The recent New Testament dust-up between big-name scholars reminds us how hard—and important—Bible translation can be.
Individual translations of the Bible have a long history in Western Christianity, stretching back to Jerome’s Latin translation, the Vulgate. Notable members of this auspicious tradition include William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, and Martin Luther. Much more recently, figures such as Kenneth Taylor and Eugene Peterson have joined their ranks with popular paraphrases, while scholars such N. T. Wright have also produced more traditional translations. (For those interested in more coverage of Bible translations, CT has an in-depth look at lesser-known translations in the upcoming March issue.)
The newest member of this unique club is Orthodox theologian and scholar David Bentley Hart, who published his own translation of the New Testament last year.
Hart’s translation has been making waves, to say the least. Variously described as “mind-bending,” “provocative,” and “a glorious failure,” Hart’s rendering of the New Testament has produced no shortage of commentary, and more than a little critical praise.
One notable scholar who does not appear to be particularly impressed by Hart’s translation is Wright, who is probably the closest thing current New Testament scholarship comes to having a celebrity. His review of Hart’s New Testament, published January 15 in The Christian Century, details a lengthy list of disagreements with Hart’s translation choices, and ends with the backhanded compliment that Hart’s translation is “as idiosyncratic as it is bold.”
Wright’s primary concern seems to be Hart’s understanding and use of language—both Greek and English. Hart claims his translation will in many parts be “an …