Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
In part 1, we summarized how the Old and New Testament were passed on to the first Church. It would be helpful now to talk about the two main approaches to translating any text according to Reeves and Hill, the authors of the book, the first being a “word-for word” method and the second a “dynamic-equivalent” method. Translation work is difficult because language is very complex. The different cultures have shaped its respective languages with distinct flavors. Attempting to capture the essence behind certain imagery or phrases of one language and then, to communicate a parallel idea that resonates to another language, is very challenging. Keep in mind that the Bible is loaded with imagery and poetic language. Too strictly adhering word for word creates a wooden and confusing translation. For example, our English idiom, “to get the short end of the stick”, may only make sense if translated to a parallel idiom of a different language. Yet capturing the essence of the language may compromise its accuracy. This is the Word of God, something you don’t want to tamper with. Moving forward, we will see how translators attempt to tight-rope the thin line of accuracy and clarity.
As we had discussed in part 1, there was a need to have the Scriptures translated to Greek due to the prevalent influence of the Greek culture and language. Similarly, the influence of Rome and its spread of Latin across Europe surfaced a need for Latin translations. These “Old Latin” translations are described by Reeves and Hill as “awful, and their style and fidelity to the Greek of the Septuagint and New Testament...often sloppy” (Reeves, Ryan Matthew. Know How We Got Our Bible (KNOW Series) (p. 84). Zondervan). They did not use the original Hebrew, but a translation of a translation. Their references included the Vercelli codex that often used only “capital letters without spaces, punctuation, or division…” (p. 85) due to the costly expense of writing material, making the text ambiguous and confusing.
Here comes along a man named Jerome. He was well-educated, particularly in Latin under the tutelage of the highly-esteemed Donatus. He had some interest in religion, having been baptized, but was “found living a life of pleasure more enjoyable than practicing his relatively new faith” (p. 78), that is until he faced a grave illness that nearly took his life. He recovered and set out to live a life of asceticism and solitude. Discovering his talent for study, he instead turned his attention to learning Greek and Hebrew, worked alongside the theologian Gregory Nazianzus and eventually became the secretary to Pope Damasus I. During this time, the heretical teachings of Appollinarism (Jesus was not fully human), Arianism (Jesus is not fully God), and Pneumatomachi (the Holy Spirit is not fully God) were rampant, and part of the solution to these false teachings were to create a better translation of the poorly translated Old Latin Bibles at the time. Pope Damasus had asked Jerome to first translate the Gospels, but after his death in AD 384, Jerome took the extra step to translate the entire Bible.
Unlike the “Old Latin” translations, Jerome began to use the Hexapla, a compendium written by Origen that had the Hebrew on one column and the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew text on the second column. This allowed him to even consult the Septuagint itself. He began to study the original Hebrew instead of relying on the Greek. After having realized that the books of the Apocrypha were not part of the Bible, Jerome tossed out his already finished books of Judith and Tobit and “never translated any other books of the Apocrypha” (p. 87). This “New Latin” translation had its issues: his translations were uneven, with a word-for-word approach. But it was nevertheless an impressive single-handed feat.
Unfortunately, the Church did not like Jerome’s claim on the Apocrypha, and very few churches adopted the Vulgate even after his death in AD 420. It was around the ninth century when Charlemagne began to fund and gather the great intellectual minds of the West to his court in Aachen. Naturally, all sorts of works including religious material were compiled. A man named Alcuin, recruited by Charlemagne, was largely responsible for the copying of the Bibles as churches expanded across the empire. Of importance, Alcuin supported Latin as the language of choice despite it being a dying language, using the Vulgate Bible as the standard text. Charlemagne also called a reform of Latin manuscripts, particularly correcting the bad Latin into the classic Latin, and adopting a new style of handwriting called the Carolingian minuscule. This form of handwriting made reading and copying texts much easier, soon establishing the Vulgate as the Bible of choice.