Negotiating an Eco-conscious Translation of the Hebrew Bible: Jonah 3:1–10 as Test Case


The last two centuries have seen a growing focus on matters concerned with the natural environment. This is not only true for the natural sciences, but all fields of inquiry, including that of theology and religion. Building on the work of eco-theologians and scholars of eco-hermeneutics, this article aims to determine whether, and to what extent, translation has a role to play in promoting these efforts. Consequently, using Eco’s (2004) notion of “translation as negotiation” as blueprint, the author first delineates what an eco-conscious translation entails before showing its practical application in Jonah 3:1–10. In the end, such a rendering does not diverge too much from the Hebrew text or other more established English translations. However, the changes it introduces are ideologically significant. Moreover, the process may prove to be an important tool if the Judeo-Christian tradition still has a role to play in battling different environmental challenges.


Author Biography

Cornelis Johannes Redelinghuys, University of the Free State
Research Fellow, Department of Old and New Testament Studies


Allen, Leslie C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. NICOT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.

Anderson, Stephen R. Languages: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Baldwin, Joyce. “Jonah”, Pages 543–590 in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. Single vol. ed. Edited by Thomas E. McComiskey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Baker, Mona. In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 2018.

Barr, John. “Man and Nature — The Ecological Controversy and the Old Testament.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library 55/1 (1972): 9–32.

Bauckham, Richard. Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2010.

Bellos, David. Is that a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything. New York: Faber and Faber, 2011.

Brown, William P. “Biblical Accounts of Creation.” Pages 165–170 in The Old Testament and Ethics: A Book-by-Book Survey. Edited by Joel B. Green and Jacqueline E. Lapsley. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Bruckner, James. Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. NIVAC. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

Conradie, Ernst M. “Towards an Ecological Biblical Hermeneutics: A Review Essay on the Earth Bible Project.” Scriptura 85 (2004): 123-135.

Conradie, Ernst M. “An Ecological Hermeneutics.” Pages 219–227 in Fishing for Jonah (Anew): Various Approaches to Biblical Interpretation. Edited by Louis Jonker and Douglas Lawrie. Study Guides in Religion and Theology 7. Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2005.

Conradie, Ernst M. Christianity and Ecological Theology: Resources for Further Research. Study Guides in Religion and Theology 11. Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2006.

du Preez, Jannie. “Net Maar Diere? ‘n Tematiese Oorsig van die Plek van die Diereryk in die Skepping Volgens Geselekteerde Skrifgedeeltes.” NGTT 52/1 (2011): 83–93, DOI:

Earth Bible Team, The. “Guiding Ecojustice Principles.” Pages 38-53 in Readings from the Perspective of the Earth. Edited by Norman C. Habel. The Earth Bible 1. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Eco, Umberto. Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation. Paperback Edition. London: Phoenix, 2004.

Emerson, Ralph W. Nature. Great Ideas Series. London: Penguin Books, 2008.

Everett, Daniel. Language: The Cultural Tool. London: Profile Books, 2013.

Fee, Gordon D. and Mark L. Strauss. How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

Floor, Sebastian J. “Four Bible Translation Types and Some Criteria to Distinguish Them.” Journal of Translation 3/2 (2007): 1–22.

Frank, David B. “What Kind of Theory Do We Need for Translation?” Paper presented at the Bible Translation Conference: Translator and Audience. UK Campus of the European Training Programme, Horsleys Green, England, 4–6 February 2008. 14 Pages. Accessed 08 ‎June ‎2018.

Grossman, Edith. Why Translation Matters. Why X Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

Habel, Norman C. ed. Readings from the Perspective of the Earth. The Earth Bible 1. Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Habel, Norman C. “Introducing the Earth Bible.” Pages 25–37 in Readings From the Perspective of the Earth. Edited by Norman C. Habel. The Earth Bible 1. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Habel, Norman C. ed. The Earth Story in the Psalms and the Prophets. The Earth Bible 4. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Habel, Norman C. “Introducing Ecological Hermeneutics.” Pages 1-8 in Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics. Edited by Norman C. Habel and Peter Trudinger. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008.

Habel, Norman C. An Inconvenient Text: Is a Green Reading of the Bible Possible? Adelaide: ATF Press, 2009.

Habel, Norman C. “Ecological Criticism.” Pages 39-58 in New Meanings for Ancient Texts: Recent Approaches to Biblical Criticisms and their Applications. Edited by Steven L. McKenzie and John Kaltner. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.

Hill, Harriet, Ernst-August Gutt, Margaret Hill, Christoph Unger, and Rick Floyd. Bible Translation Basics: Communicating Scripture in a Relevant Way. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2011.

Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971.

Horrell, David G. “Familiar Friend or Alien Stranger? On Translating the Bible.” The Expository Times 116/12 (2005): 402–408, DOI:

House, Juliane. Translation: The Basics. London: Routledge, 2018.

Matthews, Victor H. The Hebrew Prophets and their Social World: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

Maudlin, Michael G. and Marlene Baer, eds. The Green Bible (NRSV). New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2008.

McConville, J. Gordon. Exploring the Old Testament (Vol. 4): A Guide to the Prophets. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2008.

Muir, John. Wilderness Essays. Revised Edition. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2015.

Naudé, J.A. “An Overview of Recent Developments in Translation Studies With Special Reference to the Implications for Bible Translation.” Acta Theologica Supplementum 2 (2002): 44–69.

Nogalski, James D. The Book of the Twelve: Hosea–Jonah. Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2011.

Okrent, Arika. In the Land of Invented Languages: Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2010.

Person, Raymond F., Jr. “The Role of Nonhuman Characters in Jonah,” Pages 85–90 in Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics. Edited by Norman C. Habel and Peter Trudinger. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008.

Pym, Anthony. “Natural and Directional Equivalence in Theories of Translation.” Target 19/2 (2007): 271–294. DOI:

Redditt, Paul L. Introduction to the Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

Redelinghuys, C.J. (Neels). “Creation Utterly Consumed? Towards an Eco-Critical Rereading of Zephaniah 1:2–6.” OTE 30/3 (2017): 805-820. DOI:

Reynolds, Matthew. Translation: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Simundson, Daniel J. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah. AOTC. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005.

Stefanink, Bernd and Ioana Bălăcescu. “The Hermeneutical Approach in Translation Studies.” Cadernos de Tradução 37/3 (2017): 21–52. DOI:

Stolze, Radegundis. “The Hermeneutic Approach in Translation.” Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 37 (2002): 279–291.

Stuart, Douglas. Hosea–Jonah. WBC 31. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987.

Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

Trible, Phyllis. “The Book of Jonah.” Pages 461–529 in Introduction to the Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, the Twelve Prophets. Edited by Leander E. Keck. NIB 7. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996.

van der Watt, Jan G. and Yolanda Kruger. “Some Considerations on Bible Translation as Complex Process.” Acta Theologica Supplementum 2 (2002): 118–139.

van der Watt, Jan. Waarom Soveel Bybelvertalings? Die Hoe, Wat en Waarom van Bybelvertalings. Vereeniging: Christelike Uitgewersmaatskappy, 2014.

van Heerden, Willie. “Ecological Interpretations of the Jonah Narrative — Have they Succeeded in Overcoming Anthropocentrism?” JSem 23/1 (2014): 114–134

Walton, John H. “Jonah.” Pages 451–490 in Daniel–Malachi. Edited by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. EBC 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Wendland, E.R. “Towards a ‘Literary’ Translation of the Scriptures: With Special Reference to a ‘Poetic’ Rendition.” Acta Theologica Supplementum 2 (2002): 164–201.

White Jr, Lynn. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” Science 155 (1967): 1203–1207.

Wilt, Tim. “A New Framework for Bible Translation.” Acta Theologica Supplementum 2 (2002): 140–163.