Lost In Translation
Translation means “to convert or adapt an idea, an artwork, etc. from one form, condition, system, or context into another.” Under this broad definition, we will not only look at Bible translation but the translation of ritual and practice from one spiritual tradition to another.
Whatever is being translated, the same questions persist. Is literary, spiritual, and cultural translation even possible? To what extent is translation really interpretation? Are the new meanings and nuances which are the natural byproducts of translation good or bad? When does a translation become disrespectful to the original?
With such questions in mind, we will look at how Bible translation downplayed the role of women in the early Christian story and fostered a patriarchal church; how the Lord’s prayer changed when it was translated from Aramaic to Greek; how emphasis on feeling in Indian culture made certain Hindu practices difficult for rationalistic westerners to master; and how Bible stories of Middle Eastern traditions, offered by American and European missionaries, strike Pacific islanders. Such examples may make us more sensitive to the invisible hand of translators in the transmission of our spirituality.