Bible translation - Political Correctness or Fair/Just language


Bible translation - Political Correctness or Fair/Just language

Eberhard Werner (werner(a)

In 2006 the German Bibel in gerechter Sprache [Bible in fair/just language] was published. It stimulated a discussion about fair/just language. This Bible was revised in 2011 and is now in its forth edition (2017). It is popular in parts of the German Church. "Fair/Just language" and political correctness are closely related. As many linguistic transgressions - which become popular in recent politics - demonstrate, there is a need to consider the communicational channel as an important tool to bridge comprehensional barriers. On the other hand trespassing communicational tacit consent leads to (un-) conscious misconceptions. In Bible translation the discussion that it was written by many authors over a long time (e.g. using the term God for elohim, adonai, kyrios etc.), gender issues (e.g. formerly brethren instead of sisters) and anti-Jewish language (e.g. "Jew" instead of Jewish people etc.) played no role, because the traditional idea of a "true Bible translation" was foreignization and not domestication, following Venutis translational proposal. The idea of a divine verbal inspiration of the base text led to the assumption that a translation was automatically inspired too, after it was accepted by a majority of the Church. With that the assumption came up that any translational derivation from this "inspired Bible text" was (un-)intentionally wrong. Here it is argued that the translational orientation of either a communicative versus a literal Bible translation was mixed with the concept of divine inspiration over-interpreting or misunderstanding the divine influence on the translation. A hermeneutical proposal to overcome this discrepancy is called the hermeneutics of principles. In sum it states that inspiration is based on the audiences reflection of the Biblical text and the divine principles that meta-linguistically transported.

The unfairness/injustice that a Bible translation transported into the local Church, generated by unfair/unjust langauage was seldom discussed nor recognized. The fear that the spirit of times (Zeitgeist) leads to "false Bibel translation" based on syncetism led to the critque of those that used the mother tongue idiom (grammatically and worldy) towards communicative Bible translations. The friction caused by this argumentation is not to be overcome, but important to say that neither Bible translation in itself is wrong if it is based on the base text, but that it adds to the plurality of godly communicational channels. Who would restrict these divine ways of addresing humans to only one Bible translation, one style, one way to translate?

One area of fair/just language are Disability Studies: How about the disabled adressed in the Bible? Nowadays inclusion plays (again) an important role. In the times of Jesus the exclusion of disabled would have meant their death due to their need of care and societies support. So the family and the society was responsible to include them to their best. With industrialism that changed. Giving "the lame" and "the blind" a voice and a face helps to bring the Biblical text closer to the reader. Bible translators should consider fair/just language also for people with impairments, not mentioning using easy English/language (short sentences, explaining foreign concepts etc.) and in case of Online Bibles barriere free and accessible websites.

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