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“Dark I am and/but lovely” | Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer

(And why you should follow the new online minor programme in Bible Translation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

By Lourens de Vries

The Hebrew conjunction we in The Song of Solomon (1:5) can be rendered by “and” or “but” and translations have gone both ways. What’s a translator to do?

It is all a matter of contexts, and that makes it complex, with no easy solutions or short-cuts. Lexical and grammatical contexts of the Hebrew language, the poetic and cultural contexts of these ancient love songs, the contexts of new readers perhaps burdened by racism who may read this verse as being about skin color, or race, rather than on the worries of an ancient Israelite girl desperately in love, worried about the detrimental effects on the softness, suppleness, shine and increasing dryness of her skin as she had been forced to work under the scorching sun by her brothers, if this is a valid reading of  the immediate verbal context (verse 6). How have these verses been interpreted in the ever changing contexts of  Jewish and Christian communities and their translation traditions? Can we perhaps add a note for the readers of our translations or should we bridge the religious, linguistic, cultural and hermeneutical gaps in the translation itself? Or should the pastor explain what this is all about rather than the translator?

If you are fascinated by the complex and delicate process of translating the Bible, the minor Bible Translation in the Digital Age is an enriching academic and personal experience for you as this minor introduces you to the digital tools that make it possible to access and understand many contexts relevant to translating the Bible, while at the same time critically reflecting on the inherent limitations and biases of those tools that are now used by almost all Bible translators and biblical scholars all over the world.

The minor program is completely online and at the same time aimed at interaction, both between students and between students and professors. The minor is open for students of VU university as well as other universities in the Netherlands or abroad, for exchange student. For postgraduate students and contract students there are arrangements that do not involve enrollment with tuition fees but payment in terms of the number of ECTS credits of the minor program.

The professors teaching the minor course have internationally recognized expertise and experience in the fields of Hebrew and Old Testament (prof. dr. Wido van Peursen), Contextual Theology (prof. dr. Peter-Ben Smit), Linguistics and Bible Translation (prof. dr. Lourens de Vries).

Professor Peter-Ben Smit holds the Dom Helder Câmara Chair of Contextual Theology at the Faculty of Religion and Theology and heads the Center for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI).

Professor Lourens de Vries holds the Endowed Chair of Bible Translation of the Netherlands Bible Society and is also Professor of General Linguistics.

Professor Wido van Peursen holds the Chair of Old Testament and heads the Eep Talstra Center for Bible and Computer (ETCBC).

For more information see vu.nl/bible-translation or contact  l.j.de.vries@vu.nl