Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God's Word in English. Conference on KJV in Leuven

It was a privilege to listen to the four very engaging presentations on Friday afternoon, March 25. Here are some of my impressions. (1) We started off with Isabel Rivers' presentation on Philip Doddridge’s New Testament: The Family Expositor (1739-56). What I found fascinating was that Doddridge’s work was actually a “commentary” on the New Testament in order to be accessible to both learned and unlearned. Even if the end product was less successful than he had hoped for, it was actually an early example of the multi-purpose “study Bibles” that are intended for both the specialist and the interested. (2) Ellie Bagley caught everyone’s attention by interspersing her discussion on The Influence of the KJV on the Revised Version¬ with early 20th Century Irish newspaper reports of KJV “Bible-burning activities,” allegedly initiated by Roman Catholics, as concrete examples of ongoing Protestant-Catholic conflict concerning the translation of confessionally sensitive terms (e.g, “do penance” vs. “repent”, “congregation” vs. “Church”). There is something about book burning that just makes you want to sit up and pay attention, especially on a warm afternoon after lunch. Bagley’s animated description of events contributed to this. Her examples clearly illustrated “the cultural baggage of the KJV and the Revised Version” – the presence of elements of Protestant ideology in the KJV that Catholics in turn strenuously objected to and found heretical. Yet the disputes did not end without fruit. For Bagley, one of the good outcomes of the debate was the revision of the KJV where most of the Catholic criticisms were considered favourably. Nevertheless, it was this “Catholic influence” on the Revised Version that made it less popular than the KJV!

Two more interesting papers on translation followed. (3) The title alone of Creighton Marlowe's The Bible Has Lost its Soul made me really curious. How could one claim that the Bible had lost its soul? The answer came in the form of word counts. Marlowe presented his “soul-searching” of the Bible, word counts of the noun “soul” in 6 English Bibles, in comparison to the KJV’s use of the term. His analysis revealed that out of the 537 occurrences of the word “soul” in the KJV, an average of 66% are missing in the English Bible translations of the 20th century (NKJV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, GNT, CEV). (4) A translation issue was also the focus of the final paper, Reimund Bieringer's Junia and Her Female Colleagues in the KJV, an analysis of the women figures in the Pauline letters, particularly Junia who “suffered the fate of being changed into a man”. Thanks to Biblical exegesis Junia’s gender has finally been recovered! The issue though is not just about her gender but on the role she played in the early Church considering her gender. Now, I need not spell out what the implications of this would be for the role of women in the Church today. Bieringer’s study focused on whether there was a translation tendency in the KJV which either decreased or increased the importance of women in the Pauline corpus. The result of his study revealed the complexity of the work of translators and the difficult decisions they sometimes have to take. He further concluded that whereas the RSV followed the KJV very closely, the NRSV is closer to Tyndale.

The presentations were very interesting and enlightening. Unfortunately, three of the presenters had to either speed up or shorten their presentations due to time limitations. Nevertheless, we had an intellectually stimulating afternoon which ended with the offer of a free academic guided tour in Leuven under the guidance of Prof. Guido Latré.

Joan Infante

God’s Word in English - The King James Version as Translation

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