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Thursday, 5 May 2016
Rewriting affects Interpretation

But does rewriting really matter if it increases availability and sharing of texts and cultures? Lefevere suggests that it does:

Rewritings, mainly translations, deeply affect the interpretation of literary systems, not just by projecting the image of one writer or work in another literature or by failing to do so ... but also by introducing new devices in to the inventory component of a poetics and paving the way to change its functional component.

We need to recognise this - translation in English, of whatever form - deeply affects the interpretation of the text. Equally certain is that translation of Jewsh culture into Christianese deeply affects its interpretation. It is simply not the same; it won't look or feel the same - because it is not the same. Lefevere gives a cogent example:

Even the creation of words bears out the same proposition. When the early Christians needed to translate the Greek word musterion, they did not want simply to Latinise it, because it was too close to the vocabulary used by the "mystery cults," Christianity's main competitor at the time. For the same reason they rejected words like sacra, arcana, initia, which would have been semantically acceptable. They settled for sacramentum because it was a term both neutral and close to the original. But when St Jerome wrote the Vulgate translation of the Bible, Christianity had won the battle against the mystery religions and he felt free to simply Latinize musterion into mysterium.

Ok, so perhaps that's a bit technical. But here's a more significant example:

Similarly, the Aramaic Jesus Christ is supposed to have spoken did not have a copula. He can therefore never have said: "This is my body" when pointing to a loaf of bread. The copula was put in by translators for ideological rather than linguistic reasons.

Notice, moreover, that Lefevere himself has also done a cultural mis-translation and so drastically altered the interpretation. It was Passover and the start of the week of unleavened bread. Yeshua would not have pointed to a loaf of bread, because that was chametz - He would have been holding a piece of matzah, unleavened bread!

Posted By Jonathan, 8:08am Comment Comments: 0