Sunday, January 04, 2009


John has written a post on Calvin and I can't interact on his blog by posting comments in the usual way, so I must record them here. This is what I wrote to John, more or less,


This is a fascinating study. I will give you my English version of the French and then see how it compares to the Latin.

Au reste, combien qu'elles soyent unies l'une l'autre par beaucoup de liens, si n'est-il pas toutesfois aisé discerner laquelle vadevant et produit l'autre.

For the rest, insofar as they form a unity with one another through a host of links, it is not always easy to discern which prepares for and produces the other. (John)

( The French does not say “form a unity with one another.” And pario means pario, to *bear*, bring forth, produce/ create, make, get")

As to the rest, inasmuch as they are united, one another, by many links, it is not always easy to discern which one goes ahead and produces the other, (Mine)

Caeterum, quum multis inter se vinculis connexae sitit, utra tamen alterampraecedat, et ex se pariat, non facile est discernere.

To be sure, because they are interconnected by multiple links, it is noteasy to discern which of the two precedes the other, and gives birth fromitself. (John)

As to the rest, inasmuch as they are interconnected by many links, it isnot always easy to discern which of the two goes before and produces from itself. (Mine)

I admit that there are some interesting differences and it is a fascinating study. But you obscure the significant differences by creating differences that are not there in the original. You have sometimes exaggerated the differences between the original Latin and the French in your translation.

Notes and corrections -

- soyent unies means "are united"
- pario I think this is just "produce" but the ex se part is interesting
- you missed translating guttatim (drop by drop)
- bonorum is pl and not sing. the good things>
- "tant mieux" not quite right.
- lost a comma in the original.after Pareillement, so that whole section is off and should be redone from scratch like this.

Pareillement de ceste petite et maigro portion, l'infinité de tous biens qui reside en Dieu apparoist tant mieux:

Compared to this tiny, meager portion, the infinity of all the benefits which reside in God appears that much more clearly: (John)

Equally, by this small and meager portion, the infiinity of goods which reside in God become more apparent. (mine)

- "biens" should be translated the same way every time tomaintain the connection
- "host of" for "beaucoup" is not really possible

These are rough notes which should more rightly be posted in the comment section of John's blog, but this is not possible. This is all I have time for right now.

Update: I would like to add a little commentary. It is one thing to talk about a foreignizing translation and another to create one that is not really justified.

I also think it is useful to work with an English text of Calvin unless one reads French better than the translators themselves do. Calvin wrote the Institutes first in Latin and then translated them into French. His written Latin was fluent, he used it all through high school. He was trained as a lawyer. I think it is adequate to read Calvin's Latin translated into English, with notes, because his French translation was intended to reflect the Latin.

However, I will add that for those who wish to critique some theological issues, it is vital to understand the sequence of Calvin's thought. It is worth knowing that he read the Latin Vulgate first, and composed much of his theology in Latin, then wrote in French.

It is my suggestion that we owe to Calvin's Latin the word "propitiation." This does not appear as an English word or a French word, as far as I know before Calvin. It does not appear in the first few major English translations of the Bible. Calvin composed theology in Latin, translated it into French and then it was translated into English. It is worth knowing sometimes how words entered the English language. It worries me when a theologian attributes the word "propitiation" to Tyndale. We need to understand that it was a Latin word and Tyndale was more for using English words and creating them if he had to.

So, in sum, if you want to work with original works of theology, then you should really learn to read Latin, French and German fluently. But who has the time?

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