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Nov 25, 2006


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Thanks for posting this, Michael.

The only thing that bugs me about this, of course, is the notion that people, like me, for whom "literal translation" or "literal translation" has long been a suspect notion, are suggested as less than "biblically devout." It grates with me when only conservative circles are seen as the "biblically devout."

That's bunk, of course, but for quite some time Christian liberals or progressives or even most Christian moderates have wrestled with scripture, including 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and have rejected a literal interpretation in many places.

Michael Kruse

I would not describe myself as a progressive but I too rarely use the word "literal" in reference to the Bible. Language and metaphors do not occur in a vacuum. Context and cultural gives shape and nuance to words and phrases. There is no "literal" meaning of a text without a context. I think what many of those who complain about non-literal meanings are objecting to is that some context is being purported other than the context which they have (unwittingly) assumed into the text. Therefore, you are violating the "obvious and plan meaning of the text." There is also a tendency to take a metaphor as something concrete.

My Webster's Dictionary has a note that says "literal" used to mean something like "to the strict letters," with no embellishment. But in the 20th Century we have alternaitvely used it to experess the opposite of this as in "It is literally raining cats and dogs."

For that reason I find "literally" to be literally of no value. *grin*

Dana Ames

Yup. "Literal interpretation" is an oxymoron.

People who seek the "most literal" bible translation usually have no concept whatsoever as to what goes into translating. It's damned hard work and consists of a lot of subjective (yes! subjective! even with attention to scholarship and listening to the faith community!) judgments, _especially_ when translators are honestly trying to be clear. There is no such thing as a "word-for-word" translation of _anything_ from one language to another. Language is symbol, whether we like that or not. Can't have language without culture, and vice versa; neither one is evil. Newbigin's is an excellent perspective on this stuff. I could go on, but I'll end this rant...

Dana Ames
BA German, including an undergrad year at Heidelberg University with permission to take courses from any faculty except medicine. This is the only time I will wave my credentials ;)

Michael Kruse

I got a paper back from one of graduate school professors with several sentences circled. He commented that my paper read like it was written by a first generation German immigrant. I don't think it was intended as a compliment. That is about as close as I get to knowing another language. *grin*

Thanks for this Dana.

Dana Ames

Maybe you somehow "imbibed" some grammar/syntax patterns from your father, who got them from your Danish immigrant grandfather? Stranger things have happened...


Michael Kruse

How interesting that you would pick up on that. I wondered about that when I read it on the paper all those years ago but did not press him on the specifics. My grandfather spoke some Danish and my Dad took German in college. Me? Someday I am going to master English.

The "sins" of the fathers are passed down to the fourth generation. *grin*

Wayne Leman

kairos said:

You're right. I used an improper term there. When I wrote the post, I wrestled with what term to use. I can see that I should have wrestle some more. Perhaps a better term would have been "those who take the biblical text seriously." I did not at all mean to exclude anyone who has already rejected "literal interpretation" but who may themselves be rejected by some conservatives who feel they are the only ones with correct doctrine or spirituality due to their interpretations of the Bible.

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