Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Christian Life as a Work of Translation

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

I find myself writing this from Misano Adriatico, Italy, at the start of the second week of the 2009 Nida School for Translation Studies, where about 30 scholars from around the world have gathered to discuss various topics related to the general theme of “translation and culture.” We are hearing lectures/presentations on topics like “Translation and Comparative Literature,” “Gender Issues in Translation,” “Linguistic Aspects of Translation: the case of metaphor,” “Translation, American English and the National Insecurities of Empire,” “Translating Hebrew Poetry,” and “Translation Studies and Bible Translation,” along with many other topics related to the translation of literature, comic strips, video games, the Quran, and the Jewish and Christian Bibles. An amazingly diverse set of approaches and issues is being discussed and the stimulation is wonderful. The hope and expectation is that this experience will result in fruitful crosspollination that will benefit both the work of Bible translation and translation studies in general.
Gordon-Conwell is starting a new D.Min. track in Bible Translation and I look forward to the participation of our D.Min. students in the Nida School of 2011 and am sure they will find it to be a stimulating and challenging place in which their own thinking about translation will be enriched.
Spending so much time thinking about translation also reminds me of the numerous ways in which translation may serve as a powerful theological metaphor. As the body of Christ, the church is to continue being built up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13 NIV). We are to “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24 NIV). That is, we are to become better and better translations of Christ in this world – translations that are undergoing constant revision so as to become ever more perfect (or, better, less and less imperfect) representations of Christ.
We tend to be such imperfect translations of Christ (or perhaps I should just speak for myself) that it is very easy for other people to get the wrong message, to get the wrong idea about who Christ is and what he is all about. By God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, may the world recognize Christ’s people to be (imperfect but) adequate translations through which they may come to know his truth, love, grace and righteousness, giving praise and recognition not to the translation itself, but to the One who has provided such a translation so that he might be known (cf. Matt 5:16).

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