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Colonialist, “classic missionary focus” of bible translation

July 18, 2013

Before we were co-blogging here, Theophrastus and I discussed at one of my blogs what he called the “classic missionary focus” of Bible translation. Today, blogger Rod at the blog Political Jesus has posted something along those lines with his brother Richard. They investigate some of the missionary focus of translation of the Bible in the history of colonial contexts. Here are just a few lines (from Richard, on this history, then from Rod, on the present and continuing implications):

The effects of imperial powers extend far beyond the immediate period of colonization.  This truth is most evident when exploring the relationship between colonization and biblical hermeneutics [as manifest in translation]. The British and Foreign Bible Society diffusion of scriptural imperialism in India mirrored the efforts of the slaveholders in America to appropriate the bible for slaves…. The British and Foreign Bible Society monopolized the translation of the biblical text for the Hindu people. They used their English language as the basis for all translation…. One translator noted the lack of Christian vocabulary present in indigenous cultures by stating: “Not only the heathen, but the speech of the heathen must be Christianized. Their language itself needs to be born again.”… The American slaveholders were firm in their belief of the African slave’s inability to comprehend the entire message of the biblical revelation. This stance mirrored the British and Foreign Bible Society’s view of the native people in India. Inculcating Christian doctrines upon the African slaves was reinforced through the use of textualization.

English bible translations, do in fact, begin on the backs of the colonized, and continues… Whenever you hear or read of a bible translation for/by women or People of Color as being “contextual” or “special interest,” the colonizing gaze of biblical studies rears its head. European colonialism is a special interest. White supremacy is a special interest. Male domination is a special interest. English-onlyism is a special interest. Bourgeois values, with the politics of respectability and white hegemonic liberalism, are special interests.

The full post is here:  India, English Bibles, British Empire, And the Foreign Bible Society: A Joint Post

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