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The Bible rewritten?

16 January 2023
How is it possible that for centuries in all the Bibles the book of Job ends with Job's words of repentance, and that interpreters and translators now come to the conclusion that he is saying something completely different? Matthijs de Jong, professor by special appointment of Bible Translation at VU Amsterdam, shows that interpretation is an essential part of translation. "That makes Bible translations their own and unique texts."

Bible translations are often seen as reproductions: they represent the source text and where they do not, they fail. But, De Jong argues, translations actually offer a new imagination and articulation of a source text, and thus by definition bear the stamp of their own time. 

Context determines concept

De Jong: "Anyone who sees translation as just converting a text from one language to another is misleading himself. It is a process of interpretation, in which the translator forms an image of the original text and, on that basis, gives substance to a translation design that he or she has in mind. After all, every translation starts with understanding the text, and how you understand it determines your translation. But our understanding of the text is partly determined by our own context. That context must therefore be part of the reflection. The translator is not a converter, but an imaginary and writer." 

On 3 February Matthijs de Jong will give his inaugural lecture 'De Schrift Opnieuw Geschreven. New insight into translating with Genesis 1 and Job 42'.

The inaugural lecture is at 3.45 pm in the VU Aula, and can also be followed online. See here for more information.

Photo: Carla Manten Fotografie