I was intrigued by Hart's translation, since there was so much swirling controversy and because he is Orthodox. Overall, I understand Hart's position on translation. But aside from his translation theory (which I find linguistically inadequate), it is plain that Hart is not a professional Greek scholar. He doesn't know his ancient Greek word usage and idioms like he should. As a result, his "brutally literal" translation is frequently merely "brutal" without being "literal." Okay, so I should also mention that the reason I don't agree with his view of translation is that he thinks that word order and function can and should be transferred from one language to another. The problem is that languages function differently. It is not more literal to put the verb at the end of a sentence in English if it is there in German. The two languages do not function the same way on the level of word order. The same is true in Greek with all sorts of syntax. That said, Hart's "scientific" postscript is a little bit misleading. He makes some good points, but he is out of his depth.
So there were a few positives. For example, I thought footnote p. on page 296 was excellent; scholars too easily assume ἐφ’ ᾧ merely means "because". Paul had a lot of options such as ὅτι and γὰρ. It behoves us to understand why he chose the phrase he did, which easily can be understood as a relative clause. In addition, Hart is one of the few scholars whom I've seen argue for a translation of Philippians 3:9 the way he does. Most translations say: "not having a righteousness of my own", whereas Hart says "having as mine not the righteousness that comes from the law". The difference is subtle but significant. Another example is Acts 9:35-36 in which he transliterates "Tabitha" and translates the Greek equivalent Δορκάς as "Gazelle". This is much better than what most modern translations do. There are likely other examples where Hart pushes against the standard reading and should be taken seriously.
So, let me just list a few of the examples in which Hart's literalism causes problems.
1) Hart always translates the "historical present" as an English present tense. This is, perhaps, defensible, but he then goes on to translate all presents in subordinate clauses as present even though Greek uses time relative for all of its subordinate clauses. This creates not only awkward translations, but clearly misrepresents the Greek.
2) Hart translates ὅτι when it introduces a direct quote. This is an example of a language difference that should be glossed over in translation. If he had done the same with the interrogative particle εἰ in, for example, Matthew 12:10 where it would awkwardly read "If it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Yet he translates "Is it lawful to heal during the Sabbath?" But with ὅτι he finds no problem with a translation such as Mark 1:14-15 "Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good tidings that "The proper time has been fulfilled."
3) Similarly, for being someone who values literalness, he is inconsistent on his translation of the pleonastic λέγων, sometimes translating it, at other times omitting it. [Yet apparently he alone is careful and unbiased, while all other translations wilfully obfuscate the true meaning of the text.]
4) In Mark 3:14 he writes "he made the number twelve" when the text clearly means "he appointed twelve".
5) It is unclear what his principals are for translating Aramaic words. Sometimes he transliterates (e.g. Mark 3:18 "bar-Tholomaeus") and other times translates (e.g. Mark 3:23 "Accuser"). Yet to any Greek speaker, these terms would be equally opaque without some special gloss. But I must admit that he makes some improvements over other translations as mentioned above for Acts 9:35-36.
6) As I complained in the introduction to this review, Hart takes words with ordinary meanings and gives them a force that is much more "nuanced" than is warranted. For example (and Hart is not alone in abusing this word), in Mark 1:43, he writes that after healing a leper, Jesus "thrust him out". This is a translation of the verb ἐκβάλλω. In Mark 1:12 he similarly translates that the Holy Spirit in leading Jesus into the wilderness "cast him out". This is the same verb that is regularly used to speak of leading a flock of sheep out to pasture (cf. John 10:4). Hart succumbs to the etymological fallacy that what a word is composed of and what it used to mean are the keys to its current meaning. The true meaning of a word is how it is used in contemporary society. This shows that Hart is both unaware of good linguistic theory and has a lack of facility with Greek language.
7) Another example comes from John 18:36. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. Jesus replies that his kingdom is not of this world. He explains that his disciples would have fought if Jesus' kingdom was. Then Jesus says: "but as it is, my kingdom is not from here." The keywords "but as it is" are νῦν δὲ in Greek. The common idiom is missed by Hart and he translates "but for now my Kingdom is not from here." (cf. Plato's Crito III.44D.lines 24-25)
8) Hart says in his introduction that so many translations miss nuances in the Greek language (or wilfully subvert it). Yet Hart's own 'feel' for the language is remarkably lacking. For instance, he makes a long footnote in Philippians 3:11 regarding ἐξανάστασις which he translates as "ex-resurrection" from the dead. He defends this translation, saying, "The play on words is not much less ponderous in Greek." If he cared to take a look, Paul did not strain his language, but used language that is to be found in the best literary Greek (see Euripides Medea 1212 ἐξαναστῆσαι). Why exactly Paul used this term instead of the simple ἀνάστησις is up for debate, but he was not being awkward in his word choice. [It may be as simple as the difference between the English "raise" and "raise up". What is the difference between God "raising Jesus" from the dead and God "raising Jesus up" from the dead?]
Less about literalism
9) Since Hart is so wont to point out typos in other people's work as deliberate (as when he accuses NT Wright of deliberately leaving out the word "not" in his translation), Hart for some reasons has Romans 6:27 in his Bible, but I'm pretty sure 7:27 is the correct reference! (tongue-in-cheek)
10) Specifically in Hart's "scientific postscript", he makes it sound like Paul's words for sexual immorality were as crass as "whore" and "whoring". I admit that I do not know the connotation of the words Paul used, but the denotation is a list of activities that were permissible in Greco-Roman society. Hart overlooks this. It would have been well if he had made it clear that "fornication" (use of prostitutes) was permissible for men and that Jews and Christians would have seemed like prudes. I say this just to explain how important it is to take Hart's explanations with a grain of salt.
Overall, Hart's translation is disappointing and unnecessary. It does very little to advance our understanding of the New Testament and does a lot to reinforce unscholarly views of language, translation, and theology. I am disappointed that Yale University Press would have hired someone whose expertise is not Greek to make an English translation of a Greek text. Their press has a reputation that they should uphold.
- Hardcover: 616 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (15 January 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300186096
- ISBN-13: 978-0300186093
- Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 4.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1 Kg
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