Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cultural Context in Translating

One of the most important things to consider in translating scripture is the cultural context when it was written.

An example in English is the word “gay” as it is used in context. A hundred years ago one man could say to another put on your gay clothes and let’s go party. That has a totally different meaning today. A hundred years ago “gay” equaled fun and today it means homosexual. [except when singing Christmas Carols.]

In every language there are these kinds of word shifts that need to be taken into account when translating from one language to another. Consider that the shift for the word gay has happened in less than a hundred years and the scriptures were written over a period of more than two-thousand years. How many word shifts took place in Hebrew and Greek over that time? Many and not all of them are well known to us today. You can not isolate the text of scripture from the world it from and pretend it is the whole truth.

It is an awesome task to translate scripture from the original Hebrew and Greek into the ever changing languages of today. Is it any wonder that there are over three hundred English translations for us to select from and that they are so different. 

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