Religion (2XY)

This book, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions, by Bruce M. Metzger, briefly surveys the most important translations of the Bible, from antiquity to the recent modern era (roughly 2000). Its simultaneous brevity and scope (it covers some 59 translations in just under 200 pages) make it the "88 Lines About 44 Women"of Biblical scholarship.

Despite the relative economy of exposition, I learned quite a bit, and enjoyed this one a fair bit. Interestingly, among the first translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into Old Greek, the Septaguint, was later repudiated by Talmudic scholars, who declared that the day on which the Law was translated into Greek was as awful as the day the Golden Calf was cast. They appointed a fast day to remember the day of infamy.

Another important translation, called the Codex Argenteus, dating from the sixth century, was written on purple parchment in silver ink. Only about a half of the leaves remain, but: silver ink. It narrowly survived a watery demise during a shipwreck in the seventeenth century; the protective wrappings served their purpose.

Translation is tough, make no mistake: in the translating the King James Bible the translators utilized many English words for the same Hebrew or Greek words, without necessarily taking into account the denotations! An interest in "equity" led to katargeo, appearing twenty-seven times in the New Testament, is rendered as eighteen English words. The opposite problem also occurred: the translators made the word "trouble" represent a dozen different Greek words; "bring" took on the duty of translating thirty-nine Hebrew words; "destroy" served for forty-nine Hebrew words: weaksauce

Time prohibits much of a recounting here, but I also learned about the remarkable Julia E. Smith and her Bible: impressive lady!

Finally, there was a neat tabular accounting for changes between the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version. In order to reduce ambiguity, for example, Psalm 50:9 was changed to "I will not accept a bull from your house" from the delightful "I will accept no bull from your house." I know I think the latter would be better: the Psalmist as Shaft.

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