I guess I’m one of those terrible professors mentioned in the last post — after all I teach at Berkeley, that notoriously liberal institution, and I think there are serious problems with important conservative ideas about Bible translations, like how you translate ἄνθρωπος and ὕιοι.
But let me tell you about what I did today.
I attended the doctoral defense of my long-time friend and Bible translator, Nick Bailey. He was awarded the degree of PhD for a thesis about the structure of Koine Greek sentences that have the function of introducing new characters or ideas into the text, like:
Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάνης (John 1:6-7a)
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (NIV)
Along the way he made serious progress in solving mysteries of Greek word order that are — literally — millenia old. (Who says linguistics isn’t good for anything?)
His defense was not at Berkeley — it was at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. And I wasn’t there to watch. I was one of his opponents. It entailed a lot of pomp and circumstance. John Hobbins would have loved it.
We wore our academic garb, the caps and gowns in the US reserved for graduation ceremonies. Only the caps aren’t mortarboards, they are the six-sided tams, and the gowns that the Dutch wear are smaller and don’t zip up. (They call them togas.) The dean of the college convenes the various meetings wearing a chain and seal of the university. We were led around between the private meeting room and the public aula (auditorium) by the department beadle carrying a staff. We had to wear our tams when standing, and we had to observe certain formulaic speech when asking and answering questions.
Esteemed defendant, by the authority of the Rector and in my own right …
The diploma is quite big and has a seal on ribbons. It was signed in public and rolled up by the beadle and presented to the candidate, after the announcement of the positive results of the deliberation by the opponents.
But the thing that most caught my attention was that the proceedings were openly Christian. The promotor (thesis advisor to gringos) and most of the opponents (examiners) were confessing Christians, some involved in Bible translation, one a member of the United Bible Society.
The dean opened the proceedings by charging the candidate with 2 Timothy 2:1-7
1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
… and closed the proceedings with a doxology.
All this in a country where drugs and prostitution are legal, the government is, by American standards, socialist — and the streets are safe to walk on at night.
Mr. Schlafly, maybe we have our priorities wrong. Having professors work on Bible translations is not the problem. The really liberal professors just aren’t that interested. The problem is we are trying too hard to sell a brand of conservatism that doesn’t work when it comes to translating what the Scripture actually says — and maybe not even when it comes to life.