Logos and German Translation

Lately, I have been translating a lot of German. I have a number of tools that I use when trying to understand tricky passages or unfamiliar vocabulary. You might think that discovering the meaning of a German word used within biblical studies would be as easy as searching an online German-English dictionary. And in many instances you’d be right. For instance, http://www.linguee.com is an indispensable tool that I regularly use. But, it doesn’t have close to everything.

That’s when I look for help elsewhere. And my Logos library, which includes a good number of German and English resources, is a big help. Searching my entire library for the word I’m struggling to define often produces results in the footnote of an English commentary that proceeds to talk about that term. If the definition isn’t outright given within the discussion, the context helps to make things clearer.

Other times, however, the search will produce a result in the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, better known in the English-speaking world as the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Having these volumes in both English and German means I have a massive work that functions much like a diglot.

Let me give you an example. Today I was translating the following passage:

Nach seiner Interpretation der Grabungsbefunde ist die Anlage von Qumran insgesamt das Zentrum einer hochgradig organisierten religiösen ‚Sekte‘, der Essener, deren Mitglieder nicht nur dort, sondern auch verstreut in der Umgebung lebten und in der Anlage zu gemeinschaftlichen Begängnissen zusammenkamen, in den Werkstätten in Qumran oder der Landwirtschaft in ῾Ein Feshkha arbeiteten und schließlich auf den sehr großen Friedhöfen begraben wurden.

-J. Frey, Qumran und die Archäologie, 3

I couldn’t find the word “Begängnissen” in my German-English dictionary, my Langenscheidt’s DaF dictionary, on https://dict.tu-chemnitz.de, and the definition of “celebrations” from linguee.de didn’t quite seem right. So, I searched for it in my Logos library. Sure enough, THWAT (TDOT) produced two results:

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Clicking on the word opened the resource to the right page. Then opening TDOT from my library took me to the correct article.

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All I needed to do from here was navigate to the proper section in TDOT to discover that the translator uses the word “procedures” for Begängnissen.

Repeating this process for the second result, I found that the phrase “kultischen Begängnissen”  was translated as “cultic rites,” an expression that correlates nicely to the “cultic” or “sectarian” environment addressed in the passage I’m translating.

While neither of the uses of the word in these results dictates that it will be the same usage/nuance in my passage, it gives me a much better idea of the word’s meaning and allows me to make a better decision about how to translate it.

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German Theological Vocabulary

Since I have been doing a considerable amount of translation lately, I thought it was time to start working on a toolkit of my own in the fashion of the Wayne Coppins’ German-English Dictionary. As I have been translating, I have encountered a number of technical terms or compound words that aren’t in any of the German-English dictionaries I have and aren’t in any of the online German-English dictionaries either.

To help me in my future translation and perhaps others that translate on a regular basis or need help reading through a work, I have provided the terms with the best English approximation I have come up with. I’ve also included some notes, a broader context of the word’s usage, the source of the quote, and—where necessary—a citation of whomever may have helped me provide a definition for the term when I was unable to come up with a solution myself. Although I only have about 30 terms in the spreadsheet at the moment, I hope to add to it on a daily/weekly basis. I only wish I had started earlier.

You can access the dictionary HERE. Feel free to contact me if you would like to add entries yourself and I will enable the spreadsheet for editing instead of just viewing.

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Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories

imagesIf you’re a student of Biblical Hebrew, there’s not much more to say than buy this book! There’s no way around it: learning a new language requires regular vocabulary acquisition and practice. Otherwise, as the authors rightly note, “beginners who master the basics soon realize that their limited word stock stands in the way of fluid reading and an intuitive grasp of the biblical text” (16).

Traditionally, students learn the basics of Hebrew Grammar and then move on to an exegetical course that requires students to memorize lists words according to frequency. Such an approach is reasonable and, one might say, necessary. The broad range of vocabulary usage in the Old Testament and the disparate nature of the literature necessitates that readers have a basic ability to translate the most frequently used terms within the corpus of literature she studies.

However, frequency based approaches—which the authors themselves encourage (16)—can be just as tedious and frustrating to memorize as constantly looking up unknown words in a lexicon as the student plods her way through the biblical text. There is no conceptual framework in which to place the new words. New vocabulary is entirely detached from the already existing memory bank; there is no interconnectivity, which makes long term memory all the more difficult.

Pleins and Homrighausen’s guide for nouns—yes, it unfortunately only includes nouns—seeks to provide a solution to this problem. Terms are conceptually arranged so that all the nouns found in the Hebrew Old Testament related to the body, cosmology, food, drink, etc. are grouped together. Each entry contains glosses, a biblical reference that clearly illustrates the selected gloss, and reference to important dictionaries when the provided gloss may be questionable. The volume also includes essential indices: one for each word and where to find them in the guide and another that provides further reading on the categories used within the volume. Those who create appendices don’t get enough credit for the tedious nature of task they must accomplish and I, for one, am impressed by the particularly arduous nature of creating the appendices for this volume. They will serve users well!

As a concluding note, what I find to be most significant about this volume is the fact that it is one of the closest things we have for Hebrew—that I’m aware of[1]—that resembles Louw and Nida’s watershed dictionary for New Testament Greek, making it not just helpful for students looking to expand their Wortschatz, but also for those seeking to gain a better understanding of a biblical Hebrew word’s semantic domain. My only complaint about the guide  is that I didn’t have it at my disposal almost a decade ago when I started learning Hebrew. I will, however, be regularly using it when I look to refresh my own vocabulary and whenever I have the opportunity to teach Hebrew in the years to come.

Kudos to Pleins and Homrighausen for providing us with an essential tool for learning biblical Hebrew.

[1] Thank you to Andrew for pointing out the existence of the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, available online. I will be making regular usage of it in the future.

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Lexham Discourse Handbooks

135990The Lexham Discourse Handbooks have just been published. This project was a collaborative effort between Steve Runge, Kris Lyle, Rick Brannon, James Lanier, and myself. My contribution was to write—most of—the 1 Thessalonians volume.

You can learn more about the project and what sets these volumes apart from other handbooks or commentaries over at Old School Script, where Kris Lyle details the and provides examples of the benefits they bring to the table.

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Afternoon Workspace

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Black’s Newest Book

I’m excited to see my mentor’s new book Running My Race now out and for sale. I was lucky enough to win a copy from his blog and it just arrived in the mail. I can’t wait to dig in and learn from the man who has taught me a great deal about life, teaching, and research. I’m thrilled to get the chance to learn once again.

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Congrats to Thomas Hudgins

img_9639My good friend Thomas Hudgins has just successfully defended his PhD dissertation. Hop on over to his blog to read about it and congratulate him!

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