Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Asterisked *Lord... in one French translation: DARBY

Yesterday we saw how one European translation of the New Testament makes (in at least one key instance, Mark 12:29) an effort to disambiguate the usages of Kyrios (Lord) in the New Testament. The way this Spanish translation achieved this was by capitalising the Spanish word for Lord, SEÑOR, **in the New Testament**. I also stressed that context has quite a lot to say for the way in which a word was intended and understood, taking the name "Isis" as one good example for context, and a fictional example of disambiguation via grammatical absence of the article of a mayor, who so associated himself with his title that he became "Mayor".

After discovering the La Biblia de las Américas translation, I was also intrigued by the French Darby attempt. What they have done here is recognise that some of the Greek of the New Testament is clearly (or unambiguously) referring to the divine Name of Yahweh, via the construction of the Greek translation Kyrios. The manifestation of this recognition is a very subtle-yet-noticeable asterisk: *Seigneur. When the French-speaking reader sees *Seigneur in the Darby translation, the point is that there is a connection to be made in the reader's mind with the Old Testament's l'Eternel. On that point, I think we can add that French is a particularly interesting translation language of the Bible as it so consistently distinguishes "l'Eternel" (albeit mainly arthrous) from "Seigneur" in the New Testament (thus far I have checked Bible du Semeur (BDS), Ostervald (OST), Martin (MAR), Darby (DRB), Annotée Neuchâtel (BAN), Segond 21 (SG21), Nouvelle Edition de Genève (NEG1979) and Louis Segond (LSG) - all are in 100% agreement on this distinction). Thus for reasons of context (e.g. a New Testament author explicitly quoting an Old Testament text), or for strong grammatical reasons (the Angel of Kyrios, aka the Angel of the Lord), the French Darby translation is able to asterisk 123 instances of "Seigneur", contained within 117 verses. You can see these here.

There is plenty to commend in this effort. A translation that seeks to be simple and "consistent" can save itself a lot of time and probably controversy by simply translating every single instance of Kyrios by "Lord" and hoping that if there is any context available, that the reader will pick up on this, perhaps helped along by the Holy Spirit. But I am sorry to say that this is nonsence. For example, how many Christians realise that nowhere in the Bible does the Hebrew, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew, say "my Yahweh", "our Yahweh" or "your Yahweh", or in their translations "my LORD", "our LORD" or "your LORD"? Because we don't SHOUT "LORD" because it is in capitals, and because Jesus is "our Lord", these issues are quickly confused in believers minds - or certainly were in my mind.

The problem is for the braver translations seeking to go down this harder path - that is to say leaving a clue as to New Testament reference to the divine Name - is that there are instances where it is less clear. Larry Hurtado has published an essay on the ambiguity in Acts that you can consult online about this, and it seems certain that this was quite quicly ambiguous (although I would be very hesitant to say it was amiguous for the writer of Acts) for the later manuscript copyists, who would sometimes add or remove articles in order to attempt to clarify what seemed uncertain to them. The sheer fact that they would seek to do this in the earliest centuries underlines two key points I think we should wake up to:

  1. Disambiguation is important
  2. The issue of article or no article IS significant.

It's not just me harping on about this!

So I would probably agree with most of the French Darby asterisks, but at the same time remain confused as to why other occurrences don't also merit the mental queue - I selected a few to illustrate this in red. Obviously, I was not surprised that my arguments around 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 were not represented here. However, you may recall that my research in Psalms lead me to post about New Testament usage of παρὰ κυρίου (from + anarthrous genitive of Lord). Four of those six occurrences are also asterisked by French Darby: Mat 21:42, Mark 12:11, Luke 1:45, 2 Peter 2:11. As I made clear in that post, of the two remaining instances of παρὰ κυρίου - I am confident about the divine Name reference in 2Ti 1:18 (i.e. if applying the Darby solution, Seigneur should be asterisked in 2 Timothy 1:18). The final less clear reference was Ephesians 6:8, which I admitted needed more work.

So with no further ado, please do check the French Darby roundup for more information.


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