Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What’s in a Translation?

Translations of Holy and Sacred texts are not to be taken lightly especially if we are to gather some level of truth from our reading. Too often I come across individuals who not only discard the issue as being unimportant, they pretend our Orthodox position is triumphal and arrogant. I could not disagree more with this position. (Obviously I am an Orthodox Christian Priest)

Today I was reviewing a new application for my iPhone (also available online) and I began to perform some of my routine translation tests.

2 Thessalonians 2.15 «Ἀρα ουν, αδελφοί, στήκετε και κρατείτε τας παραδόσεις ας εδιδάχθητε είτε διά λόγου είτε δι επιστολής ιμών.» (Greek New Testament – Published as Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament and confirmed quickly by myself using two liturgical resources)

2 Thessalonians 2.15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV – Published as Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson)

2 Thessalonians 2.15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV – as listed in my new eBible application)

So far…so good!

Then I went to Genesis. I recently remember a comment by Saint Basil regarding the Creation story. Saint Basil made a point of commenting on Genesis 1.5 by emphasizing the use of “one day” rather than first day. Here is how THAT test went..

Genesis 1.5 «Και εκάλεσεν ο Θεός το φως εμέραν και το σκότος εκάλεσε νύκτα, και εγένετο εσπέρα και εγένετο πρωί μία.» (Greek Old Testament – Published by Αδελφότης Θεολόγων «Ο ΣΩΤΗΡ» in Athens, Greece 1984)

Genesis 1.5 “God called the light Day; the darkness He called Night; and there was evening and morning, one day.” (SAAS – St Athanasios Academy Septuagint – Published as Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson USING NKJV as basis with modification to align with Septuagint)

Genesis 1.5 “So God called the light Day, and the darkness He called night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (NKJV – as listed in my new eBible application)

WAIT JUST A MINUTE! Is it “one day” or “first day”?
Saint Basil seemed to think it was important. He says: "Why did Moses say 'one' and not 'first?' For someone who was about to speak of the 'second' and 'third' and 'fourth' day, would it not have been more consistent to call the day that preceded the others the 'first' day? Nevertheless, he called it 'one'...He named the summation of time not 'first,' but 'one,' so that by its name it may make clear its relation to the unending age...the great and pre-eminent day of the Lord...the day without evening and without succession, which the Psalmist has also named the 'eighth day' because it is outside of our seven-day cycle of time. Thus, if you say a day or an aeon, you express the same meaning". (Hex., Hom. II, 8)

In fact the eBible application has the following footnote:  “Lit. And evening was, and morning was, a day, one.” This supports both the Greek Old Testament and the Orthodox Study Bible which is based upon the NKJV. I should note that the Orthodox Study Bible and the eBible application are both from Thomas Nelson Publishers and yet they present the same text with different translations.

Translations are important. Sometimes I find Bibles that are so loose with translations I wonder what agenda was behind their publication. If we are seeking the Truth that IS God and we are using His sacred texts, shouldn’t we be all reading the same thing? And yet….we do not.

In the Orthodox Church, translation of Holy and Sacred Scripture is not to be taken lightly most especially because Doctrine is defined using the words of the Holy Scriptures. If we are loose with the translation, then we might become loose with the Doctrine.

The moral here?????? Beware of your translation! It ALWAYS matters! If you are considering the purchase of a new Bible or acquiring a new eBible application like I did today, consider who is producing the text and who is translating the text. In the end, it’s much safer to stick with a text that has been reviewed by the Church for accuracy.

And remember….your salvation depends upon it!

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