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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

As Others See the Problem Ulrich Simon
 
THE English and American translators of the Bible chose to ignore the experience of their colleagues who had been wrestling with the text in order to render it in French and German. This indifference must have come as a surprise to the outsider, seeing with what infinite solicitude the members of the British and Foreign Bible Society used to approach their task to do justice to the languages and dialects of Africa and Asia. But even the French Jerusalem Bible project seems to have evoked no echo among the English-speaking translators, and more strangely, the comparable efforts in Germany were ignored even at a time when German theology became dominant.

The forces which prepared the ground for the new German translations derived their strength from practical necessity. The Lutheran translation could have remained normative for the Protestant churchgoers, and indeed it is still not out of circulation. But the Roman Catholic demand for a German version of the Scriptures arose early this century when priests and congregations expected to hear a rendering of the Epistle and Gospel at Mass. Some of these translations were miserable from every point of view. They were either too literal to make sense, or so free as to have little connection with the original. They certainly had no claim to inspiration, and one wonders whether the seriousness of the task had been realised from the first. Nevertheless, the setting was and has remained liturgical. The Bible was not tackled as secular literature. ...


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