Akkadian Prayers and Hymns Volume – Free Download (Some Translation Notes Thrown In, Too)

Charles Halton has the details on a free download of a book to which he contributed, Akkadian Prayers and Hymns: A Reader.

While I’m linking to Awilum.com, I thought I would bring over a couple interesting statements he’s had up on translation in recent days.

Here’s one from Simon Parpola:

No translation, no matter how good it is, can make these texts familiar or immediately understandable to a modern non-technical reader. One is bound to admit the existence of a cultural barrier which can be – even partially – removed only through a more thorough acquaintance of texts themselves or related documents from the same period…

A literal translation – which would only add linguistic anomalies to the difficulties of the reader – is therefore excluded. On the other hand, an easily readable free translation would not be a much better alternative. A free translation is bound to be to a large extent an interpretation (and as such a subjective one), and modernization which is necessary for readability might mislead an innocent reader, if too widely applied. My translation hopes to be a sort of compromise between these two extremities: sufficiently accurate and illustrative, but not too literal to make the texts unreadable and not too much of an interpretation to make them non-Assyrian.

–Simo Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars, xviii.

Because the Bible will be read and re-read, studied, exposited, and because of the abundance of commentaries in print and online, I think that the literal translation Parpola thinks is excluded  for the documents he translates is possible for the biblical texts. Further, the history of the influence of the KJV on the English language proves in my opinion that what begin as “linguistic anomalies” resulting from literal translations quickly become widely understood, widely used ways of speaking. That is, the Bible shapes the language and the culture.

And here’s one Halton puts up on Thucydides:

First, the “good” translations of his History (those that are fluent and easy to read) give a very bad idea of the linguistic character of the original Greek. The “better” they are, the less likely they are to reflect the flavor of what Thucydides wrote—rather likeFinnegans Wake rewritten in the clear idiom of Jane Austen. Second, many of our favorite “quotations” from Thucydides, those slogans that are taken to reveal his distinctive approach to history, bear a tenuous relationship to his original text. As a general rule, the catchier the slogans sound, the more likely they are to be largely the product of the translator rather than of Thucydides himself. He simply did not write many of the bons mots attributed to him.1

Can we afford to have things like this said of the Biblical Authors?

Okay might as well give you this too: here’s Halton’s reaction to the NIV 2011.

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