Over at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne has some interesting things to say about Bible translation. Drawing from a Facebook post by author Stant Litore, Anne discusses the complications of taking words from one language and translating them into an entirely different language. As I’m currently in the process of parsing and translating the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel, her words are a good reminder that even the lexicons we use were written by people seeking to translate from one language to another. She writes,
Learning Greek, for those who want to get beyond the English, is good, but not a perfect solution. I studied Greek for many years and became fairly proficient in translating Koine Greek (the dialect the New Testament is written in). Still, I was reliant on dictionaries that were written by someone, and that did not involve a lot of deep reflection on and understanding of word meanings (instead, we simply memorized a list of possible translations of each word).
She’s right. A lot of learning Greek involves memorization, especially vocabulary. But no one is exempt from bias and all translation involves interpretation. That’s why it’s good to get multiple perspectives on word meanings and to interogate translations on their word choices.
She closes out the post with this:
All of this is really only a problem for those who insist on an inerrant, infallible Bible that is straightforward and easily understood by the average layperson when taken at face value. Language and translation—especially when they involve documents written down thousands of years ago and copied over centuries—is rarely simple and straightforward.
Check out the rest of the post here.
Featured image: By John Cassell – Internet Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49367819