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LESSON 77.

SEX BIAS INFLUENCES TRANSLATORS.

616.  It is well known that when a man gets lost on the prairie, he begins to go round in a circle; it is suggested that one side (the right, generally), being stronger than the other, he pulls unconsciously with greater strength upon the corresponding guiding rein of his horse. Just so does the translator; he pulls unconsciously on the strong side of preconception or self-interest. This may not be intended, but it is none the less inevitable to the uninspired hand. For this reason, neither class nor sex should have an exclusive right to set forth the meaning of the original text…  What wonder that all versions, having for all time been made by men, should disclose the fact that, on the woman question, they all travel more or less in a circle, in accordance with sex bias, hindering the freedom and progress of women, since (in times past more than at present), the self interest of man led him to suppose that woman served God best as his own undeveloped subordinate?

619.     Luther once said: “No gown worse becomes a woman than to be wise.” Luther only held the prevailing views of his day as regards women. Such men could not easily perceive when Scripture expressed a different thought on the subject. Proverbs 14:1 says, in Hebrew, “The wisdom of woman buildeth her house,” but not being able to appreciate the advantages of female education, men rendered it: “Every wise woman buildeth her house,” that is, the woman who devotes herself to housewifely duties is pronounced “wise.” But this is not the thought; rather, wisdom itself, in woman, will build her own (not her husband’s) house,¾ elevate her to a place of honor. Every time there has been an opportunity for the use of option in translation, use has been made of that option, by this or that man of learning, to build up one sex and to depreciate the other, and so the result, through the ages, has been cumulative, and that without actual intention.

LESSON 49.

OUR FAITH MUST REPOSE IN THE ORIGINAL TEXT.

371.  We have called attention to some of these misinterpretations, as well as mistranslations of the Bible, as to women. But a certain type of mind is sure to reason: “What am I to believe, then? And whom am I to believe?”¾as though it were ever intended that our faith should rest in human beings,¾uninspired, as these translators are, as well! Let us hope, however, that the majority of those who will read these Lessons will rather say, “We must never rest until we have seen to it that a sufficiently large number of young women are kept in training in the sacred languages, so that women can always command a hearing, as to the precise meaning of such passages in the Bible as relate to the interests of women specially. Thus only will women’s temporal and spiritual interests receive their due consideration.” Better, far better, that we should doubt every translator of the Bible than to doubt the inspiration of St. Paul’s utterances about women; and the justice of God towards women: or, above all, to doubt that “Christ hath redeemed us” (women) “from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13).

372.  Recalling Dean Payne-Smith’s words about Bible interpreters, “Men never do understand anything unless already in their minds they have some kindred ideas,” it is not worth our while to complain that men have not always seen truths that had no special application to their needs, either in interpreting or in translating the Bible; we merely wish to point out wherein there is need of changes. Supposing women only had translated the Bible from age to age, is there a likelihood that men would have rested content with the outcome? Therefore, our brothers have no good reason to complain if, while conceding that men have done the best they could alone, we assert that they did not do the best that could have been done. The work would have been of a much higher order had they first helped women to learn the sacred languages, (instead of putting obstacles in their way), and then, have given them a place by their side on translation committees.

373.   The same writer says, again: “A bad translation of this book [the Bible] exercises a depressing influence upon a nation’s advance in civilization: a good translation is one of the great levers in the nation’s rise.” We believe that the very reason why we see so large a proportion of the women of Christendom, in our day, given over to fashion and folly, is precisely because they have never been given a proper and dignified work in the advancement of God’s kingdom,¾since the first century of the Christian Church. And the true value of woman’s powers will never be known so long as her self-respect is destroyed by teaching her that she rests under God’s curse, and is bound to remain in perpetual subordination to her husband, even when he happens to be a fool or scamp; and this is what the Church unconsciously teaches in its sweeping assertions as to woman’s “subordination” to her husband,¾never pausing to define (even if this were true), what sort of a husband is entitled to act as her superior and ruler.

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621.     I think we find another case of prejudiced translation in Isaiah 3:12. The word translated “children” in this verse in Isaiah, is a plural masculine participle of the verb “to glean,” “abuse,” “practice.” It is translated “glean” in Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21, Judges 20:45, and Jeremiah 6:9. The word has no translation such as “children” anywhere else in the Bible, and it occurs 21 times. Another word altogether is used for “children,” and “child,” in verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter; the sense seems to have been fixed by the supposed context, to correspond with “women.” As to the word translated “women”: Two words, without the rabbinical vowel “points,” are exactly alike. One is pronounced nosh-im and the other na-shim. In appearance the only difference is a slight mark under the first letter of the Hebrew word na-shim. The first word means “exactors;” the one with a vowel mark under the initial letter means “women.” The entire decision, therefore, as to whether the word means one or the other depends upon OPTION. Those who pointed the word, evidently thought the nation could sink no lower than to pass under women rulers, and then translated the word “children” to match it. Commentators frequently call attention to the alternate reading. See Adam Clarke on the passage. The Septuagint translates: “As for my people, tax-gatherers (praktores) glean them, and exactors (apaitountes) rule over them.”

622.     There seems little in the context to support the translation “children” and “women.” But study the context as regards the other reading. After complaining of the “gleaners,” (that is, “tax-gatherers”) and “extortioners,” they are threatened in the following language: “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth up to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgement with the elders of His people, and the princes (“rulers,” masculine, not feminine gender), thereof for ye have eaten up the vineyard (the conduct of extortionate tax-gatherers), and the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush (R. V.) my people, and grind the faces of the poor?” Because of this context, we believe that OPTION took the wrong turn when it decided to translate this verse as it stands in our English version; and that this translation would have had a strong showing up of its sophistries, had educated women been on the last Revision Committee.

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