Translations and Versions

Questions to think about during this lesson…

  • Why do things take so long to get done/resolved in the Orthodox Church?
  • What do we mean when we say that infallibility lies within the whole Church, guided by the Holy Spirit?
  • As implied above, sometimes it takes a long time before a matter is resolved in the Orthodox Church — sometimes a matter isn’t even resolved right away by a Council. What are some examples of this? (Hint: think about the decisions made at the Council of Florence and Council of Nicea)
  • Sometimes we expect a level of conformity or standardization that has never existed in the Orthodox Church. For example, Dr. Jeannie mentions that many people ask her which is the “correct” way to make the sign of the cross. How does she respond to questions like this? And can you think of any other examples of customs that are done differently at various Orthodox Churches you’ve visited?
  • Why didn’t the lack of standardization or conformity bother people in antiquity like it bothers us today? And why shouldn’t it bother us?
  • Why are differences in customs a good thing?
  • Why does Dr. Jeannie warn us about insisting that everyone conform to our practice — even in matters such as fasting? (Hint: we need to be careful not to fall into a rigidity or judgementalism that is really more characteristic of Pharaseeism)
  • Orthodoxy is very personalized and very flexible. It’s not “one size fits all” — there’s more than one way to look at something. What does this mean and how do you feel about this approach (as opposed to having everything standardized)?
  • How does this more flexible and personal approach relate to what we discussed about manuscript variations¬†and varying interpretations of the Bible? (Hint: among the Fathers, there’s no such thing as complete unanimity of opinion about the given meaning of a passage. That said, keep in mind there is no compromise on matters of dogma: there’s no compromise on the essential teachings of the faith, which is basically¬†the Creed.)
  • What was the most important first translation of the New Testament?
  • During the first couple centuries of Christianity both the East and the West spoke Greek. But around 200 AD, a Latin translation was needed. Why was this?
  • What does Dr. Jeannie attribute some of St. Augustine’s theological errors to? (Hint: Augustine didn’t like Greek)
  • What is the Vulgate… around what year was it produced… and who was the person responsible for producing it?
  • Why wasn’t the West very involved in the great theological discussions of the early Church? (Hint: at the time, the Church was still primarily Greek-speaking… so imagine going to an Ecumenical Council to discuss theology and not knowing Greek)
  • Why did St. Jerome go to the East?
  • The Vulgate was phenomenally successful. It was used in the West for more than 1,000 years. Even long after Latin ceased to be a spoken language, the Bible continued to be read exclusively in Latin… just as the Liturgy in the West continued to be in Latin regardless of what language people spoke. How does this approach compare to that of the Eastern Tradition?
  • How did the people in the West become more and more alienated from the Bible? (Hint: the only people that could read the Bible were the ones that could read Latin)
  • How did levels of literacy compare between the East and the West?
  • Why did people in the West assume that people in the East were uneducated?
  • Who produced the first English translation of the entire Bible… what translation was this based on… and in what century did this take place?
  • Why was William Tyndale persecuted (and ultimately burned at the stake) for translating the Bible into English?
  • Who was at the forefront of producing a Bible in the German language?
  • One of Martin Luther’s big issues against the Catholic Church was the fact that they did not make the Scriptures available in the language of the people and that people were discouraged from reading the Bible. As a result, Luther translated the Bible in German, basing it on the Hebrew and Greek texts. What are your thoughts on this?
  • What year did Gutenburg invent the printing press?
  • How did the printing press impact the production and distribution of the Bible?
  • In 1611, King James I of England authorized the first translation of the Bible into English. Why was this significant?
  • Until about the 1950s everyone used the King James Version (KJV). What are some examples of how the meaning of words have changed since the 17th century? (Hint: look up Matthew 19:14 in the KJV)
  • Why isn’t the KJV necessarily any more accurate or “holy” than any other version?
  • What’s the difference between a version and a translation?
  • What does the famous Italian saying “Every translator is a traitor” mean?
  • Why does Dr. Jeannie warn us against making a theological decision (or judgement about something that’s done in the Church) based on an English translation?
  • Divisions of the Bible into chapters and verses are fairly recent. Chapter divisions date from 1205 AD. Verse divisions happened in 1565 AD. However, the Church leccionary was created around the 5th century — that’s why very often our liturgical readings overlap (past the end of one chapter and into the beginning of another chapter). Besides chapter and verse divisions, other things in our modern Bible also affect how we read a passage, such as paragraph headings and paragraph divisions. These are added by editors. If you have more than one Bible version, take a moment to compare various paragraph headings. What do you notice?
  • Other examples of things that affect how we read a passage are spaces in between words, capital letters at the beginning of the sentences, periods, commas, apostrophes, italics, quotation marks, question marks, and semi-colons, etc. All of these are the decisions of a translator or editor. Remember, when St. John Chrysostom was reading from the Bible the letters were all in upper case and there were no spaces in between the words! Consider this popular example: “A woman without her man is nothing.” vs. “A woman: without her man, is nothing.”¬†Think about how the decision of an editor or translator in regard to punctuation can completely change the meaning of a text. What are your thoughts on this?
  • What’s the difference between a literal translation/version and a dynamic translation/version?
  • Why wouldn’t you always want a literal translation? (Hint: consider translating “it was raining cats and dogs” into Japanese)
  • What’s the disadvantage of a dynamic translation?
  • What is the best, most accurate version of the Bible that we have today? What makes it so?
  • After Mary tells Jesus that there is no more wine, consider how He responds in various versions of John 2:4.¬†The literal Greek reads “What to me and to you woman”… but this was a Hebrew expression that essentially means “We understand each other, you don’t even have to tell me.”
    KJV reads “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”
    NKVJ reads “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?”
    RSV reads “Oh woman, what have you to do with Me?”
    NRSV reads “Woman, what concern is that to you and to Me?”
    NIV reads “Dear woman, why do you involve Me?”
    Jerusalem Version reads “Woman, why turn to Me?”
    New American Version¬†reads “Woman, how does your concern affect Me?”
    Good News Version reads “You must not tell me what to do.”
  • Why does Dr. Jeannie recommend avoiding the Living Bible?
  • Why does Dr. Jeannie definitely recommend avoiding versions like The New World Translation?

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