Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reading the New Testament With Fresh Eyes

     The expression, "read the Bible like you've never read it before" can only be true if you have actually never read it before, or you read a translation that is new to you.  The way it is often used as a call for "open minded objectivity" is a nice idea, but does not happen, even by those who affirm this nice idea.
   With that in mind, how might you read it fresh or anew? A different tanslation.  This is not a blog on translations, but a blog on a particular, but dated, translation of the New Testament.
     I have long admired the Classical scholar and translator Richmond Lattimore.  His works on Homer's Iliad, Odyssey, and select Greek tragedies are still the standard of fidelity to the original and high English translations of these masterpieces.  When I discovered some years back that Lattimore had done a translation of the New Testament, I was intrigued.  After having purchased it and having read most of it, and repeatedly consulted it for teaching, preaching, and general comparison, I have been delighted. I would encourage anyone interested in a faithful translation of the Christian Scriptures to read Richmond Lattimore's The New Testament (1996).
     Lattimore said of his translation philosophy, "I have held throughout to the principle of keeping as close to the Greek as possible, not only for sense and individual words, but in belief that fidelity to the original word order and syntax may yield an English prose that to some extent reflects the style of the original...trying to let the authors of the Greek speak for themselves in English" (vii, xii).
     In truth, because Lattimore was such a fine translator, there is a different tone and tenor with the different writers of the New Testament.  I remember studying Koine Greek in college and graduate school and clearly seeing differences in the original among the various New Testament authors.  Lattimore's translation goes far in conveying this in English. 
     Additionally, with Lattimore's translation, there is also something about seeing the New Testament writings without the artificial and choppy chapters and verses.  The layout is similar to a novel, and this alone brings new reading.  For those who are appreciative of a literary approach to the Bible, this translation helps in more than one way to read it as a whole.  So, as was exhorted to Augustine, so I exhort you, "Take, and Read."