessary for clarity in German. In addition, Luther added essential traits of the ideal translator in the circular as further justification for his translation

Aristeas defends the Greek Septuagint as Jewish by insisting on its Palestinian origin

The metatext created for the Bible in Afrikaans does not solve but softens the dispute about the avoiding of capital letters in the Old Testament to translate so-called messianic names/references

conclusion 2
Conclusion (2)
  • One can conclude that a critical function of a metatext to the translation of a sacred text is to regulate the reader’s mental preparation for free translation (= diverge from accepted interpretation) to ensure that free interpretations will be considered to be orthodox and thereby serves as a mediating tool of religious conflict