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Translation in History Lecture Series: Bible translation and South Asian Christianity

ucyow3c10 March 2015

pencil-icon Written by Marta Crickmar, Translation Studies PhD student

Image from Religious Transactions in Colonial South India, authored by Dr Hephzibah Israel

Image from Religious Transactions in Colonial South
India
, authored by Dr Hephzibah Israel (Credit: Palgrave)

A fast-paced tale of faraway lands, impossible choices and political intrigues might bring to mind the plot of an enthralling TV drama but, in fact, one could find it all (and more) in a lecture given by Dr Hephzibah Israel from University of Edinburgh as a part of the UCL Translation in History Lecture Series.

As a specialist in literary and sacred translations within the South Asian context, Dr Israel was just the person for the job of introducing us to the captivating history of Bible translation in 19th century India. It must be said that the topic of the lecture, as interesting as it was in itself, was made all the more compelling by the speaker’s engaging and energetic presentation.

The talk started with a brief historical overview of the Protestant Bible’s translation in India. We learned that the first two translations of the New Testament into Tamil were produced in the 18th century by German missionaries – Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg and Johannes Fabricius. However, it was not until the 19th century that the Bible was translated into other Indian languages and that Indian translators started to be included more formally in the translation process.

The British and Foreign Bible Society (or the Bible Society), formed in 1804 to ensure ‘proper’ translation and wide circulation of the Bible, played a very important role in the history of Bible translation in India. All attempts to translate the Bible had to be authorised by this powerful organisation whose political actions and editorial decisions were often controversial both in India and 19th century Britain.

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The Septuagint and its role in the birth and spread of Christianity

ucyow3c22 January 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Wenqing Peng, UCL Arts & Humanitites PhD student

Painting of Jesus

Credit: James Shepard.

The Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, plays a crucial role in the spread of Christianity into a world religion, from its roots as a minor Jewish sect. Dr. Aleksander Gomola (Jagiellonian University) presented a range of illustrations of the nuances in translation that influenced the writers of the New Testament and the subsequent direction of Christianity itself.

In the first part of the talk, Dr Gomola examined the legend and fact of the Septuagint (LXX): a koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. The legend of the translation is found in the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas to his brother Philocrates in the 2nd century BCE, which elaborated on the invitation by Ptolemy II Philadephus to 72 Jewish scholars to translate the first five books of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the Library of Alexandria, and how they accomplished this feat in 72 days.

Dr Gomola then explained the significance of the relation between the LXX and Greek thought: the LXX revised the hierarchy of the Greek classics and the writings of Jewish patriarchs and prophets.

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We don’t know if God evolved, but belief did

ucyprlc21 January 2015

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Written by Rebecca Caygill, Media Relations Manager

How and when did organised religion begin? It’s a big question and one that Professor Steve Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) set out to answer before a packed Darwin Lecture Theatre last week in his Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘Did God evolve?’, on 20 January.

After clarifying that he didn’t actually know if God evolved, Professor Jones spoke about where religion began and where science predicts it is heading, based on evidence. Starting with farming, he took us on an enlightening and amusing trip through the history of the evolution of religion.

Evidence for the link between religion and farming goes back thousand of years not only in fertility rites for crops, but also to the story of Adam and Eve who were expelled from Eden to “till the ground”.

Adam and Eve, St Mary's Eastham, Wirral Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

Adam and Eve, St Mary’s Eastham, Wirral
Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

From studying maps of the Holy Land overlaid with modern locations, there may be truth in biblical texts about places such as the Land of Nod, where scientists have found farming originated with pigs, sheep, cattle and goats.

With farming came an explosion in the population, which moved to the east and west, changing language along the way. Language is constantly evolving at the same rate – to notice changes within our own lifetimes, we only need to listen to old TV or radio recordings.

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Buddhas of Suburbia: faith, migration and suburban change in London

zclfg5811 March 2014

If there’s one thing to take home from American film culture, from The Virgin Suicides to American Beauty, it’s that the suburbs are a place to be avoided at all costs. Replete with murderous instincts and repressed sexual desires, they are to be treated with scorn by urbanites and the few suburban refugees who manage to escape.

Hindu goddess in gold at the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple

Hindu goddess

Perhaps this unfair reputation stems from the suburban aesthetic: when the soul is furnished by identikit architecture that presumably houses conservative cultural habits, it is unsurprising that we see the suburban subject as living a boring life, unworthy of academic reflection or investigation.

In her Lunch Hour Lecture, Dr. Claire Dwyer (UCL Geography) rescued suburbia from this prejudicial inertia, demonstrating through an architectural, geographical and cultural comparative analysis of faith loci in Greater London that the suburbs can be a place of dynamic modernity where space is contested, deconstructed and re-mapped.

The first half of Dr. Dwyer’s lecture focused on newly developed or proposed institutions such as the Jain Temple in Potter’s Bar, Hertfordshire and the Salaam Centre in Harrow, which show how the suburbs are on the forefront of cultural innovation. (more…)