Bible Translation and Culture: the theory and practice of intercultural mediation in the translation of John 2.1-12

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The paper presents a theory of Bible translation as intercultural mediation and applies it to the translation of the story of the Cana Miracle in John 2:1-12. The theoretical framework draws on the notions of script, skopos, the ethics of loyalty and the distinction between three domains of intercultural mediation, namely the conceptual domain, the domain of norms and values and the domain of cultural pragmatics. There are three applications, the first is the intercultural mediation of the key concept δόξα ‘glory’ in various translations, the second application illustrates the ways in which translators bridge gaps in norms and values, in this case norms and values clashes around the use of alcohol. The third application focuses on the vocative γύναι ‘woman’ used by Jesus to address his mother Mary. Pressured by commissioners and audiences, translators sometimes become disloyal to the writers of the ancient biblical texts and this pressure is especially felt when the cultures of the ancient biblical worlds and those of audiences have very different norms and values. In such cases, the concepts to be translated such as οἶνος ‘wine’ are actually easy to translate in most cases but translators try to soften the blow to the sensitivities of their audiences. This is in stark contrast with the domain of intercultural pragmatics where it is often impossible to find renderings in target languages that convey the sense of the biblical term. The first domain of intercultural mediation, that of concepts, is the domain that most people think of when they reflect on translation and culture, for example wondering how to translate ‘camel’ when audiences have no clue what a camel is. Yet, it is the unique cultural networks of concepts that we reach the boundaries of translatability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-284
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Biblical Text Research
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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