Since they are now regarded as holy texts by Judaists, the ancient Hebrew literature goes down in history as the world's most important writings. Furthermore, they have had a major impact on other faiths such as Islam and Christianity. Because of their influence in human affairs and the central role they play in our lives, these texts have not been viewed in the same manner as “literary” texts. A deeper analysis of the Hebrews bible from the perspectives of literature brings out the fact that it employs a number of narrative techniques based on its narrative, characterization, and its point of view which may not be compatible with religious faith (Gillingham, 1994). As a matter of fact, a closer study of the texts contained in the Hebrews bible makes readers understand it as a book enshrined with the supremacy of vital Hebrew cultural and historical diversities. However, the original Hebrews’ bible has undergone a number of translations with the aim of letting people from different cultural settings to understand its meaning. This is attributed to the levels of strength held by the Greek cultures from then fourth century B.C. when Alexander the Great dominated a better part of the world. However, the translations of the Hebrew bible leaves a blot of questions unanswered based on the quest of knowledge for the understanding of its meaning as derived from the Hebrews text, its conceptualization in bringing out the authentic meanings. This paper seeks to look into the extents to which translation impacts the faithfulness and authenticity of the Hebrew Bible.
Impacts of Translation on Faithfulness of the Hebrew Bible
While the term “faithful” can be used to bring out a number of meanings based on its contexts of use, it is not as adaptable as other words. It could be used to bring out meanings such as loyalty and the trait of acting to the best interest of other parties. Further, the term ‘faithful” could be employed in the context of predictability, consistent or carrying ones’ self in a certain known way. Other terms such as reliability, strength and stability could also be considered as facets of faithfulness. According to Gillingham (1994), faithfulness could be looked in the contexts of a servant being a strict follower of his master’s instructions, the act of living according to known realities of the original.
The reproduction of the Hebrews bible could be put to scale based on its degrees of alignment with the original version. Like a messenger sent by his master, the translators of the Hebrew bible availed the message in other languages. In this case, the use of the same language is immaterial. Rather, the greatest measure of faithfulness needs to be out on the accuracy of the message availed. Therefore, faithful translation of the bible is a function of careful determination of which text needs go be translated. On the other hand, translation of any texts demands that the terms employed be as close as possible to their originals based on their meanings. There needs to be a critical consideration of the aspect of tension between tension and tradition when analyzing the levels of faithfulness of a translation. For instance, the Hebrew term nephesh was used to mean “soul” in its translations of the King James Version. However, it is critical to note that scholars of the Old Testament have revealed that this term does not mean “soul”. For instance, in Genesis 2:7, the King James version states that “man became a living soul” on the other hand, the researchers translated this verse to “man became a living being”. In other instances, tradition may be looked at as being so familiar when coming up with the translation of biblical verses to the extents that it erodes the desired meaning of the texts. For example, some verses of the traditional King James Version are looked at as being so familiar that their translations fall victim of the traditional meanings which do not avail the desired contextual meanings. For instance, taking Psalms 1:1 into consideration, it states, —“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Bible, 2000). In this case, contemporary English speakers would derive little meaning from the lines “walketh in the counsel of the wicked” and “standeth in the way of sinners”. Such translations go a long way in affecting an individual’s stand in faith.
Impacts of Translation on the Truthfulness and Authenticity of the Hebrew Bible
The best way to understand the extents to which the translations of the Hebrew Bible are truthful and authentic is by undertaking an analysis of the historical activities that took place at the time when it was conceived. It is critical to note that Greek culture and Greek language found a greater level of dominance due to the activities of Alexander the Great. It is also important to note that the gospel came as a unifying factor particularly after people were split from speaking a unified language at the time of the tower of Babel. With all these differences, there was only one language which had found high levels of penetration ion different parts of the world; this was Greek. For this reason, it is not surprising that a better part of the original bible was written in Greek. Further, there existed an Alexandrian school in Egypt which was characterized with allegorical teachings and fanciful biblical interpretations that played a critical role in the conception of the current translations (Gillingham, 1994). Such knowledge greatly impacts the authenticity of the translations of the bible particularly to those with the zeal of knowing the desired meanings from the Hebrew text. This is an issue of concern on aspects such as the Hexapla, the six columns of the Hebrew bible and its original translations in Greek. But one is left with the question of whether the translations are true as they claim to be.
Many scholars in this field put a lot of trust on Septuagint based on the argument that even Paul wrote a greater part of his books in the New Testament based on the doctrines of Septuagint as opposed to those of Hebrew. This could be attributed to the fact that Septuagint was the most prevalent translation of those days. While the translators of the Hebrew bible need to be credited for their efforts, it is also important to note that some parts of these works may be flawed, raising the question of truthfulness and authenticity. One of the issues identified on the reasons as to why the truthfulness of the translational process may lack the aspects of truthfulness and authenticity emanates from the fact that there are no original manuscripts of the Hebrews bible. As a matter of fact, only copies of these copies exist. The flaws result from the fact that the translators may not be sure of which of these copies may be the rightful ones. On the other hand, since these copies may not be identical, there tends to emerge higher levels of deviations in the translations. While these differences may not be pronounced in the Old Testament, they tend to hold a greater weight in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, Gillingham (1994) explains that more than 3% of the biblical translations tend to vary across a greater percentage of the manuscripts.
Putting the setting of the original bible into perspective, it is true that it is meant to address a wider variety of societies as well as varied groups of people. They include theologians, believers, children, non-believers and adults. For this reason, it is true to conclude that the bible was written for varied uses based on the audiences of target. This brings out the fact that the truthfulness and authenticity of these translations would be flawed based on the audience under consideration. Further, the authenticity and truthfulness of the Hebrew bible may be flawed based on the difficulties of comprehending the intended meaning (Gillingham, 1994). Like words in English, Greek words may not have one meaning. This question the translations of these texts based on the words used.
In conclusion, while the original texts of the bible go a long way in influencing religions like Christianity and Islam, it is critical to look into the impacts of such translations on faithfulness truthfulness and authenticity of the Hebrew Bible. It is true that contextual meanings reveal the flaws of these translations based on their faithfulness, truthfulness and authenticity. Further, the fact that the bible was written to target different audiences reveals the deviations of these translations in fitting these groups.
Bible, Holy. "King James Version." Texas: National Publishing Company (2000).
Gillingham, Susan E. The poems and psalms of the Hebrew Bible. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.
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