An experiment in Bible translation as transcultural communication : the translation of [berith] 'covenant' into Lomwe, with a focus on Leviticus 26

Foster, Stuart Jeremy (2005-04)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2005

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The narrow question is how best to translate into Lomwe the biblical Hebrew term [berith] 'covenant'. But this question draws in many other issues when the contextual nature of communication is taken into account. Using Leviticus 26 as a focus text, this study sketches a complete arc from the impact at world view level of covenant concepts in the original to impact at worldview level among present-day Lomwe-speakers in northern Mozambique. This study defends a definition of covenant in its ancient Near Eastern context as a chosen relationship of mutual obligation guaranteed by oath sanctions. A close reading of Leviticus 26 in its literary contexts highlights the integrating role of covenant in the Old Testament. Used for Yahweh and his people, covenant language stressed that the relationship was exclusive, secure, accountable and purposeful. However, Lomwe-speakers are traditionally matrilineal with no adequate analogs to ancient covenantal customs. Protestant Christians among them, who have not had the Old Testament in their language, show by their songs that they do not have a covenantal sense of their relationship to God, but see life as a journey of escape to heaven while under the threat of divine judgment. For the present experiment, volunteers preached from a translation of Leviticus 26 to their congregations. In the resulting recorded sermons, the covenant concepts emphasized were relationship and obligation (but not chosenness or oath sanctions), and exclusivity and accountability (but not security or purpose). To compensate, the study proposes specific steps for Bible translators and those involved in the broader teaching task of the churches, especially dwelling on the potential of using muloko wa Muluku, 'people of God' as an integrating framework.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die enger vraag is hoe 'n mens die Bybels-Hebreeuse term, [berith] 'verbond', die beste in Lomwe kan vertaal? Indien die konteksgebondenheid van kommunikasie in berekening gebring word, impliseer hierdie vraag egter 'n hele aantal ander strydvrae. Deur Levitikus as 'n fokusteks te gebruik, skets hierdie studie 'n volledige boog: van die impak op die vlak van die wereldbeskouing van verbondsbegrippe in die brontaal tot by die impak wat die vertaling van hierdie konsepte maak op die wereldbeskouing van die Lomwe sprekers in die noorde van Mosambiek. Hierdie ondersoek verdedig die volgende defmisie van verbond in 'n Ou Nabye Oosterse konteks: 'n Verbond is 'n vrywillig gekose verhouding met wedersyde verpligtinge wat gewaarborg is deur die sankie van eedswering. 'n Noukeurige lees van Levitikus 26 in sy literere kontekste beklemtoon die integrerende rol van verbond in die Ou Testament. As 'n konsep wat gebruik is vir die verhouding tussen Jahwe en sy mense, aksentueer verbond die feit dat die verhouding wat ter sprake is, eksklusief, veilig en doelgerig is, asook dat dit verantwoording impliseer. Lomwe sprekers is egter tradisioneel matrilineer en het geen instelling wat analoog is aan 'n verbondsverhouding nie. Die Protestanse Christene onder hulle wat ook nog nie 'n Ou Testament in hulle moedertaal het nie, gee in hulle liedere blyke daarvan dat hulle geen begrip het wat 'n verbondsverhouding met God beteken rue. Hulle sien die lewe as 'n ontvlugtingsreis na die hemel te midde van die swaard van 'n goddelike oordeel.Vir die buidige eksperiment bet vrywilliges vir bulle gemeentes gepreek uit 'n vertaling van Levitikus 26. In die preke wat op band opgeneem is, is die aspekte van verbond wat telkens beklemtoon is, die van verbouding and verpligting (nie die van nabyheid of die sanksies wat verband hou met eedswering nie), die van eksklusiwiteit en die doen van verantwoording (en nie die van sekuriteit en doelgerigtheid nie). Om te kompenseer stel die ondersoek stappe voor wat Bybelvertalers en mense wat betrokke is in die breere lerende taak van die kerke kan gebruik. Aan die potensiaal van die konsep muloko wa Muluku, 'God se mense' word besondere aandag gewy as integrerende raamwerk.

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