Problems with translation

Yesterday @holinesseeker drew my attention back to the old adage of being the only Bible some people ever read.  In this Biblefresh year, that really got me thinking – what kind of Bible would I be?

  • Would I be a red letter Bible – meaning that I SHOUT every time I say something particularly religious?
  • Would I be a heavily paraphrased Bible – appearing to be over simplified for the complex  world in which I am read?
  • Would I be one of those Bibles written in cutting edge language…of the 1970’s?
  • Would I be a Bible in a ‘trendy’ cover , such as denim or shiny metal – but still with the same contents inside?
  • Would I be a dog-eared Bible – not much to look at but with an air of comfortable familiarity?

Some years ago I wrote a dissertation on ‘The preacher as translator in the Twenty First Century’ With a background in modern languages and translation methodology I expected to conclude that a translator is exactly what a preacher should be. In fact, I only partly concluded that was the case. We translate the word of God into our own lives and those of our congregations through both hermeneutics and incarnation.No matter how hard we try, though, it will always be a word from another place – foreign and troubling.

Catalan artist Antoni Muntadas has devoted his life’s work to engaging playfully with concepts of meaning, translation and understanding.  Muntadas, who believes that every act of communication, be it visual or verbal, involves translation, comments enigmatically that ‘to live is to translate’. Below is one of his works entitled ‘warnings’. It seems like an appropriate thought as we consider translating the Bible into flesh and blood.