How to translate without losing the message

A post on the Webby Blog called Not Confined caught my eye. This is what it said:

“Last night I was at a Bible study, where we were looking at the book of Malachi. At one point in our discussion we were looking at different English versions of a particular verse to try to get a fuller idea of the meaning. Then Katie spoke. “Well, in the Bulgarian version it says…” It was a wonderful reminder to me that God’s message in the Bible is not tied down to any particular language. It was intended to be translated to all people. You don’t need to learn English to know God! What an awesome thing.”

This was my comment: “Every communication is a work of translation. When someone is telling me what they think or feel, I have to get inside the other person’s head to know how he sees the world if I want to understand him. And if I want to convey a message I have to “translate” it into a “language” that the other person will understand. The Bible, as God’s communication to all of mankind necessarily has to be translated into every language, so it will be understood. In a sense every human being on earth speaks a different language! Thus a special shade of meaning comes through each individual human being who engages in its study.”

This was the comment to my comment: “The key is that in translating the message that the original meaning not be lost. So while the message is for every language, it is not a changing message depending on the language and culture. It is the same message, with the same meaning, translated to every language.
This is why I believe we need people studying the original languages (e.g. Greek and Hebrew) which God communicated his words through originally. This helps ensure that in the process of translation, the original meaning is not corrupted or lost.”

What do you have to add to this discussion?

Batya Yaniger

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2 Responses to How to translate without losing the message

  1. Mindy Barad says:

    In the 2nd edition of Robert Jastrow’s “G-d and the Astronomers”, he adds comments in the back from Jewish and Catholic theologians. So, one Catholic guy starts his essay by saying, “When G-d said, ‘Fiat Lux’…”
    well, He did not say Fiat anything…that’s the search for authenticity!
    BTW the Bugenthal book is out of print, and I couldn’t find any synopses on the net either

  2. logogroup says:

    So I guess you’re agreeing with the blogger who said that it has to be learned in the original but you’re going further by saying that every translation is necessarily a corruption. It won’t be the same message translated. If it’s translated, it won’t be the same message, period.

    When I first commented on this person’s blog I was thinking about how this discussion on Bible translations might extend to communication between people. Can we never understand another person because we need to “translate” into “language” that’s familiar to us? That shows the humility that’s required. – No, we can never FULLY understand another person. But rather than try to change their expressions into forms more familiar to us, we’ll be more on target by attempting to learn how THEY view the world.

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