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An amazing opportunity

Posted by Gary

So, it's been forever since I've written a note, right? Not one since about when I picked up carving. Let me fill you guys in on what's been going on.

I've learned how to comfortably carve wooden spoons that are not just functional but beautiful to look at. I deeply enjoy being able to craft something with my own hands. At some point, I'll make videos and/or a note as a how-to guide. But that's not what I'm going to talk about now.

I've been out of a job for ten months now. With three years' college experience, no degree, and no car, it's been very difficult to find work. Just a few days ago, Home Depot called in response to my application from several weeks ago. I apparently did well on the surprise phone interview, but they said they'd call in a week or two if they were interested in hiring me. So, I passed the first obstacle on my attempt to become a cashier.

Yeah, that's pretty cool. But even more interesting was what happened today. You see, I've been wanting to get involved in mission work/ministry for a while but due to certain factors it's not been an option. However, I know of an excellent ministry in the Philippines called Give a Goat. Their goal is to break the cycle of poverty in the Philippines by giving people goats. The goats provide milk, and they breed to make more goats after a year or two. In return, the people give one or two of the kids from the first litter to repay for the goats they were given in the first place. Then Give a Goat gives these repaid baby goats to other people who could use goats. It's a great ministry, so check it out.

The founder of Give a Goat is Salvador Cariaga. I know his son, Peter, from OC. Now, I've been talking with Salvador through facebook for a while about helping out, particularly because Salvador is in Fort Worth often. I got to have lunch with him today and I told him about my work with spoons. His face brightened because he came up with a few ideas as to how that could be helpful in the Philippines. You see, not just do they give goats, but Give a Goat and related ministries also do micro-lending to help poor people get on their feet and become self-sufficient. I have been using carving as sort of a way of micro-lending to myself, haha.

One problem Sal has encountered, though, is that many of his fellow Filipinos cut down trees. This is a waste. (I don't remember his exact reason, but deforestation is a problem in and of itself!) But with spoon carving, you can make a great spoon just by finding the right branch. You don't have to use the trunk. And if trees, as renewable sources of branches, become too valuable to cut down, then the deforestation will stop.

And then they could make spoons or forks or something which could be sold in other countries for a pretty decent price. Well... maybe. We first have to determine if there would be a market interested in buying wooden spoons. Considering all the positive comments I've gotten for my work so far, I'd say there is. The second issue would be figuring out what kinds of wood in the Philippines could be used for carving. You can't use really hard wood like cherry wood all the time because it would take very long to make even one spoon. But you also shouldn't use scented woods like pine, cedar, or redwood. Scented woods add an odd flavor to food, so that's a no-go. SO, whether this can work depends on the availability of carvable wood. Honestly, I'd suspect that there are at least a few types of trees there that would work fine.

Those are the drawbacks. The bonuses, however, make this very appealing. For one thing, this is a very simple craft. I picked this up and started doing well in about a month. I only had online help and about five minutes of guidance from a carpenter in person. Also, there are no power tools involved. You only need a few hand tools ($100 for the high-quality stuff sold in American stores). And what's more, the base materials (a tree branch) cost practically nothing. There will be plenty of wood shavings from the branches, so there is still wood to use for mulch, and there will also be some sawdust to use in gardening.

Now, I find this opportunity to go to the Philippines very appealing. Not just is there the opportunity to help people, teach, and encourage, but I'd get to learn about another culture and learn another language. And there's more to it than that. I could teach English -- good English. It's very helpful on a student's resume to be able to say you know fluent English. And I could also help teach Bible. Plus, Sal has connections to a Bible college or two down there where my OC credits could transfer and the tuition is very little. And yes, they can give a legitimate B.A.

Although I can't immediately commit to this, I am very excited about this opportunity. If this works out, I will end up being very enriched in learning a new culture/language, very educated from finally getting my degree, and very tan from being out in the sun a lot. Sounds great. In the process, I'll be able to help teach carpentry, English, and the Bible, plus help make disciples and serve as Jesus did. The cost of this opportunity would be separation from friends and family and at least $500 a month. But the gain from this would be beyond measure in my life and the lives of others.

Everyone, I ask you to pray about this with me, OK? May God open doors and grant discernment so that I would be shaped into an effective servant.

Explanation of my Translation Philosophy

Posted by Gary

Here I put forth my philosophy for how and how not to translate Philippians. I intend this book to be for a general audience, and I would like to make an explanation that is thorough but not over most people's heads. But because of its technical character, I think it would be better to put it as an appendix in the back since I don't want the technicalness of this section to give the readers a first impression that the whole commentary will be too technical to follow. It's a bit long, but hopefully the illustrations make it worthwhile.

Some people are very strong towards dynamic equivalence while others are very strong towards essentially literal translations. If you're a die-hard member of either camp, you'll find plenty of reason to complain about this translation since I try to maximize the benefits of both and minimize the disadvantages of both.

Put bluntly, it would be a mistake to render the book of Philippians (or any book) word-for-word (W4W) from Greek to English. Doing so often leads to stilted or awkward English. This begs the question: was Paul writing in a way that was stilted or awkward? If he was not, then that is not how he should be translated.

All translation concerns fall under the umbrella of accuracy. "Is the translation accurate?" Sadly, that statement is rather vague. What constitutes accuracy? Perhaps you'd say that accuracy is whatever translates W4W. Unfortunately, languages are too complex to really work that way. This is because of how meaning works in languages. Meaning exists not just at the level of individual words, but in how words fit together in sentences. The primary unit of meaning is the sentence and not the individual word.

For instance, take the word "tear." This actually could be any of four different words:
1A) the noun "tear," referring to the wet stuff that comes out of your eyes
1B) the verb "to tear (up)," meaning to produce tears (in the sense of 1A)
2A) the noun "tear," as a synonym for rip
2B) the verb "to tear (up)," which means to produce a tear (in the sense of 2A)

If you see the word "tear" in a sentence rather than by itself, then you will automatically be able to tell if it's a verb or a noun by looking at the other parts of speech. If nothing else in the sentence is a verb, then it's likely that this "tear" is a verb and not a noun -- but which verb? You'd have to see what's going on in the previous sentences to figure that out.

So, picture for a moment a connect-the-dots puzzle for kids. Notice how the lines just form a very simple outline and the different dots only connect to the ones right next to them. That's what it's like to take words individually. Language is more complex than that. Instead, it is more like a spider web where all the strands interconnect and reinforce each other. That is how it works: each individual contributes to the overall pattern, and the overall pattern limits and defines where each individual strand should be placed and which other strands it needs to intersect with.

So, since meaning primarily exists at the level of the overall thought, maybe you'd recommend that I instead take a thought-for-thought (T4T) approach like the NIV does. That still doesn't do perfect justice, though, since some meaning can be found not just at the level of the thought itself, but also in the specific word choice used to express the thought.

I'm going to pick on the NLT for a moment. Let's look at 1 Kings 18. Here we have an epic fire-breathing match between The Lord and Baal. In one corner is Elijah, who alone represents the Lord against 450 priests of Baal. When their fervent prayers do not elicit any response from Baal, Elijah taunts them in verse 27: “You’ll have to shout louder, for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” Clearly Elijah is making Baal out to be much less than a god. He seeks to embarrass the priests of Baal.

I want zero in specifically on the words "relieving himself." This is a euphemism in English. But would someone really use a euphemism in this situation? Euphemisms are polite, but insulting someone is not polite. So, wouldn't it generally make sense that you wouldn't use a euphemism when you're insulting someone? If Elijah is being impolite, then we need to use an impolite expression in order for it to carry the flavor across. While the NLT is bland here, a more flavorful translation would be "taking a dump."

[The reason translations do not do this is because of the concern for acceptability. Some people would be offended to hear "take a dump" in the Bible. Their reasoning is that Bible is holy, and therefore it certainly can't have anything unholy in it. However, that doesn't make sense. There are unholy things in the Bible, such as lies (e.g. Genesis 3:4-5), murder (Genesis 4:8), greed (Genesis 13:10-11), insubordination/intimidation (Genesis 16:5-6), incest (Genesis 19:30-34), rape (Genesis 34:3), and adultery (Genesis 39:6-7) -- and all that is in just ONE book. The Bible is not just a book of flowers and butterflies, folks. It reflects real life, and crude language is a part of real life just as much as any of the other things I just mentioned. To try and deny that is to diminish accuracy and give a false impression of dishonest politeness.]

W4W translations seek to be objective in translating with what they think is only a minimal amount of their own interpretation. This fails because all translation is interpretation. They have already stacked the deck by translating in a manner that results in unnatural and awkward English. This gives the impression that the language of the Bible is inherently awkward. The translators don't intend to give that impression, but it is an inevitable side effect.

This reminds me of a friend who wanted to be objective by not swaying her children to any particular religion, so she just didn't introduce them to any religions so that they would be completely objective and untouched by her influence. The problem with this logic is that this stacks the deck by giving an overwhelming exposure to the absolute absence of all religions. In both her case and in the case of W4W translators, it is utterly impossible to be objective.

By not exposing her child to the list of options, her inaction teaches her child that taking action in making a religious choice is not a pressing issue. If it was important, why didn't she mention it? In the same way, W4W translators try to leave the interpretive options up to you, but if you don't even know what the list of options looks like, how can you make a choice?! How would you even know that there's any need to choose?

On the other hand, T4T does not even try to claim complete objectivity in their translations. Yet they stack the deck by consistently emphasizing clarity and readability of the basic thought of a passage. They make the basic point more readable by eliminating or rewording the details that are relevant, yet not central to the main meaning.

Yet the T4T approach does not go far enough in breaking from objectivity. Both of these styles rigidly pick one consistent priority over the other. In areas where minor details like word order are nothing but a distraction from the main point, the W4W approach falls short. In areas where the nuances actually rather crucial, the T4T falls short.

The best approach, I argue, is just to be openly subjective and not set hard and fast rules. Focus on getting across the facets of meaning that you, the translator, consider the most important in any given sentence. The hard-and-fast rules of either W4W or T4T are necessary for translations made by teams, since semi-objective rules help reduce the bias of everybody's (different) subjective opinions. If not for hard-and-fast rules, translation committees would never reach enough consensus to make any decisions and the translation would never get made.

I don't want to come down too hard on other translations. My translation approach is best applied when only one to three people collaborate on the translation. Since I am doing this independently, the only things keeping my personal bias in check are the valuable feedback I received for revising the first draft and my constant comparison to other translations. So, my translation and commentary will have less regulation to keep my personal bias in check, but at least I'm honest about it. Since I'm just one guy working with no hard and fast rules, people from both camps will likely have mixed feelings about this work.

I keep four loose rules:
1. Try to translate the same Greek word as the same English word. Really try not to have more than two renderings for each Greek word. (For φρονέω I had to have three: "think," "have mindset," and "show concern.")
2. Try to bring out style and flavor when this can be done without significantly detracting from the basic meaning. Making the basic meaning somewhat more difficult is fine. The translation will be explained by a commentary, so it doesn't
3. The Bible isn't always clear/poetic/polite, so I don't have to always be clear. The NIV translates at the 8th-grade reading level. Since I am writing a commentary right along with it, I feel free to use longer sentences and a higher vocab (if that captures Paul).
4. Italics and bold (used sparingly) indicate emphasis, as God intended.

Additions to my blog roll

Posted by Gary Labels:

I'm adding a few blogs I've followed to the roll.

Vine and Fig by Jim Swindle. This guy is an excellent poet (didn't you know it?!). Jim and I follow each other off and on. Definitely check out his work, and buy his book!

I've followed T.C. Robinson's New Leaven for a while now, and it's about time to give him credit by making an official place for him in the blog roll. Hurray.

Today I discovered Romanos Gorny (HT to Jim Swindle), a linguist of the Eastern Orthodox Church. His blogs include Cost of Discipleship and Η Καινή Διαθήκη. The first one is a blog of theological reflection whereas the second one has recordings of some of the NT in Greek. I've personally recorded Philippians and Philemon, but my microphone is terrible. Also my pronunciation. I can't help it, though. I was taught the traditional seminary pronunciation, which apparently is a far cry from the authentic way to speak Greek. My pronunciation may be wrong, but I am at least fluently wrong. And it's unlikely that I'll change. After memorizing Philippians, it would be confusing for my muscle memory if I started pronouncing it differently. Anyway, if you're a student of biblical Greek, I suggest at that second one.

Coming Soon: Philippians Translation with Commentary v0.6

All Things Are Better in Koiné

Posted by Gary Labels:

The World of Spooncraft

Posted by Gary Labels:

Yes, I've picked up the amazing hobby of making wooden spoons. Here's my first eight:

The first one turned out usable, luckily.

Number two? Not so much. But it still works for stirring or scooping. I don't know what I was going for with the handle there.
An adorable baby spoon was my third project.

I tried to make another one, but I cut through the bowl. "Perfection is when there's nothing to take away, but disaster is a hole in your bowl." Ain't THAT the truth?

A sugar spoon for a young lady in Oklahoma City. I am most certainly not putting my thumb in the way to conspicuously cover up her engraved initials.
 A sugar spoon for my mom. I most definitely am not putting my thumb in the way to conspicuously make the previous spoon look less conspicuous.
Now things start looking *really* good. This one's a stirring spoon for a young lady in Portland, whom I miss oh so much. Since I didn't mess up the engraving that I didn't make on the spoon two spoons ago, this spoon has no engraving.
An attempt to replicate the one for Miceala. This one's quite good, too.
In comparison, you can see that Miceala's is more round, but the second one has prettier stripes. I can't control the stripe factor. The reason these turned out so well is because stirring spoons require only a shallow bowl. Making an eating spoon with a smooth bowl is something I don't have the tools for. All of these are made from basswood and treated with four coats of mineral oil so that they're food safe. I'm out of wood, but I've ordered more. I guess I'll spend the next two weeks doing more reading/writing!

Prisoners: future terrorists or future Christians?

Posted by Gary

See The Washington Times on this issue. It's good to hear someone push for conversion to Christianity now and then.