On Englishing the Bible


On Englishing the Bible



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’... View Quote

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 o... View Quote

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.

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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 ... View Quote

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 n... View Quote

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

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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, ... View Quote

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 f... View Quote