Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

He waxes desperate with imagination.
Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
Have after. To what issue will this come?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.
Nay, let's follow him.

This exchange between Horatio and Marcellus comes from one of the most well known pieces of literature of all time, Shakespeare's Hamlet. 

My last post regarded a single word and it's origin which is of extreme import to Christians and how it's meaning can shift from the original intent.  When pen met paper for the writing of the various books of the Bible I don't think that communion was really ever intended to be Communion.  Perhaps the connotation is subtle, but I think it exists, none the less. 

Today I want to explore a phrase to illustrate that absolute translation has very real risks.  In the above quote, line four reads Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  Now, I think it safe to be said that few of our modern contemporaries wouldn't understand that this is taken to mean a situation of problems of corruption and dictionary.com supports that hypothesis.  However, lets lay our knowledge of English idioms aside and look at this phrase.  Denmark, there is a problem in that country.  Something is foul and if you look at the next line heaven will direct it, then you even get a powerful force behind it.  Now lets assume that a people hundreds or thousands of years from now recovered a fragment of text including just those two lines.  (Yes I know this isn't likely because of how books are printed today, but bear with me.) Wouldn't it stand to reason a populace trying to find themselves could interpret that as a sign that Denmark is directed to be evil from an edict of God?  How easy would it be to rationalize this statement anyway you wanted to in order to hate someone?

The trouble with translating literature is trying to balance the what the text says and what the text means.  Our Bible isn't immune to that either, even though many would try to have you believe that it is.  When you try to get into absolute translation looking to pick out some "truth" that supports whatever you are trying to peddle for faith then you lose the fact that you are reading the Voice of God.  A huge part of reading the Bible is the effort to surrender to listen.  God will direct understanding when we are ready.  Don't force it, enjoy it.  Make it your time to commune with God and enjoy His presence.  If you had to ask me, the Bible isn't a book to be read, it is a book to be conversed with.  Now quit reading my random drivel and start talking with your Bible.  See what happens, I bet you will be surprised.

No comments:

Post a Comment