BL1: On religion in translation


a peek inside “Between Text and Culture”

In exciting anticipation of the next voluminous part of “Between Text and Culture Part 2,” soon to be published, we peek back inside the first volume, built around texts from different cultures across time and geographical space.

Saint Jerome Writing,by Caravaggio

St. Jerome, a prolific writer, Doctor of the Church in recognition for his extensive studies, and author of the Vulgate, once wrote:

For it is difficult, when following the text of another language, not to overstep the mark in places, and hard to keep in translation the grace of something well said in the original. […] If I translate word for word, it sounds absurd; if from necessity, I change something in the word-order or in the language, I am seen to abdicate the responsibility of a translator. (Preface to Chronicles by Eusebius, trans. by L. G. Kelly)

Evagrius of Antioch, St. Jerome’s mentor and patron in Syria, a Christian writer and translator himself, was more than familiar with the weight of their work:

I preferred to see the Greek suffer this loss, rather than have those who manage to read translations from the Greek to suffer loss of divine favour. (Epilogue to the Life of St. Anthony, trans. by L. G. Kelly)

And St. Jerome, a rebel in his time, would thus eagerly announce:

Not only do I admit, but I proclaim at the top of my voice, that in translating from Greek, except for Sacred Scripture, where even the order of the words is of God’s doing, I have not translated word by word, but sense for sense. (…) There is nothing extraordinary about this procedure in secular or ecclesiastical writers, when the translators of the Septuagint, the evangelists and the apostles, did the same thing in the sacred books. (Letter 57 to Pammachius, trans. by L. G. Kelly)

Nearly two millennia later, Jerome is the patron saint of translators across cultures and denominations, and translation scholars continue the debate over the loss and gain of divine favor.
The authors of the articles on Biblical translation in Vol. 1 of the Beyond Language series go far and beyond to follow in those early scholars’ footsteps.

On Translator’s Presence

Elżbieta Tabakowska traces the translators’ footprints in this all-senses inspiring discussion of their presence in sacred texts. Her motto, after Giuliana Schiavi, says it all: There is always a Teller in the Tale.

Christ with Martha and Maria, by Siemiradzki

The text concentrates on the presence of the translator who plays a multitude of roles in the life of translatology, e.g “transparent glass” or “efficient interface,” depending on perspective. The translator, currently seen as an object of analysis by theorists of translation, is treated as a person entitled to make decisions, conscious decisions, and who becomes a source whose translation may be interpreted. Due to the inevitability of the translator’s presence in the translated text, it is worth looking at the source text through the translator’s eyes and analyzing his or her decisions. The theoretical background of this article is Langacker’s model pertaining to the choice of linguistic means that convey the language-user’s intentions best; Lakoff’s theory of metaphors; and George Lüdi’s theory of marks left by the translator in the translated text. The analyzed texts have been taken from the different translations of the Bible such as: the Jakub Wujek Bible, New International Version, and the Millennium Bible. The analysis proves that the translator as a subject is a source of research whose direction has changed in the recent years.

Prof. em. Elżbieta Tabakowska, a world-renowned cognitivist and translation studies theorist, is also a passionate translator and respected mentor to scores of well-established scholars in the field.

Between Metaphrase and Paraphrase: The Influence of Sociolinguistic Factors on the Translator’s Techniques

Magdalena Charzyńska-Wójcik takes us for a journey back in time, unfolding the secrets of English and Polish medieval psalters and the tricks of trade behind their meticulous illuminated creation.

St. Florian Psalter

The text analyzes two Psalter translations, translation by Richard Rolle into English, and by Walanty Wróbel into Polish, in order to determine factors which may have influenced the translator’s choice of techniques. Subsequent sections describe the sociolinguistic context of the times when the translations originated, the target language, as well as translation methods used to obtain the target text. Medieval attitudes towards translated texts seem to have had almost no influence on the choice of a translation technique; thus, the author draws an elicit assumption that the translation style had no correlation with the cultural context, understood as a special attitude towards religious texts. Surprisingly, the addressee had an influence on the final shape of translation, but they did not influence specific translation techniques used to render the text.

Prof. Magdalena Charzyńska-Wójcik, of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, specializes in historical translations of the Psalter from Latin into Polish and Medieval English, with focus on aspects related to linguistics, translation studies, palaeography, and codicology.

Censorship in the Bible

Was the Bible censored? Marcin Majewski, Artur Sporniak, Teresa Szostek and Michał Czajkowski form a scholarly roundtable, discussing intricacies of Biblical proportions.

Gutenberg Bible

The text of an interview and its analysis, regarding Bible translation and related censorship. The author comments on the statements of one of the interlocutors, adding her own insights and analyses. Bible translators make certain parts of the text more approachable, as was the case with the refrain to Song of Songs, which, in most translations, mentions “embracing” while the protestant Bible contains the correct translation, i.e. “caressing.” Similarly, translators correct the Bible, as they have a different notion of what a sacral text should be like, for example replacing offensive words with neutral phrases. Translators often censor the Bible, trying to make the text less blunt. However, sometimes discrepancies are a result of not understanding the original text. Not always are these differences a consequence of the translator’s work, though. It is clearly visible e.g. in the case of “pneuma,” a word which can be translated into ghost or soul, spelled with a small letter, or the Holy Ghost. The author does not support the so-called “inclusive” translation. The inspired text should not be changed. Such changes can be replaced with explanations or comments. One may glean the original meaning of the Holy Scripture through comparison of one of the Polish translations with translations into other foreign languages or other translations into Polish.

Prof. Marcin Majewski, of John Paul II Papal University in Kraków, teaches on Hebrew and Biblical studies. Artur Sporniak, a journalist at Tygodnik Powszechny, publishes on church, sex, morality and the interplay of faith and science. Prof. em. Teresa Szostek, University of Wrocław, is a classical philologist (Medievist and neo-Latinist), specializing in Latin literature and its paleography. Prof. em. Michał Czajkowski, a presbyter at Wrocław archdiocese, specializes in New Testament studies.

All this, and more, in Vol. 1 of the BL series, “Między tekstem a kulturą.”
The full Book of Abstracts is free to download here from our site.

Quotations after: Daniel Weissbort, Astradur Eysteinsson (2006) Translation: Theory and Practice. A Historical Reader. Oxford: OUP.