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  • The Word

  • On the Translation of the Bible
  • By: Dr John Barton
  • Narrated by: Neil Gardner
  • Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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The Word cover art

The Word

By: Dr John Barton
Narrated by: Neil Gardner
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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

How the Bible has been translated and why it matters.

The Bible is held to be both universal and specific, the source of fundamental truths inscribed in words that are exact and sacred. For much of the history of Judaism and almost the entirety of Christianity, however, believers have overwhelmingly understood scripture not in the languages in which it was first written but rather in their own—in translation.

This book examines how saints, scholars and interpreters from ancient times down to the present have produced versions of the Bible in the language of their day while remaining true to the original. It explains the challenges they negotiated, from minute textual ambiguities up to the sweep of style and stark differences in form and thought between the earliest writings and the latest, and it exposes the bearing these have on some of the most profound questions of faith: the nature of God, the existence of the soul and possibility of its salvation.

Reading dozens of renderings alongside their ancient Hebrew and Greek antecedents, John Barton traces the migration of biblical words and ideas across linguistic borders, illuminating original meanings as well as the ways they were recast. 'Translators have been among the principal agents in mediating the Bible's message,' he writes, 'even in shaping what that message is.' At the separation of Christianity from Judaism and Protestantism from Catholicism, Barton demonstrates, vernacular versions did not only spring from fault lines in religious thinking but also inspired and moulded them. The product of a lifetime's study of scripture, The Word itself reveals the central book of our culture anew—as it was written and as we know it.

©2022 John Barton (P)2022 Penguin Audio

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The narrator’s French and German pronunciation is awful

This is a good follow-on from John Barton’s “A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths”, returning in more detail to the subject of the Bible in translation, focusing mostly on English translations. As an audiobook it’s harder to compare and contrast the translations cited as examples - particularly when the narrator, Neil Gardner’s, French and German accent and pronunciation are so poor that they’re a distraction.

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The last word on the Word

An exhaustive account of biblical translations and the considerations of the translators in producing them. With numerous examples Barton shows that no one translation can be definitive, but all depend upon considerations such as the context, original language, the target language and audience, and purpose the translators have in mind. Discussion of virtually all major or notable translations is included providing a reliable guide to anyone wishing to choose a translation, or understand the differences between them for themselves. Whilst Barton touches on the existence of variant readings and variant source texts behind different Bible versions by way of examples, the particular codices referenced by different versions is not detailed. Arguably this information is available elsewhere, in the preface of the different versions for example, and the scope of this book is discussion of the issues of translation, rather than a reference work. The chapters detailing shifts in meaning of words with changing world views over the time period in which the Bible was written I found particularly insightful. After hearing on Audible I bought a hard copy for reference. Excellent!

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