Montreal venue for spiritual conferences w/very different missions

The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec)
May 1, 2004 Saturday Final Edition

Symposium city: Montreal is venue for spiritual conferences with very
different missions


Montreal will play host over the next few weeks to some religious
scholars of international renown who want to shake up Christian
spirituality – and some who want to do anything but.

On the heels of John Shelby Spong, the controversial former
Episcopalian (or Anglican) bishop of Newark, N.J., who will lecture in
Montreal next Friday and Saturday, Matthew Fox, the former Catholic
priest and advocate of “creation spirituality,” will be one of the
keynote speakers at a 10-day conference that begins Friday, May 14.
He’s a proponent of liberation theology who was eventually silenced by
the Vatican, became an Episcopalian priest and founded the University
of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, Calif.

He and Rupert Sheldrake, a British biochemist who argues “that the mind
extends beyond the brain,” will be among about 60 speakers at the
annual conference of the Montreal-based Spiritual Science Fellowship
and its affiliated International Institute of Integral Human Sciences.
Fox and Sheldrake will speak May 15.

All this is a far cry from Symposium 2004, at McGill University Sunday
and Monday, May 30 and 31, and the Universite de Montreal June 1. But
the sponsors – the Canadian Bible Society, the two universities and
Acadia University of Wolfville, N.S., through its Montreal-based
Faculte de theologie evangelique – hope the conference will be historic
for Canada in its own quiet way.

The conference is on translation of the Hebrew scriptures (known to
many Christians as the Old Testament). Speakers will include
Protestants (at least one with good Orthodox connections), Catholics
and Jews.

John Milton, who teaches Bible and Hebrew courses at McGill, is a
member of the Bible society and has been helping organize the
conference, said the society wants to raise the scholarly level of its
translations. This is even though some of the editions it produces and
distributes now are valuable resources for students of the Bible, and
not just Christian ones, said Milton, himself Jewish.

The conference was pulled together largely by Manuel Jinbachian, an
Armenian Protestant pastor with many years’ experience in Bible
translation in Lebanon and Europe as the academic dean of Haigazian
University in Beirut and translations consultant for Europe and the
Middle East for the United Bible Societies – the international
federation to which the Canadian Bible Society belongs. For about two
years he has been based in Montreal, teaching at both McGill and the
Universite de Montreal.

He is a specialist in the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew
scriptures into Greek by Jewish scholars around 2,000 years ago.

Translating is not just translating words, he told me.

“We need to study the grammar, syntax, historic background and cultural
setting of the text and try to transfer the meaning to ordinary
Canadians living in great urban centres of the 21st century.”

He said, however, that differences in the phraseology of ancient
versions of the scripture do not indicate divergence in the basic
meaning, which is always the same. Wiens, too, said that nothing
scholars have turned up has any negative impact on Christian doctrine.

Three other Bible translators of international repute will be keynote

Emmanuel Tov, a professor at the Hebrew University in Israel, is
editor-in-chief of a Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project.

Adrien Schenker, a Dominican father (as Matthew Fox used to be),
teaches at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and is
editor-in-chief of a major Old Testament text project of the United
Bible Societies.

Jan de Waard, an emeritus professor at the Free University of Amsterdam
and at the University of Strasbourg, France, has been a top
translations consultant for the United Bible Societies, is co-ordinator
for work on ancient languages, and is a member of Schenker’s text
project team.

Nine scholars from Montreal universities will speak at the conference.

For information about the Bible conference, call (514) 848-9778; for
the spirituality conference, call (514) 937-8359.

This is the last of the regular columns I have written in this space in
an almost unbroken weekly series since Sept. 7, 1985.

I wrote the column as a staff reporter (along with other assignments)
until my voluntary retirement as a Gazette employee last September.
Since then, I have carried on the column as a freelancer. The newspaper
wants to go in a different direction for this page, to be explained in
this space next week.

The Gazette will publish articles I write on religious and spiritual
topics from time to time, in this space and elsewhere.

I want to thank The Gazette and the remarkable people I have
interviewed and otherwise encountered in preparing these columns for a
profoundly enriching experience these 19 years.

[email protected]

Society store manager Walter Brown (left) and John Milton of McGill
University look over a Bible, which has been translated into Hungarian,
at the store in Les Promenades de la Cathedrale.