[B-Greek] Understanding, translating, and understanding translations

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sat Oct 13 09:32:26 EDT 2007

Once again I must call attention to John Hobbins' excellent blog,  
"ancient hebrew poetry" (lower-case is his usage). The item I find of  
particular interest in this instance is dated Oct.11, 2007 and  
entitled, "Is Literary Translation Possible?" (http://tinyurl.com/ 
Although the focus would appear to be on "literary" versus "dynamic"  
translation, I don't think it's so much a question of translation  
theory as it is a question of how well one understands what the  
original text is intended to communicate. He makes a point not  
unrelated to what Iver just noted (October 13, 2007 4:16:23 AM EDT)  
about Relevance Theory: "Most, if not all, translators agree with the  
basic idea of RT, and it is especially relevant when the originally  
intended audience is very different from the new audience as is the  
case in bible translation, not only in terms of language, but in  
terms of culture, history, environment, presuppositions etc."

It seems to me that what Hobbins has to say in this blog has a  
bearing on lots of the short-cuts adopted by those who are  
endeavoring to develop some level of competence in Greek, including  
interlinears, parsing guides, quick-fix glossaries, quickie reference  
grammars, all designed to pave the way to a grasp of Greek, to which,  
as Euclid reputedly told the first Ptolemy about geometry, "there is  
no royal road." The nicely-turned formulation at the end of this blog  
says, "A literary translation, in order to be understood, will push  
the reader beyond the limits of his or her already acquired  
knowledge. It may have to be read and reread, perhaps with the aid of  
explanatory notes. A dynamic translation aims to be instantly  
comprehensible. Fine. But make no mistake: with fast food, you get  
what you pay for."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

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