Why biblical literature resists translation

John Hobbins at Ancient Hebrew Poetry writes:

My friend Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles encouraged me not long ago to describe the theoretical foundations that undergird my take on Bible translation, since I often find myself at loggerheads with the Better Bibles board of directors – to a man well-trained in linguistics, to a man enamored with translations committed to clarity and naturalness of expression, whereas I prefer translations committed above all to reproducing the wording and register of the original, translating metaphors with metaphors, and sounding strange wherever the thought and language of the source text is strange relative to our cultural matrix.

The first linguistic concept I would like to throw into the discussion – like a Molotov cocktail – is the distinction between lingua franca and vernacular. A lingua franca is an inter-language used as a medium of communication by people whose mother tongues are different. For a short-and-sweet introduction with examples, go here. A vernacular is the mother tongue of defined population groups; a mother tongue is often associated with a father land. A lingua franca is the linguistic coin of an empire, a commercial slash cultural network. A vernacular tends to be the linguistic coin of an (incurvatus in se) ethnos.

Keep reading!

This excellent essay that reflects why I like my Bible and liturgy to require a little bit of effort, and not be so easy to read that we miss what the writer meant and how he said it.

Likewise this essay is not too easy to read; you’ll want to follow his hyperlinks, and Google or Wiki the scholars he names.


Author: Father Silouan Thompson

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *