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LINGUIST List 21.2140

Fri May 07 2010

Disc: Jerome's Self-Contradiction on Bible Translation

Editor for this issue: Evelyn Richter <evelynlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Hanjin Yan, Jerome's Self-Contradiction on Bible Translation

Message 1: Jerome's Self-Contradiction on Bible Translation
Date: 06-May-2010
From: Hanjin Yan <yanhanjinyahoo.cn>
Subject: Jerome's Self-Contradiction on Bible Translation
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We are students of translation at Shandong University in Jinan, PR China. A
few days ago we submitted a discussion titled 'St Jerome Contradicts
Himself on Bible Translation'. Since then we have received many kind and
valuable responses from people around the world. We would like to express
our gratitude to all of them and the LINGUIST List.

Based on the responses we received, we would like to expand our question a
little bit by adding the following information:

The letter to Pammachius is to a great extent a defense of Jerome's own
translation. He first openly advocates sense-for-sense translation to
justify himself, but makes Bible translation an exception (in Bible
translation, he said, he adopts word-for-word translation). However, in the
later part of the same letter, he contradicts himself by calling for his
critics' attention to the 'substance' rather than the 'literal words'.

We have a surmise that the contradiction is, in fact, an unintentionally
revelation of Jerome's true stance in the strategy of Bible translation. We
infer that Jerome adopts a sense-for-sense strategy for Bible translation
(in comparison with his predecessors and contemporaries), but to avoid
being in conflict with the churches (which, as Jeremy Munday indicated,
might charge him of heresy for altering the sense of Bible), he makes a
cautious yet contradictory statement.

Since we do not know Greek, we do not know whether Jerome's translation
style of the Bible is consistent with his translation of other types of
texts, which are sense-for-sense translation in his own definition. We are
seeking for comments on our deduced views.

The following quotes from St Jerome's letter to Pammachius, #57(395) may
make our point more explicit:

"Now I (Jerome) not only admit but freely announce that in translating from
the Greek - except of course in the case of Holy Scripture, where even the
syntax contains a mystery - I render, not word for word, but sense for
sense." This is a frequently quoted statement in the study of western
translation history, e.g. Jeremy Munday's Introducing Translation Studies.

"... so that my (Jerome's) critics may ... realize that in dealing with the
Bible one must consider the substance and not the literal words." This
statement in the later part of the same text seems to be neglected by most
scholars, and we discovered it in our reading of Paul Carroll's translation
of the letter. The same sentence translated by Kathleen Davis goes "so my
(Jerome's) detractors may themselves inquire and understand that in
Scripture one must consider not the words, but the sense."

The translated text can be found in Western Translation Theory: from
Herodotus to Nietzsche, p. 22-31, edited by Douglas Robinson, or The
Translation Studies Reader, 2nd Edition, p. 21-30, edited by Lawrence Venuti.

Thank you.

To read previous threads in this discussion, please visit:

Linguistic Field(s): Translation

Subject Language(s): Greek, Ancient (grc)
                            Hebrew, Ancient (hbo)
                            Latin (lat)

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