Sen's daily

March 13, 2015

Revised translation of Some Answered Questions published

Bahai Distribution Service (USA), March 13, 2015.

The long-awaited revised English translation of Abdu’l-Baha’s Some Answered Questions is now available in hardback. The translation has been supervised and authorised for publication by the Bahai World Centre. The previous translation from Persian (which itself went through several revisions) was made by Hippolyte Dreyfus into French, and then by Dreyfus and Laura Barney into English. The French translation was also the basis for the first German translation.

The book is a compilation of explanations given by Abdu’l-Baha in response to questions posed by Laura Clifford Barney during her visits to Palestine in 1904-1906. The answers were given in Persian, and recorded, and Abdu’l-Baha himself corrected the Persian texts. The original has been preserved at the Bahai World Centre.

Dreyfus learned Persian, and later Arabic, in order to read the Bahai Writings and to serve the Bahai community. He became one of the best translators of Bahai scriptures to European languages. However Some Answered Questions, published in 1908, was among his first translations, and while it is written in Persian it really requires a knowledge of Arabic and of Islamic natural philosophy and theology. Moreover his own knowledge of the Bahai teachings was at that time inadequate: the explanatory footnotes in his first edition were in some cases quite wrong (and were corrected in later editions).

Over the years it became evident that the English translation was in need of a thorough revision to more adequately reflect the meaning and style of the original, convey the subtleties of Abdu’l-Baha’s explanations, and render the philosophical terms used in the text consistently. The present volume is the fruit of efforts to realize those aims.

The publication of Some Answered Questions 2nd edition marks the beginning of an acceleration in the pace of the programme for the translation and publication of the Holy Writings at the Bahai World Centre. Work is already well advanced on a volume of extracts pertaining to Baha’i Holy Days as well as a retranslation of Baha’u’llah’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys.

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  1. This will be very interesting to read. Look forward to it.

    Shows one should not put too much importance on a single word in a translated document!

    Comment by Tony — March 13, 2015 @ 22:44 | Reply

  2. Nice work Sen. At the particular Baha’i suburban center in Adelaide (Australia) where I volunteer the newest SAQ is not yet in stock in our book shop. My understanding is that the previous edition in English, while useful and very good, was not considered authoritative; only the Farsi carried authoritativeness. Is my understanding correct? What is the standing vis-a-vis authoritativeness as to the 2015 edition in English? Baha’i love. Paul

    Comment by Paul Desailly — April 28, 2015 @ 04:37 | Reply

    • The difference is that the new translation is an authorized translation. The underlying Persian text is authoritative, and part of the canon of Bahai scripture, because Abdu’l-Baha checked and corrected it, and intended it for publication. The earlier editions of Some Answered Questions would fall under the heading of “early translations.” This is similar to Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, which is early translations of authentic scriptural texts, some of which have now been given an authorised translation, in Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha. The authorized translation in both cases is a step in the process of improving the quality of our translations — a process that does not end with the first authorised translation.

      Comment by Sen — April 28, 2015 @ 13:45 | Reply

  3. That’s good to know Sen.
    Given that the new English edition of SAQ is authorized but not authoritative I intend to persevere with my study of Farsi.
    (I visited Tehran this time last year to attend Iran’s first national conference of Esperanto and to improve my Farsi; I believe though that most of Baha’u’llah’s Writings exist in Arabic.) Re your final sentence on April 28th may I ask if you or your readers have an inkling as to when an authoritative edition will appear in English?

    Another curly question for me surrounds the status of “Baha’u’llah and the New Era” (BNE) which of course appeared first in English before being translated into many languages. In regard to the English original (I don’t know about the other languages) only a few early chapters or so (with the help of His secretaries) were approved by the Master, and are ergo considered authoritative, if I recall. And yet the Guardian in “God Passes By” described the entirety of BNE in its English original as “splendid, AUTHORITATIVE and comprehensive”. I’m wondering too as to the status of BNE in Farsi???

    Baha’i love. Paul.

    Comment by Paul Desailly — May 1, 2015 @ 04:13 | Reply

    • I do not expect any “authoritative” translations of any text Paul. Translations remain translations, it is only the source text that is authoritative. Even the Guardian’s translations are not the last word: he made changes in successive editions himself, he foresaw later improvements by other translators, and the authorized translations we use now are not necessarily word for word the same as his last translation. It’s an ongoing process that can have no end.

      The first edition of BNE was the best text available at the time, for the purpose of presenting the Bahai Faith to the public. I think this is what Shoghi Effendi meant by “authoritative.” It has been changed very much since then, and some of the changes are improvements. One cannot say that there is one edition that is the “true measure.” It is like Old Testament scholarship: looking for the “right” text is a wrong question, there is only the history of the text.

      Comment by Sen — May 1, 2015 @ 04:57 | Reply

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