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For all practical purposes: The earliest writings. Those that are in the language they were written down for the first time, rather than being a more recent translation of an older text. You always loose something in a translation; the fewer generations of translation, the less is lost. Even though the oldest complete Old Testament is in Hebrew, even Hebrew changes over the centures; you cannot assume that the modern use of a word is exactly as it was a thousand years ago. Even the old Hebew is a translation; some of the texts were in Aramic before translation, some in Greek.
We do not have access to the original writings of all the books - we know that even the earliest we have got is a translation (because we have even older versions of parts of it before translation, but not of all), so we must understand it as "the versions that have been throgh the fewest generations of translation".
All Norwegian Bible translations up to the 1930 version was a translation from other European languages, primarily German/Danish. For the 1978 version, the translators went down to the earliest, most original texts available, and it lead to a number of significant re-phrasings.
Ideally, I would like to trace a verse from the oldest Aramic or Greek, through Hebrew, then further to translations based on the Hebrew, I guess Latin would be one of them, translations based on the Latin, I guess old German/Danish translations were among those, up to the 1930 Norwegian version. Then see how it compares to the 1978 Norwegian version which is presumably based on the oldest available texts, to learn how and when the more or less subjective translation choices were made.
A translation that links word(s) in the original to word(s) in the translation almost certainly does not (and cannot) exist. For one thing, a single word in Hebrew may translate to a phrase in English (and vice versa)
For example, the commandment "לֹא תִרְצָח" in Hebrew is translated to "Thou shalt not murder" in medieval English. In Hebrew, the "person" (first, second, third) is indicated as a modifier of the word "murder". This means that "Thou" and "murder" in English point to the same word - "תִרְצָח", while "shalt not" would point to the word "לֹא". How would your proposed translation handle such cases?
Even a Biblical Hebrew to modern Hebrew translation may run into such issues; some verb forms have disappeared from the modern language.
All in all the problem that you have posed is non-trivial...
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
-- 6079 Smith W.
As I tried to indicate, word-by-word translation in meaningless. But verse-by-verse translation should be reasonably meaningful. When your goal is not to make a translation, but see what lies behind an already existing translation of an entire verse, a word-by-word explanation of the original text can be quite useful.
To follow your "murder"-example: English has more than one word for causing someone's death, like "kill", "murder", "asassinate", ... In English, the choice of one of these expresses e.g. the degree of intent. Frequently, the target tanslation language does not have a word with exactly the same meaning - e.g. maybe the same target word is used for intended and acccidental killing. So a reader of the translation may want to see which term was used in the original: Was it a word expressing an intent to kill, or not? The reader doesn't need to be fluent in the original language; if he can match the entire verse (or sentence) to the original, with word-by-word explanations in, say, English, the explanation alone may reveal the degree of intent. If it does not, being able to display other verses where the same term is used, in the target translation language, can indicate (from showing a series of different contexts) what is the common use: If half of the verses where this term is used shows non-intent killing, the term is clearly not always "murder", but if all the uses are in contexts where the killing was clearly intended, the reader will know a little more.
Even in fairly closely realted languages, you have numerous such examples, usually more difficult to handle. One example often used in textbooks is in personal relations: A friend, buddy, acquaintance, close friend, girlfriend, lover, partner, one you know of, ... there is almost never a one-to-one correspondence between such terms in different languages. Seing which was the original term may reveal important details.
I have been pondering how a system like the one I ask for should be designed, and I am tempted to start a hobby project, with a basic, language-independent mechanism, and then add on top the languages for which I can obtain the scriptures in machine-readable form. English is readily available, Norwegian "somewhat", some others may be available as well. So I parse each language version into books, chapters, verses.
I navigate to a given verse in the Norwegian version, and request the same verse displayed in the English version. Say the verse is something about killing. Reading the English text, even without understanding (all) the words, I can right click to send the English word to a dictionary service that provides an explanation. Say that I didn't know the word "assasinate", but the dictionary lookup makes it quite clear that this is the word that has been translated to "drepe", and it is certainly not by any accident, the killing was intended, and for a specific purpose.
If I have got five different language versions, I will display them all (or a selection), one below the other, to see them side by side (I can make some sense of German or Dutch, Danish and Swedish is simple, but even different English translations can be truly different!) Ideally, I could for each language right click and select lookup in a dictionary of that language.
And, even if "assassinate" is an unknown term to me, I can request: Show me all verses where that term is used! and I get a list of those verses in Norwegian (optionally with the English version underneath). I could do this with words not found in a dictionary; the dictionary is great for helping me select the right word for the backwards lookup, though.
When parsing the text to build the database structure, I will for each new word have the option to link to a base form of that word, independent of grammatical variant (such as singular/plural or verb tense). Yes, I know this is a huge task, so I say "option"; it can come with time. Then, when searching for other uses of a term, the user can select "all forms", so that every word with the same base form will be considered a hit.
Programming the mechanisms for this would certainly be doable as a hobby project, it doesn't have to be that complex to be useful. Even cross-referencing between modern Western languages can help a lot in understanding the true meanings, and not the least: Which (sometimes very different) translation alternatives have been selected by various translators.
The big problem is obtaining the texts and have them parsed for the database, and either getting hold of a proper dictionary or add term explanations to the word list. And most of all: Doing the grammatical tagging of each form and identify the base form. That is what I was hoping that someone already had done - especially for languages that I do not master at all.
The mechanism is trivial, massaging the input to fit into the mechaism is certainly non-trivial!
I guess that is partly because they don't want common man to understand the original meaning.
Quite a few passages, in particular in the Old Testament, reflect a moral and (dis)respect for both other humans and life as such, that you do not want others to associate that with your God. You better make some soft, romantic padding around it.
And you do not want common man to see all the contradictions and logical problems in the Bible - then they might start questioning the valitidity of it as a whole. Which isn't good for the religion.
Better give people a soft, cozy version that noone would ever think of questioning.
The Bible quite obviously is a large collection of tales and random rumours from different sources. Some may have a common origin, or are quite universal in nature, others have completely independent origin and believers try to twist the details to weld it together to something that can be presented as if it was one coherent story.
Some of those things are "explained" by saying that "For God, everything is possible". Contradictions are not contradictions. The Father, the Son and the Spirit is one; Christianity is a monoteistic religion, where the god talks to himself, the Son praying to God. So maybe that for God, it is possible that Jesus was both born before 4BC (when Herod died) and after 6AD (when Augustus ordered the census to be held). That they both traveled back home to Nazareth and had to flee to Egypt and stay there for years, because they didn't dare to return to their home town Bethlehem - even when they returned, Bethlemen was too dangerous, so at that point in time did they settle in Nazareth. Or these two Jesus boys are exactly that: Two boys, two stories, that has beeen collected from two storeytelling traditions and (unsuccessfully) merged into one.
Or, Jesus is God, speaking Truth, so when he proclaims that before daybreak, Peter will deny him three times, that will happen. Yet, we are told, Peter still has his freedom not to deny Jesus, regardless of the Truth Jesus proclaimed. To common sense, Peter has no freedom - if he had, and had chosen to use it to stay by Jesus' side, he would have made Jesus a falsesayer, not a truthsaying God. Whether Peter makes use of this option (we all know that he did not) doesn't matter: If he had that option, he had the power to reduce Jesus from God to a pure guesser. You either must accept that Peter had this power, or that he did not have the freedom to stand by Jesus.
For God it may be possible that humans were his last creation, after the animals, but also that he created Adam first and then the animals. Or there were two indpendent mythological traditions that both handed in their bids for a creation story to the editors, who couldn't make a choice and included both, to get a little variation.
It is of course possible that Abraham (/Abram) when young tried to bluff Faraoh to think that his wife was his sister, causing some fuzz. Then, later played the same trick again with King Abimeleik when Sarah was in her 90s, from fear that they otherwise might rape the old lady. And then for the third time, his son Isak played the same trick with his wife, for the same king... They never learn! Or maybe that is one story that has gone three ways, through three different tradition. Just like when you play the whisper game, some elements are preserved (Abraham, along one path, king Abimeleik along another), but when collected, hundred of years later, the stories have dispersed so much that they are taken to be three different ones.
Sometimes the stories are preserved as distinct stories. You know how Lot told the mob to use his virgin daughters as they pleased, but leave Lot's guests untouched. Then, in Judges 19, you find a story about an unnamed man housing a couple guests, the mob comes to attack the guests, but the host gives them his virgin daughter to use as they please. 80% the same story could of course have reapeated at a different time, a different place. A much more probable explanation is that the whisper game has been going on for so long that time and place for the event has changes, the number of daughters, whether the guests were winged or not... The common core of the stories is so peculiar that you might think it really is the same story, and you can decide for yourself whether you pick the winged variant or not, one or two daughter or not.
And so on. The Bible is a huge collection of "urban legends", mouth-to-mouth stories that come in lots of conflicting varieties. A number of modern legends, I came to know as true stories, from reliable sources, and I told them to others. Then, years later, I hear very similar stories from another continent, certainly not from Norway. I got into a discussion on Internet; then others got in an objected: BS - that was neither in the US nor Norway, it happened here in Australia! BS yourself, it was in England... And so on. This was in then 1990s; later I have had several other "true stories" debunked the same way. I have bought books on the subject, killing more true stories that I had taken seriously. The more you dig into the varieties of a given story, the more it becomes clear that even though it might have a tiny little speck of truth to the core, the numerous variants of the same story cannot all be true. To be frank: None of them can be picked out as The True Account of What Really Happened, when that variant, just as much as the others, have been through many centuries of whisper game before being written down.
So I accept the conflicts and contradictions of the Bible. I see the Bible as a collection of, not urban myths, but with similar variation and (un)reliabity, for the same reasons. You might as well advise me to a web site dedicated to explain and help me solve contradiction between variations in given urban myths, of the kind you can read in the newspapers to fill the pages when nothing of great importance has happened the last 24h.
But stating "go to this and that website and you will have them resolve your religious conflicts for you" is OK, but indicating which conflicts they cannot resolve is NOT OK, that makes no sense to me.
The last word should be that "those religious conflicts are solvable" is most certainly a religious statement, but an acceptable one, because it favors "our" religion. There is no reaction until "our" religion is rebutted.
The problem with getting old is more that over the years, I have become involved in so many different activities taking up my time that I am 99% mentally and cronologically occupied already. A toddler doesn't have a huge list of books to be read, friends to converse with, going to chorus practice, washing the car and walking the dog, but can spend a major fraction of his time and brain on the task of learning his first language.
What wisdom? I learned long ago that there is no one wisdom, in particular when reading the Bible. I see enough different translations to know that there is a lot of politics in translation. Lots of newspeak. Lots of hiding things you really don't want to come out; it doesn't fit your agenda. Most of this kind of censorship is done by selecting which parts of the Bible to read; I have shocked a lot of believers by opening the Book in places they never knew existed, from our great hero David's sacrilege of the 200 dead warriors he had killed for the sole purpose of genitally molesting the bodies to earn his right to the daughter of the king, to the 40.000 killed because they spoke the wrong dialect, to reall going through the Onan story, pointing out that he was killed ("by God") because he refused to have intercourse with his sister-in-law.
I do not take any Bible translation at face value. When the latest Norwegian translation tells that you shall not undress your brother's wife, while earlier translations said that you should not have intercourse with her, why was it changed? For some reason, and I don't think that is because they suddenly realized that is has nothing to do with sex but with textiles. I don't trust them. I would like to dig as far back as possible to see if it is real, that is has to do only with textiles. (Obviously not - undressing is a euphemism. But in 2011, we were talking much more openly about intercourse than back in 1978. Introducing an euphemism for it in 2011 makes no sense. But they did. What for?)
If I make a mechanism to handle it, it is just a mechanism. You fill it up with the books you want, or rather: Have access to.
Getting the texts into the system is such a great task that you (or whoever does it) will have to prioritize. If I do it, I guess I'll start with the books in the Bible used by the Norwegian Protestant church ("The Norwegian Church" - it was, but is no longer, a state church), in the languages / versions I can get access to. If I complete (which I doubt very much that I will), there are a number of closely related books - the apocryphal books, the rejected testsaments etc. If I make something that might interest others, maybe other people would take care of other books, and other languages.
If I make a mechanism to handle it, it is just a mechanism. You fill it up with the books you want, or rather: Have access to.
The mechanism would be called simply "automated translation"; and not much books in Arameic or Latin nowadays.
The problem is harder than you imagine; for to translate "fire" into another language is easy, but it becomes harder if I describe the fire in one's heart. The original texts were written for a simpeler audience, with a very different morale from ours.
Member 7989122 wrote:
maybe other people would take care of other books
Aw, I'd be feeding it Marvel Comics, Thor in particular
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"If you just follow the bacon Eddy, wherever it leads you, then you won't have to think about politics." -- Some Bell.