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Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Initial impression, 23 Jun. 2008
This review is from: A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Hardcover)
I was looking forward to this translation after reading Brenton's excellent version.
Plusses so far:
Format - excellent. Value for money, couldn't be better. Notes and explanations, generous and very useful. The one book I have read in its entirety so far is Esther - excellent, handles the lengthy parentheses very well, couldn't put it down. I have only dipped into some of the others
Genesis: "divine wind" instead of "Spirit of God" - somewhat puzzling, bearing in mind the context (I speak as a professional translator). (Some of the English in the NETS needs tidying up - with footnotes if there is a problem.)
Psalms: From the preface "To the reader of Psalms": "At not a few places, Ralfs enclosed within square brackets items of text, which, although they could not in his judgement justifiably be regarded as original nevertheless have widespread support in the textual traditions. Since in all these cases I agree with Ralfs' conclusion, I have excluded these items from NETS without comment." - OUCH! Example: Psalm 39(40) Verse 7(6) "Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but a body you have prepared for me" has been replaced by "Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but ears you have fashioned for me" from the MT I guess but without comment. So, the translator is inferring that the writer of Hebrews in the NT who quotes this verse from the LXX (as most other NT writers quote from the LXX) is also wrong??? I would expect an accademic version to contain the omitted text to enable the reader to judge for himself - as Ralfs did for the Greek text.
Worth getting? certainly, but IMHO it could be improved with a revision of some parts.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Aug 2009 21:57:22 BDT
What's wrong with 'divine wind' - do you read Hebrew?
I note you say you're a professional translator, you aren't listed in the ITI directory, which professional organisation do you belong to?

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jul 2012 12:46:05 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 17 Jul 2012 12:46:50 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jul 2012 12:49:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Jul 2012 12:54:16 BDT
What is wrong with `divine wind'?

In the translation industry, you are required to be familiar with the subject in which you are working before you are given a text to translate. This is because the same words in the source language are used to express many different meanings, depending on the context. For example, the best translator to translate a piece of chemical text is one who has been trained as a chemist and who has worked as a chemist. 85% of chemistry involves learning a vocabulary which is used to describe things and phenomena which you cannot see. When dealing with spiritual texts, some of the words take on a wholly different meaning because they are being used to describe phenomena which are not normally experienced in a material environment.

Many years ago, I experienced supernatural encounters with God which were way beyond my natural experience. One aspect of those encounters was God's love. There is simply nothing equivalent to use as a reference in our everyday lives to describe it. I may attempt to use words like powerful, unconditional, devastating, other-focused, selfless, all-consuming, passionate, compassionate and transcendent beyond anything we understand in our lives as humans - but none of these words are adequate. This is why academics seem to have such a hard time understanding the impact of the words used by Jesus and Peter in their dialogue on the beach at the end of John's Gospel.

The purpose of a translation is to convey what the author is trying to say. With a Scriptural text, it is also necessary to understand the nature of the Divine Author to understand where He is coming from. In the first few verses of Genesis, it does not take a lot of imagination to realise that the author is talking about the Spirit of God, not wind, divine or otherwise. The context of the Septuagint is Judaism and Christianity (born out of and a consummation of Judaism), where the Spirit of God is explained to be a person - the third person of the trinity, who may seem to operate like the wind in that you cannot see Him, `no-one knows where He is coming from or where He is going to' but you can nevertheless feel the power of Him and see His impact on people, just as you see the impact of the wind on the trees. `Divine wind' implies an inanimate phenomenon. An inanimate phenomenon cannot be said to `brood' over the waters (as an eagle flutters over her nest) as indicated in the Hebrew. The closest word the Hebrews could use to express the Spirit of God was the word commonly used for `breath', which also implies `life' as God is the giver of life. The same could be said for the Greek word which is translated wind or breath or spirit depending on the context. `Divine wind' should appear in a footnote, not in the main text.

If I were to take an academic approach to my translation work, I would soon find that I would no longer be able to earn a living. Clients generally take you on as a translator after giving you a difficult test piece to find out if are able to comprehend what is being expressed by the author and then turn it into good English. Once they give us work, our clients examine what we do and if they find a stupid mistranslation, they go through the entire piece picking out every conceivable context-dependent interpretation and send it back for us to proofread again - we lose time and money. In other words, with just one mistake, they lose confidence in the entire translation. If this happens more than once or twice, we lose the client. If they are not happy with the work, they impose a fine. As a translator, I have to be meticulous in my work with an eye for detail or I will soon be out of business.

Some words are not translatable because there is no equivalent in our own language, so they have to be expressed as a phrase or clause instead. I generally find that academics `strain out a gnat and swallow a camel'.

With the other example in Psalm 40, the translator has chosen to revert to a literal translation of the Masoretic text rather than translate the Septuagint. As far as I understand, the Masoretic text refers to a hole being made in the ear, a clear reference to being made a `love slave' as described in Exodus 21:6. The LXX Scribes expressed the impact of this clause in the Hebrew by translating it as `a body you have prepared for me' in the Greek. This was thoroughly approved of by the NT author in Hebrews 10:5 who adopted it virtually word-for-word.

These are merely my opinions, which I have expressed in response to your comment and you may not agree with them. But I think I represent a large number of Christians who do and would like to use the NETS for their studies.

Now, why did you not find my name on the ITT list I wonder? Well, when I became an associate member of the ITT, I already had a flood of work from my clients and I was even turning some of it away. The magazine from the ITT had very little of interest to me and the cost at £150 a year was unjustifiable - I was paying a third of that as a full member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, which had all sorts of benefits for its members. Since I had no need to be an ITT member and was the only breadwinner of a family of four at the time, I could see no advantage in spending the money. I think that you will find that many translators have taken the same decision. My clients are my best critics and know very well how to keep my standards up!

I hope this answers your questions.
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