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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. The Meanings of Feminist Biblical Translation. Castelli Translation then becomes second nature. It is an ongoing activity with us, like breathing. Only occasionally, as during an asthma attack, do we suddenly become aware sometimes intidles an excruciating pang of the ongoing process. Sri Lankan writer Ranjini Obeyesekere captures the experience of the writer-in-exile in the metaphor of translation- as-natural-as-breathing.

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Many women who are grounded in the Christian tradition have spent much of their religious lives in radical acts of translation of the tradition. One might well ask, At what cost? One might also note that, as we enter into this discussion, more women are feeling more asthmatic than ever before. Our success will certainly be measured, at least in part, by the ways in which we are able to offer solace to our sisters’ distress.

The session was entitled, “Rethinking The Woman’s Bible: The metaphors of linguistic difference emerging infidle the biblical tradi- tion describe the multiplicity of human languages as the result of Gods anger at human arrogance; that we do not speak the mythical original language of Eden is, according to the biblical narrative of Babel, a sign of our fallen status.

Translation is often figured as a miraculous event, as with the account of Pentecost and the legends surrounding the creation of the Septuagint; somehow good translation is only made possible through divine intervention. Given this tradition, feminist translators of the Bible rightly pause at the task they set for themselves.

How do ls begin to think about this gesture and our place in the history of translation in the West—in general, and in relation to the specific texts we are engaging? Will we, in the process, add to the mythological accretions concerning biblical lse God s intervention as part of our practice, as has been done at other moments of transformative translation?

How does our practice relate to that of others? How do we conceptualize it? How do we interact with the discourse of translation already in place? In beginning to think about a feminist theory of translation, we must ask a series of difficult questions about philosophy of language, how meanings are produced, how they are culturally situated.

We must ask whether it is 2 George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation London: Oxford University Press, notes that every civilization has some mythology of the primal dispersion of languages. See, as some examples, Phyllis A. Women, Men, and the Church, ed.

Allen and Unwin,; Nancy A. Hardesty, “‘Whosoever Surely Meaneth Me’: Inclusive Language Lectionary,” Theology Today 43 An Inclusive Intidles Lectionary,” Ecumenism 84 The Meanings of Feminist Biblical Translation 27 possible to write a translation of the Bible that is a sub version of it? Is our feminist practice of translation guaranteed to produce a text that points ever closer to, attains to, a truth of translation?

Or is our work not always already undercut by uninterrogated categories of authority and canonicity? Or, to put the question another way, does a feminist translation of a text always produce a nonsexist text? While some would want to answer this last question affirmatively, such an answer presupposes that translation is a technical process separable from farther reaching interpretive concerns.


A feminist method of translation ought not to adopt gender neutral formulae blindly, as though that strategy might answer the challenge of androcentric texts. There is the overarching recognition that biblical texts are written in androcentric language, and that androcentric language embodies shifting nuances at ingidles historical moments. While, for example, androcentric languages might at some other historical moment have been understood to convey generic meanings, this is no longer the case.

Therefore, feminist translation must reject the androcentric equivalent in favor of terms that convey inclusivity. On Translating Infante’s In- ferno,” Sub-stance 42 Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,; English translation in Ger- man Romantic Criticism ed. Leslie Willson; New York: Continuum, Essays and Reflections, ed. Harry Zohn New York: Schocken, See especially the discussion onwhere concern over adequate translation interacts with a hermeneutics of suspicion. The project is therefore nuanced and delicate, striving not to obscure the nature of the text while at the same time trying not to construct and reify further sexist expectations and assumptions through the use of language that erases, marginalizes, or trivializes women’s lives, agency, and contributions.

One of the difficulties in thinking these questions through is that we are caught up infldles a hermeneutical tension that renders problematic much work on biblical texts in general; a profound tension between treating the text as a cultural artifact accessible to analysis and interpretation, and viewing the text as somehow deeply different from other texts. Translating the Bible is wound up with this same tension, and has been for centuries.

While transla- tion has bbelles been understood by many translators as a kind of creative labor georegs on the texts of others, the Bible has been seen as the exception to this rule; where translators might boast of their quick and agile work on secular texts, biblical translators would speak of their “long, careful labor” and “consciously based their renderings on those of their predecessors.

To discuss feminist practice of translation is to raise the fundamental question of feminist authorship and authority. Beyond the question of authority infieles the very question of the nature of the language of the text itself.

Even a critic like Steiner, who sees language as foundationally and perpetually in flux, sees a difference when one is dealing with religious texts, “preserved in a condition of artificial stasis. Deciding that the text is made up of fluid language, changeable and diffuse is a freeing beorges for the translator; however, it also means that we set into question as well the very concept of “word of God” as it has been used throughout the tradition.

Columbia University Press,50; see p. Kelly, The True Interpreter: Martins, The Meanings of Feminist Biblical Translation 29 one which opens up our own agency in relation to the text while situating our work in a particular theological position that demands further theorizing.

Finally, in relation to these questions of authority and the nature of the texts, on what grounds will we select the texts subject to a feminist transla- tion of the Bible?

Will we limit ourselves to the canon as it has historically politically, and tendentiously been constituted? Or will our challenge to authority include a reconsideration of mouunin question of which texts belong in a feminist translation of the Bible? As we work here together, another group of biblical scholars is working to produce a new translation of the New Testa- ment that will include the Gospel of Thomas as a text; once the bounds of canon have been stretched, will we wish to fill this new space with new texts?


Perhaps more to the point, will we abandon other, irredeemable texts? How shall we make such decisions?

When exploring the literature on translation, one is immediately struck by the attempt to find language to describe what the process of translation is.

A cursory list does not do justice to the richness of the struggle to speak about translation; translation is variously described: Infiles, I believe, is the vital starting point. Harvard University, ; repr. Oxford University, Sanborn, The work of the translator is one, the work of the exegete is another.

Very true are the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt: Nida, From One Language gelrges Another: Bellws Equivalence in Bible Translating Nashville: All of these metaphors for translation have their alluring qualities, illuminate some as- pect of translation; none speaks of translation in a totalizing fashion. None can, for if we take seriously the notion that translation tells us something about the intricacies of language itself, then nothing we say about the process can kounin Poggioli, Literary, Linguistic, and Philosophical Perspectives, ed.

University of Delaware, where translation is described as producing at once “the guilt of connivance” and “longing for reparation. Essays in Theory and Practice, ed. Marilyn Gaddis Rose Albany: Gombrich, Art and Illusion. The Meanings of Feminist Biblical Translation 31 exhaust it. The impossibility of translation, posited by some theorists, cap- tures the intense philosophical impasse of the “nature of translation.

Criticizing Translations: the Notion of Disparity | Jean Delisle –

Epistemologies and assumptions about human nature also come into play,26 and though these distinctions are rarely rendered explicit in theorizing about the practice of translations and when they are, it is in schematic usually dualistic fashion, they nevertheless play a critical role in the process of thinking about translation.

For example, oppositions such as “literal vs. In this view, there is a kernel of meaning encased within the chaff of expression, and one may easily dispense with the chaff infiles significant loss. Often theorists of translation will make an exception to this rule in innfidles case of poetic language which, they argue, is markedly different from other kinds of language. Nevertheless, since Jerome, the maxim mounnin verbum e verbo, sed sensum exprimere de sensu not word for word, but rather to express the sense from the sense [the meaning] has been the order of the day, and has colored many translations.

Yet the slipperiness of such an opera- tion is rarely acknowledged, and the philosophical underpinnings of the practice almost never explicitly articulated. William Arrowsmith and Roger Shattuck Austin: University of Texas Press,; and the most recent discussions by post-struc- turalists on the problems of “the remainder” in translation: Continuum,; idem. Vlb Editeur, ; English translation: The Ear infid,es the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation, ed. University of Nebraska, ; idem, “Des tours de Babel,” in Graham, with English translation: Some people have criticized projects such as the Inclusive Blles Lectionary because their attempts to put Scripture into language for contem- porary uses scuttle historical concerns.

More often than not, these critics reason that the world of the Bible was relentlessly patriarchal, and therefore to recast the text in ggeorges ways is to rewrite history.