Friday, August 24, 2007

John Hunt's archaic translation of the Bible

from w
The Fijian Bible is very precious to so many people that this sample of John Hunt's early translation will cause a lot of interest, but is it the best?

Andrew Thornley, Tauga Vulaono and Ilaitia Tuwere are impeccable scholars so the publishing of this very early translation of Matthew and Mark gospels by Rev John Hunt will make interesting reading. I wonder if the archaic language, a vavalagi’s grasp of Fijian, phrasing, are indeed as good as later versions. However Dr Geraghty says it is very good. One thing, it will make readers examine the meaning of the texts and perhaps find new inspiration.

From Fiji Times Debate on New Testament
Friday, August 24, 2007

Methodist Bookshop representative Manono Junior and Dr Paul Geraghty at the launching of the book Na Kosipali I Maciu Kei Marika at the Churchward Chapel in Flagstaff
DEBATE and criticism is expected from members of the Methodist Church in Fiji after the republication of the New Testament, which was originally done by John Hunt 160 years ago is released, says Pacific Church Historian Doctor Andrew Thornley.
Speaking at the first Fijian translation of The Gospels According to Matthew and Mark at the Churchward Chapel yesterday, he said the late Mr Hunt was also criticised when he translated the Fijian version of the New Testament during his time. "I am not a Fijian scholar and welcome the debate that will emerge. My job as a historian is to make this happen. The text of the Bible is exactly in the original and it is done by the Fijian experts who understand what is being done," Dr Thornley said.

"The first Bible produced came in loose pages and they were told to go and bind it themselves." He said when Mr Hunt died, missionary James Culvert (sic)took the New Testament back to England.

"Mr Culvert revived Mr Hunt's testament very extensively and that was published by the Bible Society and that New Testament has become the New Testament that you read today in your Bible," Dr Thornley said.

"So effectively, the first translation by Mr Hunt, I would put it was lost to the Fijian people, I happen to think it is very important that this original New Testament which is quite different from Mr Culvert's revision would be made available to the Fijian people and this is the project that I am working on at the moment."

He said it would take five years and he hoped they would complete the full testimony that would be ready for the centennial of Mr Hunt's birth in 2012.
Dr Thornley said they published The Gospel of Matthew and Mark from the original New Testament in the words of Mr Hunt. "I am assisted in this project by Tago Vulaono and Paul Geraghty who has made this available," he said.

"Well, I was talking with the Fijian ministers with the first Lord's Prayer translated by Mr Hunt and the last phrase for example to take it out of context which is ena sega ni oti not sega ni mudu and he was quite surprised by that. Also the use of the term veitalia to describe the will of God, these are some of the words, that Mr Hunt used, they are no longer in the New Testament," he said.
He said most of the people that did not like Mr Hunt's translation including Mr Culvert (sic) did not include his idiomatic use for more informal use of the Fiji language and they make the language more formal and more literal and the New Testament developed and Mr Hunt could not do anything about this because he died.
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bits and pieces from a net search


John Hunt's translation of the New Testament into Fijian, Ai Vola ni Veiyalayalati Vou ni noda turaga kei na nodai vakabula ko Jisu Kraisiti (1853);
The whole Bible was published as Ai Vola Tabu, a ya e tu kina na Veiyalayalati Makawa, kei na Veiyalayalati Vou (1858-1864).

In November 1855 Calvert left for England with David Hazlewood's manuscript Fijian translation of the Old Testament. The British and Foreign Bible Society granted £900 toward its publication and Calvert helped to produce 5000 copies of the first complete edition of the Fijian Bible and 10,000 copies of the New Testament.
The first edition of Frederick Langham’s revision of the New Testament was published in 1899, followed by the complete Bible in 1902. Langham was commissioned by the Wesleyan authorities to revise the Fijian Bible, which existed in many other versions, at that time. After his retirement from the mission-field he was able to give his full attention to this work, in which he was assisted by his wife and adopted daughter, A. L. Lindsay.

This Bible is written in the Bau or Bauan dialect of the Fijian language. In the early 19th century, parts of the Scripture were translated into other dialects. However, later translations were done only into the Bau, a dialect spoken by a large portion of the population, which is similar to the standard Fijian.
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So, whose version are the Fiji people reading today? Okay, I mean in the Fijian language, not Fiji Hindi or English.

8 comments:

Andrew Thornley said...

This is a very interesting question - whose version are the Fijian people reading today?
On the matter of the Old Testament, the original translation was done by David Hazlewood - directly from Hebrew into Fijian. He did this in the 1850s and after his premature death, James Calvert took the MS to London and the Bible Society published a "revised" edition. Then in 1901, there was a further major revision by Rev Dr Langham, a long-serving missionary in Fiji but not a deep scholar of the Fijian language, nor a Hebrew scholar I suspect. So the current OT is definitely a poorer, Langham, revision of Hazlewood's original.
As for the NT, there is alaos a big problem as the orginal version by John Hunt was beautifully idiomatic, but after his early death, James Calvert and John Watsford did significant revisions along a more literal line of translation. So the Fijians have definitely "lost" their first NT and I am currently working to restore the original version. I would love to hear from people who are interested in this matter.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you Andrew for your contribution to this topic and I hope the Fiji Bible Society will be able to get out better translations for the people. Some things move very slowly in Fiji! I got very concerned looks one time at an Australian Fijian congregations Uniting Church conference when I suggested that the Fiji hymn book used by the churches is just so old-fashioned. The 1938 version is still in use and the hymns come from the 1890s probably! What do those people in the head office do all day!
w.

Andrew Thornley said...

The 1938 Fijian Hymn Book is here to stay. It is like Bach and Beethoven to the Fijian ear. But what we do need is a new collection of modern gospel songs translated into Fijian, to supplement 1938.

Andrew Thornley

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Andrew,
I suppose you are right! Yes they are beautifully sung (if the leading laga singing doesn't start too high!) but I like song with rather more modern theology. The Holy Spirit as 'she' perhaps! About translating - in Fijian you have so many more words and syllables that it's not easy. I gave Peceli a song the other day and a seven syllable line became about 15 syllables!
Cheers,
w.

Andrew Thornley said...

Picking up on this question of translation, I was recently approached by the Editor of the Fiji Daily Post to write a brief article on the use of the Fijian word "Kalougata" in the Fijian scriptures. Both David Hazlewood, translator of the Old Testament and John Hunt, translator of the New testament used "Kalougata" for blessing. Mainly as a result of the agitation of James Ah Koy, there appears to be a bit of a debate going on about this word and you can read about it on the website of Fiji Daily Post, published on Saturday 21 March, 2009. I would appreciate reader input to this question of "Kalougata"

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you Andrew. I hadn't read your opinion piece, which I found quickly on Google. It makes more sense than the so-called 'thesis' of Ah Koy, who, or heaven's sake, quotes from the King James Bible. He is not a theologian and mixes up his metaphors a bit. Anyway I'll talk to Peceli about how he understands the meaning of the word 'kalougata'.
w.

Flankperts said...

Can we please don't touch the Hymn Books and leave the Hymns as they are. The Methodist Church Fijian members love to sing in harmony using tonic so-fa therefore using modern music is foreign to most of them. Singing those Hymns the way they are bring about a unique way of singing where they don't have to depend on the Organ or Piano to lead them while singing. If the hymns are old fashioned, then let it be, those were the Hymns used together with the scriptures that brought about a change in Fiji's history, the acceptance of Christianity by many Chiefs including the King of Fiji. Please leave the matter of the Fijian Hymn Book and what is Fijian to the Fijians who reside in Fiji to decide.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thank you for your comment and I know there are many people who would agree with you. But I honestly think that hundreds of excellent Christian songs have been written since 1938 (and the Fijian hymn book has many songs even 120 years old) that would be good in Fijian and in voice parts. I agree that we don't need the organ as accompaniment. No way. I was at a Fijian church in Melbourne today - maybe 300 people or more and the singing (from the old book) was great, but there's a need to add to the repertoire in congregational singing. And I don't mean trivial chorusy kinds of songs either. Look at some of the songs by Shirley Murray in NZ, Robin Mann in Adelaide, John Bell in Scotland for a starter. And of course Fijians can write their own songs - as some of the new anthems show us.
w.