Sunday, November 04, 2007

One Year On: The Bible in Equitable Language

Deutsche Welle reports that one year on, reactions are mixed to "The Bible in Equitable Language."

The "Bibel in gerechter Sprache," or the Bible in equitable language, was meant as a modern translation that would make women more visible, correct anti-Jewish formulations and draw attention to social issues. But the 2,400-page book has polarized both theologians and laypeople, some of whom feel like their beliefs are under attack.

The new translation, the work of more than 50 theologians, consistently mentions women wherever men are mentioned, even at the risk of distorting the Bible's historical setting and departing from the Hebrew and Greek originals. Thus the book refers to female and male rabbis, although the first women rabbis were not ordained until the 1970s.

Here is the translating team. From this page is a link to the project itself.

Here's an explanation of the project by Prof Helga Kuhlmann (member of the translation team) in a publication by the Goethe-Institut.

Of the hundreds of reactions, here's one from Rabbi Michel Bollag, "A Cause for Hope".

"68 years ago today synagogues in Germany were on fire. The fire which consumed them and many Jews also, scarcely a year later covered Europe and the entire world, consuming 6 million Jews and millions of people, each individual created in the image of God. To fuel the fire that enabled it quickly and devastatingly to spread, were words of the Bible, including the Christian part of the New Testament... Rather than acting as a fire extinguisher, biblical texts were like oil, which is poured into the fire."

"The initiators of the project "The Bible in equitable language", whose final result is presented here today, took their historical responsibility from the outset and have deliberately created a work which tries to interpret the Bible in today's time to let it speak, that is, its existential dimension, and demands for justice in today's human language."

It should, he concludes, be discussed and criticized. It is a cause for hope 68 years later in regard to deepening the dialogue between Christians and Jews on the basis of sound linguistic research.

To situate this work in the academic landscape of German scholarship, see the letter from Luzia Sutter Rehmann in the SBL Forum.

1 comment:

Rev Dr Mom said...

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I understand and resonate with the theological reasons for this project. On the other hand, I'm just not sure that retranslating the bible in a way that deviates so much from the original texts is all that helpful--or wise. What really is the point of putting in material that is historically improbable--lke the women rabbis?

Does good teaching ABOUT the text, its historical and cultural context, its original language(s) work to achieve the same goal? And is it a better way? I think it's the way I'd prefer.