Friday, March 16, 2018

The problems with translating from a translation of a translation

Over the course of the literary and theological history of the Old Testament, the term ,תורה [tôrâ] which originally stood for the teaching or instruction given by a priest, a prophet, or a parent, increasingly took on the meaning of “law” (νόμος [nomos]), particularly the “law of Yahweh,” which, according to the narrative of the Pentateuch, was mediated and written down by Moses (cf. Deut 31:24), before ultimately indicating the books of Genesis to Deuteronomy as a whole—that is, the Torah/ὁ νόμος (Greek Prologue to Ben Sira, 4 Macc 18:10). Within the context of the Torah piety that developed during the Persian and Hellenistic periods, obedience to the Torah is regarded as a correlate to the “covenant” and is described as justice. Mediated by its translation in the Septuagint (generally with νόμος) and in the Vulgate (generally with lex), Christian translations of the Bible up to the present tend to translate the term תורה as “law,” which reflects its later use in the Old Testament in a one-sided manner. This also had significant consequences for the history of doctrine and theology and occasionally led to the devaluing of the Old Testament and to Christian anti-Jewish polemics.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, pages 34–35

<idle musing>
Think Augustine, who knew no Hebrew and a smattering of Greek. He was dependent on the Old Latin translations—which frequently were less accurate than Jerome's Vulgate, which was in the process of being completed while Augustine was alive. Jerome knew Hebrew well and not infrequently chided Augustine about his lack of knowledge of Greek and Hebrew (Jerome could be nasty…).
</idle musing>


Jim said...

It made the Carnival posting 1 April. You're welcome. Oh, and I never noticed Jerome being nasty...

jps said...

Ok, how about snarky then? : )