My new project

opening verses of Mark

My new project? Translating Mark’s Gospel from New Testament Greek.

Last summer when I flew to Washington DC to take part in the Scholars’ Seminar of the Network of Biblical Storytellers (and what a privilege that was!) the theme of the seminar was Translating for Telling. For some years the Network have been feeling that the existing translations we use for learning and telling are not adequate. Most of them are done to produce literary versions - not necessarily always highbrow ones - that are meant to be read off the page by individual readers. Few of them sound really good when read aloud. In fact, you sometimes wonder whether the translators really have ever read them aloud. (See my earlier rant about the NRSV.) Even the Contemporary English Version, which makes big claims about how it is designed to be read aloud and heard by people whose grasp of the English language is not especially strong, achieves its aim by dumbing down the language unnecessarily, and making it sound like the rattling of tin cans over cobbles. No, not as attractive as that, actually. So the aim was to produce translations of the text that would lend themselves more readily to learning and oral telling.

Well, I love the NBS and am so grateful that they’ve given me the opportunity to join the Seminar not once but three times. They are beautiful people: intelligent, faithful, welcoming, loving, creative, godly. I love ‘em to bits. Last summer’s seminar was totally fascinating. Yet also somehow disappointing, in the sense of not being quite what I expected and hoped for. The translations we worked with (and I also got to tell one of them) were produced by brilliant scholars, they were good and faithful versions which gave you new insights into the meaning of the original… yet they were clearly for the Academy rather than the Congregation. They were designed for Performance Criticism rather than for telling to communicate the Story to believers and unbelievers alike, to help them to fall deeper in love with the Mystery.

And what I began to hear, during those wonderful days at the 4-H Center, was that little Inner Voice we all know so well, telling me, If you don’t like this… then do it yourself!

So that’s what I have started to do, in this New Year of Our Lord 2017. My version of Mark’s Gospel, for telling, not in the words which might come easily to anyone else, but by me. So far I’ve got to chapter 6, and the feeding of five thousand people. I don’t know if it will turn out to be any good, if it will be easier for me to learn than any existing versions (or even possible to learn.) But I’ll tell you one thing. It’s fascinating. It really makes me love the Story, and the Good News it tells.

Written on January 23, 2017