Monday, July 31, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Introduction

One thing I really like about summer is how I can simplify my life a bit.

The end of Spring Term is always busy and stressful, partly because of final exam grading but mostly because of trying to process a year of teaching to decide how to improve for next year. I almost completely plan my Fall Term classes during finals week and the week after.

Then it's really summer, and I have ministry work to do but no math teaching for a few months. So I do more yard work, spend more time talking with congregants and friends, and try to finish some projects that have been on the back burner.

One very back-burner project was a translation of the Tao Te Ching. To make use of Don Richardson's phrase for things like the Gospel in other cultures, this text is clearly the "redemptive analogy" for its culture. Every since becoming a believer I've wanted to find or write a translation that brought out its connections to scriptural truth.

I cannot find one, so it's my new activity for winding down before bedtime. Studying the text fits well within a period of simplifying my life. I'll try to post a chapter a day on the blog. But no promises... this project is fun and prompts me to consider worthwhile thoughts, but has no real priority in my life.

Since I know no Chinese, I'm making use of several English translations. The most helpful is one by J. J. L. Duyvendak because of its extensive commentary on translation issues.

For many reasons there cannot be a "correct" or "best" translation of this text. But that does not mean my translation will always be reasonable. Please know that I have reasons for the choices I make, but also please e-mail me if you have helpful criticism. (For an example, in Chapter 6 the word I translate as "meek" is more commonly translated "female". The word literally refers to a mare. Rather than thinking Lao Tzu used "mare" to mean "female", I am agreeing with translators who note that the Book of Changes associates this word with its second hexagram, which means meekness.)

After each chapter's translation I'll include my own notes, italicized and right-justified.

In my notes I will follow Jewish custom by using the word Adonai to refer to the Tertragrammaton, yud-hey-vav-hey. This name refers to all aspects of the divine: Father, Son and God's Spirit. (In contrast, to Jewish ears, the word "God" is a translation of Elohim, which refers to the Father.)