On Thu, 2 Dec 2004 08:17:39 +0000, Chris Bates
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I think religeous texts are almost always amongst the most difficult
>things to translate. I remember hearing once about a missionary who
>wanted to translate the bible into the local language, but this was
>somewhere where they didn't have donkeys, horses or anything similar.
>How do you translate the story of the birth of Jesus without mentioning
>a donkey!?! You could translate it as "big four legged beast that
>carries things" I suppose, but if you don't mention that these were
>common place then readers not familiar with donkeys or horses etc might
>assume that this beast is a miracle rather than something you see every
>day. So you have to include way more than just one word just to get
>across the basic idea of Mary riding on a donkey. The big problem is
>that you have to be far truer to the original than normal.

Yes.  Then there are all the stories of different ways things have been
translated, that you hear if you move in missionary circles, as I do.  Like
the phrase "Lamb of God" to describe Jesus becomes "Seal [the animal] of
God" in Inuit.  Or the parable of the wise and foolish builders (begins Mt.
ch7 v24) in the Auca language of S. America, where, due to the way they
build their houses (with poles driven deep into the ground to support the
structure), they reversed the polarity of the two builders, so the wise man
built his house on the sand (where the poles could go deep and the house
would be secure), and the foolish man built his house on the rock.  It's

>I sometimes
>think that the Muslims and Jews were wise to just have their bibles
>written in one language and not do translations at all.

I sometimes agree.  Translations of the Bible can be fraught with
difficulty.  How do you translate something like that for a culture that
doesn't have a word for "love" (Japanese, if the linguistic myth is to be
believed), or one of the other "foundational" concepts that we, with our
Western versions of Christianity, think are so essential?
Looking at some of the different ways things are expressed around the world
can be really eye-opening :)

> One thing I do often wonder is, given the fact that the bible has
>already been translated into english, why don't they retranslate it into
>modern english so everyone can easily understand it? At the moment it
>can be quite a dense and difficult text for the average person to
>follow. I guess actually I've answered my own question: no priesthood
>wants to make itself partly redundant, so the bible will stay difficult
>to follow so that priests are still needed to interpret it properly. I'm
>sorry for being so cynical. But anyway....

How many modern translations would you like?  In the UK at least, the NIV
(New International Version) is pretty much the standard bible in almost any
church you go into; we moved away from the old King James Bible years ago.
Try the Good News Bible, or the Living Bible (both paraphrases rather than
direct translations), or the Contemporary English Version, or the New
Century Translation, or...  There are literally _dozens_ of them!