God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Pizza With Fungus

A pizzeria in Eilat, Israel, offers plain pizza and “pizza with fungus,” according to the large English menu at the restaurant.

Of course they meant not “fungus” but “mushrooms.” Unfortunately, the modern Hebrew for both English words are the same.

What went wrong here is mostly a matter of connotation. While mushrooms are indeed a kind of fungus, the word “mushrooms” has connotations of edibility, while we English speakers know that “fungus” does not.

I fear that we frequently see this sort of mistake in English translations of the Bible. Just to pick one example (which I’ve already mentioned), “inward parts” doesn’t seem right for the Hebrew tuchot.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | translation theory | , , | Comments Off on Pizza With Fungus

The Paradox of Translation

Scot McKnight suggests that, “The sweeping conclusion is this: unless you can read the original languages, you should avoid making public pronouncements about which translation is best.” (emphasis his).

This is yet another example of a fundamental dilemma in translation: the only people capable of doing translation don’t need it. More importantly, the only people capable of creating a translation of the Bible are often unable to judge what it’s like for others to read the Bible only in their translation.

For example, if I know Biblical Hebrew and modern English (which I do), how can I judge what it’s like for someone who doesn’t have this knowledge to read my translation?

I think this is one of the major causes of what I can only call clear nonsense in translations by otherwise qualified scholars.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | translation theory | , | 3 Comments