Friday, April 15, 2016

Knox on Translation: Sinners and Overseers

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?
-Trials of a Translator


Ed Rio said...

Very thought provoking post!

My first thought:
We can oftentimes make things very complicated, reading too much into things. I've even struggled with that when praying the Rosary. Then I think of the 5th Joyful Mystery..."...all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers." These were scholars....astounded/amazed by what a 12 year old boy was saying! The wisdom of God is so far beyond what we could spend a lifetime working on gaining that he stoops down and amazes us as a child.

It also made me think of how quickly and easily a translation can be criticized. I don't envy a translator's job one bit!

JDH said...

Well said, Ed! As to the last part of your comment, I have often felt that the vast majority of criticisms voiced against this or that translation amount to "That's not what the Bible is supposed to say!" with "the Bible" meaning "the translation I read or heard most when I gained my first real experience of the Bible." That's not to say it is impossible to legitimately prefer the style of a particular type of translation over another, but I'm not at all convinced that's really what's behind much of the criticism. Translation of Scripture is a perilous task, and that's what's so interesting about Knox's comments on that subject. He's so open about the difficulties and pitfalls.