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Important scholarship marred by a greater commitment to political correctness than to accuracy.
on June 8, 2015
First, in the interest of full disclosure, let me state my views on translation.
A translator's job is to translate. Not to improve. Not to bring in accordance with current ideas, values, or prejudices. Not to make choppy style clean. Not to make complex ideas (apparently) simple. A translator's job is to present a text as accurately as possible in the target language. I realize that there are other approaches to translation - but this is the one that I feel best serves both the original author and the reader.
This is not an approach taken by the Late Dr. Meyer in this translation.
It is clear from the introduction - and on every following page - that Dr. Meyer's primary commitment was to making the Nag Hammadi library palatable to modern readers - rather than presenting the text accurately.
This is demonstrated throughout - and, to give credit, and least Dr. Meyer and the other translators make no excuses for their choices. They make it clear that they have consistently changed the meaning of the text to make the language fit current ideas.
He says, very directly, "We have given special attention to issues of gender in our translations, and we employ inclusive language where the spirit of the Coptic text recommends it and where it does not compromise the accuracy of the translations."
The spirit of the Coptic text? I'm not clear that Dr. Meyer - or anyone else, for that matter - was qualified to make that determination. His job - and that of the other translators - is to communicate what the text says. Not what they may believe the spirit recommends. And I can only disagree with Dr. Meyer that his changes do not compromise the accuracy of the translations. Putting in something that isn't there, based on a sense of the "spirit" of a text is, by definition compromising accuracy.
When the text says "Son of Man" that should not - in my view - be mistranslated as "Child of Humanity." When the text says "Father," that should not become "Parent." When the text says, "He," that should not be transformed into "It."
The text says what it says. It's the job of the translators to present that. Modern values may - or may not - be more advanced. But those ideas are not what's in the text. And - as a reader - I want to see what is there. Not what the Late Dr. Meyer and his colleagues felt should be there.
In addition, the annotation adds very little value. To give credit - again - where deserved - many notes to mention that the translators have changed the clear meaning of the text. But, too often, the notes are simply Dr. Meyer's digressions on other similar mythologies which may or may not have any relevance to the text.
Like another reviewer, I look forward to a digitized version of the original, 1977 translation. That translation is not without challenges - it's harder to read, and significantly less clear in many places. But, since it was published before Gnosticism became hip - and profitable - the original translation demonstrates a clear and consistent commitment to the text. I wish that were also the case with this important - but deeply flawed - work.