Friday, November 18, 2011

Report from the AAR pre-conference meetings

I arrived Thursday afternoon, and have been having a very fruitful set of discussions with colleagues as part of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning pre-conference plenary.

Peter Ochs, the organizer, has characterized the discussions as "the first Abrahamic revival meeting." Our sessions were divided between time spent doing SR around a collection of texts on music, and discussions of the future of SR practice in Europe and North America.

For the music study, we looked at several Suras from the Qur'an, a passage from Chronicles, and a passage from the Book of Revelation. What I found most fascinating (and had not known before beginning the study) is that there is no mention of music in the Qur'an. I found that incredibly surprising, but as time went on, that fact opened up an amazing discussion about the way in which interpretive traditions will insinuate and "read" things into texts that are not literally present, and the hermeneutic problems (and possibilities) that ensue.

This evening I will participate in a second (and unrelated) pre-conference symposium dealing with the upcoming edited anthology from the Liturgical Press's Rock and Theology project, to which I have contributed a chapter.

Exhausting day, but a really good day as well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Several interviews with Robert Alter

Robert Alter is speaking at the University of Memphis tomorrow evening (Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 6:30pm in the University Theater). As a result of his visit, several local blogs and publications are printing interviews.
"Working as a translator of the Bible," Alter says, "has paradoxically increased both my admiration for the KJV and my reservations about it. The grandeur of the seventeenth-century translation and, at least in the prose, its adherence to the wonderful simplicity and concreteness of the original, have become more vividly clear to me. At the same time, as I look over my shoulder at my fellow-translators of four centuries past, I am sometimes exasperated with them for deploying wordiness where the Hebrew is beautifully compact, for ignoring the expressive rhythms of the Hebrew poetry, and for introducing ecclesiastical terms alien to the original."
You can read the full interview at the Chapter 16 blog, run by the Nashville Public Library.

Leonard Gill's &tcetera blog also has an interview. One question Gill asks Alter in particular was of great interest to me:

Gill: What do you think of the proliferation of "niche" Bibles today — loose translations to appeal to a particular group of contemporary readers?

Alter: The King James had become more or less canonical for English readers, but in the late 19th century, when it was thought there were problems — that it was archaic; that it was inaccurate — there was a revised version, which still tried to preserve the general translations of the King James Bible.

But after the Second World War, there were various committees producing different translations: the New English Bible, the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, the Jewish Bible from the Jewish Publication Society. All these were guided — or, I would say, misguided — by the principle that you have to render the Bible in ways that are entirely compatible with modern idiomatic usage. They abandoned word-for-word translation drastically. They repackaged the syntax. They substituted modern idioms for biblical ones.

Stylistically, the consequences of that strategy have been pretty disastrous. In my own translations, I've gone back much closer to the word-for-word strategy.

Again, you can read the whole interview at the &tcetera blog, run by the Memphis Flyer.

SCRIPT call for papers for EIR 2012

Just got this announcement from Jim Watts:

Call for Papers

SCRIPT will meet concurrently with the Eastern International Region of the AAR again on May 4-5, 2012, in Waterloo, Ontario.

We invite paper proposals in all areas of interest to SCRIPT. Each proposal should contain the following in a single e-mail attachment in MS Word format:

  • One-page abstract (300 words maximum) describing the nature of the paper or panel
  • Current CV for the participant(s)
  • Cover page that includes the submitter’s full name, title, institution, phone number, fax number, e-mail, and mailing address. For panel proposals, identify the primary contact person.

Send proposal to The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2012. Only those proposals received by the deadline will be considered for inclusion in the program. Scholars must be members either of SCRIPT or the AAR in order to register for the conference and present papers.

Presentations are limited to twenty minutes, with ten minutes allowed for questions. If you require technological support for your presentation/panel (such as an Internet connection or audio and projection equipment), you must request it with your proposal.

Make a wish...

The other day my friend Maria and I were discussing what she called the "Magic 8 Ball" approach to the Bible - basically where you express magical thinking by assuming that whenever you open a Bible randomly, it will answer your question and tell you what to do.

So I was very pleased to run across this cartoon by David Hayward this morning:

You can see this image in its original post, and see other works by Hayward, by clicking here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Robert Alter to speak in Memphis, November 10, 2011

Robert Alter will deliver the keynote lecture for the 1611 Symposium -- a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible -- at the University of Memphis. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the University Center.

From 1 to 5 p.m. Friday at Blount Auditorium at Rhodes College, he will join five other scholars in a roundtable discussion of the King James Bible.
The events are free and open to the public.

More information about the events can be found here, and a review of Alter's book on the KJV, Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, can be found here.

Distinguished Bible scholar Jack Lewis writing on the KJV's legacy

Jack P. Lewis, professor emeritus of Harding School of Theology here in Memphis, has written a short article about the legacy of the KJV, which appeared online this morning on the Commercial Appeal's "Faith in Memphis" website.

The article offers an overview of the history -- and some of the misconceptions -- that surround the provenance of the "Authorized Version":
King James was not a translator. History records no financial contribution by King James to the preparation, nor any official act of approval by King or church. Nevertheless, the KJV has been known as the Authorized Version, meaning it was authorized for use by the Anglican Church. Bible printing in England was a royal monopoly. In America, there is no organization to authorize for Christendom.
Lewis points out as well that, contrary to popular belief, the KJV was in fact the ninth version of the Bible to appear in English, following on the efforts of Tyndale and earlier versions such as the Bishop's Bible and even the Catholic Douay-Rheims.

Lewis also points out that the KJV, though highly esteemed by many, is by no means a perfect translation, particularly for contemporary readers. "The English language also has changed dramatically so that the KJV has 800 words that have changed their meaning. Some like 'prevent' or 'let' now have the opposite meaning."

I had the chance to meet Dr. Lewis several months ago at a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James held at Harding Seminary, and I am pleased to commend to you both his scholarly graciousness and his erudition. You can find the full text of Dr. Lewis's article here.

(My thanks to Scott Newstock of Rhodes College for bringing the article to my attention)