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Theology of the translator(s)/translation(s)

As regards the translator’s/translators’ interpretation or the interpretation(s) as manifested in the translated text, in order to elucidate the translator’s implied meaning we must, first, reconstruct the original Hebrew text and also the Hebrew source text of the translator. These texts were not necessarily the same. Second, in order to study the translator’s interpretation we must distinguish among the meaning conveyed by the source text, the meaning understood by the translator (as a reader of the Hebrew source text), and the meaning understood by readers of the Greek text.1 To be able to do this we have to be acquainted with the translator’s normal way of translating.

Only when the translator deviates from his normal procedure, may we postulate interpretations.2 To begin with, the Hebrew text as well as the Greek must be studied text-critically, grammatically, semantically, and stylistically. Next, these texts are compared with each other to look for different changes that have been incorporated in the translation and the reasons behind theses transformations. We are allowed to regard as demonstrating exegetical or ideological interpretation only those transformations that we cannot explain linguistically or in terms of translation technique.3


  1. See for instance, Flashar, ; Frank Austermann, Von der Tora zum Nomos, 32-40 Albert Pietersma, “A New Paradigm for Addressing Old Questions: The Relevance of the Interlinear Model for the Study of the Septuagint,” p. 341. As regards this principle, it is confusing to read the kind of presentation found in Silvana Manfredi’s article “The True Sage or the Servant of the Lord (Sir 51:13-30 Gr),” in which arguments are made on the basis of the Greek text as far it is extant in our text editions, as if Ben Sira had written in Greek.
  2. See the excellent articles by Anneli Aejmelaeus, “Translation Technique and Intention,” and “What Can We Know,” see especially 77-85. Nevertheless, I prefer to use the term ‘interpretation’ to ‘intention’ because, in my mind, interpretation may be detected from and proven by the text whereas intention is something that happens in the author’s mind which is far more difficult, if not impossible, to verify.
  3. For the method, see also Theo van der Louw, Transformations in the Septuagint, 90-92, note the inventory of transformations, 62-89, and Frank Austermann, Von der Tora zum Nomos, 32-40. Following him, interpretation is conceived as part of a process that leads to a translation.


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