Translating Holy Texts for a New Age

By Javier Martinez.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Traditionally, all three of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have demonstrated unease with translating their most sacred texts: the Torah, the Talmud, the Qu’ran, and the Holy Bible. Attitudes have ranged from tolerance to lethal opposition toward would-be translators. Some, like William Tyndale, a major contributor to the Reformation era King James translation of the Bible, were burned as heretics. Recently, the Internet has encouraged these religions to put their texts online, in multiple translations, in an effort to gain new members and increase understanding of their respective beliefs. Still, the old tensions remain. It stems from three causes. First, these texts are considered by many to be the literal words of God. In this belief, they can never be properly translated. Second, mastering them in their original tongue represents a major goalpost of learning in religious cultures, as well as a vehicle for promoting literacy. Third, translations, especially multiple and competing ones, increase conflicting interpretations. These can lead to open discussions within a religion, but also to conflict, division, and schisms into new sects. In the modern age, most religious leaders recognize translations as important and necessary, but also fraught with difficulties.

Keywords: Sacred Texts Online, Abrahamic Religions, Abrahamic Sacred Texts, Torah, Talmud, Qu’ran, Bible, William Tyndale, Heretics, Sacred Texts Online, Promoting Literacy, Conflicting Interpretations, Schisms, Sects

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.111-120. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 771.983KB).

Javier Martinez

Professor, Departamento de Filología Clásica, Oviedo University, Oviedo, Spain


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