Wednesday, October 07, 2009

King James: Get Me Rewrite

Much fun has been made of the Conservative Bible Project, which aims to retranslate the Bible to fit the current Republican idiom. NearlySomebody at DailyKos kicks the tires. Stephen Suh at Cogitamus, a strong liberal Christian, points out the blasphemous nature of this endeavor. JC Christian does some mockery. Rod Dreher, himself a cultural conservative, finds the Bible translating idea laughable, too.

The Conservapeda folks have already translated a little bit. I'm going to paste the same verse in various translations. Here's Mark 10: 33
King James Version
Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:

Conservapedia Translation
"Listen carefully: we will arrive in Jerusalem, where the Son of man shall be betrayed and handed over to the Elites, who shall condemn Him to death for execution by the Gentiles.

LOLCATZ Translation
33 We r goin to Jerusalem, an teh son ov man r pawed over to teh chief priests and scribes, an dey gonna condemn him to death.


SuH yeruSalemDaq maSal. lalDanla'pu'vaD HaDwI'pu'vaD je nuv'a' jeghlu'. HeghmeH luqIch. novpu'vaD lujegh.
It's pretty astounding that someone has translated the Bible into LOLCATZ.

The Backstory

In 2006, some conservatives were upset at what they perceived as liberal bias in Wikipedia. (This echoes a liberal quip about how "Facts have a liberal bias.") They started a conservative alternative called Conservapedia, which is well exemplified in its rejectionist entry on evolution.

Having vanquished Wikipedia, the Conservapedia team is now starting the Conservative Bible Project, because "Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations."

The worldview that generates this wheels-within-aggrieved-wheels scheme is the cultural Christian outlook of today's Republican party. Here's one passage they want to deal with:
At Luke 16:8, the NIV describes an enigmatic parable in which the "master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly." But is "shrewdly", which has connotations of dishonesty, the best term here? Being dishonestly shrewd is not an admirable trait.

The better conservative term, which became available only in 1851, is "resourceful". The manager was praised for being "resourceful", which is very different from dishonesty. Yet not even the ESV, which was published in 2001, contains a single use of the term "resourceful" in its entire translation of the Bible.
So "dishonestly resourceful" is fine, but "dishonestly shrewd" is necessarily negative? I suppose they need the "Conservative Dictionary Project" next.

If there is actually a group of people working hard on translating the original texts to modern conservative rhetoric--really wrestling with the text-- I'd wager twenty-five percent of them will be agnostics before the translation is complete. From what I've seen, it's going be a half-assed Search and Replace operation.


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