There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.
But how much is lost? Here I want to explore five more myths about Bible translation.
Myth 1: The Bible has been translated so many times we can’t possibly get back to the original.
Myth 2: Words in red indicate the exact words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.
Myth 3: Heretics have severely corrupted the text.
Myth 4: Orthodox scribes have severely corrupted the text.
Myth 5: The deity of Christ was invented by emperor Constantine.