TIC Talk 65, 2008

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Article: Performance Criticism, by Ernst Wendland
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Performance Criticism: Assumptions, Applications, and Assessment

by Ernst Wendland

[Anyone familiar with Ernie's writing knows how rich in footnoted discussions and other amplifications it is. The paper from which these lines are extracted now forms part of chapter one in a forthcoming monograph on the subject (see list of References, below). —Ed.]

Do we need another “criticism” in biblical studies?

At the Society of Biblical Literature meetings last November, one of the sessions of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media took as its theme “Performance Criticism,” a focus that was reflected in nearly twenty other papers at SBL. The designation “performance criticism” seems to have originated with David Rhoads, who along with others has developed it as an interdisciplinary approach that “will invite us to hear things that we have not observed before and understand the texts in ways that [silent] reading cannot illumine” (Hearon, 13; see Rhoads 2006a).

The essential aspects of this discipline are not new—Performance Studies in the academy (see Schechner), dating from the 1970s, is related both to theatre studies and, perhaps more important for biblical Performance Criticism, to the study of oral traditions, for example: Parry (1930, 1932), Lord (1960), Havelock (1963, 1986), Ong (1967, 1982), and more recently, Foley (1991, 2002). Werner Kelber’s ground-breaking investigation of the oral characteristics of Mark in 1983 appears to have launched “orality-scribality studies” and “oral biblical criticism” with reference to Scripture, New Testament in particular (e.g., Botha, Harvey, Davis, Shiell; see also the extensive bibliographies in Rhoads 2006a-b and Maxey). Kelber’s influence in the field continues (see 2007), and his work has stimulated many other studies at the interface of orality, literacy, rhetoric, traditional media, and performance-oriented approaches (also in relation to the Hebrew Bible, e.g., Doan & Giles; Culley; Voth), although not a great deal of ground-breaking material has appeared since the two collections of foundational essays in Silberman and Dewey (ed.) (see Horsley, et al., eds.).

So how do studies in oral performance concern students of Scripture, which, by definition, refers to a written document—a text that was recorded and repeatedly reproduced in some form of print medium? What are the implications of the claim that this text, in its earliest settings, would have been experienced by most people as oral performance? To what extent is the same thing true today? I am especially interested in the question of the significance of Performance Criticism (PC) for the theory and practice of Bible translation. The question has been anticipated by translation scholars for some years now (see Maxey; for a model application to 1 Peter, see Thomas & Thomas).

The following summary examines assumptions and applications of PC and raises some questions regarding its guiding principles and methodology.


Maxey’s definition provides a good point of reference:

Biblical Performance Criticism seeks to understand the performance of Christian traditions in the oral cultures of the early church, aspects of which include the performer, audience, context, and text. … [It] analyzes a biblical text through the translation, preparation, and performance of a text for group discussion of the performance event. Such a methodology seeks to foster the appreciation of performance for the appropriation of the Bible in the modern world. (6)

From an Old Testament standpoint, Doan and Giles state PC’s primary goals:

Performance criticism recognizes the remnant of oral performances in the literature of the Hebrew Bible and gives a conceptual framework for analyzing those performances. … Performance criticism is a developing method of analysis that can help elucidate both the prophetic performances and the scribal presentation of those performances. (157, ix)

PC is an interdiscipline—it interacts with orality-scribality studies, ethnopoetics, social-scientific criticism, ancient and modern rhetoric, drama, reader-response criticism, inculturation hermeneutics, ideological and post-colonial interpretations, and others (see Loubser, 51-53, Maxey, 9-11, Rhoads 2006b). This accounts for the broad range of topics that performance critics cover in their published works. Most of the following basic assumptions of PC are discussed in the various publications cited in the References (see esp. Loubser, Rhoads 2006a-b, Maxey).

✓  “Literacy was used to enhance and facilitate orality” (Dewey, 45). Most major communication events were oral-aural and subsequently committed to writing to preserve them and to ensure the authority of the message being transmitted. It is essential, therefore, to take the media of message transmission into account when investigating the character of formal communication within a culture: “The properties of media determine various aspects of the generation, format, distribution and reception of messages” (Loubser, 1).

✓  Most people, whether pre- or post-CE, received the text of Scripture in audible form, for theirs was predominantly an oral-aural, high-context, face-to-face, socially-oriented, participatory and relational culture. Speaking, listening, gesturing, and observing were the primary means of everyday communication, which tended to be characterized by an “oral register” of discourse.

✓  Performance critics view most biblical texts as being spoken in essence, conceived, composed, transmitted, and received largely in oral-aural form. We should not, however, assume that no biblical documents originated in writing (see Voth’s caution, 117). Furthermore, a draft may well have been “edited” by a biblical author prior to its being inscribed in its final form and sent out, along with the author’s instructions as to how the text was to be presented (see Niditch, 5; Culley, 46-47). Authorial/scribal influence could have been exerted at several points during the communication process (see Redford, 205).

✓  There was a dynamic interplay between the influences of orality and scribality/literacy (or in Oesterreicher’s terms, the “language of immediacy” and the “language of distance,” 194) in the creation of a biblical text and later in its presentation to various audiences in different sociocultural settings. A text in this age of “rhetorical culture” (Robbins, 80) was the product of both influences, manifesting the stylistic and structural characteristics of oral as well as written discourse. The oral-aural nature of the compositional process would help explain such stylistic features in the biblical text as the abundance of forceful, confrontational language, categorical assertions and overstatements (stemming from specific situations and requiring local background knowledge), seeming redundancies, explanatory asides, occasional cryptic references and lacunae, apparent ungrammaticalities, anacolutha, and the like.

✓  It is possible that the NT documents were designed to be transmitted as wholes, complete “messages” to be delivered at a single “communication event” in specific circumstances, including a particular sociocultural setting and set of interpersonal relationships.

✓  Presumably, the author anticipated a “listening” audience as he composed his text “by ear” either immediately in a live performance or in anticipation of an oral-aural presentation. Furthermore, if the author’s message was meant to be committed to memory for delivery, it may be assumed that the author shaped the text with that in mind. Either the written document or the “transcript” of an oral performance was thus fashioned with internal stylistic and structural cues that both aided its memorization and facilitated its vocal transmission before a live audience.

✓  Moreover, within an oral culture having such a keen faculty for memory with regard to texts and traditions, instances of intertextuality are likely to have had a much greater evocative impact within a given text. A citation, allusion, or echo would call to mind not only the relevant tradition or prior reference, but also a much wider surrounding context—a culturally-specific “register” (Kelber 2007:19) consisting of associated traditions, memories, experiences, images, and the like. This socio-semantic extratextual reservoir would have enriched the “cognitive environment” available to help an audience understand the text at hand.

✓  One would expect that the transmission process involving the oral texts of a respected teacher or rabbi demanded a high degree of textual accuracy and fidelity. Rote memorization was the key to this process, which appears to be the standard mode of primary as well as religious instruction, not only among Jews, but also elsewhere in the Roman world (Blomberg, 294).

✓  It is probable that the Scriptures were transmitted and taught not only in written form, but also orally from memory in a communal setting by an authorized or informal proclaimer—depending on the text, audience, and situation. (The degree to which memorization enters into the composition of oral and/or written texts, ancient or modern, is a highly debatable issue [see Finnegan, ch.3; Goody; Thomas] and probably depends a great deal on the genre and setting of the text as well as the performance tradition of the culture concerned, some preferring more flexibility or creativity, others less or none.)

✓  It is likely that a NT letter-writer like Paul would have coached his chosen text proclaimer as to how he wanted his message to be conveyed in terms of principal topics or themes, emphases, points of special emotion, and perhaps even with respect to elocution and presentation (hand gestures, body posture, etc.). The text-transmitter then represented the original author, “wearing” the ethos and pathos of the writer as he proclaimed the message.

✓  The oral presentation of a written text, particularly one full of imagery, stimulates a listener’s visual imagination and impresses itself upon one’s sensorium and memory much more forcefully than if that same text were read silently. The expressive verbal and non-verbal reactions of the individual members of an audience, in turn, stimulate, influence, and reinforce one another, especially in the case of texts that have elements of a dramatic performance or visionary experience associated with them—as in the prophets.

Accordingly, PC seeks to analyze the entire hypothetical performance event, including the complete oral composition in relation to performer and audience, their historical circumstances and social location, the physical locale and interpersonal setting, the audience’s reactions, as well as the presumed rhetorical and transformative impact of the communication event as a whole (see Maxey, 7-8).


How, then, may some of the major principles of PC be applied to the analysis of biblical texts—and to their communication via translation?

Present-day interpreters of the Scriptures must take into careful consideration the primary medium orientation in relation to the original text. The inherent fabric of orality in all the biblical documents must always be factored into their contemporary interpretation, whether a text happens to be a “transcript” of an actual oral performance or a text fashioned with oral proclamation in view, with characteristics of “mnemotechnical poetics” (Loubser, 129). What would have been the presumed formal and semantic effects on the text as a result of the movement from the oral to the written mode and back again? How might this influence have manifested itself in terms of the selection and arrangement of content, the organizational structure of the discourse, as well as the stylistic and rhetorical devices used to mark those macro-features, especially in view of the text’s aural reception?

✓  What are the principal traces of orality—attributes that “still reside embedded in the written literature” (Doan & Giles, 5) and are often helpful, at times necessary, for interpreting biblical texts? Such indirect formal signs—“voice prints” or “sound maps”—of oral thought and articulation identifiable within the biblical text would include the following general features: The frequent occurrence of dynamic, explicitly interactive discourse; indicators of close personal involvement: emotions, facial expressions, gestures; aural signals, such as formulas for opening or closing a discourse segment; patterns of lexical repetition; recurring themes and motifs; phonological reiteration (e.g., alliteration); apparent ungrammaticalness, for example, “run-on,” event-heavy sentences, ambiguous references, and inconsistent deictic orientation (Oesterreicher, 200); verbal recursion of all types—patterns of recursion not only structure and shape the text, they also make it more orally “presentable” and aurally memorable; image-based techniques to evoke a ready “visualization” of the text. There is a preference for sequences of vivid actions (especially in plot-governed, descriptive narrative, such as Jonah or Mark) and/or a set of graphic, symbolical, even controversial images (especially in issue-dominated, hortatory prophetic and epistolary literature, e.g., Obadiah, James).

✓  Orality-oriented exegetes seek to identify these distinctive oral and aural characteristics, and to determine their significance. The precise nature, extent, and effect of oral influence cannot be so confidently determined, however, because “[i]t is exceedingly hard to identify a clear-cut ‘oral style’” (Thomas, 5). “Virtually everything that one can identify as a feature of oral composition can also be found in written composition, and it always ends up as a question of degree, with no way of drawing a line between oral and written style” (Van Seters, 84). Therefore, it is not realistic to persist in “using the oral-written distinction as a binary opposition” (Floyd, 122). Obviously, some sort of continuum is in effect, depending on the culture and situation concerned. An author can be greatly influenced by an oral style of discourse; or can deliberately incorporate such features into a text that will be transmitted orally and received aurally; or might consciously attempt to mimic an oral style of discourse to describe or record texts that were purported to have been delivered orally.

Questions for PC

Performance Criticism as conceived and practiced in biblical circles makes some significant claims about the nature of the text and its transmission. The following questions represent my own response to and assessment of PC.

✓  How much “freedom” did the transmitter of a given biblical text (as distinct from the author) really have to improvise with regard to the written document that he was commissioned to deliver before a certain audience group in a particular setting (cf. Col. 4:7-9)? Was the original text, or its copy, merely a “performance script,” a sort of “in-draft” document that could be freely adapted or “filled out” during performance according to the circumstances of a given event of transmission?

✓  Or, did the text composed by an apostle or prophet carry considerably more ecclesiastical weight—so much so that deviations from or additions to the original script (no doubt from the beginning regarded as “Scripture,” the “Word of the Lord”) would be frowned upon? Was there perhaps more liberty to contextualize the text when the same document formed the basis for a presentation in a new setting, e.g., Paul’s epistle to the “Ephesians” (Colossians, Laodiceans)?

✓  To what extent would the traditional Jewish reverence for, and conscientious handling of their Hebrew Scriptures have influenced the tradents of NT written documents during their public transmission?

✓  On the other hand, to what degree could the text transmitter speak for, or apart from, the author when a given prophetic or apostolic document was subsequently presented, discussed, debated, and reacted to? Would all such issues have to be referred back to the author through follow-up oral or written correspondence (cf. 1 Cor. 1:11, 7:1; 2 Cor. 1:23-2:11; Eph. 6:21-22)?

✓  How much of the intended “meaning” of the original text depended on its expressive oral performance, first of all in terms of semantic content, and second, with regard to artistic expression and emotive intensity? In other words, to what degree is it possible to (mis )understand the biblical text if the dynamics of its oral transmission and devices peculiar to the medium of sound are not taken into consideration? How many conclusive example(s) of this can be cited (e.g., concerning the implication of “What is truth?”—Jn. 18:38)? Did/does the transmitter of Scripture have to be an orator, entertainer, expositor, or commentator in order to get the author’s basic message then/now?

✓  On the other hand, is there any evidence in the text that the biblical authors may have anticipated certain problem points and preempted potential difficulties in oral-aural communication by “compensating” for the possible loss or distortion of their essential semantic content through the use of standard literary devices like reiteration, paraphrase, lexical intensification, discourse structuring, contextual shaping, figurative embellishment, rhetorical marking, and similar hermeneutical clues?

✓  What is the communicative significance that we need to evaluate when testing the orally presented version of an ancient text in translation, and how can this be defined or distinguished during an actual public communal performance? Which aspects of meaning (formal, semantic, pragmatic) can be aurally perceived, and where do these reside? Are they encoded and embedded within the text in relation to the assumed intentions of the original author (however determined); expressed or evoked by the text itself (including intratextuality) as it is vocally presented on a given occasion; stabilized and circumscribed through the resonance created by canonical intertextuality—or construed and inferred by the audience as they hear text being performed in a definite socio-religious and physical setting? Or do all these aspects that pertain to a certain communication event on a particular occasion in specific historical circumstances contribute en masse to its overall “meaning potential”?

✓  Given that we know so very little about the original circumstances of any given performance event where the Scriptures are concerned, how can we avoid mere creative speculation about what went on then? As James Maxey observes: “The challenge for Performance Criticism is to imagine what a first-century performance was like, given that all that remains of the performance is a limited text” (7). Are the available “hints of performance” really sufficient to enable contemporary interpreters to come to concrete conclusions about explicit “stage directions that indicate the movement, vocal quality or emotional state of the performer – as well as the expected state of the audience” (Maxey, 7)? Similarly, how can the sound structure and quality of ancient texts in Hebrew and Greek be critically evaluated and rhetorically interpreted if we cannot be sure of the original pronunciation and method of articulation during delivery (e.g., sung, chanted, recited, rhythmically uttered—with or without a prominent interpretive paralinguistic overlay by the text performer)?

✓  To what extent does the following thesis relate to the degree of orality that one can expect to discover in the biblical texts? “[The] reconstructed oral speech embedded in written texts is different from that present in oral communication…[T]he written character of the text already creates a ‘language gap’ between the literary text and common communication in a predominantly oral society. … The authors or redactors of these [Hebrew prophetic] books are careful to communicate through linguistic differentiation that the words of YHWH associated with prophets from the late monarchic period did indeed sound different from everyday speech” (Ben Zvi, 15).

✓  How do the varied manifestations of intertextuality concern the theory and practice of PC? Does the biblical case allow for more freedom with regard to interpreting the relative textual stability of the original documents as they have been received and how they may, in turn, be translated? To what extent did scribal literacy affect and influence the related activity of transmitting the text of Scripture?

✓  Is it reasonable to conclude that the notion of “textual closure” or an “original text” did not exist in biblical times—that prior to canonization (and for some time thereafter), the Scriptures remained essentially alive and in flux within “the cultural memory” of different religious groups? Was such relative flexibility then manifested in renewed contextual adaptations of these sacred texts as they were orally presented in diverse social settings? Is the concept of “an original form of a text fragment…a phantom of the typographical imagination” (Horsley, et al., eds., xi-xii)? Is it true to say, for comparative example, that the audiences of African oral narratives do not recognize or know of an “original [or ‘proper’] form” for a given fable or folktale—or, for that matter, the repertory of a talented and respected performer in the community—from which adaptations and variants arise?

✓  Is the goal of determining a close-as-possible critical “original text” for the Hebrew and Greek Testaments a waste of effort—analogous “to the search for the one ‘historical Jesus’ behind the multitude of receptions of his work and life” (Schroeter, 119)? That would seem to be the case if the original amounts to a “draft” to be “fleshed out” during public performance.

✓  What are the implications for interpretation and translation of the following conclusion: “With only the manuscript at their disposal, modern scholars will have to accept that many illocutionary and perlocutionary acts, conveyed by gesture and voice, have disappeared with the oral performers [of the texts of Scripture]” (Loubser, 129)? How is the exegete and translator to respond to the “blank spaces”—formal (as distinct from cognitive) lacunae—which are to be filled in by a presenter and an active audience during an actual performance? “[T]he oral performance or oral-derived text also consists of a ‘map’ made up of explicit signals and gaps of indeterminacy that must be bridged in accordance with certain rules and predispositions” (Foley, cited by Maxey, 9). How much of the author-inscribed as well as canonical intertextual “meaning” of the biblical message—and which aspects of that meaning—are lost if such “gaps” remain open in the text? How might these blanks, if discovered and deemed significant, be filled by and for hearers/readers of the text of Scripture?

✓  There is also a crucial theological issue: Did the original composers (whether in oral or written form), or their scribes (Doan & Giles, ch. 1), speak purely of their own accord or did they speak/write during a psychological state of altered or enhanced consciousness, being given the special discernment or ability to communicate their messages via some form of “inspiration”? What difference would that make for PC? Then, as far as the secondary text transmitters and presenters are concerned, are we dealing essentially with innovative “performers” or rather faithful “proclaimers” of the divine message?

✓  Finally, with respect to Bible translation, which criteria—ancient or modern—are we to use when assessing the level of communicability of a translation when orally delivered, and how can a contemporary critic evaluate relative degrees of success in this venture, where esthetics, emotions, attitudes, and their varied intensity are concerned—and all these involving great temporal, linguistic, literary, and cultural barriers (many of which may not even be fully known or appreciated)? In what way can testing for an orally proclaimed text best be carried out—only on the basis of the whole performance, or is it possible to assess individual segments and aspects of the translation? To what extent can the paralinguistic and non-verbal aspects of performance be assessed as well?

Implications of PC for translation

Giving due consideration to these questions, the research in performance is important to those involved in Bible translation. To the extent that certain essential semantic, formal, and pragmatic features of the message have not been satisfactorily reproduced in the target language (TL) text (or are not adequately explained in notes), to that same degree the translation is arguably diminished in quality. The phonological dimension of orality, which was such a vital aspect of the original composition, must be duly acknowledged when analyzing the biblical text and then diligently attended to when seeking to represent it in another, entirely different communicative environment.

How then can an acceptable audio equivalent, that is, an “oratorical” text, be fashioned in the vernacular, and by what means can translators be better equipped to carry out a creative compositional exercise of such a challenging, sustained nature? The suggestions below indicate the work that precedes, accompanies, and follows actual translation:

✓  The oral performance traditions of target cultures need to be carefully researched during the complex process of message transmission that is involved in Bible translation. Here is where our scholarly efforts often break down. We carefully study the stylistic and rhetorical resources of the source text, but frequently fail to do the same for the TL genres.

✓  Performance-centered research is of greatest relevance for non-print media productions, e.g., in audio, video, electronic, and traditional public media (Thomas & Thomas). Detailed “scripts” based on a careful orality-sensitive analysis of the original text can help to make such productions more “faithful” to the original performance setting and also more effective for new, non-traditional audiences (see Maxey, 22-24, for a sample display of Mark 1:40-45).

✓  Communication theories and methodologies that focus on direct speech and conversational analysis (e.g., situational frames, sociolinguistic functionalism, speech-acts, and relevance theory) are especially helpful in exploring the dynamics of orality both in Scripture and in the TL.

✓  Specialized training is needed for translation teams to apply this knowledge in their work. Translators should ensure that, whenever possible, similar oral-aural cues for signaling important aspects of discourse structure, stylistic shading, and rhetorical dynamics are built into their vernacular versions in a relevant, functionally-equivalent manner—that is, by employing natural TL correspondents which are both readily perceptible to, and easily understood by their primary target audience.

✓  Where major stylistic features or rhetorical devices of the original text have not found some equivalent in the translation, marginal comments can be used to draw attention to them. Format and typography features can create a more “readable,” hence also “articulatable” text. “The written presentation of a translation should provide suitable visual clues for reading. A good layout offers a ‘self-presenting pattern’ that enables the reader to see the relationship of the various parts of a writing to each other. The translator can help devise a plan that is within the possibilities of the publisher. Print layout, just as oral presentation, is culture-specific” (Thomas & Thomas, 4).

✓  Repeated oral testing of translation drafts before a live audience helps reveal the degree to which the text is appropriately interpreted aurally. Thomas and Thomas outline a helpful “case description of an informal test” of an oral-based draft translation (127-129).

“Issues of orality can [must!] transform exegetical methods; and translation principles and media choices likewise can [must!] be shaped by the power of the spoken word” (Maxey, 19; my additions in brackets). PC and related media-sensitive approaches demonstrate that it is necessary to adopt a dual perspective on the documents of Scripture, one that takes into serious consideration both their written character and also those features that reflect the text’s oral composition as well as its primary, audible mode of transmission. These factors are especially relevant for message transmission via non-print media—audio and/or visual production, or some other format, whether traditional (open-air dramatic performance) or modern (electronic hypertext).


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Wendland, Ernst R. Forthcoming. Proclaiming the Scriptures in Translation: An Oral-Rhetorical Approach for Analyzing and Communicating the Word of God, With Special Reference to Several New Testament Epistles. The Edwin Mellen Press.

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Publication Notices

Bible Translation


A Man Called Daniel: A Festschrift in Honor of Bishop Daniel C. Arichea, Jr. on the occasion of his 50 years in Christian ministry. 2008. A. H. del Corro, E. B. Ebojo, and R. U. Yu, eds. Philippine Bible Society. Some of the titles in this festschrift include:
Louis Dorn, Christian Ethics Today
Barclay Newman, Gender Faithful in the Spirit of the King James Version
Daud Soesilo, The Javanese of Suriname and the New Testament in Suriname Javanese
David Clark, In Other Countries Beyond You
Roger Omanson, Domestication and Foreignization: Anti-Judaism in the New Testament? A Continuing Debate
Carl Gross, It’s Not Just the Words That Matter
Stephen Pattemore, How Relevant Is Exegesis for Translation?
Kenneth and Margaret Thomas, Ambiguities in 1 Peter
Norm Mundhenk, An Intertextual Chain: Exodus 34 to John 1
Paul Ellingworth, What Is Truth? John 18:38
Edgar Ebojo, They Dared Not Write Her: Gender Agenda in Some Manuscripts of the New Testament
Anicia del Corro, Doulos: Slave or Servant?

Karen H. Jobes. 2007. “Relevance Theory and the Translation of Scripture.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50/4: 773-797. J. makes a case for the usefulness of RT in Bible translation. The translator must constantly decide what implicatures are contained in the original and whether and how to make them explicit in the translation. The more implicatures a translation makes explicit, the more verbose it becomes. There is a detailed summary of this article here. The full text of a related article by Jobes entitled “Bible Translation as Bilingual Quotation” is available at the Zondervan website.

Ernst R. Wendland. 2007. Contextual Frames of Reference in Translation: A Coursebook for Translators and Teachers. St. Jerome. The aim of this coursebook is to explore a wide range of contextual factors in translation, using a multidisciplinary approach. A progressive study of the complex process of intercultural, interlinguistic communication is carried out according to a set of overlapping sociocultural, organizational and situational cognitive orientations. A variety of exercises and assignments is provided to stimulate critical and creative reflection as well as to illustrate the theoretical development of the book. An Appendix offers an essay by Lourens de Vries on the subject of primary orality and the part it plays in the crosscultural communication of the Bible.

In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000. 2006. Michelle P. Brown, ed. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Along with the photographic catalog, five essays provide context and setting for the collection:

  • “Charles Lang Freer’s Biblical Manuscripts,” by A. C. Gunter
  • “Bible and Book,” by H. Y. Gamble
  • “The Christian Orient,” by M. J. Blanchard
  • “Spreading the Word,” by M. P. Brown
  • “The Book as Icon,” by H. L. Kessler.

Bertil Albrektson. 2007. “Masoretic or Mixed: On Choosing a Textual Basis for a Translation of the Hebrew Bible.” Textus 23: 33-49. A. takes issue with Tov’s “argument against eclecticism” (Textus 20 [2000]).


T. M. Law. 2008. “Origen’s Parallel Bible: Textual Criticism, Apologetics, or Exegesis?” Journal of Theological Studies 59/1: 1-21. L. challenges the assumption that Origen compiled the Hexapla for a text-critical or apologetic use and considers the possibility that Origen’s motivations were exegetical. A study of Origen’s approach to and use of Scripture, and of the content and structure of the Hexapla suggests that the first two assumptions are insufficient to account for Origen’s work, and that an exegetical motivation better reflects Origen’s attitude towards Scripture.

The New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS). 2007. A. Pietersma, ed. Oxford University Press. NETS is a new translation of the Greek Jewish Scriptures carried out under the ægis of The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS). A list of the translators and the procedures they followed can be viewed at the NETS website. An accompanying commentary series is also planned. The NETS translations are available electronically at the website.

Martin Rösel. 2007. “The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31/4: 411-428. It can be demonstrated that even the oldest Masoretic vocalization as preserved, among others, in codex L must refer to adonai (the Lord) rather than the Aramaic shema (the Name). It can also be shown that the translators of the Septuagint already had chosen “Lord” (kyrios) as an appropriate representation of the tetragrammaton—the replacement by the Hebrew tetragrammaton in some Greek manuscripts is not original—and that they were influenced in their choice by theological considerations.

Ronald L. Troxel. 2007. LXX-Isaiah as Translation and Interpretation: The Strategies of the Translator of the Septuagint. Brill. T. argues that the LXX translator of Isaiah attempted a cohesive representation of Isaiah for his Greek-speaking co-religionists, utilizing interpretative ploys applied to Homer by the Alexandrian grammatikoi.

Giuseppe Veltri. Libraries, Translations, and ‘Canonic’ Texts: The Septuagint, Aquilla and Ben Sira in the Jewish and Christian Traditions. V. deals with the field of decanonization of ancient traditions by the technique of deconstructing their original context—specifically, the process of canonization of the Greek Torah in Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian tradition and its decanonization in Rabbinic literature; the use and abuse of the translation(s) of Aquila in Patristic and Rabbinic literature and the substitution of Aquila by Onkelos in Babylonian academies; and the decanonization of the book of Ben Sira in Rabbinic literature. The author concludes that, if a canon is the ability of a text to produce and authorize commentary deconstructing its original context by generalization, de-canonization is the inverse way of contextualizing a “canonical” text by reconstructing the supposed original context.


Holger Szesnat. 2007. ““Some Witnesses Have...”: The Representation of the New Testament Text in English Bible Versions.” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 12. Looking at the NIV and REB as examples, S. finds that modern English translations fall short in their presentation of the state of the NT text to their readers.

Piotr Blumczyński. 2006. Doctrine in Translation: The Doctrine of the Trinity and Modern English Versions of the New Testament. Oficyna Wydawnicza LEKSEM. Beginning with the assumption that Bible translation is necessarily a theological task, B. explores the impact of theological views on translation. The detailed study of over sixty contemporary English versions of the NT, focused on elements of the Trinitarian doctrine, demonstrates that the interpretative framework in the translation of doctrinally significant passages is established in reference to theological factors—the doctrinal tenor of a Bible version is heavily influenced by the translator’s confessional and theological background.

David R. Glowacki. 2008. “To the Reader: The Structure of Power in Biblical Translation, from Tyndale to the NRSV.” Literature and Theology 22/2: 195-209. G. investigates the mechanisms by which the “To the Reader” essay in the NRSV constructs power. The strategies that characterize modern discursive structures of power are used as a theoretical lens for examining the essay’s self-awareness of the forces associated with its arising. G. concludes that, unlike the manner in which power is manifest in earlier translations, power in the NRSV’s “To the Reader” relies on obscuring the limits of its relationship with the forces that encompass the NRSV translation enterprise.

Garrett C. Kenney. 2006. Translating H/holy S/spirit: Four Models: Unitarian, Binitarian, Trinitarian, and Non-Sectarian. University Press of America. K. consults twenty-five English translations, revealing a high degree of ambiguity and inconsistency in the translation of the concept of “holy spirit.” This is evident in the apparent arbitrariness and inconsistency in capitalization. When “Spirit” is capitalized, it is generally assumed that a person is being referred to. This raises questions as to whether the Spirit is simply a personification of some attribute or activity of God, or whether Spirit may refer to a distinct hypostasis in the Godhead. When “spirit” appears in lowercase, it is generally assumed that an impersonal gift or enablement is intended. The author presents four models for examining and clarifying these difficulties. Each model is defined, defended, and then deconstructed.

Conrad Lindberg. 2007. A Manual of the Wyclif Bible, Including the Psalms. Dedicated to the Memory of Sven L. Fristedt. Stockholm University. L., who has spent a lifetime researching and writing about the Wyclif Bible, sums up his experience of it in this manual, which includes a lists of manuscripts, physical descriptions, and discussion of its language and the nature of the translation from the Latin. The Psalms, in a combined text from L.’s edition of the manuscripts, are appended to illustrate his observations.

Yvonne Sherwood. 2008. “The God of Abraham and Exceptional States, or The Early Modern Rise of the Whig/Liberal Bible.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76/2: 312-343. Looking at changing understandings of the political intentions of the Christian God and Bible, S. attempts to go beyond numerous histories of Bible versions and translations into a new analysis of the changing weight of the Bible in public (political, legal) discourse.

Laurence M. Vance. 2007. King James, His Bible, and Its Translators. Vance Publications. Four essays relate to the origin and translators of King James’s Bible; three explore the translators’ finished product; two deal with the nature of the Authorized Version in the context of English Bible history; and the last six essays address particular issues that relate to the Authorized Version.

Ancien testament interlinéaire hébreu-français. 2007. Bibli’O (Société biblique française). This interlinear includes the Hebrew text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia together with a word-by-word translation into French and the texts of the Traduction Œcuménique de la Bible and the Bible en français courant. Included are 16 articles on various difficulties: qere/ketib, tetragrammaton, grammar, translation problems, etc., with numerous examples; 15 entries (with references) on the infinitive absolute, aspect in Hebrew and the question of tense, idiomatic expressions, derived meanings and metaphor, number and gender, suffixes, textual problems, rare words and conjugations, etc., with many examples; verb conjugation tables; and a French/Hebrew index.

Jewish Studies Quarterly 14/2 (2007) is a thematic issue on Jewish Bible translation:

  • “Martin Buber: A Builder of Bridges,” Paul Mendes-Flohr
  • “What is Translating? The Endless Task as Reflected in Examples from the Bible,” Klaus Reichert
  • “Franz Rosenzweig on Translation and Exile,” Leora Batnitzky
  • “Between Two Worlds: Martin Buber’s ‘The How and Why of Our Bible Translation’,” Lawrence Rosenwald
  • “Buber’s Hebrew Self: Trapped in the German Language,” Barbara Schäfer
  • “Translating Cultures and Texts in Reform Judaism: The Philippson Bible,” Klaus Herrmann
  • “A Christian Bible for Jewish Children,” Ran HaCohen
  • “Arnold Goldberg’s Bible Translation,” Peter Schäfer

The SBL Forum 6/4 (2008) offers five articles discussing the controversial Bibel in gerechter Sprache:

Jamie Grant. 2007. “Szczęśliwy, kto . . .; Czesław Miłosz’s Translation of the Psalms.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 69: 457-472.

Iwan Rhys Jones. 2008. “C. H. Dodd and the Welsh Bible: A Fading Influence.” Expository Times 119/8: 380-384. The New Welsh Bible New Testament (1975) rendered hilasterion (Rom 3:25) as “means of purification,” reflecting the views of C.H. Dodd. Changes in the prominence accorded to Dodd’s understanding are seen in the subsequent complete Bible (1988) and the later revised edition (2004), where the phrase was relegated to a footnote.

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Text and Community: Essays in Memory of Bruce M. Metzger. 2007. J. Harold Ellens, ed. Phoenix Press. The first of the two volumes in Metzger’s memory, subtitled Interpretation of the Text for the Community, is divided into two parts: The Nature of the Bible: Manuscripts, Texts, and Translation; and Understanding the Bible: Hermeneutics.
Some articles in Part 1:

  • “Textual Criticism, Q, and the Gospel of Thomas,” James M. Robinson
  • “Cosmic and Personal: The God of Awe and Grace in Egyptian Texts, the Hebrew Bible, and Rabbinic Commentary,” Edmund S. Meltzer
  • “Irenaeus and the Text of Matthew 3.16-17,” Peter R. Rodgers
  • “Hearing the Word—Translation Matters: A Fem/womanist Exploration of Translation Theory and Practice for Proclamation in Worship,” Wil Gafney
  • “Biblical Exegesis in the Two-thirds World,” Dan Lewis
  • “Reading Black: Language and Biblical Interpretation in a Black British Context,” Lynette J. Mullings
  • “Enigmatic Endings and Delayed Signs: The Ending of Mark’s Gospel,” Anne Moore

and in Part II:

  • “‘Biblical Interpretation in Paul’ in Cultural Context,” Gerbern S. Oegema
  • “A Textual Commentary On Philippians 2.5-11,” Peter R. Rodgers.

Gerald Klingbeil. 2007. Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible. Eisenbrauns. This volume introduces the field of ritual studies, particularly within the context of biblical studies. K. treats basic aspects of the study of ritual: morphology, syntax, and pragmatics; describes elements of ritual: structure, order and sequence, space, time, objects, actions, participants, and language; and considers the question of the significance of ritual. He offers a history of the study of biblical ritual, beginning with the critiques found in the OT prophetic books and surveying attitudes toward ritual down to modern times.

Method in Unit Delimitation. 2007. Marjo C. A. Korpel, Josef M. Oesch, and Stanley E. Porter, eds. Brill. In this volume eight papers from several Pericope meetings have been combined into a thematic volume dealing with method in unit delimitation:

  • “Paragraphing in a Tibero-Palestinian Manuscript of the Prophets and Writings,” J.C. de Moor and M.C.A. Korpel
  • “The Leviticus and Joshua Codex from the Schoyen Collection: A Closer Look at the Text Divisions,” K. De Troyer
  • “The Influence of Unit Delimitation on Reading and Use of Greek Manuscripts,” S.E. Porter
  • “The Accents: Hierarchy and Meaning,” E.J. Revell
  • “Graphic Devices Used by the Editors of Ancient and Mediaeval Manuscripts to Mark Verse-Lines in Classical Hebrew Poetry,” S. Tatu
  • “Reflections upon the Chapter Divisions of Stephan Langton,” J. van Banning
  • “Unit Delimitation in the Old Testament: An Appraisal,” W.G.E. Watson
  • “Diverging Traditions: Jeremiah 27-29 (m, S, D) / 34-36 (G): A Proposal for a New Text Edition (a polyglot Bible, that would contain data with regard to unit delimitation from Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Latin)”

Biblical Languages

Gene L. Green. 2007. “Lexical Pragmatics and Biblical Interpretation.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50/4. G. makes a case for Relevance Theory as a framework within which to understand the way words mean in context. The field of lexical pragmatics, which explores the way word meaning is modified in use, and the notion of ad hoc concept formation provide useful and essential perspectives for the interpretation of any communication, including the interpretation of biblical literature. The author concludes with a case study in lexical pragmatics on Paul’s use of κύριος as a Christological title in Philippians 2:11.

Voces Biblicae: Septuagint Greek and Its Significance for the New Testament. 2007. Jan Joosten and Peter J. Tomson, eds. Peeters. Seven essays illuminate different aspects of the vocabulary of the Greek Bible, addressing the relationship between LXX and NT usage. The articles and the words they treat are summarized by Hans Ausloos in an RBL review.

Matthew P. Anstey. 2006. “The Grammatical-Lexical Cline in Tiberian Hebrew.” Journal of Semitic Studies 51/1: 59-84. Anstey considers how prosodic analysis can assist in investigating the status of Tiberian Hebrew (TH) constituents with respect to their position on the grammatical-lexical cline. He demonstrates how the Masoretic diacritics can be interpreted as an indication of the degree of morphophonological fusion of constituents, which is one variable affecting diagnosis of grammaticalization vis-à-vis lexicalization. Constituents are divided into three ranges of fusion and candidates for grammatical constituents are suggested. Based on this analysis, A. provides suggestions for a more fine-grained subdivision of TH parts-of-speech.

John A. Cook. 2008. “The Vav-Prefixed Verb Forms in Elementary Hebrew Grammar.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 8: Article 3. The application of linguistics to Biblical Hebrew grammar, particularly its verbal system, has continued in recent decades, while at the same time few of the recent elementary Hebrew grammars appear to take into account the advances in the understanding of the Hebrew verbal system. C. examines the disconnect between scholarly discussions and elementary grammars with respect to the vav-prefixed forms and illustrates how these forms might be explained to beginning students in a way that takes into account recent linguistic insights.

W. Randall Garr. 2008. “The Medial Demonstratives הלזה ,הלזו, and הלז.Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32/3: 383-389. G’s study argues that these demonstratives are synonymous neither with the proximal demonstratives (זה and זאת) nor the distal demonstratives (הוא and היא). Rather הלזה ,הלזו, and הלז are medial demonstratives that signal a concrete entity within visual range.

Anne Garber Kompaoré. 2007. “The Qatal verb form and the conjunction אוֹ in Biblical Hebrew.” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 33/1: 33-53. When the disjunctive conjunction אוֹor” connects two verbal clauses, the form of the verb in the second clause seems to vary according to its proximity to the conjunction. K. examines clauses coordinated by אוֹ and discusses the observation that, when a verb immediately follows the conjunction, it is almost invariably a qatal form regardless of the form of the verb in the preceding coordinating clause. She argues that when a qatal verb immediately follows the אוֹ conjunction, it functions as a type of default verb and that the tense and aspect of the אוֹ + qatal verb is derived from the tense-aspect of the previous coordinate clause to which it is conjoined. This conclusion leads to reflections on how אוֹ + qatal forms should be translated.

Cynthia Miller. 2007. “The Relation of Coordination to Verb Gapping in Biblical Poetry.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32: 41-60. M. examines the relationship between two features of biblical poetry: (1) verb gapping between lines with matching structures (i.e., identical constituents); and (2) explicit coordination of parallel lines with waw. At first glance, the presence of an explicit conjunction between such cola may appear to be optional and completely within the realm of stylistics, even though it is statistically most frequent. However, a correlation of the precise structural features of elliptical structures with the presence (and absence) of coordination suggests instead that additional syntactic and cognitive factors are at work.

Robert Shreckhise. 2008. “The Problem of Finite Verb Translation in Exodus 15.1-18.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32/3: 287-310. S. examines the finite Hebrew verbs in Exod. 15.1-18 through an aspectual analysis that takes into account the narrative context of Exodus. Three models of translation are considered: the Prophetic Perfect Model, the Sinai Provenance Model, and the Dual Perspective Model. These three models correspond to three views of the verbs in the song: the prophetic perfect, the preterite, and the traditional schema of perfect-past, imperfect-present/modal/future. Though the study does not arrive at any single answer to the verb translation issues, the analysis points out the possibilities and the problems of each model within the song-narrative context.

Andy Warren-Rothlin. 2007. “Politeness Strategies in Biblical Hebrew and West African Languages.” Journal of Translation 3/1: 55-71. Strategies for communicating politeness are highly culture-specific and relate closely to broader cultural norms that affect the application of Grice’s maxims, for example. Focus strategies include the use of greetings, modal particles, and various forms of participant reference. W-R identifies the forms biblical Hebrew employs for such strategies and considers the extent to which West African languages may need to “Africanize” the speech of actors in biblical narratives.

Ellen van Wolde. 2008. “Sentiments as Culturally Constructed Emotions: Anger and Love in the Hebrew Bible.” Biblical Interpretation 16/1:1-24. This article explores the language of the sentiments of anger and love in biblical Hebrew, English, and Japanese, with sentiments being defined as emotions that are culturally defined and organized. The author argues that anger in biblical texts is related to the mouth, nose, or face and expresses an uncontrollable fury in someone’s head that leads prototypically to retributive actions. She also argues that the love between a man and a woman in the Hebrew Bible is conceptualized as love of a man for a woman. The semantic values of both sentiments seem to materialize in a hierarchical framework of thinking. Cultural conventions are developed and used to defend the hierarchical order as a natural order. A shorter version of the article, “Language of Sentiment,” can be accessed in the SBL Forum.

Luke Emehiele Ijezie. 2007. The Interpretation of the Hebrew Word עם (People) in Samuel-Kings. Peter Lang. I. studies the semantic range of the word in three parts, focusing on kin relations, political relations, and religious relations. The book adheres to the historical-critical method with an emphasis on the literary-critical dimension. The book includes discussions of key Hebrew terms such as “tribe,” “man,” “city,” “leader,” etc.


A number of articles in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 2008, treat the subjects of Mary Douglas, ritual, and Leviticus:

  • Moshe Kline, “‘The Editor Was Nodding.’ A Reading of Leviticus 19 in Memory of Mary Douglas”
  • Ronald Hendel & Saul M. Olyan, “Beyond Purity and Danger: Mary Douglas and the Hebrew Bible”
  • David P. Wright, “Deciphering a Definition: The Syntagmatic Structural Analysis of Ritual in the Hebrew Bible”
  • Rüdiger Schmitt, “The Problem of Magic and Monotheism in the Book of Leviticus”
  • Saul M. Olyan, “Mary Douglas’s Holiness/Wholeness Paradigm: Its Potential for Insight and its Limitations”
  • Alfred Marx, “The Relationship between the Sacrificial Laws and the Other Laws in Leviticus 19”
  • Ronald Hendel, “Mary Douglas and Anthropological Modernism”

James W. Watts. 2007. Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus: From Sacrifice to Scripture. Cambridge University Press. Arguing that ritual texts were persuasive texts and should be analyzed rhetorically, W. uses rhetorical analysis to expose the motives behind the writing of Leviticus and its persuasive function in ancient Judaism. The answer to the question, “who was trying to persuade whom of what by writing these texts?” proves to be consistent throughout Leviticus 1 16: Aaronide high priests and their supporters used the book to legitimize their monopoly over the ritual offerings of Jews and Samaritans. With this priestly rhetoric at its center, the Torah supported the rise to power of two priestly dynasties in Second Temple Judaism. Their ascendancy in turn elevated the prestige and rhetorical power to the book, making it the first real scripture in Near Eastern and Western religious traditions.

Francoise Mirguet. 2008. “Numbers 16: The Significance of Place— An Analysis of Spatial Markers.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32/3: 311-330. M.’s study analyzes the episode in Num 16 through the lens of the construction of narrative space, paying attention to the locations where action takes place, to the movements of characters, and to the associated adverbs and prepositions. Seven spatial markers are considered in order to sketch an interpretation for the whole episode. The study shows that, as the spatial signals unfold, a symbolic meaning of the story emerges that concerns Israel’s organization, its recognition of YHWH, and its survival.

K. L. Noll. 2007. “Deuteronomistic History or Deuteronomic Debate? (A Thought Experiment).” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31/3: 311-345. N. aims to replace Martin Noth’s Deuteronomistic History hypothesis with an approach that makes better use of all available data. Three thesis statements establish a new paradigm for future research. First, to the extent that they have Deuteronomy in view, the Former Prophets represent not a deuteronomistic ideology, but a Deuteronomic debate. Second, the like-minded intellectuals who produced these scrolls did not intend to create authoritative scripture because their writings were not intended for mass consumption. Third, each book of the Former Prophets presents a distinctive pattern of response to Deuteronomy, usually negative but occasionally positive. In sum, the Former Prophets constitute a conversation with Deuteronomy, and not deuteronomism.

Naomi G. Cohen. 2007. Philo’s Scriptures: Citations from the Prophets and Writings: Evidence for a Haftarah Cycle in Second Temple Judaism. Brill. Philo’s rare citations from the Prophets and Writings shed light on the nature of his sources, and the specific quotations from the Prophets provide evidence for the existence, already in the 1st century CE, of an important traditional Haftarah Cycle.

Nicholas P. Lunn. 2006. Word-Order Variation in Biblical Hebrew Poetry: Differentiating Pragmatics and Poetics. Paternoster. Using Lambrecht’s theory of information structure and building on the insights of previous studies in biblical Hebrew narrative, L. argues that marked topic and focus structures in Old Testament poetry are identical to those found in prose and are distinguishable from defamilarized word order (purely poetic variation) by means of the environment in which the latter is found. Parallelism is an important factor in providing a secondary line in which defamiliarization may freely occur.

Ernst R. Wendland. 2007. “Aspects of the principle of ‘Parallelism’ in Hebrew poetry.” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 33/1: 101-124. This overview was stimulated by the discussion of “parallelism” in the recent study by Nicholas Lunn (2006, see above). Beginning with an examination of some classic scholarly definitions of parallelism, W. lays the groundwork for his specific interaction with Lunn, which then leads to a brief discussion of his notion of “extended parallelism,” illustrated with reference to Psalm 103.

Sacred Conjectures: The Context and Legacy of Robert Lowth and Jean Astruc. 2007. John Jarick, ed. T & T Clark. Twelve papers from a 2003 Oxford conference analyze Lowth’s and Astruc’s contribution to biblical scholarship, specifically, Lowth’s On the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews and Astruc’s Conjectures on Genesis, both published in 1753. A review by David Bosworth in JHS 8 (2008) supplies a list of the articles and short summaries.

Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez. 2007. Anthony Hilhorst, Émile Puech, and Eibert Tigchelaar, eds. Brill. This volume comprises forty-eight essays in honor of Florentino García Martínez, primarily in the field of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but also other fields of Second Temple Judaism, from late biblical texts and Septuagint up to the pseudepigrapha and early rabbinic writings.

The Orion Center Bibliography of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature (2000-2006). 2007. Ruth A. Clements and Nadav Sharon, eds. Brill. This is the fifth official Scrolls bibliography, following volumes covering the periods 1948-1957 (W. S. LaSor), 1958-1969 (B. Jongeling), 1970-1995 (F. García Martínez and D. W. Parry), and 1995-2000 (A. Pinnick).


The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. 2007. Barclay M. Newman, ed. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. This edition combines the text of the UBS4 Greek New Testament with a running Greek-English Dictionary (compiled by Barclay Newman), which provides English glosses for all vocabulary items occurring 30 times or less in the New Testament at the bottom of each page. Grammatical analysis of difficult verb forms is also included. The layout lets the reader transfer easily from text to dictionary and vice versa. An appendix provides glosses of all vocabulary items occurring more than 30 times in the New Testament, and the edition includes the maps from the UBS Greek New Testament.

The New Testament in Greek IV — The Gospel According to St. John. Volume Two The Majuscules. 2007. U. B. Schmid, W. J. Elliott, and D. C. Parker, eds. (International Greek New Testament Project) Brill. This book provides a complete critical apparatus of all the parchment manuscripts of St. John’s Gospel, including such important manuscripts as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. It also contains transcriptions and plates of fragmentary and difficult-to-read copies.

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. 2007. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds. Baker Academic. Commentators in this volume isolate, catalog, and comment on both the obvious Old Testament quotations and the more subtle allusions found in the New Testament. The result is a comprehensive commentary on the Old Testament references that appear from Matthew through Revelation. Chapters are organized by NT book. Contributors include Philip H. Towner (Nida Institute) on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.

Biblical Interpretation in Early Christian Gospels: Vol. 1: The Gospel of Mark. 2006. Thomas R. Hatina, ed. T & T Clark. This collection of essays is the first volume in a projected series of five volumes that gather together recent research by leading scholars on the narrative function of embedded Jewish scripture texts (quotations or allusions) in early Christian Gospels. Contributors’ research is directed towards considering the function of embedded scripture texts in the context of the Gospels as self-contained narratives written and read/heard in their early Christian settings. The essays are arranged according to their appropriate methodological categories. The volume on Matthew is due to be published in October 2008.

Michael Peppard. 2008. “‘Poetry’, ‘Hymns’ and ‘Traditional Material’ in New Testament Epistles or How to Do Things with Indentations.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30/3: 319-342. P. explores ancient rhetorical conceptions of poetry, prose and hymn to understand the epideictic or encomiastic elements of some New Testament epistles. He surveys and criticizes previous methods for isolating the supposedly poetic or hymnic portions of these texts, and analyzes the hermeneutical effects of a seemingly unremarkable editorial decision, the act of indenting such texts in the New Testament. This editorial action normally signifies “poetry,” “hymns,” or “traditional material” to a particular community of readers, namely the guild of New Testament scholarship. P. argues that the act of indenting bears more rhetorical force than has been previously acknowledged, and concludes with an ideological analysis of that editorial decision.

Ray R. Schulz. 2008. “Twentieth-Century Corruption of Scripture.” Expository Times 119/6: 270-274. S. aims to show how Greek New Testaments (UBS and NA) in the last century adjusted their texts to downplay the role women played in the New Testament Church. Examples are: Junia or Junias in Romans 16.7; the punctuation of 1 Cor 14.33-34; evidence for 1 Cor 14.34-35 being an interpolation; strengthening of the ‘command’ of 1 Cor 14.37; and another variant strengthening Prisca’s ministry in Rom 16.3. (“an application to the twentieth century of Ehrman’s important book The Orthodox Corruption of Scriptures”)

Joan Cecelia Campbell. 2007. Kinship Relations in the Gospel of John. Catholic Biblical Association of America. “C.’s focus is Jesus’ personal relations with members of his biological family as depicted in John’s Gospel. Her goals are to explain the internal dynamics of these relationships and to demonstrate how they shed light on the social location of the Fourth Evangelist and his intended audience. A critical review of how these kinship relations are treated in scholarly discussions leads her to the preliminary conclusion that Jesus’ relations with his mother are positive, while those with his brothers are negative. To test this hypothesis, Campbell turns to cross-cultural and specific culture-area anthropological studies, critical studies of ancient families, and the testimony of ancient Greco-Roman writers. From these she constructs a model of ancient Mediterranean family dynamics that she uses to reevaluate the Johannine narratives.” (RBL review by Ritva Williams)

Thomas J. Kraus. 2007. Ad fontes: Original Manuscripts and Their Significance for Studying Early Christianity, Selected Essays. Brill. K. aims to demonstrate the value of working with the (original) manuscripts in detail for a more profound understanding of many facets of Early Christianity, above all the texts and background of the New Testament.

Josep Rius-Camps and Jenny Read-Heimerdinger. The Message of Acts in Codex Bezae: A Comparison with the Alexandrian Tradition; Volume 3: Acts 13:1 - 18:23. 2007. The third volume in the four-volume commentary on the Book of Acts, this work compares the message of the text of Codex Bezae with that of the more familiar Alexandrian text of which Codex Vaticanus is taken as a representative. For each section, there is a side by side translation of the Bezan and Vaticanus manuscripts, followed by a full critical apparatus that deals with more technical matters, and finally, a commentary that explores in detail the differences in the message of the two texts. The authors find that in the Bezan text Luke portrays Paul as a fallible disciple of Jesus who, despite his powerful enthusiasm, is hindered by his traditional Jewish understanding from fully carrying out the mission entrusted to him in these first stages. They conclude that the portrait of an exemplary hero in the Alexandrian text is a later modification of the flawed picture.

David A. deSilva. 2008. “X Marks the Spot? A Critique of the Use of Chiasmus in Macro-Structural Analyses of Revelation.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30/3: 343-371. The role of chiasmus as a structuring device in ancient literature continues to be a much-debated facet of literary and rhetorical analysis, with often overly-exuberant discovery of complex chiasmi spanning whole books running far ahead of the methodological substructure needed to sustain a convincing demonstration of the same. This article analyses three recent attempts to propose a chiastic macro-structural analysis of Revelation and uses them to present examples of three recurring problems in the quest for the elusive chiasmus: (1) developing chiastic outlines by means of selective shaping of summary statements for major blocks of text; (2) discovering a chiasmus by means of selective reading of key terms; and (3) creation of a chiasmus by means of manipulation of formal markers. The author hopes that future proposals will take the methodological cautions proposed by critics of chiasmus to heart, as well as the standard rules of critical thinking (e.g., seeking for better alternative structuring devices alongside the quest for the hidden chiasmus).

J. A. (Bobby) Loubser. 2007. Oral and Manuscript Culture in the Bible: Studies on the Media Texture of the New Testament—Explorative Hermeneutics. SUN PReSS. Loubser (d. 2006) considers how scripture is read, understood, and used in third world situations that are closer than modern European societies to the social dynamics of the original milieu in which the texts were produced. An extract from the book is available from the publisher.

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Translation and Language

María Calzada Pérez. 2007. Transitivity in Translating: The Interdependence of Texture and Context. Peter Lang. Preface by Ian Mason. C. investigates the hypothesis that shifts in transitivity in translating can result in the creation of unwarranted effects at different levels of communication, with potentially ideological consequences. She analyzes various types of transitivity shifts at sentence level in a corpus and shows their contextual effects, employing a theoretical framework of communication (including translation) that follows Critical Discourse Analysis/Critical Linguistics principles.

Ian Higgins. 2008. “Where the Added Value Is: On Writing and Reading Translations.” Forum Mod Lang Stud 44/3: 231-257. Η. analyzes a number of examples of compensation in respect to translating polysemy, hyponymy, pun, cultural allusion, quotation, and texts that are sometimes said to be untranslatable by their combination of formal convention and cultural presupposition. The analyses show that translation is a mode of written reading demanding as much analytical rigor, sophistication, and research as, and more imaginative creativity than, most other critical writing.

Translation and Interculturality: Africa and the West. 2008. Stella Linn, Maarten Mous, and Marianne Vogel, eds. Peter Lang. The articles in this volume address topics connected with cultural challenges to translation between Africa and the West, discussing linguistic, political, and ideological aspects of translation, and ranging from problems related to Bible translation to the position of African postcolonial literature. Methodological approaches include linguistics, literary and translation studies (especially skopos theory and relevance theory), cultural studies, and anthropology. Among the articles are:

  • Harriet Hill, “The Effect of Translation on Cultural Categories: Evidence from the Adioukrou Bible”
  • Gerrit J. van Steenbergen, “Incongruent Worldviews: Some Implications for Translating the Bible in Pökot”
  • Lourens de Vries, “Translation Functions and Interculturality.”

Some of the articles in “Translation and Ideology Encounters and Clashes,” a thematic issue of The Translator 13/2, guest-edited by Sonia Cunico and Jeremy Munday:

  • Jeremy Munday, in “Translation and Ideology: A Textual Approach” (195-217), examines what is meant by “ideology” and how it is treated in Translation Studies, where it has primarily been linked to manipulation and power relations; here, the focus is on the ideology of the individual translator. Following Simpson and Van Dijk, the author considers ideology to be constructed from the knowledge, beliefs, and value systems of the individual (the translator) and the society in which he or she operates. M.’s interest is in how ideology is conveyed and presented textually in translation and how analysis drawn from within monolingual traditions (such as critical discourse analysis and the tools of systemic-functional analysis) may not always be the most appropriate to detect and classify the shifts that take place.
  • Wai-ping Yau, in “Norms, Polysystems and Ideology: A Case Study” (321-339), argues that we should focus on the social embedding of texts if the concepts of norms and polysystems developed by Even-Zohar and Toury are to be usefully applied to understanding translation in relation to ideology. Those concepts can be used to situate translations in their specific cultural and historical contexts, to set in relief the ideological issues involved, and to link up the macroscopic and microscopic levels of investigation. Notions of “adequacy” and “acceptability” can combine in a translation to offer a critique of the dominant ideology. A translation project launched in Hong Kong in the 1950s is used as a case study to illustrate these points.
  • Ian Mason, in “Revisiting the Classics: Critical Linguistics, Language and Ideology” (341-364), compares the two editions of Language as Ideology by Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress (Routledge, 1979 and 1993).

Massimiliano Morini. 2007. “Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say: A Pragmatic Analysis of the Italian Translations of Emma.” Language and Literature 16/1: 5-19. M. aims to show the usefulness of pragmatics for translation analysis and translation training, particularly for the analysis of dialogue and, more generally, face-to-face interaction. Jane Austen’s Emma is chosen as a source text that displays an intricate web of personal and social relations, with dialogues that strike a delicate balance between what is spoken and unspoken, said and implied. The book is compared with three Italian target texts to investigate how that web and that balance are kept, erased, or altered in translation: the results demonstrate that a knowledge of the pragmatics of face-to-face interaction can be of great advantage to the translator.

Jacobus A. Naudé. 2006. “The Qur’ān in English — An Analysis in Descriptive Translation Studies.” Journal for Semitics 15/2: 431-464. N. describes the nature of a selection of the translations of the Qur’ān into English according to the model of Lambert and Van Gorp. He compares his findings to the nature of Bible translation and determines the prevalent norms and conventions followed, contextualizing the data according to Robinson’s view of the dimensions of the translation of sacred texts.

Beyond Descriptive Translation Studies: Investigations in Homage to Gideon Toury. 2008. Anthony Pym, Miriam Shlesinger, and Daniel Simeoni, eds. Benjamins. When Toury founded Descriptive Translation Studies as a research-based discipline, he laid down the challenge not just to describe translation, but to explain it through reference to wider relations. The authors in this volume respond to Toury’s challenge, addressing issues such as the sociology of translators, contemporary changes in intercultural relations, the fundamental problem of defining translations, the nature of explanation, and case studies including pseudotranslation in Renaissance Italy, Sherlock Holmes in Turkey, and the coffee-and-sugar economy in Brazil.

Maria Tymoczko. 2007. Enlarging Translation, Empowering Translators. St. Jerome. The first half of this volume calls for radical inclusionary approaches to translation, including a greater internationalization of the field. T. investigates the implications of the expanding definition of translation, with a chapter on research methods charting future approaches to Translation Studies. In the second half, she links these views of translation to the empowerment and agency of the translator. Revamped ideological frameworks for translation, new paradigms for the translation of culture, and new ways of incorporating contemporary views of meaning into translation follow from the expanded conceptualization of translation, and serve as a platform for empowering translators and promoting activist translation practices.

The Study of Language and Translation. 2007. Willy Vandeweghe, Sonia Vandepitte, and Marc van de Velde, eds. Vol 21 of the Belgian Journal of Linguistics. Benjamins. Papers presented at a 2006 congress of the Linguistic Society of Belgium consider the interface between Linguistics and Translation Studies, with many of the contributions spotlighting the corpus approach and translation universals. The differences between translations and their source texts and those between translated and non-translated texts are explored in various ways. The relationship between hypotheses, types of findings and domains of study is explored and results are given of investigations into prosodic, linguistic and textual features of various types of translation corpora.

* * * * *

Edouard Kitoko-Nsiku. 2007. “Dogs’ Languages or People’s Languages? The Return of Bantu Languages to Primary Schools in Mozambique.” Current Issues in Language Planning 8/2: 258-282. The Mozambique ruling party FRELIMO has striven since 1993 to implement a bilingual educational system in the country. K-N’s article addresses the reasons underlying the leaders’ choice of this system and considers the problems involved in language planning in a multilingual post-colonial country. The challenges faced by the government, teachers, parents, and students during the implementation of this new educational system in primary schools include revitalization of Bantu languages previously thought of as only fit for dogs.

Stephen Pattemore. 2006. “‘Honourable Bigotry’? Relevance Theory, Conversation Analysis and Radio Talk-backs.” Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 19: 299-318. (In a special issue on linguistics and the media, ed. by José Mateo Martínez and Francisco Yus.) P. shows that Relevance Theory (RT) and Conversation Analysis (CA) have much in common in their understanding of the nature of context and its progressive construction through a conversation, and should thus be able to benefit from each other’s insights into the process of communication. Examining the transcript of a broadcast radio-talk back conversation, P. demonstrates that CA can apply insights from RT to its treatment of the cooperative construction of meaning in conversation; and application of RT does not need to be restricted to fragments of invented conversation but can be extended to the more complex situations of actual language in use.

Wendy Sandler and Diane Lillo-Martin. 2006. Sign Language and Linguistic Universals. Cambridge University Press. In a thorough-going treatment, the authors analyze sign-language structure, identifying linguistic universals in the phonology, morphology, and syntax of sign language, at the same time finding that non-universal aspects of its structure can be attributed to its physical transmission system.

Ruth Campbell, Mairéad MacSweeney, and Dafydd Waters. 2008. “Sign Language and the Brain: A Review.” The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 13/1: 3-20. This review outlines some basic principles of brain structure and function and the methodological principles and techniques that have been used to investigate the question of how signed languages are processed by the brain. The authors summarize a number of studies exploring brain activity associated with sign language processing especially as compared to speech processing, focusing on lateralization—whether signed language is lateralized to the left hemisphere of native signers, just as spoken language is for native speakers, or whether it involves the right hemisphere to a greater extent than speech processing. Experiments that have addressed this question are described, and some problems in obtaining a clear answer are outlined.

Jean Ann. 2006. Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes: The Taiwanese Example. Gallaudet University Press. Addressing the question whether specific kinds of handshapes in sign languages increase in direct relation to the ease of their formation (articulation), A. examines the use of Taiwan Sign Language (TSL) handshapes. She begins by discussing how linguistic theories have influenced sign language researchers’ consideration of the ease of articulation and frequency of handshapes. She describes the physiology of hands and explains why certain digits move with greater dexterity than others, then applies the information to construct a model for determining the ease of articulation of any logically possible handshape, dividing the handshapes into three categories, ranging from impossible to easy. The model is applied to the patterns of TSL, where 56 handshapes have been identified, along with frequency of usage; the usage data is correlated with the handshapes’ ease of formation. The results suggest that, “although ease of articulation does not dictate frequency of occurrence, it plays a significant role in helping to explain which handshapes are used most frequently.” (181)

Trevor Johnston and Adam Schembri. 2007. Australian Sign Language: An Introduction to Sign Language Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. This is the first comprehensive linguistic introduction to Auslan—to its grammar, phonology, morphology, semantics, and discourse structures. A website (the Auslan Signbank) offers video clips demonstrating the signs discussed in the book.

Laura Polich. 2005. The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua: “With Sign Language You Can Learn So Much”. Gallaudet University Press. P. gives an account of the evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language and the emergence of the Deaf community in Nicaragua, a process that has taken place for the most part in the past 30 years. Her research reconstructs a more complex history than the commonly-held view that NSL was spontaneously developed by deaf children who were first placed in a school for the deaf under the Sandinistas.

Richard A. Hudson. 2007. Language Networks: The New Word Grammar. Oxford University Press. H. argues that language is a network of concepts which in turn is part of the general cognitive network of the mind. He challenges the widely-held view that language is an innate mental module with its own special internal organization, and attempts to show that language has the same internal organization as other areas of knowledge such as social relations and action schemas, with rich links between linguistic elements and contextual categories.

Morphologies of Asia and Africa. 2007. Alan Kaye, ed. Eisenbrauns. Volume 1 covers Afroasiatic morphology, with one section on ancient languages and one on modern. Articles in the ancient section include

  • Akkadian, by I. M. Diakonoff and L. E. Kogan
  • Ugaritic, by Dennis Pardee
  • Phoenician and Punic, by Stanislav Segert
  • Hebrew, by Gary Rendsburg
  • Babylonian Jewish Aramaic, by Geoffrey Khan
  • Old Aramaic, by Stanislav Segert
  • Syriac, by T. Muraoka
  • Mandaic, by Rainer Voigt.

The second volume covers Indo-European, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, Altaic, Caucasian, Malayo-Polynesian Languages, and language isolates.

The Poetics of Grammar and the Metaphysics of Sound and Sign. 2007. S. La Porta and D. Shulman, eds. Brill. Essays in this book examine the notion of a grammatical cosmos, discussing how many of the great civilizations provide cognitive maps that emerge from a metaphysical linguistics in which sounds, syllables and other signs form the constructive elements of reality. The book is divided into three sections that deal with the metaphysics of linguistic creation; practices of encoding and decoding as a means of deciphering reality; and language in the widest sense as a medium for self- and cultural transformation.

Andreas Langlotz. 2006. Idiomatic Creativity: A Cognitive-Linguistic Model of Idiom-Representation and Idiom-Variation in English. Benjamins. L. proposes a systematic cognitive-linguistic model of the grammatical status and use of idioms. Within that model, idiomatic creativity raises two questions: What are the cognitive mechanisms that underlie and shape idiom-representation? How do these mechanisms define the scope and limits of systematic idiom-variation in actual discourse? The book approaches these problems by means of a comprehensive cognitive-linguistic architecture of meaning and language and analyzes them on the basis of corpus-data from the British National Corpus.

Kemal Altintas, Fazli Can, and Jon M. Patton. 2007. “Language Change Quantification Using Time-separated Parallel Translations.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 22/4: 375-393. The authors introduce a method to quantify language change by studying unconsciously-used language features in time-separated parallel translations. They identify style markers such as vocabulary richness and lengths of words, word stems and suffixes, and employ statistical methods to measure their changes over time. Statistical analyses of Turkish show that over time, for both text and lexicon, the length of Turkish words has become significantly longer, and word stems have become significantly shorter—suffix lengths have become longer for types and the vocabulary richness based on word stems has shrunk. These observations indicate that in contemporary Turkish one would use more suffixes to compensate for the fewer stems to preserve the expressive power of the language at the same level. This approach can be adapted for quantifying change in other languages.

Politics of Orality. 2007. Craig Cooper, ed. (Orality and Literacy in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds, 6) Brill. The essays in this volume explore the tensions that arise as a society moves from an oral to literate culture. Part 1 deals with Homeric and other forms of epic; Part 2 explores different ways in which texts and writing were manipulated for political ends. Parts 3 and 4 deal with the controversies surrounding the adoption of writing as the accepted mode of communication: whereas some segments of society began to privilege writing over oral communication, others continued to maintain that the latter was superior. Part 5 looks at the oral elements of Athenian Law. An RBL review by Jonathan Draper summarizes the articles.

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News & Notes


Cadernos de Tradução

Created in 1996 by professors of the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil, Cadernos de Tradução publishes articles and reviews on the subject of translation analysis, theory, and history. The free online journal represents a recognized national and international forum for discussions of research in Translation Studies. 2 issues a year.


Published by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Biblica is a quarterly research journal dedicated to biblical studies (Old and New Testament) and intertestamental literature, and covers fields of research such as exegesis, philology, and history. The online edition of Biblica was launched in 1998. It includes an Index beginning with volume 71 (1990), summaries of articles that have appeared in Biblica since 1990, and the complete text of articles and short notes beginning with the year 1998. (The online version is published in collaboration with the Biblical Studies on the Web Project.)


Online Bible Dictionary: WiBiLex is a freely available scholarly online Bible dictionary (in German) published by the German Bible Society. At present 519 articles are posted, written by scholars selected on the basis of their special knowledge in the area of their articles. Eventually, the dictionary will include over 2000 entries.

Biblia Clerus: Reading the Word of God with the Church. This website offers Bible text linked to interpretation by the Church Fathers. The downloadable version allows you to connect Scripture to the complete works of Doctors of the Church, Councils, Encyclicals, teachings of the Popes, Catechisms, as well as commentaries from secular literature. There is an excellent collection of patristic material in various languages as well as a wide variety of materials from the RC Church (encyclicals, etc.).

Tyndale Toolbar. This free web browser toolbar from Tyndale House is especially useful for quick lookups of Bible text online in original languages, ancient versions, and quite a few (70+) English versions. Works with Explorer and Firefox.

British Library Online Gallery of Sacred Texts. This website shows off 78 sacred texts held by the British Library, including Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian texts, each with in-depth description and high-resolution zoomable images. You can "turn the pages" of a 17th-century illuminated Ethiopic Bible, the Lindisfarne Gospels, or a 15th-century Hebrew Bible codex (Lisbon). In the Curator’s choice section, curators and other experts give their views on some of the texts. Among the selections are Codex Sinaiticus, the 13th-century Armenian Awag Vank’ Gospels, and Tyndale’s New Testament. There are some really breathtakingly beautiful books here.

In Memoriam: William D. Reyburn Aug 29, 1922 - Sept 9, 2008. Long-time UBS translation consultant in the Americas, Africa, and Europe/Middle East. Raconteur extraordinaire. Bill was much loved, and will be greatly missed. If you have access to the UBS intranet, you can read Phil Stine’s tribute to Bill in the Communications section.

End of TIC TALK 65, 2008.

September, 2008

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