Bible translations and metaphor

In my earlier post about the even newer New International Version of the Bible, I complained about how that line of translations is indifferent to metaphor, poetry, and beauty of language. I cited as an example how the new NIV renders “the valley of the shadow of death” as “the dark valley.”

I would argue that sensitivity to literary qualities is necessary in an accurate translation. Metaphors are not just ornaments. They express meaning and are essential in expressing complex, multi-leveled, rich meanings that go beyond simple prosaic statements.

Consider these translations of Genesis 4:1:

The historic English Bible, from the KJV through the ESV, keeps the Hebrew metaphor: “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived.”

The 1984 NIV thinks it has to explain what the metaphor means: “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant.”

The 2010 NIV is more romantic: “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant.”

The original Hebrew uses a profound metaphor that communicates important meaning about marital sexuality in God’s design: They “knew” each other.

Ironically, the other readings are just as metaphorical and even more euphemistic. “Lay with” is ugly and strangely old-fashioned, a version of “sleep with.” “Make love,” not too long ago, meant courting or flirting, not having sex (so that many contemporary readers of 19th century novels think they are much more racy than they are).

At any rate, “Adam knew Eve” is how the original language reads. If God inspired the words, He surely inspired the metaphors.

Reviving the Nonpartisan Party

I don’t know if you noticed, but my brother Jimmy finally read my blog and commented on the State Bank post a few days ago (a topic that he alerted me to). Here is what he said:

The history of the Bank of North Dakota is very interesting. It is a product of a populist political organization known as the Nonpartisan League, which was formed in 1915 by a former socialist. It soon took over the Republican party in North Dakota and even elected a governor, Lynn Frazier. In 1921, he became the first governor to be recalled after an investigation of the bank showed it to be insolvent.

(Which goes to show you that any institution can become corrupted by incompetent or dishonest executives, but at least with a state owned bank you have the ability to have them removed. What can we do to the CEO’s of privately owned companies that do the same? I believe that most of them are still in charge and doing quite well with their generous bonuses.)

In 1956, the Nonpartisan League broke away from Republican party and merged with the democratic party.

Despite these early problems, the Bank of North Dakota survived. I think it would be a good model for the rest of the country. I don’t think that a state owned bank needs to replace large commercial lenders or the federal reserve, but would be kind of like a “public option” for individuals and small businesses who want a low interest real estate loan, student loan or small business loan. the growth of state owned banks would provide a certain amount of stability in the economy and would also benefit the states that have them.

However, the “establishment” would certainly resist having to compete with a state owned bank that did not have to give dividends to its stockholders. I can hear Glen Beck now, standing in front of his chalkboard decrying the “socialist” origins of state owned banks.

It would take a true populist movement to establish state owned banks, not the tea party types that are too ideological and anti-government. Power to the People!

See, he is an example of what I had posted about earlier, the old-school populist Democrat. He raises at least two points worth discussing:

(1) Can a genuinely populist movement be too ideological and anti-government?

(2) I think we should revive the third party he refers to: the Nonpartisan Party. It only ceased to exist because it first merged with the Republican Party and then merged with the Democratic Party.

November 22, 1963

This is the day, 47 years ago, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and C. S. Lewis died. Also Aldous Huxley, who wrote the prophetic dystopian novel Brave New World.

So the day can be seen as something of a watershed–the end of political idealism, the beginning of the post-Christian age, the entry into a new dystopian age, the day the music died, etc.

People of my generation remember where they were when they learned that Kennedy was shot. I was in study hall in Junior High. I guess I was 12. I was a big Kennedy fan and political idealist at the time. A few of my friends applauded at the news, whereupon I yelled at them. It was scary, since we thought (correctly) that the Communists were involved and the Russians might attack. Then seeing Lee Harvey Oswald get assassinated too blew our minds again. Watching the news was more dramatic than watching fiction.

Are any of you old enough to remember where you were and what you felt?

Was the day really a watershed?

The terrorist's day in court

Ahmed Ghailani is a terrorist who killed 224 people.  But the first Guantanamo inmate to be tried in a civilian court was found not guilty of those murders, the result of his blowing up American embassies in Africa in 1998.  He was, though, convicted of conspiracy to destroy government property.

Some of the evidence against him was reportedly obtained by torturing informers, so the judge ruled it inadmissible.

That prosecutors were still able to pin the conspiracy charge–for destroying property, if not lives–is being hailed as a victory, since the penalty will be at least 20 years in prison, if not life.  (Though that seems way too harsh for a crime against property.)  And yet, don’t those lives that were taken cry out for justice, in a way that simply punishing the killer for something else doesn’t satisfy?

That Mr. Ghailani got off for the murder charges shows, to many people, that the civilian courts aren’t right for charging international terrorists, that instead they should be handled by the military commissions set up for this purpose.  Then again, the military courts aren’t allowed to considered evidence obtained by torture either.

A factual question for you lawyers:  Do American constitutional rights apply to non-citizens who committed a crime outside of this country?  That is, are they universal in scope?  If so, there would seem little alternative to excluding evidence from torture, and the blame should be placed not on the courts but on the torturers for making conviction possible.

Also, defenders of using civilian courts claim that we shouldn’t worry, that no terrorist will be allowed to go free, even if he is acquitted, since the government will hold them anyway.  But that is surely would be an even greater violation of the legal system!  If terrorists are found not-guilty or their cases thrown out on a technicality, they SHOULD be released, if a civilian trial has any meaning at all.   If, for some reason, we aren’t going to release them no matter what the court does, it is meaningless to  try them.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how these cases should be handled?

via Analysis: Verdict dims outlook for civilian trials of terrorism detainees.

So what about THIS debt-reduction plan?

Yet another bipartisan commission is proposing a plan to cut the federal deficit.  What do you think of this one?  From  co-chairs Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin:

To ensure a more robust recovery, we propose a one-year “payroll tax holiday” for 2011, suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees. We also would phase in the steps to reduce deficits and debt gradually beginning in 2012, so the economy will be strong enough to absorb them.

We would stabilize the debt held by the public at less than 60 percent of gross domestic product, an internationally recognized standard; reduce annual deficits to manageable levels; and balance the “primary” budget (everything other than interest payments) by 2014.

We would dramatically simplify the tax system, establishing individual tax rates of 15 and 27 percent (from the current high of 35), cutting the corporate tax rate to 27 percent (from 35 today), ending most deductions and credits while simplifying the rest, and ensuring that nearly 90 million households no longer have to file returns. To reduce the debt, we would supplement our spending cuts with a 6.5 percent “debt-reduction sales tax.”

We would strengthen Social Security so it can pay benefits for the next 75 years by gradually raising the amount of wages subject to payroll taxes; slightly reducing the growth in benefits for the top 25 percent of beneficiaries; raising the minimum benefit for long-term, low-wage workers; indexing benefits to life expectancy; and changing the calculation of cost-of-living adjustments to better reflect inflation. We would not raise the age at which senior citizens can begin receiving benefits.

We would control health-care costs – the biggest driver of long-term deficits – by reforming Medicare and Medicaid while, starting in 2018, capping and then phasing out the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care. We would reform medical malpractice laws and help address the health costs tied to rising obesity by imposing a tax on high-calorie sodas.

We would freeze domestic discretionary spending for four years and defense spending for five, both at 2011 levels, and then limit their future growth to the rate of growth in the economy.

Finally, we would cap domestic and defense discretionary spending (with tight exceptions for true emergencies) and trigger across-the-board cuts if the caps are breached; enact a strict pay-as-you-go statutory rule for tax cuts or expansions of entitlements; and enact long-term budgets for major entitlements while creating a Fiscal Accountability Commission that would recommend policy changes every five years if entitlements are exceeding their budgets.

via Pete V. Domenici and Alice M. Rivlin – Payroll tax holiday and other measures to reduce the debt.

The Social Security payroll tax holiday for an entire year would be enormously popular and would put extra money in people’s paychecks immediately.  Maybe that would be the boost the economy needs.  I like the flat tax in principle, but I worry that eliminating charitable deductions (if that’s part of it; the article doesn’t say) would hurt churches and other good causes.  And wouldn’t a 6.5% “debt reduction sales tax” hurt the economy, taking away the good other parts of this plan might do?  Caps and freezes would probably be good.

Again, what do you think?  Do you have better ideas?

Not too much Islam, too little Christianity

Lutheran pastor’s kid Angela Merkel, now the chancellor of Germany, had some striking things to say about the immigration debate in that country:

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration “especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

via Merkel: Germany doesn’t have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity” | Analysis & Opinion |.


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