Quotes by Ronald Knox

Ronald Knox

The first sentence of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans has ninety-one Latin words in it. The second sentence in his epistle to the Ephesians has a hundred and eighty-two. I admit that these figures are exceptional, but it is the clear fact about St. Paul that he thought in paragraphs. St. John, on the other hand, has an insatiable passion for full stops. And nothing, I fancy, is so subtly...


The translator, let me suggest in passing, must never be frightened of the word ‘paraphrase’; it is a bogey of the half-educated. As I have already tried to point out, it is almost impossible to translate a sentence without paraphrasing.


We should say to ourselves, not “How shall I make this foreigner talk English?” but “What would an Englishman had said to express the same?” That is translation. That is the very essence of the art: the resurrection of an alien thing in a native body; not the dressing of it up in native clothes but the giving to it of native flesh and blood


Words are not coins, dead things whose value can be mathematically computed. You cannot quote an exact English equivalent for a French word, as you might quote an exact English equivalent for a French coin. Words are living things, full of shades of meaning, full of associations; and what is more, they are apt to change their significance from one generation to the next. The translator who...


What matters is that the Bible should speak to Englishmen not only in English words, but in English idiom. Any translation is a good one in proportion as you can forget, while reading it, that it is a translation at all. Do not be deceived when your friends tell you that they like Bible-English. Of course they do, reading or quoting a few sentences; there is a slow-moving thoroughness...


The New Testament writings come down to us from a time when the vocabulary of the Christian faith was in the making. Words like grace, faith, salvation and so on, which have for us, an exact theological meaning, were being used with less precision; they were not yet technical terms. Consequently, the translator is always having to ask himself, ‘Should this word in this particular passage be...


Constantly, then, you have to be on the look-out for phrases which, because you have so often met them in the Bible, read like English, and yet are not English. Many of them, beginning life as Bible English, have even crept into the language; ‘to give a person the right hand of fellowship’, for example, or ‘to sleep with one’s fathers’, or ‘the son of perdition’; if the translator is not...


You cannot be a translator without being, to some extent, an interpreter


Take the book of Proverbs, for example; why does it all read so flat? Because your Hebrew author always writes at full length, whereas the English tradition is to reduce the aphorism to a minimum of words. ‘As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him’—that is not English; the Englishman says, ‘Faithful messenger, harvest snow’, and leaves it at...


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