I wanted to attempt the translation of 1 Cor. 13 since I don’t regularly work in the area of translation and I know most of the other bloggers here do. I needed a little practical experience. I tried to integrate some of the ideas found in Alter’s translation of the Pentateuch, as well as Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho.
I saw in both of the above an attempt to be starkly literal and transparent to the original in a way that has not been done before, while at the same time not sacrificing meaning to aesthetic and literary values. I attempted to follow the word order and structure of the Greek as much as possible, varying from this only once or twice. I tried to include alliteration and onomatopoeia, but only as much as was in the original. Naturally, the alliteration is not in exactly the same place nor does it recreate the same sounds. I fear that some of this may have interfered in a minor way with comprehension.
Occasionally, I have interpreted a word in an unusual way, but I am not aware of translating any word in a way that is not represented in a lexicon. It’s possible, but I don’t think I did this. At first, I attempted to be concordant but I found that to be a very elusive quality.
For me, the greatest challenge was how to translate the central thesis, “love is patient, love is kind” in a way that was transparent to the etymology of the Greek. While I don’t want to favour etymological translation too much, I have always believed that “suffer long” imposes a false etymology on makrothumia. For me, this word is closer to “big-hearted” or “expansive”.
This verse speaks of two attributes of God, but represents them each with a verb. Hence, “love is generosity of spirit, kindness in deed is love.” It also retains the chiastic structure of the Greek.
There has been a lot of talk about transparency – wouldn’t it be lovely to have a translation that was “transparent to the Greek.”
I owe a lot to the Good News Bible, CEV, Rotherham, and TNIV for this translation. I have benefitted from the encouragement of many commenters here to explore these literary aspects of translation, especially Iyov, Wayne, Mike S. Mike A., John H. and everybody here.
If you wish to offer a critique or question my use of any particular words, please comment. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts about this approach to translation. I’m editing on the go.