Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, and A Way of Reading the Bible as a Call to Adventure, by Stant Litore

Daniel Fusch, 2019

This is a really interesting and enjoyable book about reading the Bible, what we've lost in translation, and how the message of both the Old and the New Testaments has been altered by both the difficulties of translation between different languages, and different cultures. While Jews still read the Jewish Bible in Hebrew, Christians read it in translation. And while no translation can ever be perfect, in many instances in the Bible, the early translations, made at a time much closer to at least the New Testament, and with more communication between Christians and Jews who were often still part of the same communities, have continued to influence our translations as the meanings attached to critical words and phrases have changed.

One example is the phrase, "woman of virtue." The original, Litore explains, is closer to "woman of valor." "Virtue" is from the Roman word "virtu," which was much closer, thought not exact, to the sense of the original Hebrew.

When the first English translations were made, "virtue" still carried something of the more martial Roman meaning. But those early English translations, and especially the King James Bible, have continued to influence subsequent translations. "Virtue" remained in the phrase, while the meaning of "virtue" in English changed and lost its martial flavor. We read "virtue" now as meaning, especially as applied to women, chaste and faithful.

That's one example of how our translations have unintentionally misrepresented the role and status of women in both the Old and the New Testaments. It's a recurring point throughout the book.

Another recurring and important theme is that nothing in the New Testament reflects the harsh, judgmental approach of some of our more, I'll say politically vocal Christian sects. The New Testament in particular is all about welcoming the stranger, the refugee, the poor, the ill. It's about accepting people and helping them, not judging and excluding them. It's about joyous sharing, not about condemning people who live differently. 

There's more, as a part of this, about the different way gender was understood and treated. Jesus and his disciples lived in the midst of a very Greekified culture, where homosexuality was pervasive, and never said a word about it.

I'm not equipped to write a truly knowledgeable analysis of this book, but I found it both enjoyable reading, and enlightening.


I bought this book.

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