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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Be Woven Like Stones (1 Peter 2:5)

In 1 Peter 2:5 the apostle commands us, "like living stones be built into a spiritual house" (RSV). When I was working on a draft translation of this into a Turkic language, I had to work out what this really means. In this language, and if we think carefully also in English, one cannot build stones, what one builds is a house. Well, in English you can say "the stone was built into the house" in that it became part of the structure, but in the Turkic language there is no such idiom.

So I had to ask the translators, what does one do with stones, or bricks? In English, bricks and stones are laid to make a house. In that language, the word used is otherwise used for weaving; in other words, there is in effect an extended or idiomatic use of the verb for "weave", normally used for cloth and for spiders' webs, to describe what a builder does with bricks and stones.

So, we came up with a draft translation which, translated rather literally back into English, turns out as:
Yourselves be woven like living stones, that a spiritual house may be built.
This is I think a good example of how Bible translators have to work creatively with the different sets of words in different languages, rather than attempting to translate literally. It is also, it seems to me, an edifying (!) thought about how Christians should relate to one another, being woven closely together into a strong and enduring spiritual structure.


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