Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mark 6.1-13 Translations and Notes (RCL 6th Sunday after Pentecost Year B)

View of Nazareth (Basilica of Annunciation near the center) mgvh

Mark 6.1-13 is the appointed gospel text for the Revised Common Lectionary 6th Sunday after Pentecost Year B which is 4 July 2021. It's recounts two events: the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and the sending of the twelve disciples. Nazareth's rejection of Jesus anticipates the rejection the disciples are likely to experience (Mark 6.11), and it creates an interlude preparing for the following passage (6.14-29) about the death of John the Baptizer.

I have again compiled a collection of English translations and offer my own which attempts to reflect the oral character of Mark's gospel.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Mark 5.21-43 Translations and Notes (RCL 5th Sunday after Pentecost Year B)

Mural in one of lower spaces of Boat Chapel of Duc In Altum, Magdala, Israel (mgvh, 2017)

Mark 5.21-43 is the designated Revised Common Lectionary text for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost Year B which is June 27 in 2021. It's a wonderfully composed text employing a Markan intercalation and intentional use of tenses (lots of imperfects), grammatical constructions (note how participles are piled up at the beginning and add tension until the main verb is expressed), and precise and repeated vocabulary that holds two stories together. It pairs the woman with the constant bleeding with Jairus's daughter (12 years), but it also contrasts the male, high-status, synagogue leader Jairus with the female, impure, low-status woman. Both are equal in Jesus' eyes.

It's a fun text to perform, and performance allows for some beautiful nuances in the story. For example, when the woman comes forward and tells Jesus the whole truth, how do you picture Jesus responding to her when he says, "Daughter, your faith has saved you..." The woman had fallen down before Jesus (just as Jairus had done a few verses earlier), but is Jesus standing over her looking down as he makes his declaration. Or, as one of my students once performed it, does Jesus kneel down to the woman's level when he speaks. It makes a significant difference in the hearer's perception and reception of the story.

As I've been doing, I'm providing a collection of translations along with notes, translation comments, and my own translation. My translation is intended to reflect the oral character of Mark's Greek which also makes it a good version for performance in English. It's part of a larger project I'm working on, Let the Hearer Understand: A Translation and Performance Guide for Hearing the Gospel of Mark. 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

English Bible Versions: Literal, Dynamic / Functional, Paraphrase

I have previously posted on the range of English versions of the Bible and noted the range of so-called "literal / word-for-word" translations through "dynamic / functional equivalent / thought-for-thought" translations and on to paraphrases. 
I have now (2021.06) updated the list. I had started with a helpful list I found online by Bruce Terry which provides an approximate rating of each version from literal (or using formal equivalence) to dynamic or paraphrase. I edited this list and added a few evaluations of my own. The scale used is where a "1" would be an interlinear Hebrew/Greek to English and a 10 would be a loose paraphrase. (The Cotton Patch Version gets a "10.") I have made some adjustments to his rankings in light of my experience and added some notes. Most of these translations are available online at BibleGateway, and further information is linked there.

HERE is a link to the updated downloadable document that organizes 50 of the most common English versions. It provides:
  • An alphabetical list of the versions
  • A ranking of the versions from literal to paraphrase
  • My suggestions on the best versions to consult across a range of translation approach.
My point in organizing English translations this way is to help readers get a sense of the difficulties and choices that must be made when translating. Viewing a range of translations gives a sense of the possibilities, but translation will always be both an objective, scholarly task as well as a subjective process that attends to audience and intent.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Mark 4.35-41 Translations and Notes (RCL 4th Sunday after Pentecost Year B)

Sea of Galilee from Mt. of Beatitudes, 2014, mgvh

The designated passage for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, of the RCL (20 June 2021) is Mark 4.35-41. It's the story of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As I've been doing in previous posts, I provide a collection of English translations along with my own translation and commentary on translation matters. It's part of the project I'm working on, Let the Hearer Understand: A Translation and Performance Guide for Hearing the Gospel of Mark

My point is that the standard English versions turn Mark's oral storytelling into literary English. They seek to smooth out the Greek, but in doing so they lose both the oral character and the narrative cues in the text. For Mark 4.35-41, there are three "greats / μεγα- forms" in the story: a great windstorm, a great calm, and a great fear. They provide narrative structure to the story, but they rarely are evident in English versions which tend to use synonyms that are more dramatic or sound better or work more closely with the object described. (E.g., the NIV has: "a furious squall... completely calm...terrified.") In particular, note that the fear happens after the calm, not during the storm.

Attention to performance of the text also highlights choices of attitude that the performer must make. In v38 are the disciples desperate or angry at Jesus for sleeping? In v40, was Jesus angry? Disappointed? Frustrated? Exasperated? Resigned to the fact of the disciples’ incomprehension? The choices one makes affect translation, performance, and reception.

Here are my notes both in DOCX and PDF.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Mark 4.26-34 Translations and Notes (RCL 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)
Mark 4.26-34 includes two fascinating parables of Jesus: The Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed. The Growing Seed is somewhat obscure, but it affirms the certainty of the harvest = the full realization of the Dominion of God. Personally, I think Matthew found it confusing, and the result is his version of it known as the Weeds and the Wheat (Matthew 13.24-30) For the Growing Seed, I've suggested it be used as a kind of Lectio Divina. See what you think with this video I created that can be as long or short as you want.

For the Mustard Seed parable, it most certainly is not about "From small beginnings come great endings." It's much more about the scandal of depicting God's dominion to what is basically a weed and contrasting it to the more typical image of a mighty cedar tree. (The image at the top of this post by Masaccio is one I like to use as an example of a scandalous tree which is also a tree of life.)

Here are is my handout of Mark 4.26-34 with a variety of translations and my translation notes. 

I include my own translation, and it should be noted that my translation is actually very close to the oral character of Mark’s Greek. My rendering is not good literary English which most English versions turn it into. It does work, however, as casual, spoken English. Try reading it out loud, and experiment with pacing and pauses in the text. E.g., in 4.30-31, you can almost hear Jesus thinking and engaging with a crowd when he asks two questions of them about what God's dominion is like. He pauses, and then in v31 he comes up with his answer: A mustard seed! The Greek is grammatically awkward, but it sounds perfectly fine when read out loud.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Mark 3.20-35 Translations and Notes (RCL 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)


"Peter's House" in Capernaum - Apparent location of Mark 3.20-35

Below is a PDF and DOCX of Mark 3.20-35, the appointed text in the Revised Common Lectionary for the 2nd Sunday after Easter in Year B. As I've been doing with previous texts, you'll find a number of translations laid out in parallel, organized from most 'literal' to most 'dynamic.' I've also included my own translation which is part of a project I'm working on which is intended for the performance of the Gospel text. You'll see my full translation at the end of the document. 

A couple things to note in Mark 3.20-35.

  • Verses 20-21 indicate Jesus' family's concern for him, but they don't arrive until v31. I.e., it forms a frame, with the issue of Jesus' state of mind in v21, for the controversy about Jesus' authority in vv22-30.
  • The logic of vv23-27 can be a bit confusing. I think my notes help sort it out. Do also note that there are three different conditional types in vv24-26. Attention to those helps clarify what's going on.

Here you go: