In a new essay at Bible and Interpretation Zeba Crook ‘imagines’ a secular translation of the New Testament.
What if one were to translate the Bible according to the same principles as we translate Homer, Aristotle, and Freud? What if we were to translate the Bible regardless of the faith of its potential readership, regardless of any investment in the question of whether the texts are right or wrong, and regardless of how the texts might be used to address contemporary faith? This paper does not seek to answer this question in full, but only to initiate a conversation on the matter.
I’m not sure what renditions of the NT Crook reads but surely he can’t think that translators are being so unfaithful to the Greek text that they are masking theological bias and misrepresenting the text itself. In fact, with his wish for a secular edition he is wishing to do exactly what he seems to be suggesting biblical scholars do- provide a translation based purely on ideology. Except his ideology is the religion of secularism.
Further, a ‘secular translation of the bible’ is a grand contradiction. The bible is a collection of theological texts. They can no more be ‘secularized’ (for what else would a secular translation be but an attempt to secularize) than a leopard can become a toad. Theological texts remain theological texts no matter which language they are rendered into. The DNA of the Bible is theology. DNA can’t be changed without changing the thing itself.
A ‘secular’ translation of the New Testament makes as much sense as a pig with wings. And it’s just as real.