Friday, July 8, 2011

The problem with translation

The gospel today instructs us to be two two things. The translation I am looking at gives the two adjectives: cunning, and simply. They both seemed a bit odd. Cunning is rarely used in English in a good way, and simple here in the south was often used by my grandmother's generation to describe someone who was lacking in intelligence. Time to go to the original language of Christianity, not Latin but Greek.

The word translated here as cunning is

φρόνιμος it means intelligent, wise, prudent, looking after one's affairs. In our modern american symbology we think of owls not serpents.
The other adjective-
ακεριος does in fact mean simple, but in the sense of chemistry, something which is unmixed, pure, a single element.

Proof once more that translation is as much art as science and that there is rarely a perfect one to one correspondence between words of a different language.

Perhaps today is a time to look at our lives and see how well they reflect these two characteristics.