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vol.60 número4-1The source text for the 2020 Afrikaans translation of the New TestamentTranslation difficulties posed by the Deuterocanonical Books: Jesus Ben Sira as a case study índice de autoresíndice de assuntospesquisa de artigos
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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


BARKHUIZEN, Jan. What does the Greek say? - Spotlight on translation problems the New Testament poses. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.4-1, pp.959-982. ISSN 2224-7912.

The translation of an ancient religious text such as the New Testament has to take into account the following two matters: (1) it has to be a precise reflection of New Testament Greek, its grammatical constructions, semantics and rhetorical structure; and (2) it has to address the socio-religious and theological context of the New Testament as a whole, as well as of its individual documents or books. The obvious and natural point of departure in the translation process is an accurate and careful analysis of the Greek text. This article focuses specifically on this matter, directing the attention of the reader to the problems the translators encountered in producing the 2020 Afrikaans translation of the Bible. One way of presenting the most important translation problems to the reader might have been to start with examples taken from Matthew, work systematically through the other books and end with Revelation. Such an approach would, however, not have allowed a systematic enough distinction between the nature of the various problems, but would only have offered the reader a mixed list of examples. To avoid this kind of disorderly presentation, I have adopted a system that is more scientific, appropriate and reader-friendly, namely the classification of translation problems into the following three categories: (1) problems related to a faulty understanding of the Greek, or the application ofpoor translation techniques; (2) problems related to the ambiguity of the Greek grammatical constructions; (3) problems stemming from a lack of appreciation of the finer nuances of a specific Greek construction, word or image. Some clarification of these three categories is necessary. As to the first category, translations sometimes surprisingly misconstrue a specific Greek grammatical rule. Typical examples that occur, especially in current A frikaans Bible translations, involve erroneous interpretations of the Greek participle, the genitive case or the definite article. Some constructions, words or images in the secondary category create real difficulties for translators, since in these instances the Greek can be correctly interpreted in more than one way. Then translators are forced to choose one rendering, listing possible alternatives in footnotes, a system adopted by the 2020 Bible translators. The value of such a system can be discerned especially in the case of one of the most discussed issues in modern New Testament studies, and for that very reason is dealt with in this paper more extensively than the other problems. It concerns a specific function of the Greek genitive occurring in the phrase pistis Iesou Christou. Is this the so-called objective genitive, to be translated as "faith IN Jesus Christ", or is it a subjective genitive, to be translated as "the faith OF Jesus Christ", referring to Jesus 'faithful obedience to God's will and divine plan for the salvation of mankind? While it is clear and without any doubt true that salvation comes through faith in Jesus, as expressed throughout the New Testament, scholars who prefer the subjective genitive (mostly in certain Pauline/Deutero-Pauline texts) argue that it is primarily through the faithful obedience of Jesus that people are enabled to believe in Him and thus find salvation. The 2020 Bible translation has opted for the objective genitive in the text, placing the alternative (the subjective option) in a footnote. This is in line with the functionality of the second category: selecting one rendering and putting the alternative(s) in a footnote. As regards the third category, some translations as well as some commentaries reflect an excellent understanding of the finer points of New Testament Greek; however, while other less subtle translations do not produce an incorrect rendering of the Greek as such, they nevertheless hamper a more profound appreciation of the particular verse or passage in question. A careful reading of the original Greek is therefore essential, not only to detect possible misunder-standings of the source language, but also to enhance and enrich our knowledge of the Bible and its message.

Palavras-chave : translation problems; translation process; language; New Testament grammar; translation differentiation; translation mistakes; translation logic; ambiguity; nuance; meaning.

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