Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why the original languages are important

“A basic familiarity with both Hebrew and Greek seems to be necessary if the results of the component analysis [of ritual texts] are to be meaningful. Too often, translation techniques or strategies of modern translations gloss over distinct terminology, especially when one is looking at the technical language of ritual texts found in the Hebrew Bible.”—Bridging the Gap, page 133

<idle musing>
Very true! There are many things that you need to check the original to fully understand. And, in this case especially, you can't understand it without recourse to the original.
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Jonadab said...

The original languages are absolutely essential for certain purposes. One such purpose, which illustrates the point nicely IMO, is the word study.

It is, unfortunately, a fairly common practice to do a word-study from an English translation, looking up every time a given English word occurs in a certain translation (or, even, any in any of several translations). I consider this to be a misguided and largely pointless exercise.

In the first place you very likely aren't getting the full range of the meaning of the original word, because the translators may have consistently chosen a different word for some of the word's range of meaning (e.g., you may be looking for "angel", but the same word may be more often translated as "messenger").

On the other hand, you may be getting several different words conflated, thereby adding needless confusion and ambiguity to your study.

These two issues, between them, pretty much defeat the entire purpose of doing a word study.

Hence, you need to do it in the original language.