Saturday, 23 August 2014

A happy return to blogging

Dear friends who once read this humble blog,

I've moved into a new decade, a new phase of life, a new country and new profession... and to reflect this all I've also moved into a new blog.  Please pop on over and continue to make me feel special and affirmed through commenting.  Oh OK, I promise to find my esteem elsewhere... but I do get a kick out of comments!

You can find me at my Looking Through Blue blog.

Adios for now!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A sad farewell to blogging

Hi there faithful blog-readers!

The time has sadly come (after 6 months of absence) to admit that I'm unlikely to keep up blogging... you have permission to abandon your connection with this site without any guilt or feelings of regret. Thanks for the happy times and interactions (sniff sniff). From now on I shall keep my thoughts safely to myself, and we may all be the better for it!

I'm still doing email, though... keep in touch!
Oh yeah, and if you liked the little critiques of the ESV, email me (or leave your email addy in a comment) for a copy of my final year project, a review of the ESV's translation of Ecclesiastes. It should be done late this year.

lotsa love and a big bloggy smooch, Anna

Monday, 2 February 2009

I'm sad for you!

Here's my latest linguistic ESV-related concern.

What does the title of this post mean? Or, what does it mean to say, "I am happy for you?" Take a second to think about it. What contexts can you imagine saying it in?

OK, now what does it mean to say, "I am angry for you?"

Funny isn't it, I don't think you can say that. But maybe you think someone could say it. If so, what do you think it would mean?

Now read the following quote from the ESV.

Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?

And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”

What do you think? Is this an acceptable English translation? (You already know what my vote is!)

Did you (earlier) imagine saying "I'm happy for you" or "I'm sad for you" to any inanimate objects?

The Emerging Church that Didn't

So, Derek and I have a spare Sunday in Sydney, a "holiday" from our normal routine and our normal church family. How shall we spend it? I know, we'll go to an emerging church! Ever since I heard about the emerging church I have found it fascinating and appealing. Here's me with some emergents I found at the zoo:

So the next step is we google "emerging church Sydney". Well, there's three. One's website doesn't even mention Jesus, God, church, spirituality... it's in fact a guitar tuition site - dead end. Another is a cafe, which apparently also has no connection with Jesus, God, church, or spirituality. It's just a "space". I don't fancy travelling out to see a space - I'm looking for a fellowship of believers.

The final option is the well-renowned Small Boat Big Sea - whoops, I mean smallboatbigsea, how daggy of me to put in spaces! The website seems good - the word Christian pops up - even Jesus a bit later on - this is more promising than the others so far! It's a safe space to be a community, and it's a large, comfy space which fits me (so I'm told). All sounds great! Let's go.

Meeting times are as follows: during January, picnics at different beaches from 5:30pm. This Sunday is Shelley beach, near Manly. Yippee! Off we go, pack the arvo tea and out for a swim at Manly. Beautiful. As 5pm approaches, we hop into the showers and then begin the picturesque coastal trek to Shelley Beach. Upon arrival, we see a number of groups of thirty-somethings smoking, drinking beer (not "cheap wine" like the website promises) and playing music (but not "from around the world" like the website promises). Eenie, meenie... Which group is it? Should we go and ask? Well, it's our first time, let's walk by looking lost and see if anyone notices.

Nope, no-one noticed. Well, maybe we're a bit early. Let's sit and wait and see if they put a sign up. Just a little picture of a small boat on a big sea or something would satisfy... we don't require a glaringly obvious "CHURCH MEETING HERE NOW - JOIN US!" Just anything which offers a little identification or a mite of encouragement for a stranger to approach.

Another group is forming further down the beach, but again, looking exclusively inward. Hmm... how long should we wait? We know we could easily solve the problem by asking each group if they are smallboatbigsea. But it kinda feels a bit awkward. It's nice to be welcomed into a foreign group rather than force your way in. None of the groups feels like "a large comfy space which fits us". Another walk-by (wistful glances included) achieves nothing.

Well, half an hour later, we pack our gear and head back to Manly Beach and our car. Stopping by a bakery for some dinner, we head down to Olympic Park and watch a free movie in the Overflow. The place is packed, and there's no question of where the event is happening.

All this just raises the question, when is blending in with average Aussie culture a good thing, and when is the right time for a church to emerge? Anyone else had positive or negative experiences of emerging?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Holidays again!

Ah the happy life of a student! Holidays again.

First stop was NTE (or should I say SPRTE) in Canberra. Fun times! Great to catch up with lots of old friends (including heaps who live in Sydney!) and meet some new people. A highlight was going up Black Mountain Peninsula with my strand and some Tassie people... found myself getting quite emotional, looking down at Canberra after 2 years away! So many cool things happened to me there.

Got home and straight into preparing a talk for a women's gingerbread house Christmas event. I spoke on the topic "What would Jesus say to Santa Claus?" and really enjoyed that. It was also so fun to make a gingerbread house, I could have done that all day! We're smashing it tomorrow, will put some photos up later I hope.

Part of the tragedy of coming home was returning to this sorry plant. Why don't green things stay alive in our house? I even followed the directions on the tag! Also I thought it might sense the Dutch connection and perform well for me. But alas, it did not. Sniff sniff.

The next stage of holidays is Christmas-card-making (I have a love-hate relationship with this art form) and other adminny types of things, punctuated by Scrabble (except finding a playing partner is proving tricky) and visits and snoozes. Also getting started on Hebrew readings - yay! And soon, very soon, we shall begin our migration north for a family Christmas.

Bye for now!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

More balanced view of Bible translations!

Well, seeing as a few people think I'm ranting too hard against the ESV (which I'm almost willing to concede - almost), I thought I'd steal this lovely little analysis from an esteemed friend and ex-colleague, a linguist and Jesus-lover extraordinaire, whose comments I endorse wholeheartedly! And it's more scientific because it has a graph. Love to hear your thoughts.

Have you ever heard someone talking about a particular translation (in English) of the bible and saying it's the best - I've heard that said about the ESV, the NIV, the NRSV, the NLT and the Message... can they all be the best?

I was sitting in a Translation Priciples lecture in our recent workshop and started to think about the different English translations and what their relative strengths are. I came up with this little table (below) which I will explain to you. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it as well.

But first, to explain about the lecture: we talked about "Translation Philosophy" or the type of translation that we are trying to do.

Some translations are literal or "word for word" translations. This means that they try to translate each word as closely as possible to the word that was used in the original Greek (in this case, or Hebrew or Aramaic in the Old Testatment). The ESV is a good example of this. This means that you will be able to see the language structure and word choice of the original language more clealy (though you are still reading it all in English).

Some translations are "meaning based" translations, which means that they first take a whole idea (might be a sentence or a clause) in the original language and translate the meaning of that idea into English. So the sentence structure will be more different to the original language than the more literal translations will be, but it will also be more natural English that is used.

Some translations are "paraphrases". These go further than the "meaning based translations" and apply the point of what was said in the original to today's situation and might even change what is being talked about to make the same point. The Message translation is a good example of this. Some people say that the Message, though it might be very helpful, is not a translation at all because it changes the meaning too much.

The risk with using a too literal translation is that the language might be too unnatual English to be understood properly (I have heard some people say that the ESV is too difficult for their children, even teenage children to understand). The risk with doing a meaning based translation, and especially a paraphrase, is that you may not have understood the meaning correctly, and therefore what you translate might be wrong.

In summary literal translations run the risk of being unintelligible, other types of translations run the risk of being wrong!

These are not three discrete categories, they're a continuum, so the NIV and NRSV are placed somewhere in between the literal and meaning based translations.

Please see the graph above. (Before explaining my graph I should say that I'm talking about good translations here. There can also be very bad, literal and meaning based translations and bad paraphrases, but I'm not including those in my analysis.)

Ideational Meaning is what people usually mean when they say "meaning". When we say "John walked out the door" the ideational meaning refers to this person called John and that he moved, putting his feet in front of one another to go out the door.

I think that meaning based translations do ideational meaning best. Literal translations don't convey the ideational meaning quite as well, because the meaning can be obscured when it uses foreign idioms or phrases. Paraphrases don't attempt to accurately convey the ideational meaning.

Textual meaning refers to how what is read relates to the rest of the text. For example in Mark chapter 2 Jesus refers to himself as "the son of man". The ideational meaning of this phrase is "I", people used this phrase to refer to themselves often. But on a textual level we can see that Jesus might have used this phrase to remind people of something else - in this case maybe the passage from Daniel 7.

Since they use a "word for word" translation strategy, links between texts can be most easily seen in literal translations. (From the introduction: "The ESV is an "essentially literal" translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.") This is not always as clear in meaning based translations and not clear at all in paraphrases.

Affectual meaning relates to how reading the passage affects people's emotions. How are we to feel when, for example, Jesus is betrayed, or when he dies, or when he is transfigured, or when he feeds the 5000 etc. The original readers might have felt a certain way about something, but because we are so far removed from their culture we might miss some things and not be affected the same way.

Affectual meaning is best conveyed by paraphrases (as long as you belong to their target audience, if not the meaning can be lost on you, or misunderstood). Their aim is to affect the emotions of the readers and motivate the reader. In paraphrases there is no question of the original language effecting the grammar structure used - thus they are best at conveying affectual meaning, meaning based translations are next, and literal translations come in last in terms of affectual meaning because the English used is the least natural, and therefore speaks affects our emotions the least.

In summary, meaning based translations (like the NLT) convey the ideational meaning the best. Literal, or word for word translations (like ESV) convey the textual meaning the best. And paraphrases (like the Message) convey the affectual meaning the best.

So when people say that the ESV is the best translation I would say:

* Yes it is! If you're studying the original text and want help understanding the Greek, or if you want to know what the original language says, but can't study the original language.
* But no it's not! If you want to read the bible in natural English, nor if you want your heart, as well as your head, to easily understand what you're reading..

If people say that the NLT is the best translation I would say:

* Yes! Because it is written in very nice English, which speaks to my heart well, and it also clearly shows the meaning. I especially like reading the Old Testament prophets in the NLT because I find I need it written in natural english to really understand what's happening since their situation and culture and also the genre is very removed from what I'm used to.
* And No! Because it isn't so easy to see how one passage relates to others, and also some of the ambiguities in the original language are lost. (For example 1 Tim 2:15 where the NLT has "women" the Greek word would be more accurately translated "he" or "she".)

If people say that the Message is the best translation I would say:

* Yes! Because it speaks to my heart well and applies the message to my own culture, which gives me encouragement very directly, and means that I am affected strongly by each encouragement and each rebuke.
* But also No! In some ways the Message changes the meaning a little too much, and I'm never quite sure when biblical author's writings end and the interpretation of the translator begins. The Message is really more like good preaching. It is powerful and it hits home. But what you discover in the message must also be tested against a translation which sticks more closely to the original text.

(I acknowledge Kirk Patston who first told me about the three types of meaning in a very interesting Old Testament lecture.)

There, I hope you enjoyed that. Please understand the amount of self-control it has required of me to post something so positive about the ESV on this blog! May it be for the greater good!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Monday, 10 November 2008

Of Wisdom and Woe - Reprisal

For the sake of balance and credit where credit is due, I feel that it's only fair to announce that I have now had my left lower mandible extracted (ie, I'm now wisdom toothless on the bottom) and praise the Lord, neither lockjaw nor dry socket ensued.

Here's what happened - I tried not to think about it too much in advance, but just got to work making a variety of tasty soups, until the fated day came; and off I went to the dental surgery prepared for another hour of trauma and a week of excruciating pain. At least this time I knew what to expect.

The first piece of good news, warmly welcomed, was that only one tooth would need to be dug out, rather than two - yay.

Next came the inevitable needles - last time it took quite a good number of stabs before a suitable location was found to inject, but this time it was on the lucky second attempt that the needle found its home and deposited the blessed anaesthetic into my lip! My heartbeat rose a little when I could still feel the test-pricks on my gum, but it turned out that all was well, and the dentist was soon calling for all manner of grisly instruments of torture with which my lower mandible would thence be attacked.

Here goes, methought, and I settled in for the ride. Breathe in, breathe out... ah yes, the familiar little blob of something at the back of my throat closing off my nasal airpassage and making me have to suck in and blow out air through my metal-filled mouth... breathe in, breathe out... only 45 minutes of this to go. Suction please. Forceps please. Forceps? Hadn't we only just begun?

10 seconds later I saw the forceps being removed from my cavern with a little pearly white (yet tinged with red) carefully caught between. Surely the monster was not out already! It had only been 5 minutes! I didn't dare believe. Mine eyes surely deceived me. But it seemed to be so! I awaited the stitching patiently - but neither did that come! Next thing I knew, there was a swab, being placed in my mouth, there was I, being asked to bite down. Now the chair is coming up, now the sunnies are removed from my face, now the dentist has taken off his gloves. It's all over. I hear a voice behind me ask, "Do you want to keep your tooth?", and in my delirium and disconcertion I say, "no thanks" although I really mean, "of course!!! I need something to boast about and show my friends!" But it's too late. The tooth has found its new home in the clinical waste bin.

I stand up and smile with half my mouth at the blessed dentist. He attempts to wipe a blood spatter off my nose, not succeeding, and then I point out that that little red spot is part of my normal face and try as he might, a wet tissue will never prevail over it. After a hearty chuckle I go to the reception to find yet another joy awaits - the cost is less than last time too! It seems they charge you according to your extraction's score on the traumatic experience index. Nonetheless, it seemed like yet another boon for me that day.

Having learned some lessons last time, I made sure the swab was in the hole, and bit down firmly - but not too firmly. No dreams of munching sticks of chalk or grinding through ropes with my teeth would interrupt my sleep this week.

When I got home, I replaced the swab, and joy of joys, no blood gushed forth! It was bound to be a happy night. Derek and I went off to babysit and spent the evening celebrating over soup and West Wing. Thanks God, it was all a happy time, and now nothing but a happy memory! And I can joyfully announce that these wizzies are now out of my mouth and out of my life, never to trouble me again!


Hi there one and all,

It's exam time again! Yay!

Tuesday 18th - my theology half-exam
Wednesday 19th - Derek's theology exam
Friday 21st - our New Testament exam (1 Corinthians and Hebrews)
Monday 24th - our Hebrew exam

Followed by a week of partying, winding up, tidying desks, and general frivolity!

Here's a photo of the cool crew here at our units!

The three studying wives

The boys blue steeling

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Does this make sense?

The people passed over [the Jordan River] in haste.

Now, you might think people could possibly pass over a full-flowing river, but over a dry one? Who'd say that? It sounds like they were spookily levitating over, on a hovercraft or something.

It gets worse:

And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the LORD and the priests passed over before the people.

Hang on, first you're saying the people had finished passing over, but then the priests are passing over before the people? It canna be! Oh hang on, you mean THAT kind of "before" - "before their eyes" - the Hebrew kind of "before" which we don't have in English except on very rare and formal (or silly) occasions ("Lo, what manner of thing is this I see before me?").

I challenge you: find one real-life example of a person saying "someone did something before me" - where they mean the person did it in front of them, not before them in time. I wish you well.

This is just one reason why the ESV is only useful if you already know the underlying Hebrew and can understand why on earth the translators would say the priests "passed over" the dry riverbed after the people, before them! And hey, if you know the Hebrew, why bother with the ESV anyway?

(Josh 4:11 - thanks to Derek for the tipoff)

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Body-less temporary existence after death?

Here's another essay abstract for your perusal... (see below post if you're confused)

This essay analyses the Bible’s teachings about the state of the dead between now and the final judgment. The Old Testament, with its emphasis on life in this world, gives only vague information about the state of the dead. References to Sheol primarily serve to highlight the horror of death as a punishment involving permanent separation from Yahweh. The New Testament teaches much more about resurrection, yet the state of the dead prior to the resurrection is rarely (if ever) taught. The major theories concerning the state of the dead can be classified as dualistic or monistic. While some support can be found in Scripture for the dualistic notion of an intermediate state, during which the souls of believers are with Christ in heaven, more consistent with the Bible’s emphases and teaching is the monist theory of immediate resurrection. Doctrines such as Purgatory are clearly unbiblical. Pastoral implications of the Bible’s teaching about the state of the dead include desisting from contacting or praying for the dead.


This is the first example of my new essay-publication strategy - instead of plonking the whole thing up on dna in depth, I'm sticking the question and abstract here and then if you're interested you can ask me to email you the full deal! And I may or may not oblige depending on my assessment of your motives ;)

Ok so the question was (something like):

Describe the role creeds have played in church life and argue the case for your view as to the role they should play.

And the abstract is:

Focussing specifically on the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Chalcedonian Creed, this essay explores the role creeds have played in church life, noting their origin as baptismal confessions, and their gradual increase in complexity to combat heresies of the day. Following this, they were used for teaching purposes and, only much later, incorporated into church liturgy. The essay then discusses eleven potential problems relating to the creeds’ content and their function in contemporary church life. Their effectiveness in church life is then assessed. On this basis, it is suggested that the use of creeds in church ought to be carefully limited.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Great National Shame

Victoria's lower house has approved a bill allowing unfettered access to abortions up to 24 weeks; and from 24 weeks to full term, only 2 doctors would have to agree that the pregnancy is having a negative impact on the mother "physically, mentally or socially". No abortion would be considered a crime. (See this article in the Australian).

Here's a particularly disturbing argument:

Nationals frontbencher Jeanette Powell, who hails from the ultra-conservative seat of Shepparton, voted for the bill and gave one of the better received pro-choice speeches.

"A number of people have asked me, 'Who speaks for the baby?'," she told parliament. "The answer, I believe, is that the mother speaks for the baby, and we need to respect that right, whether we agree or disagree with the decision they make."

How would you feel if someone wanted to kill you (for no crime done), and the state appointed as your defense lawyer (or as the judge of the case) that very person? The mother who wants an abortion can't possibly speak for the baby - it's a very serious conflict of interests. (Usually we recognise this - the mother who neglects and abuses her three-year-old (for whatever reason) is never given the final say as to whether DOCS takes the child away.)

Why will our government pay for people to kill little humans one day (via abortion), but if the baby's born the next day, you would be locked up for it? That magical birth canal, pathway to enjoying the full rights of humanity.

*Please pray that the bill will be decisively rejected in the upper house.*