Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lost in Translation

I once had a Bible that had a humorous (at least to me) translation of Galatians 3:1. It read

"You stupid Galatians..."

Every other Bible I have owned has " You foolish Galatians ..." which I think is a kinder translation of Paul's outrage at the Galatian congregation. It makes you wonder just how accurate translations of the Bible really are. People used to be burned at the stake for translating the Latin Bible into the vernacular - pretty severe punishment just to bring the word of God to the common people. Since then, do you suppose that the cultural bias of every generation results in Bibles with subtle, yet different meanings to what the authors intended? It is a shame that we don't have any original manuscripts with which to compare. I think there is an effort to use molecular biological tools for textual analysis to determine which manuscripts came first in sequence. Evolutionary trees are different DNA sequences of the same gene or genes which depict the relatedness of those genes and books or manuscripts are just sequences of letters as well. I'll have to dig through Science magazine's archive and see if I can find that article. There is a program that can reconstruct long lost genes of the last common ancestor based on the known sequences of the gene in different existing organisms. I wonder if that program can be modified to reconstruct the original manuscript once the temporal sequence of different manuscripts of the same gospel is known? What knowledge would we glean then? What biases would be removed?


How Science Survived: Medieval Manuscripts' "Demography" and Classic Texts' Extinction
John L. Cisne
Science 25 February 2005:
Vol. 307. no. 5713, pp. 1305 - 1307
DOI: 10.1126/science.1104718

Technical Comments:
Comment on "How Science Survived: Medieval Manuscripts' `Demography' and Classic Texts' Extinction"
Georges Declercq
Science 9 December 2005: 1618

Technical Comments:
Response to Comment on "How Science Survived: Medieval Manuscripts' `Demography' and Classic Texts' Extinction"
John L. Cisne
Science 9 December 2005: 1618

Treating Medieval Manuscripts as Fossils
Nicholas D. Pyenson, Lewis Pyenson;, Eltjo Buringh;, and John L. Cisne
Science 29 July 2005: 698-701

Enhanced: "How Science Survived"--Medieval Manuscripts as Fossils
Sharon Larimer Gilman and Florence Eliza Glaze
Science 25 February 2005: 1208-1209

Extinct Genome Under Construction
Elizabeth Pennisi
Science 3 June 2005 308: 1401-1402 [DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5727.1401b]
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