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Translation Method


Lamanite

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Last I heard LOAP (Blair) and others were working on a translation project. This could be very helpful in allowing us a more focused view of the mechanics of translation.

Then again it could solidify our current state of ever learning without ever knowing.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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The biggest indication of loose control to me is D&C 9. Hebraisms and other indications that it comes from an ancient text are just evidence that Joseph did a pretty good job.

I think there are two separate levels at work here and that we need to distinguish between them:

1. Translation Product. This is the Tight v. Loose translation discussion. A tight translation follows more closely the form and structure of the source text, whereas a loose translation will use more expansive meaning component equivalencies and tries to approximate more fully the target language idioms, ideas, and thinking.

2. Joseph's Role in this product. Whether the product is loose or tight, did Joseph merely dictate/pass on what was given to him spiritually through the seer stone and U&T, or did he have some role in the process where he was free to articulate ideas in his own words?

I personally feel that JS had a stronger interaction with the text and translation than is currently considered by some. And I think D&C 9 reflects his role in the process.

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I think there are two separate levels at work here and that we need to distinguish between them:

1. Translation Product. This is the Tight v. Loose translation discussion. A tight translation follows more closely the form and structure of the source text, whereas a loose translation will use more expansive meaning component equivalencies and tries to approximate more fully the target language idioms, ideas, and thinking.

2. Joseph's Role in this product. Whether the product is loose or tight, did Joseph merely dictate/pass on what was given to him spiritually through the seer stone and U&T, or did he have some role in the process where he was free to articulate ideas in his own words?

I personally feel that JS had a stronger interaction with the text and translation than is currently considered by some. And I think D&C 9 reflects his role in the process.

Just curious how you would describe/define the anachronistic presence of Deutero Isaiah? Please know that I'm not being critical, I'm genuinely interested in how others reconcile this issue intellectually and/or spiritually.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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I don't know David's stance on DI, but I for one see nothing compelling me to the conclusion that there are exilic and pre-exilic halves. That there may have been some post-exilic editing, I'll grant that.

I thought this was a decent summaryof the deutero Isaiah issue (especially for a wiki article)

I wrongly assumed that this was just a consensus opinion.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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Just curious how you would describe/define the anachronistic presence of Deutero Isaiah? Please know that I'm not being critical, I'm genuinely interested in how others reconcile this issue intellectually and/or spiritually.

Good question. And not only Deutero-Isaiah, but Trito-Isaiah as well. And in addition, why the KJV terminology in all its glory (and textual error)? At the very least, I consider the following questions as central to the issue:

1. Was the translation process mechanical or translator-controlled?

2. Is the end result a tight or a loose translation?

3. Can the presence of KJV-related terminology be explained by understanding the first two questions, or is there something else at work?

4. What do I believe about the authorship and dating of Isaiah?

I'm not there yet in fully understanding all these issues. I have already come to a strong spiritual and intellectual conviction that the Book of Mormon is true, that it was written by members of an actual Nephite civilization on this continent, that the resurrected prophet Moroni actually visited Joseph to direct him in its discovery, and that it offers a tremendous amount of spiritual energy that infuses my life with light and faith.

With that context, I believe the current evidence points toward a translator-controlled effort, where JS made real decisions about how to word the text. And I believe that the result was a combination of both tight and loose translations. I'm not passionate or dogmatic about these views (i.e., the translation process), but so far this is what I make of the evidence. Yet these conclusions haven't yet demonstrated a clear path to answering the third question above. And I have barely started scratching the surface in my studies on Isaiah and what I think of its dating and authorship.

In other words, I'm not there yet, and I don't want to make a precipitous judgment simply to come up with an apologetic argument to deflect criticism. Neither have I ignored the issue. I've started the process of "studying it out" and have formed initial conclusions on some of the issues (as noted above). At some point I hope to answer the remaining questions spiritually and intellectually, but I'm not holding my breath, since one could spend a lifetime on Isaiah alone. But I do know that I'm enjoying the journey. And I simply view issues like deutero-Isaiah and KJV terminology as intriguing puzzles that make me want to understand the text better.

Cheers

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Good question. And not only Deutero-Isaiah, but Trito-Isaiah as well. And in addition, why the KJV terminology in all its glory (and textual error)? At the very least, I consider the following questions as central to the issue:

1. Was the translation process mechanical or translator-controlled?

2. Is the end result a tight or a loose translation?

3. Can the presence of KJV-related terminology be explained by understanding the first two questions, or is there something else at work?

4. What do I believe about the authorship and dating of Isaiah?

I'm not there yet in fully understanding all these issues. I have already come to a strong spiritual and intellectual conviction that the Book of Mormon is true, that it was written by members of an actual Nephite civilization on this continent, that the resurrected prophet Moroni actually visited Joseph to direct him in its discovery, and that it offers a tremendous amount of spiritual energy that infuses my life with light and faith.

With that context, I believe the current evidence points toward a translator-controlled effort, where JS made real decisions about how to word the text. And I believe that the result was a combination of both tight and loose translations. I'm not passionate or dogmatic about these views (i.e., the translation process), but so far this is what I make of the evidence. Yet these conclusions haven't yet demonstrated a clear path to answering the third question above. And I have barely started scratching the surface in my studies on Isaiah and what I think of its dating and authorship.

In other words, I'm not there yet, and I don't want to make a precipitous judgment simply to come up with an apologetic argument to deflect criticism. Neither have I ignored the issue. I've started the process of "studying it out" and have formed initial conclusions on some of the issues (as noted above). At some point I hope to answer the remaining questions spiritually and intellectually, but I'm not holding my breath, since one could spend a lifetime on Isaiah alone. But I do know that I'm enjoying the journey. And I simply view issues like deutero-Isaiah and KJV terminology as intriguing puzzles that make me want to understand the text better.

Cheers

This is the perfect embodiment of my spiritual and intellectual methodologies and dispositions. I want to start a new thread with your remarks as the OP so as to illustrate what I feel is a shining example of intellectual honesty and humility in inquisition. I mean, the first sentence of your first paragraph is evidence of tremendous maturity. And the ability possess a particular view[point] and yet still remain as objective as you seem to be is both remarkable and rare. Huzzah!!!

It's an approach that just feels right. Thanks so much for your reply!!!

Big UP!

Lamanite

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I think there are two separate levels at work here and that we need to distinguish between them:

1. Translation Product. This is the Tight v. Loose translation discussion. A tight translation follows more closely the form and structure of the source text, whereas a loose translation will use more expansive meaning component equivalencies and tries to approximate more fully the target language idioms, ideas, and thinking.

2. Joseph's Role in this product. Whether the product is loose or tight, did Joseph merely dictate/pass on what was given to him spiritually through the seer stone and U&T, or did he have some role in the process where he was free to articulate ideas in his own words?

I personally feel that JS had a stronger interaction with the text and translation than is currently considered by some. And I think D&C 9 reflects his role in the process.

I am working on laying out my reasons for the way I see the translation process, reasons that I am arguing from evidence. It is looking good to have it published by the time we hit the Book of Mormon year again. I say that so you will understand that I'll give you some of my conclusions, but I need to save something to surprise people with. I apologize in advance for the teasers.;)

I found that I can't use Skousen's Tight v. Loose translation model. The way most of us have used it, it is fine, but under Skousen's own definition (he coined it so he gets to define it) the Tight model defines Joseph as a reader. We need to have a distinction between reader and translator (your second point) as well as the relationship of the text to the plates (your first point). I am using a three-fold typology: literal equivalence, functional, and conceptual equivalence--with each moving farther away from a connection to things on the plates. I fall in the functional equivalence category, but allow that there might have been some closer connection between names on the plates and what we have, but still not a really close literal connection.

Although I love the Hebraists insights into the text, I cannot sustain an argument that the text is close enough to literal to intentionally preserve them. I don't expect to make a lot of friends on that one! :P

On the question of Joseph as reader or translator, I argue for translator (who read the translation). That sounds pretty strange, but I discuss the way I see the process occurring. I believe that there is very good evidence that Joseph was the translator, and that Joseph read the text in English. That leaves a rather fascinating conundrum that I believe has a very logical solution. So, while you wait (with bated breath, I'm sure)-- the best way to characterize Joseph is as a translator. I believe that there is pretty solid evidence to demonstrate his active participation in the process.

By the way, as for D&C 9, in the next couple of days I should be writing the explanation for why Oliver failed at translating. I think there is a lot more in that incident that we have understood.

JGreen:

1. Was the translation process mechanical or translator-controlled?

2. Is the end result a tight or a loose translation?

3. Can the presence of KJV-related terminology be explained by understanding the first two questions, or is there something else at work?

4. What do I believe about the authorship and dating of Isaiah?

My answers:

1. Translator controlled

2. Loose (but not conceptual, there are discernible ties at the level of structure, but not vocabulary).

3. The process itself explains the KJV material and the KJV material tells us information about the process that doesn't fit into our typical conception of the process.

4. This one is still an issue that ranges beyond the Book of Mormon and into the reasons for the scholarly divisions. David Bokovoy gave a paper at FAIR a couple of years back that made some suggestions. This is an issue on which there are too many variables to be able to have a really firm answer.

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I am working on laying out my reasons for the way I see the translation process, reasons that I am arguing from evidence. It is looking good to have it published by the time we hit the Book of Mormon year again. I say that so you will understand that I'll give you some of my conclusions, but I need to save something to surprise people with. I apologize in advance for the teasers.;)

I found that I can't use Skousen's Tight v. Loose translation model. The way most of us have used it, it is fine, but under Skousen's own definition (he coined it so he gets to define it) the Tight model defines Joseph as a reader. We need to have a distinction between reader and translator (your second point) as well as the relationship of the text to the plates (your first point). I am using a three-fold typology: literal equivalence, functional, and conceptual equivalence--with each moving farther away from a connection to things on the plates. I fall in the functional equivalence category, but allow that there might have been some closer connection between names on the plates and what we have, but still not a really close literal connection.

Although I love the Hebraists insights into the text, I cannot sustain an argument that the text is close enough to literal to intentionally preserve them. I don't expect to make a lot of friends on that one! :P

On the question of Joseph as reader or translator, I argue for translator (who read the translation). That sounds pretty strange, but I discuss the way I see the process occurring. I believe that there is very good evidence that Joseph was the translator, and that Joseph read the text in English. That leaves a rather fascinating conundrum that I believe has a very logical solution. So, while you wait (with bated breath, I'm sure)-- the best way to characterize Joseph is as a translator. I believe that there is pretty solid evidence to demonstrate his active participation in the process.

By the way, as for D&C 9, in the next couple of days I should be writing the explanation for why Oliver failed at translating. I think there is a lot more in that incident that we have understood.

JGreen:

1. Was the translation process mechanical or translator-controlled?

2. Is the end result a tight or a loose translation?

3. Can the presence of KJV-related terminology be explained by understanding the first two questions, or is there something else at work?

4. What do I believe about the authorship and dating of Isaiah?

My answers:

1. Translator controlled

2. Loose (but not conceptual, there are discernible ties at the level of structure, but not vocabulary).

3. The process itself explains the KJV material and the KJV material tells us information about the process that doesn't fit into our typical conception of the process.

4. This one is still an issue that ranges beyond the Book of Mormon and into the reasons for the scholarly divisions. David Bokovoy gave a paper at FAIR a couple of years back that made some suggestions. This is an issue on which there are too many variables to be able to have a really firm answer.

I am one that frankly does not know which way to envision the translation process. The tight theory, i.e. requires some respect due to Joseph's own stage of educational, linguistic, and spiritual development at the time of the translation as well as the speed of the translation process and Joseph's own familiarity with the Old Testament. I suspect that Joseph's spiritual progress was well ahead of the other aspects of his development. And I think that the speed of the translation process dictates against the argument that Joseph had a lot of decision making, if any, in those events.

The Isaiah quotes are problematic in some ways. I am not worried about "deutero-Isaiah" or "trito-Isaiah". That debate is still ongoing, although I guess that many Christian Bible scholars have accepted that there are those divisions, other scholars have indicated that Isaiah appears to be the work of one author.

The most puzzling aspect of the Isaiah quotes to me in regards to the translation process is the fact that some seem lifted directly from the King James version of the Bible, while others are somewhat different, evidently restoring a chiastic structure to those texts. I do not see how Joseph could been a controlling part of that process.

Joseph was not allowed to even retrieve the plates for four years after the visit from Moroni. This I assume was a time of preparation for Joseph. He could have been more diligent in reading the Bible during that time. He evidently had visual visions of the Nephites and Lamanites and knew something of the way they appeared, according to quotes from his mother.

However, Emma averred later in life that Joseph could not dictate a coherent sentence on his own during the time period of the translation.

Yes, there are too many variables for this whole process to be able to extract a firm answer. But we do have that magnificent book of scripture......

Glenn

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Hey Glenn,

The Isaiah quotes are problematic in some ways. I am not worried about "deutero-Isaiah" or "trito-Isaiah". That debate is still ongoing, although I guess that many Christian Bible scholars have accepted that there are those divisions, other scholars have indicated that Isaiah appears to be the work of one author.

It all depend upon what one means in terms of the expression "Biblical scholar." If you're referring to biblical scholarship which attempts to interpret the Bible in its historical ancient Near Eastern context, divorced from any specific contemporary theological interpretive lens, i.e. biblical studies taught in an academic environment, there is no debate. Isaiah 40 marks the beginning of a new exilic author.

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I don't know David's stance on DI, but I for one see nothing compelling me to the conclusion that there are exilic and pre-exilic halves. That there may have been some post-exilic editing, I'll grant that.

I agree.

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Brant:

I found that I can't use Skousen's Tight v. Loose translation model.

Most of us have been aware of your problems with Royal's views. I appreciate your concerns, too. However, (pending my reading of the case you plan to make) I find it difficult to believe that the translator/reader solution can possibly be tenable in the face of the evidence as I currently view it. Nevertheless, I will retain an open mind.

I will say this: I believe the evidence is very persuasive that the text of the Book of Abraham was received in more or less the same fashion as Skousen describes the reception of the text of the Book of Mormon. It was received early, it was received quickly, and there is little or no evidence that Joseph Smith had any understanding of how to translate Egyptian in respect to the text of the Book of Abraham (the facsimiles form an entirely separate case study).

In any event, I am discovering, much to my chagrin, that it is a much longer road between conception and the production of a draft text than it appears at the beginning. It's one thing to see where you want to go, and another entirely to actually get there--if you know what I mean. That said, I hope to have something substantial to present by the time of the FAIR conference.

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I think it would be correct to characterize Royal's attitude towards online forums such as this as ... to put it nicely ... utter disdain. So I doubt he'll be responding to your plea anytime soon.

I guess I should have used an emoticon to indicate my attempt at sarcasm... :P

Also, should you speak to Royal, tell him I said thanks for the Yale BoM text. It has become a valued part of my personal canon.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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I agree.

Fair enough. So long as no one is mistaken in terms of how biblical scholars understand the issue. "The first person to differentiate between them [isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah] was Doderlein, in 1975; his thesis was accepted by Eichhorn (1780-83); and since then, it has steadily won its way to universal recognition in Old Testament scholarship." Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 8-9.

Unfortunately, far too many lay persons get hung up on the issue of Cyrus who appears mentioned by name as if this is the reason scholars universally accept the validity of Deutero-Isaiah. This fact, however, is really only an extremely minor piece of the evidence that leads to this "universal recognition." Isaiah 40 marks a brand new prophetic figure interacting with the Divine Council who receives a new prophetic message for the exilic community.

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Fair enough. So long as no one is mistaken in terms of how biblical scholars understand the issue. "The first person to differentiate between them [isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah] was Doderlein, in 1975; his thesis was accepted by Eichhorn (1780-83); and since then, it has steadily won its way to universal recognition in Old Testament scholarship." Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 8-9.

Unfortunately, far too many lay persons get hung up on the issue of Cyrus who appears mentioned by name as if this is the reason scholars universally accept the validity of Deutero-Isaiah. This fact, however, is really only an extremely minor piece of the evidence that leads to this "universal recognition." Isaiah 40 marks a brand new prophetic figure interacting with the Divine Council who receives a new prophetic message for the exilic community.

Although it may be almost "universal" it may not be correct. I have read Doctor Sydney B. Sperry's take on the "Isaiah problem" in the Book of Mormon, so it does not seem to be a universal holding. I would see a problem for the Book of Mormon and the New Testament also if Isaiah truly has different authors two of which came after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Glenn

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Most of us have been aware of your problems with Royal's views. I appreciate your concerns, too. However, (pending my reading of the case you plan to make) I find it difficult to believe that the translator/reader solution can possibly be tenable in the face of the evidence as I currently view it. Nevertheless, I will retain an open mind.

I can't complain about open minds. However, I should clarify the reason I can't use his particular definition of tight v. loose (others don't use it the way he does). He combines the problem of reading/translating into the problem of the relationship of the translation to the underlying text. Those are two different issues. Because he has them combined into a single definition, I can't use it as he defined it--so I change it just to make sure there is no confusion.

In my experience, the terminology has come to be applied only to the relationship between plate text and English text--and I agree that it is useful there.

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Although it may be almost "universal" it may not be correct. I have read Doctor Sydney B. Sperry's take on the "Isaiah problem" in the Book of Mormon, so it does not seem to be a universal holding. I would see a problem for the Book of Mormon and the New Testament also if Isaiah truly has different authors two of which came after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Glenn

It's not almost universal. As the quote I provided from Westermann suggests, the view is universally accepted by biblical scholars. I'm probably as big a fan of Sidney B. Sperry as one can possibly find, but please remember, Dr. Sperry completed his Ph.D. in 1931. Relying upon Sperry's understanding of Biblical scholarship to understand these sorts of issues is in many ways analogous to using a medical manual from the early part of the 20th century to explore the role of nucleic acid in terms of defining Nephite origins. Our understanding of the Bible and the ancient Near East has grown exponentially since the early part of the 20th century.

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Brant,

I look forward to your paper, but it will be hard waiting several years. Maybe you can give me a few more teasers at the next FAIR conference.

We need to have a distinction between reader and translator (your second point) as well as the relationship of the text to the plates (your first point).

I couldn't agree more. I read too many theories that assume a process (mechanical v. translator-controlled) simply from the product (tight v. loose). I really believe we need to look at both issues separately.

I am using a three-fold typology: literal equivalence, functional, and conceptual equivalence--with each moving farther away from a connection to things on the plates.

I like the taxonomy. It reminds me of some of the material by Mildred Larsen and others I used when studying translation theory.

I fall in the functional equivalence category, but allow that there might have been some closer connection between names on the plates and what we have, but still not a really close literal connection.

Although I love the Hebraists insights into the text, I cannot sustain an argument that the text is close enough to literal to intentionally preserve them. I don't expect to make a lot of friends on that one! :P

For the better part of two decades I've been translating or editing translations for a military unit that services many Intelligence agencies, and I've seen quite a number of translations that run the gamut from overly literal to overly conceptual. When we support Department of Justice agencies, we're directed to stay closer to the literal end of the spectrum. But much of the language and rhythm of the BoM text reminds me of the functional equivalence that is borderline literal and does in fact preserve some of the structure and idiomatic flavor of the source text. But not always.

On the question of Joseph as reader or translator, I argue for translator (who read the translation). That sounds pretty strange, but I discuss the way I see the process occurring. I believe that there is very good evidence that Joseph was the translator, and that Joseph read the text in English. That leaves a rather fascinating conundrum that I believe has a very logical solution.

That is a pretty big teaser. I'm definitely interested in this aspect. I too believe that JS interacted with the text visually and played a significant part in the translation process, but not precisely in this way. I'm very interested in the details.

By the way, as for D&C 9, in the next couple of days I should be writing the explanation for why Oliver failed at translating. I think there is a lot more in that incident that we have understood.

I also feel that D&C is critical to our understanding of the process.

3. The process itself explains the KJV material and the KJV material tells us information about the process that doesn't fit into our typical conception of the process.

Of course, this piques my curiosity even further. Can't wait.

Thanks, Brant.

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I can't complain about open minds. However, I should clarify the reason I can't use his particular definition of tight v. loose (others don't use it the way he does). He combines the problem of reading/translating into the problem of the relationship of the translation to the underlying text. Those are two different issues. Because he has them combined into a single definition, I can't use it as he defined it--so I change it just to make sure there is no confusion.

In my experience, the terminology has come to be applied only to the relationship between plate text and English text--and I agree that it is useful there.

I agree with Brant here. Even if the text reflects a tight translation (which I believe it does in certain areas), this doesn't automatically mean that it was a mechanical process that produced it. We need to separate these two issues and look at them individually.

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Fair enough. So long as no one is mistaken in terms of how biblical scholars understand the issue. "The first person to differentiate between them [isaiah and Deutero-Isaiah] was Doderlein, in 1975; his thesis was accepted by Eichhorn (1780-83); and since then, it has steadily won its way to universal recognition in Old Testament scholarship." Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 8-9.

Unfortunately, far too many lay persons get hung up on the issue of Cyrus who appears mentioned by name as if this is the reason scholars universally accept the validity of Deutero-Isaiah. This fact, however, is really only an extremely minor piece of the evidence that leads to this "universal recognition." Isaiah 40 marks a brand new prophetic figure interacting with the Divine Council who receives a new prophetic message for the exilic community.

Although I make no pretense to Biblical scholarship, I believe I do understand the arguments that undergird the conclusion to which you refer. I also agree that, from a purely academic perspective, the arguments (and the evidence adduced to support them) is very persuasive. That said, I continue to perceive "other possibilities" to explain the abrupt change that is seen between Isaiah 39 and 40 (and the chapters that follow). Today during Sacrament Meeting (my apologies to the speakers :P ) I took the time to read chapters 39 through 42. (BTW, reading Isaiah is such a spiritual feast, regardless of its origins!) And once again I found myself persuaded from a purely intuitive (spiritual?) standpoint, that Isaiah 40 - 42 (and the remainder of "Deutero-Isaiah") is prophetic in nature, rather than constituting a "prophetic exhortation" after the fact of the exile. While I did not make notes of the verses in question, I believe there are hints within these chapters that indicate their primarily "prophetic" before the fact rather than "exhortative" after the fact qualities. Perhaps one day, when I am not so exclusively focused on my Book of Abraham/Kirtland Egyptian Papers studies, I will take the time to address these questions in a more formal manner. At such time, I would so much enjoy sharing impressions with you--as a scholar, a fellow brother in the gospel, and as a friend.

Again, "great are the words of Isaiah"! What a pity that so many of the Saints are so intimidated by these things that they tend to avoid them, and thereby fail to place themselves in a position to be enlightened and spiritually edified by the words of this great prophet (or prophets).

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Brant:

I can't complain about open minds.

We just have to hope that, at our age, (and you're older than I!) nothing falls out while we have them opened. ;) As I travail with my third teenager (with a fourth on the cusp; waiting in the wings with a sharp tongue and a constantly whetted appetite for spending Dad's hard-earned cash) I am more and more conscious of the sure but steady dulling of what was once (or so it seemed) a much sharper mind.

I should clarify the reason I can't use his particular definition of tight v. loose (others don't use it the way he does). He combines the problem of reading/translating into the problem of the relationship of the translation to the underlying text. Those are two different issues. Because he has them combined into a single definition, I can't use it as he defined it--so I change it just to make sure there is no confusion.

In my experience, the terminology has come to be applied only to the relationship between plate text and English text--and I agree that it is useful there.

I confess I do not fully grasp your meaning, and will therefore look forward to the detailed elucidation of your arguments.

`

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I guess I should have used an emoticon to indicate my attempt at sarcasm... :P

I "got it," but I just wanted to underscore the fact that Royal is not a big fan of the message board environment. Both he and John Gee share this sentiment in spades. And although I have, in the past, been persuaded that the adversarial aspects of these online debates serve to knock the "rough edges" off incomplete or flawed arguments, I have increasingly come to believe that, in the final analysis, the positives of these forums don't outweigh their negatives. That said, they are addictive, and I have been discovering of late how difficult it can be to break that addiction.

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