MacLochlainn, “Divinely Generic”

MacLochlainn, Scott. 2015. Divinely Generic: Bible Translation and the Semiotics of Circulation. Signs and Society 3(2): 234-260.

Abstract: In this article I examine the practice of Bible translation and the underlying sets of Christian ideologies regarding the commensurability of linguistic forms. Based on ethnographic research conducted at a biannual Bible translation workshop in Mindoro, Philippines, in 2013, during which the Bible was translated into three Mangyan languages, I argue that the degree to which the actual linguistic forms in the scriptures are divinely inspired often exists as an irresolvable semiotic problem for Bible translators. To this end, I discuss the means through which the Holy Spirit is taken as an essential mediator between the fallible work of Christian translators and the Bible as a language-instantiated form of God’s presence. I show how the employment of “generic” language by Christian translators enables them to mirror and circulate the divine universality of scriptural meaning in earthly form. I propose that generic language can be viewed as a site in which multiple and often conflicting claims of language universality and purity are present.