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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 58, 2010

STANLEY E. PORTER & MARK J. BODA (eds), Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 2009). Pp. 376. Paperback. $US 36.00.

This volume consists of revisions of twenty-one papers initially delivered at the Bingham Colloquium, held at McMaster Divinity College in 2005. The organisers’ stated purpose of this meeting, and hence this volume of collected essays, was “to showcase scholarship related to translating the New Testament” (ix). The introductory essay by Stanley E. Porter (1–9), sets the task of New Testament translation as involving three dimensions, namely a) establishing the text, b) translation theory, and c) theology, each being explored in turn. The volume finds limited coherence, amid what could be in danger of simply too diverse a range of topics, in critically applying the aforementioned tripartite analysis to Luke 16:19–31; however, Part 3 does take some liberty to explore other issues.

Barbara Aland’s essay (13–26) opens with an overview of text critical research and calls special attention to the often tenuous nature of internal criteria. This is followed by Maurice A. Robinson’s, “Rule 9, Isolated Variants, and the ‘Test-Tube’ Nature of the NA27/UBS4 Text: A Byzantine Priority Perspective” (27–61). Robinson articulates the Byzantine-priority hypothesis very clearly and provides robust argumentation, but in my assessment he fails to persuade unreservedly. Philip Comfort’s, “The Significance of the Papyri in Revising the New Testament Greek Text and English Translations” (62–89), validly highlights the consequential role of the papyri. However, it is surprising that there was no discussion on the value or role of non-continuous New Testament texts such as amulets, magical texts, ostraka or inscriptions, especially so, because a) some date back to an earlier period than the continuous texts, and b) several of the variation units which Comfort discusses are attested in this wider corpus of material. The three authors then briefly address issues as they pertain to Luke 16:19–31.

Part 2 focuses on Translation, but an element most conspicuously absent is any contribution from professional translators. This is not to detract from the high quality of Stanley E. Porter’s essay, “Assessing Translation Theory: Beyond Literal and Dynamic Equivalence” (117–45), in which he argues for a more nuanced approach to formal/functional/dynamic translation theory. Alain Gignac’s contribution, “A Translation That Induces a Reading Experience: Narrativity, Intratextuality, Rhetorical Performance” (146–66), is illuminating as it pays special attention to the synchronic exegetical approach, albeit with a case study in Galatians rather than Luke. The third essay in this section by Luke Timothy Johnson, “Hebrews 10:32–39 and the Agony of the Translator” (167–81), emphasises the additional difficulties involved in translation when the text is “as stylistically sophisticated and rhetorically complex as Hebrews” (181). Again, the three authors then offer particular comments upon the Lukan parable (16:19–31).

The third section is devoted to theology, which, as Porter aptly notes, is the “silent guest at any translational exercise” (6). The four essays all highlight that translation is never a theory-neutral exercise. Francis Watson, “and the Death of Christ: Isaiah 53 LXX and its Pauline Reception” (215–50), explores this in regard to the manner in which translation itself might come to be considered Scripture. Edith M. Humphrey, “On Probabilities, Possibilities, and Pretexts: Fostering a Hermeneutics of Sobriety, Sympathy, and Imagination in an Impressionistic and Suspicious Age” (251–70), argues for a hermeneutic of “sympathy” rather than “suspicion,” which offers an image of the divine rather than merely culturally contextualised narratives and ethical propositions (269). Both Khiok-Khng Yeo, “An Intertextual Reading of Moral Freedom in the Analects and Galatians” (271–89) and Elsa Tamez, “A Latin American Rereading of Romans 7” (290–304), focus more on the potential for the influence of contextual readings, explored through the lens of such diverse approaches of Confucian ethics and Latin American perspectives. Authors then bring their interpretive insights to bear on Luke 16:19–31.

The volume concludes with Richard N. Longenecker’s “Quo Vadis? From Whence to Where in New Testament Text Criticism and Translation” (327–46), in which he sketches both the historical advances/deficiencies and several possibilities for future research. Despite the volume’s title, this diverse and wide ranging collection of essays makes several important contributions to New Testament textual criticism. Perhaps the most stimulating element in this regard is the interaction between two textual critics approaching their discipline from vastly different methodo-logical perspectives, Maurice A. Robinson (Byzantine priority) and Barbara Aland (eclectic method). Significant for translators, of course, is establishing the text being translated; however, this would not traditionally be thought of as an intrinsic translational difficulty per se. As such, this volume helpfully highlights several of the diverse challenges faced by exegetes; however, it offers only limited methodological assistance to professional translators.

Review by
Dr Michael Theophilos
Australian Catholic University