Proverbs and Phrases of Biblical Origins
- I believe that the obligation of every translator is to find an equivalent of the phrase (provided the use of the phrase contextually agrees with its biblical meaning) that is normally used in the target language. That is why a simple word-for-word translation sometimes doesn't help and can be absolutely incomprehensible to the target audience.
This is especially true for Russian proverbs, which come from the old Slavic translations of the Greek version of the Bible. Russian proverbs and often-used phrases from the Bible contain some old Slavic words, which are not understandable to modern Russian people, except in the context of the full proverb and may be absolutely unknown to non-Russian translators.
For example, the Russian equivalent of the phrase like a lamb (in the biblical meaning of the context) is аки агнец, where both words are rarely used in modern Russian; they can be found together in contemporary Russian literature but only in this phrase and often have a humorous connotation. The English phrase "to keep smth. as the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32.10.) will be translated in Russian as "беречь как зеницу ока" or literally "to keep as the pupil of his eye". The word "Greek" in the phrase "Here there cannot be Greek and Jew" (Colossians 3.11.) becomes in the Russian equivalent not in the modern word "грек" (Greek) but in the old Slavic "эллин" (Hellene), which is hardly used in the Russian language today.
The same situation can be observed when comparing the English biblical proverbs and phrases with German ones. For example, such phrases as "in the fullness of one's heart"(Luke 6.45.) in English and "aus dem guten Schatz seines Herzens" in German or "Do not judge by appearances" (John 7.24.) and "Richtet nicht nach dem, was vor Augen ist" are not word-for-word translations.
In all these cases I emphasize only the difficulty in translating proverbs and constant phrases of biblical origin from English into the target language, without touching on the matter of translation of the Scriptures into different languages. This is a topic in itself, which has been discussed for the past two thousand years.