When I agreed to produce a new translation of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library, my first thought was: How hard can it be? These were texts that I had read and studied from the time I was in my PhD program in the early 1980s. I translated them regularly with my graduate students. I taught seminars on them. It can’t be that tough, can it?
Oh boy was I wrong. If you’re not accustomed to doing a translation for publication, the first time comes as a shock. At least it did for me. Publishing a translation is very different indeed from simply reading the Greek (or Latin, or whatever) to yourself, making sense of it in your head; and it is also very different from sitting around a seminar table with a group of students working out plausible ways to construe a text. For one thing, when you’re preparing a translation for publication, you have to make a hard and fast decision about how you want to render a passage, a sentence, a clause, a phrase, a word. You can’t do what we all do with our students – suggest a variety of options that, taken together, get to the meaning of the passage in the original language. No, you have to type ONE translation. And there are usually lots and lots of options (otherwise, all the translations would be the same). And you have to choose. I think at first it was that business of having to choose that through me for a loop. It took me a while to get over it.
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