The Tradition on Translating and the Bible in West Europe
Xabier Mendiguren


The history of translation has run a long way since its beginnings: the first documented translations make their appearance three thousand years before Jesus Christ, in Assyria. In Hammurabi's Babylon bilingual glossaries were used, whose remains have been found on cuneiform tablets. It can be said that in ancient times hoth translation and interpretation well usual activities.

Greeks and Romans worked hard on translation and some theol etical writings of great interest have reached our days, as for instance those of Cicero; but the biblical translation did not profit from this experience as the letter was taken into account more than the spirit.

The translation of the New Testament began early and hlto many languages in order to answer- to the needs of' Christianity which was expanding very quickly. The first translations into Latin were not of 'a great a, quality, with the exception of that of Jeronimus (IVth c.), who admits "having translated the meaning and not the word" following Cicero's teachings.

One of the most important events in the history of biblical translation is represented by the publication of Martin Luther's New Testament. It must he said that he had the appropriated atmosphere to wolk, unlike the one breathed in the Middle Ages; thus he was able to make a modern translation in which the meaning has a careful treatment. He was soon to he imitated in England; William Tyndal translated the Bible trying to make use of similar procedures, although the results were different. But the merit of establishing a theory of translation for the first time is due to Etienne Dolet who advocates for the translation of the meaning and the purposes of the author. He was tortured and assessinated for having wrongly translated Plato.

In XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries a phenomellon was given which Mounin named "les belles infideles"; profane translations, beautiful hut very different from the original texts, in contrast to carefully made biblical translations.

George Campbell published a hook on history and theory of translation in 1789, important above all with regard to sacred texts; a year later, a similar book made his appearance, The Principles of' Translation, by F. Tyler. With it an era is closed to give birth to a new one, Romanticism. Romantics affirm that "all that is worth translating is untranslatable"; this atmosphere had a negative influence on the biblical translation.

In the XXth century a radical change has taken place as far as translation criteria are concerned. Among others, the new concept of communication as well as a fast expansion of structural linguistics. These theories have also been applied to biblical translation.

Nowadays when speaking of the different criteria of translation, it should be pointed out that the main opposition lies within the free/literal translation of literal translation it could be argued that it is not a translation; hut this dicotomy does not always correspond to positif/negatif: Criteria greatly differ depending on genres, styles, etc.

As for the specic problems that the translation of the Bible is likely to arise, we shall only mention their sources; thus, they can come out from an opposition between linguistics and in inspiration the differences between tradition and the authorities of the time; finally, when theology enters into conflict with grammar.

Today translators pay attention to the original text; which is quite praiseful. Most tranxiators are acquainted uith the needs of communication and that has meant a step forward into the comprehensihility of translation.