Thursday, 8 May 2008

Using translation to get your message across

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel, a joint declaration for a just peace was launched in the Independent by Christian leaders. It has a very impressive list of signatories.
It states:
"We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha'atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people’s ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust. Additionally, it is an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural, economic and scientific achievements of Israeli society, in all its vitality and diversity. We also recognise that this same day, millions of Palestinians living inside Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the worldwide diaspora, will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning, while more than 400 villages were destroyed (al-Nakba). For them, this day is not just about the remembrance of a past catastrophic dispossession, dispersal, and loss; it is also a reminder that their struggle for self-determination and restitution is ongoing. To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14). We acknowledge with sorrow that for the last 60 years, while extending empathy and support to the Israeli narrative of independence and struggle, many of us in the church worldwide have denied the same solidarity to the Palestinians, deaf to their cries of pain and distress."

You can read the ENI story on the declaration here.

One aspect of the statement gave me some pause for linguistic thought about how important it is to have many different translations of the Bible. Although the quote from Psalm 34.14 is from the NRSV translation of the Bible, the quote from Isaiah 32.17 used by the authors of the statement comes from the Contemporary English Version.
Jean-Claude Verecchia, who led the team which did one of the most recent French translations of the Bible, has defended the need for new translations, stating that having new translations is the best guard against fundamentalism.
Each translation brings out different aspects of ancient texts. Perhaps one of the things that having many different translations shows us, is that we use the text to say what we want to, yet the text often has even more to say. Someone else will use a translation of the text to say something different. There can be fundamentalist translations just as there can be fundamentalist users of translations. There will always be more meaning to break forth from a diversity of translations and interpretations, but sometimes we find simplistic truths easier to cope with.

Anyway, as we meditate today on those things that make for peace, here are some versions of Isaiah 32.16-18. And for more discussion of biblical translation do visit the Better Bibles Blog.

Honesty and justice will prosper there, and justice will produce lasting peace and security. You, the LORD's people, will live in peace, calm and secure, Every mountain and hill may disappear. But I will always be kind and merciful to you; I won't break my agreement to give your nation peace. (Contemporary English Version)

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places. (New Revised Standard Version)

Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. (New International Version)


Simon Barrow said...

Interesting point... thanks.

Lise said...

Yes, interesting. But I think you should need further tools to translate such texts. The dictionary will help you out if you have any problems by translating texts into French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Turkish and Portuguese... I hope you will glad to use it !