Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Translation and transformation

It's official: Jesus was a godless commie.

The Conservative Bible Project aims to "retranslate" the Bible in "conservative" terms and language. (I can't help thinking that producing a new translation is just about the least "conservative" thing it's possible to do to the Bible, but I guess that's just because I speak English.)

This "retranslation" is to use the King James Version as a "baseline", chiefly because the KJV is out of copyright. ("It could be used as the baseline for developing a conservative translation without requiring a license or any fees", explain the instigators. "Also", they neglect to continue, "it doesn't require any actual knowledge of ancient languages, so we're not reliant on a bunch of 'scholars' to do the work for us. What we're after here is ideological purity - 'accuracy' is overrated anyway.") So volunteers are being asked to "translate" the KJV into modern "conservative" English. (I don't think I've ever used so many quotation marks in one story before. That's a reflection of just how far these people have debased the language, how they have made whores of so many innocent words.)

It's been done, guys. It's called the New King James Version.

But the KJV isn't conservative enough, apparently. It contains such subversive liberal lines as Luke 23:34:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
This verse is apparently "a liberal corruption of the original", "a favorite [quotation] of liberals", and "should not appear in a conservative Bible".

Since the Conservative Bible Project is so keen on "translation", let's try translating that sentiment into plain English:
We think the author is lying. It's not as if the text is divinely inspired, after all.
I don't know if they haven't thought it through, or if they're simply planning to lie through their teeth, later on, about how they arrived at their "translation".

Then they talk about the parable of the "dishonest" manager. They criticise the liberal New International Version translation of Luke 16:8: "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly". But, they say, "being dishonestly shrewd is not an admirable trait".

Let's see how the beloved KJV renders that passage, shall we?
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely
I don't really see how that helps. If "dishonest shrewdness" is "not admirable", is "unjust wisdom" any better?

The CBP suggests the word "resourcefully" in place of "shrewdly". Because "dishonest resourcefulness", of course, is an absolutely admirable trait.

Then it criticises "liberal" translations for using "liberal" language - words like "comrade", "labourer", "fellow", instead of good "conservative" words like "volunteer". ("Comrade"? Not used at all in the KJV, NKJV or the much-reviled NIV, but occurs a horrifying three times in the English Standard Version, apparently.)

I hate to break it to them, but "volunteer" isn't a synonym for any of those: it's a separate word with a distinct meaning. You can't just go switching it in because you like the sound of it.

Actually, scratch that. Of course you can do that, it's the work of moments with any word processor. But it's not "translation".

Part of me is struck with doubt. Part of me feels that an exercise this shameless can only be a false-flag project by liberals who have infiltrated the conservative Christian movement. But then I reflect on some of the Christian conservatives I've encountered, and I ask myself: Would I really put this past them? And the answer is "no".

So purely for experiment, let's try a passage for myself. Here's James 5:1-4 in the King James Version:
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
Clearly a massive liberal interpolation there. Let's try rendering it more faithfully to the spirit:
Look here, you welfare dependents, you should be crying, because you'll get yours. Your money is undeserved and you can't afford new fashions. Your income drops in real terms every year, and it serves you right, it's meant to incentivise you into showing some initiative; you thought you could scrape and save to survive. But now the debt collectors are at your door, the people who have provided services to you in good faith want to be paid, and the businessmen have the ear of the powers that be.
There, not so hard. All you have to do is let your "conservative" training rape your soul and bludgeon your conscience into a bloody pulp, and let the hatred flow through.

The Muslims don't have this trouble...


Wisco said...

Excellent! They ought to hire you.

Cian said...

I want to second what Wisco said. Actually they do not need to hire you, but somebody needs to publish your version. I may not be Christian but that is one copy of the bible I would read.

vet said...

Cian, they do so need to hire me. If I'm going to debase my soul like that, I'm going to do it for big money.