Translators of the Bible have a terrifically complicated and difficult (and usually thankless) task. I always knew that, of course, with my head – ever since taking Greek back in college. But I did not relate to the problems emotionally until I started publishing translations of my own. It’s HARD. My first translation project was a two-volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (published by Harvard University Press). It was at that point that I realized that what translators do is not at all what the rest of us do who can teach the ancient languages and read Greek and assign Greek translation exercises to classes of graduate students. When you are with a class of students, you can sit around the table, discuss the various options about how a text can be translated, talk about the pro’s and con’s of various English renditions, make a few suggestions for how to provide nuance to a rendering, explicate the fuller meaning of the Greek by paraphrasing a phrase or a clause in several English sentences to capture the fuller meaning, and so on. But when you’re publishing a translation, you have to make a DECISION and type a few words instead of some other words. It’s really really hard at first.
One of the other problems faced by translators of ancient texts (unlike modern, in most instances) has not occurred to most readers of these translations. It involves what, exactly, to translate. The problem with a book like the New Testament is that
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