Have you heard of the game in which a simple message is passed from ear to ear that at the end of the line the message is lost in translation? In our world, passing down sacred text from generation to generation is as hard if not harder.
Translations of ancient text are critical in human understanding of not only our past, but also our future selves.
In 1611, the King James Bible was first published translating Biblical text to Elizabethan Standard English. From a Catholic translation of Genesis I,
In the Beginning God Created Heaven and Earth
Now the Earth was a Formless Void, there was darkness over the deep,
With a divine wind sweeping over the waters.
God said, ‘Let there be Light’, and there was light.
To the King James version,
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth
And the earth was without form, and void: and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be Light: and there was light.
The Elizabethans loved poetry. Their greatest bard was William Shakespeare after all. Which passage do you think is better?
Anyway, try reading it in its original language of Hebrew or its first Greek translation circa mid-3rd century BCE. I dare you.
Ancient and sacred text is often difficult to translate in its original meaning. Many believers suggest that sacred text should not be translated at all.
Take Islam for example. The Quran is written and spoken exclusively in its original Arabic language. Many Middle Eastern countries share in this religious and cultural text, binding each country together – not to mention Muslims spread throughout the world.
As with the Islamic teaching of not conveying the face of the prophet Muhammad in art, Arabic has been the official language of the Koran since first being written down from 609 to 632 CE when Muhammad died.
All three major religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share many aspects of its sacred text whether it is the Torah, the Bible, or the Quran. They all subscribe to a belief in a beginning as described by the Book of Genesis.
We all share in a common humanity if we get the translation just right.