Almost all sacred books were written in ancient languages, and today readers need a translation into their native and understandable language. Only thanks to the selfless and responsible work of translators is the most valuable information available to millions and even billions of readers. Religious texts in all centuries were considered so important that their translation was treated with reverence and even reverence. Their translators had to be more than just linguistic specialists – they had to meet higher requirements. Why?
Usually religious texts contain several essential components:
Sometimes such texts may contain the attitude of the writer to certain facts or information, as well as interpretations, secondary information related to the main topic, geographic data and much more. Various approaches, techniques and ways of transmitting thoughts are used to translate religious texts.
Ways to translate religious texts
Depending on the goals pursued by one or a group of translators, proofreaders and editors, several honest and unbiased translation methods can be used, taking into account their pros and cons:
A big plus is the maximum reliability and accuracy of the translated text in relation to the original. However, there are difficulties associated with understanding, especially literary and other techniques: hyperbole, comparisons and other figurative expressions. Disputes often arise about which modern word more closely matches the original text.
Usually, the beauty of the syllable of the resulting text prevails over the accuracy of such translations (as an example, the translation of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic). The information is easy to read and sounds beautiful, but sometimes the accuracy and power of instruction or prophecy can be lost, especially if instead of “destroy the wicked” the translator puts “eliminate evil” or instead of “dung” – “dust”.
Retelling or transmission of content
In this case, the translator takes responsibility for the reliability of the sacred texts, since history knows a lot of facts that expose such “translators”, which was helped by archaeological finds containing the original texts. In some cases, however, such retellings can be of great value, especially when combined with accurate literal and literary translations. Their consideration helps to better understand the customs of those times in question and the characteristics of the behavior of the heroes.
It can be called one of the best ways to convey important thoughts, but even then the translator must clearly understand what needs to be translated literally and what else. In other words, a good translator needs to learn to think as the author thought, to understand doctrines and other information as the writer understood it. On the other hand, the intellectual ability, the level of knowledge and the ability to perceive the instructions from the readers using the translation must be taken into account.
Features of the translation of religious texts
Even having perfectly learned modern Greek, it will not work to translate the Gospel. This also applies to texts in other languages, as the spelling and meaning of many words has changed. For example, the ancient Greek word “beautiful” in modern language means “funny”. Here you cannot do without special dictionaries and historical reference books.
Serious changes in syntax and punctuation (and in some ancient languages there are no punctuation marks at all) is another difficult task for the translator. If this is not taken into account, there may be a mismatch in parts of the text – internal contradictions of understanding or instruction that are not in the original.
Some terms, objects and concepts have disappeared from modern language altogether, but they are important for understanding the essence. The translator will have to conduct thorough research to convey the necessary information to the reader.
In short, the translation of the sacred text should awaken in the mind of the reader exactly those images that the author wanted to convey. The reader should clearly understand the moral precepts and be encouraged to apply them.
Qualities of a translator working on a text
In addition to knowing languages, a lot is required. In such translations, there is no place for bias – promoting the translator’s own religious views or distorting the facts at the request of the customer. That is why the interpreter himself must be a morally whole person.
Honesty is another important quality that helps a translator to write what is, and also to resist subsequent criticism. Since it is inevitable, only an honest translation will stand.