Translating the New Testament (book notice)

One of my favorite book series is the McMaster New Testament Studies series published by Eerdmans.  They have done books (all based on conferences, I think) on prayer in the NT, Christology, discipleship, intertextuality, resurrection, etc…  They always collect the best scholars in NT, often evangelicals, but a few others as well (which is always a good thing!).

This time around the topic is: Translating the New Testament Text, Translation, Theology.  Too often, translation and textual criticism is seen as the boring stuff, and students and scholars want to get on with it and do theology.  Well, editors Stanley Porter and Mark Boda know better – that you cannot do theology without understanding and correctly identifying the biblical text in the original languages.  So, an excellent project is born!

In part I, Barbara Aland, text-critical legend, jumps in on how NT textual research is done.  Her essay is full of interesting anecdotes and insider info from where all the real action happens in manuscript study. She also makes a point of squashing the Ehrmannites who try to argue that earnest scribes were fiddling with the theology of the manuscripts.

Maurice Robinson has an essay criticizing the ecclectic text method (of NA27), as expected, and makes a pretty good argument that decisions on textual variants happen on too microscopic a level and end up creating a final text that would essentially be impossible  - what is called a “test-tube” text.  Instead, he argues that we must decide on the best witnesses with a glance at the decisions we just made earlier – we cannot say “X” text is a good witness here, and then completely discount “X” text for the next 5 variant cases.  Well, I am no expert in textual criticism, so maybe I am not explaining it well, but to me, Robinson has made a good point.  Nevertheless, I am more cautious of immediately prioritizining the Byzantine text (as he suggests).

I will have more to report in due time, but expect discussions of these essays:

Stan Porter on Assessing Translation Theory

Richard Longenecker on the past and future of textual criticism and translation

There are also lots of little case studies in NT translation by Luke Timothy Johnson, Francis Watson, Edith Humphrey, and K.K. Yeo.

As a teacher of Greek, I enjoy so much showing students how translation is interpretation and how important little grammatic and discourse-related decisions are.  So, I applaud McMaster (and Stan Porter especially) for highlighting this topic.  May this book find its way into many hands!