Perspectives in Translation
“Of making many blogs there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” So wrote King Solomon. (Well, not quite. What he actually wrote went more like this:
עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר
Ecclesiastes 12:12 b.) Whether Solomon would have worded this any differently had he been writing in the wake of the the digital revolution is a question I hope to ask him someday.
In any case, I love blogs and think they provide a wonderful, versatile format for dealing with most of the subjects I’m interested in, particularly the Bible. Some think that Facebook and Twitter are in the process of killing blogs off, but I’m not aware of any data to support such pessimism. I try to keep an eye on what Christians are doing in the blogosphere, and I’m always on the lookout for anything that might be particularly helpful to believers who are trying to improve their grasp of Scripture.
So I was delighted to learn that on October 28, 2010, BibleGateway and The Gospel Coalition launched a joint blog called Perspectives in Translation on the BibleGateway website. When did I learn about it? Well, like I said, I’m always keeping a lookout…uhm…er—ahem!…well…I discovered it yesterday, when I did something I rarely do: I actually read through the menu items on the BibleGateway web site, which I visit just about everyday. There it was, listed as “Translation Forum,” immediately below “Bible Gateway Blog,” which I’ll also confess to having rarely if ever visited (but that will change). When I saw the names of the contributors, the topics they addressed, and realized that I could be witnessing the erection of the ground floor of a hugely significant contribution to the church, I was amazed. But then I noticed something that amazed me even more.
The blog produced an astonishing 64 posts in 62 days, and then…silence. There has been nothing new on Perspectives in Translation since December 27, 2010. Nothing in the last 40 days. For whatever reason, it seemed to start running out of gas with the approach of the Christmas holidays. This is disappointing.
Blogs come and go, and it’s perhaps because they require minimal financial investment to launch and maintain, rather than in spite of that fact, that they tend to come and go more quickly than their print counterparts. If you abruptly stop blogging there are few consequences to anyone other than your readers. In most cases nobody gets laid off.
Blogs can be relatively high maintenance in proportion to the amount of financial rewards (if any) they offer. The kind of investment that this type of blogging requires is simply a consistent intellectual and literary investment, which sounds easy enough until you actually try it. So: did Perspectives in Translation burn out its writers? Or did the writers themselves lose interest in the project? For a couple of months it was a highly productive blog.
Eventually even high-profile print magazines go out of print. (Remember JFK Jr.’s George?) For one reason or another they lose momentum, people stop reading them, advertisers lose interest, and they fold. But it seems highly doubtful that those dynamics applied here. In the meantime, however, now that inertia has obviously set in, I would hope that re-starting such a worthwhile project as Perspectives in Translation will not require a gargantuan effort.
Some ideas for Perspectives in Translation redux
Perhaps BibleGateway and The Gospel Coalition did more to advertise this new blog than post notices on their already-existing blogs; I don’t know, whatever else they may have done didn’t reach me or anyone I know. But if they have any interest in restarting Perspectives in Translation, I would suggest posting notices about it in more locations on their web sites. As I said earlier, I visit BibleGateway virtually everyday. I’ve certainly been noticing the third-party ads for downloading free music and what-not; I’ll probably notice something in keeping with the things I’m passionate about even more.
The blog’s format represents an interesting though understandable variation on the standard post-and-comment format, and I wouldn’t change it in any fundamental way. In the beginning the blog’s moderator, Collin Hansen, posed a question. Instead of responding in the comments section of that post, various scholars posted responses in their own posts. This procedure makes a lot of sense for this type of blog. The scholars become blog contributors, and visitors can choose which scholar he or she would like to comment on, making it easier to follow discussion threads initiated by the scholars. I don’t think it would require more than two new questions per month (perhaps only one in some months), with follow-up posts, to maintain the interest of visitors. But because blogware isn’t written with this procedure in mind, and because Perspectives in Translation’s own blogware is a bit lean on features, it’s also made for a somewhat cumbersome site in which to find one’s way around.
Not that reading Scripture, which is only a bit younger than Perspectives in Translation, has it all together. We’re still playing catch-up after “going live” before our menus were complete, and I barely have time to write this post. But I would really like to see Perspectives in Translation become active again, and here are some things I think would make it an even better site:
- When citing transliterated Hebrew and Greek works in titles, supply a translation in parentheses. I think this would help to broaden the blog’s appeal to laypeople. Thus far, when the questions have been about how to translate particular words, the posts have consistently picked ones that have either been at the center of theological controversies or deal with matters central to the faith, and that’s another thing that makes this blog special. I believe that translating the words in the titles would assist in communicating the importance of the issues involved to those who do not regularly read technical commentaries or theological works.
- Provide an updated index. The “Recent Posts” list in right-hand sidebar is nice, but presently it only shows the four most recent posts. True, most blogs do not have site indexes, or a table of contents displaying all posts, but since virtually all of the topics covered in this blog are of perennial concern it makes sense for Perspectives in Translation to have one. This would be helpful also because not all of the respondents to various questions answered them when those questions were current, and thus before another question was submitted. For example, T. David Gordon responded to the first question (“What Makes a Translation Accurate?”) after the third question (“Should I use Multiple Translations or Stick with One?”) had already been asked, thus separating his response from all the others.
- If an updated blog index is too big of a project, at least include a standard blog archive index in the same general area as the recent posts list.
- Have navigation links at both the top and bottom of the page, instead of simply at the bottom. This would make it a lot easier to move around between post pages when you’re looking for something specific.
- And while you’re at it, rename the navigation links, “Newer Posts” and “Older Posts,” instead of “Previous Posts” and “Older Posts.” The current labels are actually synonymous, and therefore confusing.
- Also while you’re at it, include similar navigation links (only in the singular instead of the plural) at the top and bottom of individual post pages, so users can quickly and easily find out what came immediately before and after individual posts.
- Don’t go back to numbering the questions. That didn’t work out so well, especially when two consecutive questions (“How Should We Translate ‘Pistis Christou’?” and “How Do We Describe the Authority Paul Does Not Permit for Women 1 Tim. 2:12?”) were both labeled “Fifth Question.” (You might want to fix that—but please don’t change any URLs!)
Regarding my suggestion #2—”Provide an updated index”—I decided not to wait around until the Perspectives in Translation folks made one. I think their content is important enough to make one available here. The following links are in topical rather than chronological order.
As I think anyone perusing the above index can see, in a very short period of time Perspectives in Translation has already provided a resource of both value and promise. I hope that both of these aspects will continue to be realized.
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