A History of Bible Translation

By Shaw, R. Daniel | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, July 2010 | Go to article overview

A History of Bible Translation


Shaw, R. Daniel, International Bulletin of Missionary Research


A History of Bible Translation. Edited by Philip A. Noss. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura; New York: American Bible Society, 2007. Pp. xix, 521. euro55 /$75; paperback $60.

More than just a "history," this edited volume is a veritable library of material reflecting on the background, theories, methods, and experiences of Bible translators from the Septuagint to the present. The book, the first in a series of publications by the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, New York, and well summarized by Dieudonné Bessong and Michel Kenmogne in their chapter on contemporary Africa, encompasses a "history, though not chronological . . . [and] critical analyses hinging on the examination of . . . translators' competencies and training, technology, manuscript preparation, communication, cultural politics, media and the Bible translation perspective" (p. 353). A wonderful collection of plates depicting ancient translations, regional examples, and photos from the annals of the American Bible Society, as well as an extensive bibliography and three indexes (Scripture references, languages, and subject-author), all contribute to the value of the book, which I will gladly recommend to my translation students.

The volume is organized into four sections delineating history, epistemology and theory, methodology, and "The Field Today." Robert Hodgson, Jr., dean of the Nida Institute, writes the foreword; Philip Noss presents an introduction and overview, and a section editor introduces each section. Chapters are written by subject specialists who discuss the history, arguments, theoretical controversies, and principles relevant not only to understanding their topic but also to enabling application to readers' interests, whether historical, theoretical, geographic, or cultural. Following this structure entails some repetition, which readers may find somewhat distracting.

The writers are not afraid of controversy, citing secular and Christian theoreticians, as well as critiquing issues from translator identity to the use of computers and the relevance of the medium in which a translation appears. Clearly, "translators never work in a pure and clean, ahistorical . . . world in which they follow translationtheoretical agendas. …

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