Principle 1

Translation: There is a difference between the bible in Hebrew and English translations.

It is important to be aware of the issues raised by the process of translation. A translator chooses makes decisions based on his/her understanding of the scholarship and commentary on that word or phrase. Each word choice reflects the translator’s overall goals for the translation and their sense of aesthetics. Each translation is almost a midrash in itself. In my case, a major goal is to reflect or echo the style and sound of the Hebrew text, trying to retain as much as possible in English, so that the reader may sense inner connections and some of the emphases that the text itself seems to be pointing to.

EXAMPLE (Genesis 1:2):

The Hebrew expression tohu va-vohu, which describes the way the world was before it was created, is translated differently by many English translations:

New American Bible: a formless waste              Jewish Publication Society: unformed and void

Tyndale: void and empty                                     New International Version: formless and empty

Contemporary English Version: barren with no form of life   Mitchell: Chaos

While all of the above translations convey something of the idea in the text, only by attempting to echo the Hebrew can one begin to get a sense of the phrase’s resonance. In my published text, I used “wild and waste”; I would now change this to “Confusion and Chaos.” What is important here is more than just the meaning of words; it’s the overall effect of sound, which says what individual words cannot.


Principle 2 »