Saturday, June 12, 2004
The Lord's Prayer throughout history
Bible translations are tricky things, mainly because so many Christians take the Bible as the infailable and ultimate Truth of God™. But the Bible has also been translated and while God may be infailable, we humans aren't quite so lucky. It's also interesting to view the various English translations throughout history.
For instance, various translation of the Lord's Prayer:
Fader uren thu in Heofnas, Sie gehalgud Nama thin; To Cymeth ric thin; Sie fillo thin Suae is in Heofne and in Eortha. Hlaf userne ofwewirtlic sel us to daeg; and forgev us scyltha urna, suae we forgefon scylgum urum. And ne inlead writh in Cosnunge. Al gefrigurich from evil,
Lindisfarne Gospels (date not given)
Unser vater ynn dem hymel. Deyn name sey heylig. Deyn reych kome. Deyn wille geschehe auff erden wie ynn dem hymel. Unser teglich brott gib vnns heutt, und vergib vns vnsere schulde, wie wyr vnsern schuldigen vergeben, vnnd fure vnns nitt ynn versuchung, sondern erlose vns von dem vbel,
Luther's New Testament (1522)
Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thi name; thi kingdom cumme to, be thi wille don as in heuen so in erthe. Giv to vs this day oure breed ouer other substaunce; and forgeue to vs oure dettis, as we forgeue to oure dettours; and leede vs nat in to tempacion, but delyuere vs fro yuel,
First Wycliffite Bible (ca. 1382) (NOTE: the letter ‘G’ and ‘g’ looks like a cross between a lowercase ‘g’ and ‘z’)
O oure father, which art in heven halewed by thy name. Let thy kyngdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit ys in heven. Geve vs this daye oure dayly breade. And forgeve vs oure traspases,
Tyndale's New Testament (1525-26)
Our father which art in heauen, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdome come, Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heauen. Giue vs this day our daily bread. And forgiue vs our debts,
King James Version (1611)
Also interesting is the shifting of letterforms, how four hundred years ago our ‘v’ was shaped like ‘u’ and our ‘u’ was shaped like ‘v’. Also, the King James Version, of them all, sounds the best. Compare that, to a modern (1963) translation I found:
Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honored; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us.
The New Testament in Modern English (1963)
There's no flow; no lyricism at all. I suppose the reason the King James Version sounds so good is that that's the version I've been exposed to all my life, and it sounds like the Bible; it is the Bible.
At least, the English version of the Bible.
I'm not sure who King James had to do the translation, but with people like Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, he must have had an incredible pool of talented writers. I would hate to think of how the 1963 translator would have done with:
To be, or not to be, that is the question …
Hamlet, Act III, scene i
To live, or to die, a decision to make …
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting.