Friday, March 11, 2016
Weekly Knox: New Testament Issues
We translate "Hail, thou that are full of grace," and in the next chapter "Jesus grew in favor with God and man"; but the word grace is the same as the word favor in the original. We translate "My faithful witness, Antipas," but ought we, perhaps, to translate "My faithful martyr"? By the time the Apocalypse was written, it may be that the term had already an official connotation.
Sin was the word used by the Jews to mean any breach of the law, culpable or not; and they were apt to describe their Gentile neighbors as "sinners," meaning no more than that they were Gentiles. "The Son of Man shall be handed over to sinners" means, almost certainly, "The Son of Man shall be handed over to Gentile folk, the Romans." When our Lord ate "with publicans and sinners," were they people of notoriously evil life? Or were they merely Gentiles? "Tend the church of God, in which the holy Spirit has made you bishops" - should it be "bishops"? Or should it be just "overseers"? Constantly this comes up: Am I making the language of the New Testament too vague? Or am I making it too stereotyped? Am I reading too much into it, or too little?
All this the translator must take into account if he is going to do justice to an individual phrase or sentence. But his duty does not end there; he must follow the thought of his original, and make it intelligible to the reader, bringing out the emphatic word or words in each sentence, indicating its logical connection with what goes before and after. He must make the whole paragraph hang together and convey a message. That duty was apt to be overlooked by the older translators, if only for this reason - that the Bible was printed in verses; and, by a trick of our natures, if a page of print is broken up for the eye, we do not expect it to convey any coherent impression to the mind. Any verse in the Bible was a "text," you preached from it, you quoted it in theological arguments; you did not look to see what the setting of it was, or how it fitted in. We are so used to this piece--meal way of approaching the Bible that hundreds of priests, well enough grounded in Latin, read the epistle for Christmas Eve without noticing that there is no main verb in it. -Trials of a Translator