Friday, December 8, 2023

Book: 40 Questions about Bible Translation


40 Questions About Bible Translation by Mark L. Strauss is another entry in the incredibly useful 40 Questions series from Kregel Academic. The series aim, overall, is to provide essentially a FAQ section on the given Title Topic. Entries include questions about the text of the New Testament, other religions, ministry patterns, and issues in Biblical interpretation. This is a handy series to have on-hand, whether you have it on your shelf or in print. The works are, naturally, all in print, and most are available for Kindle or your Logos Library.

The specific focus for today is the volume on Bible Translation. Now, I should start by being clear that all the ins-and-outs of Bible translation are the pursuit of years, but this is meant to be an introduction and explanation of some of the basic information. Mark L. Strauss, author, is a New Testament scholar and is on the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version. His other works include introductory textbooks on the Gospels and works on Biblical interpretation and translation. He is a qualified scholar for this subject. (Unless, of course, you're a partaker of the King James Only view of English Bible translation, but if so, you're not going to like this book.)

First, I would note that about a dozen of the questions and answers are English-specific, so these are not as helpful for non-English speakers. However, the rest of the book is broadly-based and applies to any language. There is value here for understanding missional work that groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators are involved with, and what the challenge is for that work. 

Second, each of the question/answer sections is followed up with comprehension questions. Strauss is a professor, after all, and there's nothing like a good quiz to make sure you got the point. 

The organization of the book moves from broad questions, like "Why do we need Bible translation?" to the final question, the quite specific and thorny, "What is the Controversy in Translating 'Son of God' in Muslim Contexts?," the latter being one you may have heard something about even in mainstream media, though it bears little impact on how you read your Bible in English.

Strauss approaches the entirety of the work from a perspective that respects the Bible as the Word of God, but acknowledges that people's hands have been on it and therefore, some parts of its transmission and translation may be problematic. He does not delve deeply into textual criticism or the more in-depth questions of just what Greek verb tenses are doing, but provides enough initial insight to help the reader understand why you cannot just make a one-to-one word swap to translate. He also provides the best short-form answer on textual criticism I have seen, and one that I will be using next time the question comes up in the church I pastor.

I would definitely put this more in the undergraduate student or deep Bible study participant category than I would in the "just buy copies and give them out at church" category. The information is well-presented, but it does presume some basic working knowledge of New Testament studies. There are places where some help connecting to other materials will be necessary, so a group setting is the ideal usage here. 

And, on a personal aside, we do get the necessary mention of the Venerable Bede on page 205 as well as Caedmon! The chapter on Earliest English Bible translations looks great to me, but I'm partial to that area as my first research paper was on pre-Reformation English Bible translations. So I'm always happy to see these familiar friends and to read scholars restate what I wrote back then, because I like knowing I was right. (it was all footnoted facts, hard to get wrong ;) )

This may be the last book I review here--I'm rethinking my blog and don't really have the traffic to claim I'm worth the freebies--but it is necessary to note Kregel Publications gave me this in exchange for a committed review. Am I positive? I am, because I get to choose the books I review and the publishers, and I've yet to find a bad part of this series. So...main point is that I did get the book free.

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