Languages


One of the exciting developments in recent scholarship is the series Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity (BMSEC) edited by Wayne Coppins and Simon Gathercole. The initial volumes have already received much attention. Wayne has been involved in a range of translation work, and the idea to include some translations of Martin Hengel’s work in Earliest Christian History came from him. I’ve asked Wayne, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia, some questions about the series and translating German.

1. Before this series you produced several translations of German material. What led to your interest in German scholarship and particularly providing English translations?

After completing my B.A. in Greek and Latin at the University of Georgia in 1998, my friend Jay Weldon invited me to join him in Germany where he was taking part in a UGA exchange program at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Since I was already considering graduate studies in religion, this seemed like a great way to learn German and so I took him up on his offer and moved to Germany in January 1999. I initially planned on staying a year at the most, but at some point I discovered it was basically free to study in Germany (cf. Andy Bowden), which contributed to my decision to enroll at the University of Tübingen, while living at the Albrecht Bengel Haus. At this time, I first discovered something of the riches of German scholarship, especially through my classes with Friedrich Avemarie, Peter Stuhlmacher, Otfried Hofius, Bernd Janowski, Dorothea Wendebourg, and Eberhard Jüngel, but also through my friends and teachers at the Bengel Haus. And my appreciation for the German tradition continued to grow in the course of my M.A. an PhD studies in Durham and Cambridge. During my time in Tübingen, Friedrich Avemarie also gave me my first academic job working as a Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft for the Tübingen-Durham Resurrection volume, and Peter Stuhlmacher asked me to translate one of his lectures for an upcoming trip to the States. These experiences gave me my first taste of editorial and translation work, and I found that I enjoyed it. This conviction likewise continued to deepen during and after my MA and PhD, when I had the opportunity to translate four essays by or about Martin Hengel. Against this background, I think my interest in translation has three main sources, namely a) my transforming experience with German scholars(hip) in Tübingen, b) the translation opportunities that I received in Tübingen and Cambridge, which helped me to discover how much I enjoyed this work, and c) my growing conviction that translation represented an excellent way for me to contribute to the advancement of my field.

2. What led to your involvement with the BMSEC Series

The short answer is that I wanted to create a framework in which my translation work could be part of a larger vision for facilitating increased dialogue between German-language and English-language scholarship. For a longer answer, see my interview with Michael Hölscher.

3. What do you hope this series will accomplish for scholarship?

Since I spend much of my existence translating and editing volumes for the series, it will come as no surprise that I have great hopes for it! Let me outline these in three points.

(a) First, I hope that each volume in the series will make important contributions to concrete areas of scholarship within the field. For example, I hope Jens Schröter’s book From Jesus to the New Testament will be taken up in discussions of historiography, historical Jesus, Pauline studies, Luke-Acts, the canon, and theology of the New Testament!

(b) Second, beyond their individual contributions, I hope that each volume will serve as a window into the wider world of German scholarship and thereby enable English-speaking scholars to become more conversant with emphases and developments that characterize cutting-edge German scholarship.

(c) Third, I hope—or at least dream—that the series will contribute to a resurgence of interest in German scholarship on early Christianity and that this will, in turn, motivate a new generation of scholars to commit themselves to learning German, so that they can interact even more fully with the German tradition in their research and teaching.

4. How do you choose which books to translate? The volumes so far have been recent books. Will the series also pick up some older material?

The short answer to your first question is that we—i.e. Simon Gathercole and I in conversation with Carey Newman and Henning Ziebritzki—look for works that are of incredibly high quality and written by respected authors, without requiring that they fit a certain genre. For example, the first five volumes will include two collections of essays (Schröter and Frey), three monographs (Konradt, Markschies, and Hengel/Schwemer), and one commentary (Wolter). For a longer answer, see my interview with Clifford Kvidahl (Part I and Part II).

It is not impossible that the series will include some older material, but I doubt it. The reason for this is because I think much interaction with German scholarship is too backward looking. When people think of German New Testament scholarship they often think only of the formative period of the discipline or of the contributions of Bultmann and his students. This is not, of course, all wrong, since it is absolutely essential that scholarship continue to grapple with the contributions and issues raised by such key figures and movements (cf. e.g. here and here ). At the same time, part of my vision for the series is to communicate with all due clarity that contemporary German scholarship on early Christianity is alive and well, so that the future of German scholarship also lies in the present and not merely or even primarily in the past. And for what it is worth, I also think that engaging contemporary German scholarship is often an especially fruitful way to discover the strengths and shortcomings of past German giants, or at least this has been the case with my interaction with Schröter and Markschies in relation to Bultmann and Harnack.

5. Will you tell us a little about what will be out at SBL in November 2014 and in the future in the series?

The volumes that have been planned out so far are as follows:

Vol. 1 (2013): Jens Schröter, From Jesus to the New Testament (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 2 (2014): I am very excited about this year’s BMSEC volume, namely Matthias Konradt‘s book Israel, Kirche und die Völker im Matthäusevangelium Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew, not least because of the ringing endorsements that the German and English versions have received from Ulrich Luz (‘die wichtigste Arbeit über das Matthäusevangelium der letzten zehn Jahren’Evangelium Ecclesiasticum, p. 285) and Dale Allison (‘Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew is full of original observations and fresh arguments. Konradt has built a new foundation for all future work on the crucial topic of Israel and the Church in Matthew’s Gospel’, Endorsement for the English Edition). And in addition to the high quality of the argument, I think that Kathleen Ess has done an absolutely wonderful job with the translation (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

And I am, of course, equally excited about my and S. Brian Pounds‘ translation of Jens Schröter’s book Jesus von Nazaret: Jude aus Galiläa - Retter der Welt  Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World, which will also be at this year’s SBL, though not as part of the BMSEC series (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 3 (2015): The next volume, which I have recently submitted to Baylor, is Christoph Markschies‘s book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

I think that this impressive volume will prove to be a major contribution to the study of early Christianity in the second and third centuries and especially to key issues such as (1) the value of an institution-oriented approach to studying early Christianity, (2) the need to attend to diverse institutional contexts, such as free teachers and Christian schools, the Montanist prophets and their circle, and the Christian worship service and its prayers, (3) the relationships between the New Testament canon and Christian institutions, and (4) the advantages of the complementary model of the identity and plurality of ancient Christianity as an alternative to competing models such as Walter Bauer’s Cultural Protestant model of ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ and the Jesuit model of the ‘inculturation’ of Christianity.

The next volumes planned for the series are:

Vol. 4 (2016): Wolter, MichaelDas Lukasevangelium The Gospel According to Luke. Translated by Wayne Coppins and Christoph Heilig. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 4. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 5 (2017): Frey, JörgDie Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten. Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I The Glory of the Crucified One: Studies on the Johannine Writings I. Translated by Wayne Coppins. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 5. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

Vol. 6 (2018): Hengel, Martin, and Anna Maria SchwemerJesus und das Judentum Jesus and Judaism. Translated by S. Brian Pounds and Wayne Coppins. Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity 6. Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press (cf. my blog posts on this volume).

6. For those thinking about PhD studies or at the early stages, what advice do you have for them about how to acquire a better understanding of German? Is there a particular author or two that you think is good to ‘cut one’s teeth on’?

Hard to say. If at all possible, spend some time in Germany (or Switzerland etc.). But even if you can’t make it to a German speaking country, I suggest combining a “German-for-reading” approach with at least some “spoken German”. I’ve never used it, but David Lincicum has suggested that slowgerman.com is a helpful resource for the latter. For the former, I have heard that April Wilson’s German Quickly is a good place to start. After that you might want to move on to a German reader or work through my model sentences. But it could be just as effective to begin working through German texts that are directly related to your research interests. But if you take the latter approach, don’t start with the German text alone. Instead find a work that has been translated on your topic and work through the original German with reference to the English. In terms of tools, I have provided links to some of the better dictionaries on my resource tab, which also includes links to other sites for learning German. Finally, the serious student might consider participating in one of Thorsten Moritz’s courses.

Good question. Chris Tilling has suggested that Udo Schnelle is a good author to start with due to his clear writing style, and this could be done with reference to Eugene Boring’s fine translations, e.g., Paulus/Paul or Theologie/Theology. Martin Hengel’s German is also fairly straightforward, though it is problematic that the English and German versions often differ greatly in length. But some of his essays might work well, for example the essays that I translated in Earliest Christian History. Jens Schröter’s German is more complex in Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, but he has clearly attempted to write in a very accessible manner in Jesus von Nazaret, so I think it could work well to use this volume in conjunction with the English translation, Jesus of Nazareth (cf. here). Finally, Peter Stuhlmacher could also be a good option, e.g., Der Brief an die Römer/Romans or Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments/Biblical Theology of the New Testament [Forthcoming; trans. Daniel Bailey].

7. Aside from your translation work for this series, what else are you working on?

Much of my recent research has carried forward past projects. Building on my previous publications on freedom, I wrote encyclopedia articles on freedom for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception and the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics. More recently, building on my RBL review of Ernst Käsemann’s posthumously published essays, I submitted an article titled ‘Revolution and Violence in Ernst Käsemann’s Radically Lutheran Theology of Liberation’, which may or may not be accepted and published. My most recent teaching and research interests are squarely focused on the Synoptic Gospels, esp. Mark, but to date my only publication in this area is my 2012 Tyndale Bulletin article ‘Sitting on Two Asses? Second Thoughts on the Two-Animal Interpretation of Matthew 21:7’. If another book-length project emerges for me in the future, then I suspect it will be related to the Gospel of Mark.

Many thanks to Wayne for answering these questions. Be sure to check out his immensely helpful blog German for Neutestamentler where he regularly works through a section from a German author explaining the grammar and reflecting on the historical and/or theological claims.

Clement of Alexandria on who wrote Hebrews (via Eusebius):

He [Clement] says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language. Luke however, translated it carefully to make it available for the Greeks and for this reason the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts. (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 6.14.2)

This blog post by Ben Stevens is one of the best rationales for learning Greek that I’ve read of late: Lost in Translation

As with all forms of media, the eye catching title or blurb garners the most attention.  During my last few months in the UK I did some editing work for the Voice translation that just recently published the OT and NT together for the first time.  Due to some catchy titles like the one of this post, the translation has garnered some attention that might be unnecessarily negative.

One of the goals of the translation is to take terminology in the biblical text that didn’t have a specifically religious connotation at the time and use modern terminology that isn’t specifically religious.  For instance, ἀπόστολος is translated in the Voice not as “apostle” which is really only a transliteration and only has religious connotations today, but with “emissary” which does not.  Also for χριστός, rather than merely transliterating it like apostle, the translation goes with Anointed One.
When discussing this on USA Todayand other outlets the media has picked this up as taking Christ out of the Bible, when a better way to phrase it might have been taking “Christ” out of the Bible.  I’ll not take time to reduplicate the efforts by Daniel KirkLarry Hurtado, and Greg Garrett.
If you are interested in a copy to see what the translation first-hand, let me know and we can get one to you.

I’ve been trying to keep up my German in other ways since I’m not reading German articles/books for my research.  [Because of a short-term staffing issue in the department here I happen to be teaching 5 classes this semester (though only 3 preps).  It's not bad, and it does help fund summer travel plans, but it also doesn't leave any time for writing.  We like most teaching focused universities usually run 4/4 loads (i.e., 4 Fall/4 Spring classes, with summers optional).  And I'll return to that schedule in the fall.]  Anyhow, for my German my only contact is that most week days I read through (and sometimes listen to) the Deutsche Welle news (with the help of Dict.cc, of course).

I had the goal of being able to read a Harry Potter novel in German when I finished my PhD, but I wasn’t to that point, nor am I really there now, but I thought that I’d give it a go since the only way you get there is by practice.  And I don’t want to do something academic at night where I have to think about the content–in that way a novel would be ideal.  So I tried to download a German version of HP on our Kindle since I didn’t want to have to have one shipped.  To my dismay, I learned that Rowling wouldn’t license the books for e-readers because of her love of actual books–a bit hypocritical since she licensed them for audio books and movies, but that’s beside the point.  So, I just looked up free German edition books on the Kindle and found quite a few.  I settled on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or rather Huckleberry Finns Abenteuer und Fahrten (German Edition), since I know enough of the story to keep up with the text.  Though I probably only get about 1/2 of the sentences and don’t look up most things, I am picking up more vocab and grammar.  However, the German translator also keeps true to the poor grammar of Jim and others, and it took me a couple of chapters to figure out why some things didn’t square up.

Since our Kindle (a Kindle 3, in case it matters) has a built in dictionary for English books (just move the cursor and a gloss pops up), I thought that surely I could get a German one as well.  It turns out that you can get a German-English one even!  This site has Free (as in GPL2) translation dictionaries for the Kindle, and importantly the German-English is the most robust.  It doesn’t include inflected forms (though most past-participles are there) and some more colloquial terms, it’s perfect for my goal of just making it through a lot of text where I’m happy to only understand the general story.

I’m about 1/2 way through the story and may shoot for an updated novel for my next try, perhaps Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol or rather Das verlorene Symbol, since I’m planning on writing a paper about it because he pushes the idea of ‘apotheosis’.

I am entering late into this discussion (perhaps too late in blog time), but this is my first opportunity to do so. As is well known by now, Larry Hurtado has been expressing the view (here, here and here) that New Testament PhD students in Britain should have reached a certain standard of linguistic competency by the time of completion (which could include testing at the viva – no thanks, I’m scared enough as it is). For traditional NT PhDs, this seems a reasonable proposition. However, there need to be some fairly major changes to the teaching of theology in the UK if this is to be taken seriously.

At Durham, we naturally have opportunities to study both ancient and modern languages, but I wouldn’t like to have started any from scratch. I am doing this with Latin this year, but fear that I may not be able to devote the time to make it stick. Realistically, therefore, the British candidate needs a reasonable competency prior to beginning research.

In which case, there needs to be more emphasis on languages earlier in the education system. It is pretty much expected these days that applicants for PhD will have an MA in an appropriate subject. These degrees are described by the AHRC as ‘Research Preparation’ degrees since they are meant to be the preparation stage for the PhD. In my Biblical Studies MA at King’s College London, we had to take a module in a language, either ab initio or advancing previous study. This is good, but is it enough? Should there not be a larger language component if the PhD is the aim? However, one academic year is not a lot in the study of a language. This turns the spotlight on undergraduate degrees.

Which is a problem, because it is quite possible to get a degree in Theology and Religious Studies in the UK without studying any ancient languages. Then again, there are plenty of subjects within this field which do not require them. However, if we are hopeful that there will be future generations taking up the discipline, then they will need the tools to enable them to do so. This is particularly acute with ministerial training in almost all denominations (a route which many PhD students have typically taken), where courses often avoid original language study altogether.

If we enforce Hurtado’s language requirement for the PhD and do not change our earlier theological education, then I fear for those educated in the British system. I fear that this will mean in practice that the subject of traditional NT Studies will remain open to (a) those who are self-motivated enough to do the language study on their own (good for them); and (b) those who have studied Classical languages at school, which in the UK, almost entirely means public school (i.e. private school). I am not comfortable with the potential class implications of this, and indeed, it would be interesting to know how many of our current senior figures in the subject have a public school background which has contributed to their linguistic ability.

In other words, this is an important topic with implications for the structure of theological education as a whole, and not just for reasons of academic competence.

I just came across a new (and better) way of inserting different text critical symbols.  I have done a post on the papyrus symbol, and there I mentioned that you need a different font.  I use Gentium for Greek and English (because it’s unicode), and so I didn’t want to have to switch fonts for just one symbol.  I just learned that the text critical symbols are in Gentium, but you can’t find them through MS Word’s Insert Symbol function (see the HT link below for details).  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Type in the unicode number for your symbol.  E.g., 1D510 (see below).
  2. Keystroke: Alt-X
  3. Voila – the symbol appears

Majority Text symbol, 1D510
Papyrus symbol, 1D513
Septuagint, Greek Old Testament, 1D516
Lectionary symbol, 1D459

HT: NT Resources

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