Wednesday, September 3, 2014

7 Questions: William Griffin

William Griffin, a well-respected Catholic writer and translator and friend of Eugene Peterson, translated the Deuterocanonical books that first appeared in the Catholic/Ecumenical Edition in September 2013 from ACTA.  I would like to thank him for taking the time to answer these questions.  

You can read more about The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition here.  In addition, last year I did an interview with ACTA publisher Greg Pierce, which you can read here.

 1) Eugene Peterson describes you in the introduction as "an excellent writer and translator who understands exactly what I have tried to do in The Message but also a friend and colleague of many years whom I can trust to carry on my work into this new edition."  That is quite an endorsement.   So as we begin this interview, could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?  Have you always been involved in areas of scripture and translation?  How did you get started?
Bostonian. Jesuit educated. Former Jesuit. New York: Harcourt and Macmillan editor. New Orleans and Alexandria, Louisiana: freelance writer, editor, translator. No, I haven’t always been involved in scripture or translation.

 2) Can you talk a little about your connection to Eugene Peterson and his description of you as one "who understands exactly what I have tried to do in The Message."
Eugene and I have talked many times about scripture and translation, resulting in, among other things, an essay of mine, “In Praise of Paraphrase.”

3) How did you come to be the translator of the Deuterocanonical books for the Message?
I auditioned for the job. When I heard that there would be a Catholic edition of The Message, I decided to send a sample. I translated the Book of Tobit. Months passed; I inquired. Yes, it got the job. It turned out that no one else had been asked for a sample. (Please note that the project took years to develop.)

4) One of the unique features of your translation of the Deuterocanonicals is the use of the Nova Vulgata.  This may be the first printed translation into English of the Nova Vulgata.   Why was it chosen, as opposed to the older editions of the Vulgate or perhaps even the Septuagint?  Were the any challenges in translating from it?
When I asked Eugene what Hebrew text he used for his translation, he replied, the one he used at John Hopkins. Hence, when I came my time to pick a language for the Apocrypha / Deuterocanonicals, I could have picked Greek, but I chose Latin, Nova Vulgata (the Jerome Vulgate plus editorial tweaks to bring the text up to date). Please note. Why pick the the purest / oldest text (Septuagint)? Why not pick the latest, the Nova Vulgata? No particular challenge.

 5) One of my favorite passages in the Deuterocanonicals is Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4, which is one of the readings used for the Easter Vigil.  In my opinion, you have rendered it quite cleverly and in such a way that clearly brings out the personification of Lady Wisdom.  Could you talk a bit about your rendering of this passage?
Abstract nouns in Latin and Greek are by and large feminine. From there it’s a hop, skip, and jump to personify them. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

6) How do you think the average Catholic could best utilize The Message:Catholic/Ecumenical edition?
You’d have to ask Greg that. He’s the utilizer. I’m only the translator. But the average Catholic could do worse than read the book. Failing that, he could use the heavy volume for a doorstop.

 7) Do you have a favorite verse or verses from the Deuterocanonical Books of The Message that you translated ?
Verses are like children; I love them all.


Unknown said...

I'm currently in the midst of a chronological bible reading plan using the Message Catholic Edition and it's a very enjoyable reading bible. It's an easy, breezy read that gets the major points across in a 21st century way. Yes, there are some very questionable renderings in the Message. But as a pure reading Bible I really like it.

My approach to it is that I am reading sort of a mini-homily each time I read it rather than a translation. We usually don't bawk at homilies that explain the sunday/daily readings even though the priest is rewording the scriptures in an explanatory way right? That's how I treat the Message and its working well :)

But this edition is a BEAST! How about a smaller edition that would be easier to handle than this current dictionary sized one that I'm reading everyday!?!? Lol!

Yes, I think a smaller, leather (or less expensive synthetic), sewn Catholic Message could become a great evangelization tool and get many more Catholics reading their Bibles!

Unknown said...

I definitely agree with this comment! a smaller, more compact edition of The Message C/E will make it, not just portable, but also more wide-spread among a lot of people!

Timothy said...

I agree with you both. I have seen those The Message Remix editions which would be perfect in this edition.

T. said...

The Kindle version is just the right size! And that means that I have it right along side my Kindle Universalis Daily Missal every time I participate in Mass, as well.

I picked up the Kindle version as soon as this was published as I have always enjoyed The Message. When this was the bible version I clicked on to utilize during an interfaith bible text analysis, I gained a whole new respect for the scholarly insights that Peterson and Griffin managed to work into the paraphrase!

Unknown said...

Yes! A smaller version would be awesome! But since I read about the Kindle version I might just go that way! Thank you! Peace and blessings!