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Definitive Translation of Guru Granth Sahib ji, What Can We Learn From King James?

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Admin Singh

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    What Can We Learn From King James?
    by MICHELE GIBSON

    EDITOR: Three centuries after the investiture of the final compilation of the Adi Granth as our living, perennial and only Guru; and more than a century after Sikhs in large numbers began to make their home in different parts of the globe, we as a worldwide community are face-to-face with two crucial questions:

    First, do we need a 'definitive' translation of the Guru Granth Sahib in the lingua franca of much of humanity today - namely, English?

    A number of good translations are now freely available, not only in English, but also in many of the world's major languages. But there is general consensus that a more ambitious and collective project needs to be undertaken to produce a 'King James' -style version - if I may be allowed to use the term as an adjective - which captures the meaning and message, beauty and poetry, song and music, mysticism and spirituality, of the original 1430 pages ... as far as it is humanly possible ... in the full glory of the English language. Not to replace the original in any way whatsoever, but to provide an aid, a key, a door, an introduction - to the endless riches of the Guru.

    Second, how do we go about it?

    Before we even begin to seek the answers, we need to understand the ambit and import of the questions themselves.

    The exercise we will invariably have to embark upon is not entirely novel or unique to the human experience. As already alluded to above, we have the precedent of the renowned 'King James' translation of the Christian Bible - one of several such ventures - which was undertaken around the very time that Guru Arjan set about to compile the Adi Granth.

    The 'King James' project was plagued by every human weakness and challenge imaginable: ego, arrogance, ambition, selflishness, politics, power-play, fraud, betrayal, dishonesty - all were present in the mix. And so were the best traits of human nature: dedication, commitment, scholarship, selflessness, spirituality, mysticism, and the desire to serve God and the greater good.

    The result - though it took seven long years and forty-eight souls to tackle the usual hurdles and minefileds - was finally accomplished in 1611, when it was released with considerable pomp and ceremony by King James, at whose behest the job had been undertaken.

    And it was a masterpiece. It is, four centuries later, arguably the greatest work in the English language. It guided Shakespeare's pen and, even today, it shapes the way you and I wield the English language.

    Michele Gibson has studied the early 17th century King James project in detail and has compiled for us hereunder a brief history of the said translation.

    It is not a process that can be or should be emulated in its entirety, but the summary below will enlighten us on the challenges we face if we do embark on this journey. Can we mimic some of the steps and stages and, at the same time, avoid the pitfalls?



    WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM KING JAMES?

    Translation is more than a function of identifying the equivalency between the words that represent external phenomena. Words themselves range in their ability to stand in for 'things' versus 'ideas' versus 'indescribable being'. In addition, language is alive, it ages, matures, grows and prunes. Yet our most important needs, collective consciousness, regard for the earth, or faith, are difficult enough to convey in a mother tongue, let alone find synonymous substitutes for them in a second language.

    The King James Bible was not the first attempt to translate words from ancient languages, Hebrew and Greek, into similar words in a fledgling English. The translators were advised to freely utilize synonyms in order to advance the new language. They were encouraged to consult earlier English translations to achieve this, and they did. The Geneva bible, the Tyndale bible and the Coverdale bible all served as references for the task.

    The translators themselves were a mixed group of academics and clergy, many with experience in teaching or preaching in Hebrew or Greek; poets, orators and philosophers by hobby, and eventually, on a stipend from the crown. Their own agendas and interpretations were constricted by their need to collaborate and compromise. Heavily edited and scrutinized by bishops, the privy council and by King James himself, and with the Archbishop of Canterbury secretly reviewing/ revising the end result, the 'Authorized Version' is, in a way, a pre-authorized one.

    Before the translation work began, the group responsible were read the 'rules' on the expectations for the work which was to come. The translators were separated into groups, assigned readings, and set about their task, and the task took many years. In the pulpits, the bishops encouraged anyone with extensive knowledge in the area to submit their comments, concerns, and insights. For the academics, the work of teaching was sidelined for the new role. The translation is, in theory, inspired by a democratic process with a grass roots call for submissions.

    The end result is an inspiring scripture and a work of literature that ultimately becomes a classic. This may be due to the beauty of the original work and the assumption that the translators got it right, every time. It may be as a result of sheer slogging, day and night, and such commitment that their sincerity augments every line. It may be that it is impossible to corrupt a book that has been inspired by God!

    What is more likely though is that there was enough mature acquired knowledge at the table and in the field, and, though confined by a number of prescribed restrictions on academic freedom, enough raw intention and genuine love for the work in its original form that they knew, intuitively and collectively, what they were reaching for. The bible moves the soul to reach for a sense, and an entity, which is uplifting and humbling, inspiring and supporting, heart breaking and earth shattering at the same time. Surely, when one has been moved to faith, one remembers where it was that it took you, in any language.

    The translators all hailed from the same general region. They may also have been selected for the moderation in their views. What results is a moderate interpretation, in a fairly homogenous dialect with the cadence of the sermon of a puritan preacher; the work referenced most often was the Geneva bible - the bible inspired by the presbyterian break away from the Church of England. From the perplexing and mystic hands of the bishops, and the Bishop's Bible, into the longing hands of the average citizen, comes the King James Version.

    Inspiring poets and writers for centuries to come, unifying the language of four distinct nations and placing the bible into the hands of the masses, the King James Version displaces the Bishop's bible and the Geneva, but not without the backing of law, and the threat of treason.

    But can scripture be translated into different languages under such limitations? What is lost if you strive for moderation? Does the moderate view actually grapple with and solve the doctrinal issues or is it just practical to try to please as many as possible? The work may be beautiful due to the sincerity of the translators and the voice of the original work, but does it achieve truth? Is truth to be achieved through scripture if scripture is buoyed by metaphor to inspire rapture, or does a concrete equivocation between languages reduce its mystical value?

    The idea for the translation of the King James bible and the limits placed on the people responsible for it are interesting in and of themselves; politics, economics and ego all play a factor in this remarkable book, which - remarkably - resulted in a masterpiece. The inspiration of God and the sincerity of the goal is believed to elevate the work above the human limitations and, with the spread of English, it eventually inspires many more than the Hebrew and Greek original.

    The desire to keep scripture accessible to as many as possible is inherently good, and if there is a cost in the process, hopefully the truth is so vast and fundamental that it beams through, regardless of the incidental symbols we choose to transport the sound of any given language.



    April 6, 2010
    http://www.sikhchic.com/history/what_can_we_learn_from_king_james
     

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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    Just as King James..did the job..it was essentailly a JOB for the SGPC with its vast resources, sikh reference library, Khalsa Colleges, Missionary Colleges and Huge Goluck revenue that should have handled this job for Sikhism...
    But alas..the SGPC not only FAILED MISERABLY to lift even the small finger towrads this..it had the Gall to ACCEPT ROYALTY FREE Translation done by Lawyer Manmohan Singh who singlehandedly at his own expense spent nearly 25 years....Manmohan gave away his translation of 8 Volumes to SGPC for distribution..it is SOLD by the SGPC !!
    The Next person to do a definitive work on SGGS is Prof Sahib Singh who produced the Magnacorpus SGGS DARPAN..an eight volume work of magnificence in Punjabi..breaking new grounds in meanings and applying Gurmatt philosophy as the Gurus taught it.
    The Faridkotee Teeka was the only work authorised and paid for by the Sikh Royalty..state of Kapurthala and the State of Patiala financed the mahan Kosh of Bhai kahn Singh nabha...Maharaja Ranjit Singh neither had the time nor inclination to finance any such academic research..he was busy donating GOLD for DOMES...as are the SAADHS doing NOW..
    At present there is no chance of the SGPC doing any good in this field...we have to wait !! or leave it to individuals like Manmohan singh or Prof sahib singh..to do the honours yet again...
     
  4. spnadmin

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    Actually, I say this humbly and meekly. The King James version of the Bible has never been supplanted by any other for the beauty and sweep of its poetry. But it is acceptable only to Protestant denominations, and "forbidden" to Roman Catholics. There are major differences as to which scriptures are considered 'canonical' and therefore legitimate between these two branches of Christendom.

    I am not sure if the author of the article emphasized this point. The goal for Christians ever since breaking with the church in Rome had been to bring the Bible to the masses, and therefore translations were the obvious thing to do. In fact the first translation of the Latin Bible into German is still considered one of the precipitating causes of the Protestant Reformation. The 'word' could then be brought directly to the common person -- who no longer needed to depend on translation and interpretation by a very small number of clerics who could read Latin. The Catholic Church was essentially forced in response to translate the Latin Bible into a modern language or be left behind in the dust.

    In reaction to the King James Bible the Roman Church devised its own Rheims Douay Bible which was originally written in French, and then translated into other languages.

    Both the King James and the Rheims Douay were ultimately to lose their unique importance as their language became less like the spoken language of the 20th Century, and newer bibles took their place that are not nearly as poetic, but are felt to be more relevant to the average person in the modern world.

    The Rheims Douay bible is not even read any longer as part of the Roman liturgy. There are around 30 major English language bibles in use by the Roman Church (only one branch of Christianity). The one most in use in the US is The New American Bible. For Protestant denominations the number is equally staggering, though the King James retains its eminence.

    No translation was ever without controversy. The keepers of the keys to the meaning of the words let free their grasp only after considerable prodding and struggle. Language is political even when it is not religious.
     
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  5. Tejwant Singh

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    And just to add an interesting anecdote to that, it is believed that King James was actually a queen.
     
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  6. spnadmin

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    :thinkingmunda:
     
  7. curious seeker

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    Divine Light to All

    Well the King James is basically obsolete today due to languague changes and to the fact that Scholarly Criticism has brought in question many of its source materials. One thing that Sikhs should keep in mind when using TJBV as as example is that the Bible is not, with a few exceptions (The Psalms , Songs of Solomon, etc.) a poetic book, but the SGGS IS.

    Translating poetry and metaphor are hard but not impossible. It requires extensive knowledge of both languages and the skill of a consummate poet. Whatever Sikhs in the future choose to do if they translate the SGGS into ANY language they should translate it as poetry and poetry that can be sung. My personal opinion is that the SGGS should be translated into as many languages as possible, because, the Bani is a UNIVERSAL MESSAGE FROM the ONE ONLY and Infinite God for ALL HUMANS, in all times and places, languages, and cultures.

    This will go a long way in erasing duality from the Human psyche and the Human cultures. In doing so it will promote the purpose of allthe Gurus and of The One and Only Infinite Lord

    Blessings
    Curious
     
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  8. spnadmin

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    curious seeker ji

    Thanks for your robust reply. And also a personal thanks for clarifying the current status of the King James Bible -- I have been increasingly "curious" as to its status today -- particularly since I find so many other recent translations when surfing the net that appear to be used more often.
     
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  9. curious seeker

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    Narayanjot Ji Ushta! (Z equivalent of Divine Light :))

    The whole field of Bible translations is in deep doo doo. The Bible used to be translated basically by Bible Societies. These were non-profit. Supposedly it still is, but now the publishers have woken up to the fact that the Bible is Big Business (By far the most sold book in the world) so while the Bible Societies are still supposedly in charge and supposedly Non-profit, in reality, the large publishers are given a ton of money to translators directly and to the Bible Societies employees as well. So it seems that every 6 months there is a new Bible version out,

    Then there is far more ominous problem with Biblical High Criticism. You see the Bible , wonder of wonders , has a lot of credibility problems. During the last the last 200 and so years. Literary, form, and text critics have taken the Biblical manuscripts and have had a field day finding millions of varying readings, texts that seem to have copied each other many omissions and additions etc. In other words, it seems that the Infallible Word of God, as Xians pictured the Bible is not infallible after all ... go figure!

    In fact several major Biblical doctrines, like the Exodus, for example, have become unsustainable. Indeed scholars have identified three Isaiahs , a source documents for the Torah, or Old Testament and whole doctrines like the Coming Return of Jesus look to have holes in them . Then the typical idea of a monolithic early church has also crumbled. Many different groups and sects were involved very early in Xianity.

    Do in a way all these new versions are trying to offer some very minor adjustments to the text in what is a matter of too little and too late in an effort to answer the textual critic's scholarship. Its sad really, it sorts of reminds me of the old story of the Dutch boy who found a leak in one of the many dikes Dutchland is famous for and stuck his finger in it to stop the without realizing of course that is what the sea on the other side of the dike and that he and his finger were about to be burried by tons of water
     
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  10. spnadmin

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    curious seekr ji

    I know. You are quite correct. So this problem is so intransigent and convoluted that I did not even go there. Tried to limit my remarks to a narrower range of concerns - more specifically translations of the Bible to fit/suit a particular political and historical moment in time. I doubt it has ever been different if we turn the pages of history allllllllllllllllll the way back to the translation of the Bible in to Latin. It is a long story, isn't it. Thanks
     
  11. Siri Kamala

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    Thank you, Narayanjot Kaur Ji ~ I would like to suggest a small modification or correction to what you wrote there above about the KJV.

    As someone who was once a politically and theologically liberal Christian, I have, at one point or another, attended churches of nearly every *mainstream* Protestant denomination out there -- Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and Congregationalist (aka: United Church of Christ).

    NONE of these churches uses the King James Bible anymore, nor have they for probably the last 20 years. Most of them, based on my personal observation and experience, prefer either the New International Version (NIV) or the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible.

    The King James Bible is the darling of fundamentalists, pentecostals, and some evangelicals.

    It is also known to be RIDDLED with errors -- incorrect or inaccurate translations, modifications to scripture that were made exclusively for political purposes, etc.

    Really, no one who has been educated as a clergyperson in a Protestant Christian Seminary that has *any* credibility in the mainstream Protestant community uses the KJV anymore, mostly because of the reasons cited there above.

    The NIV and NRSV are both considered to be far more accurate.

    There's a survey here that underscores how different denominations tend to prefer one or two over the other one or two.

    It's arguable that the KJV "has never been supplanted by any other for the beauty and sweep of its poetry"... It's much less arguable, I think, that the NIV and NRSV make the *ideas* presented in the Bible MUCH more accessible to contemporary speakers of English.

    Personally I've never cared for the thee-thy-thou goest-mayest-dost pomposity of the KJV -- and I say that as a former English teacher who adores Shakespeare. :sippingcoffee:
     
  12. spnadmin

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    Well Narayanjot Kaur did admit to making her statement "meekly and humbly." :)
    Perhaps she is wrong about everything else. :)
     
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  13. Siri Kamala

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    En garde, spnadmin ji! :swordfight: Or as we say Down South, "Them's fightin' words!"

    Naraynjot Kaur is NEVER wrong! Highly abbreviated? Perhaps -- for brevity is the soul of wit, after all, but she is never wrong. :grinningkudi:



    :blinkingkudi:
     
    #12 Siri Kamala, Jan 20, 2011
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  14. spnadmin

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    Siri Kamala ji

    Apparently she was wrong about the popularity of the King James Version of the bible. I think it could be that the number of modern Roman translations of the Bible that are available on the Internet stunned her, and she could not think clearly. Maybe that was it. Anyway politics seems to explain a lot.
     
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  15. Siri Kamala

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    Hey, btw -- spnadmin ji (or anyone else who can answer with authority) -- what of Max Arthur Macauliffe's exhaustively vetted and reviewed translation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji?

    Does it exist anywhere, either online or in a library? Is it available for purchase that you know of? Has the SGPC ever considered reviewing it and adding that to the approved list of English translations?

    The poor, dear man... :motherlylove: he devoted his life to this work, and was so deeply committed to getting it *exactly right*. It seems almost tragic that it's not on the approved list, especially when we consider how much closer he was to the time (and thus the language of the time) of the last *living* Guru, and thus how much more access he would have had to experts who could accurately translate whatever he could not grasp himself (due to a language/dialectical barrier)... :hmm:

    I'd like to read his version just out of respect for Baba Max Arthur Macauliffe Singh Ji. :worship:

    :book1:
     
  16. spnadmin

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    Siri Kamala ji

    Actually I do not know if it is available on the Internet. It has to be available for purchase, and I think I have seen it. Will check for you. You might also consider looking for it in Google books. For purchase through Biblio.com and/or Amazon books. But I will check. His writing is historically important. I think he is often confused with a British theologian who translated Sri Guru Granth Sahib a bit earlier - i.e., Ernest Trump, who was a Christian minister and was quite open in his intentions and biases. I am not saying that Macauliffe was not unduly influenced by British interests and/or Brahmin perspectives on Sikhi. Only that some of the tar that lands on him may rightfully belong to Trump. And the man converted to Sikhism, and died reciting Japuji Sahib. But this is an area where I am not as versed as I should be. Nonetheless, will investigate. :)

    p/s The British historian Cunningham is generally considered trustworthy by most Sikhs.
     
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