translating biblical cohesion
A couple of days ago I was reviewing translation of a section of the gospel of John. It was worded like this in the version I was checking:
While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many people believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. Jesus, however, did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and didn't need anyone to tell him what people were like, because he himself knew what was in every person. (John 2:23-25)This translation basically makes sense to me, as it is worded. But for some reason I decided to check the Greek underlying the wordings "believed in his name" and "did not entrust himself to them." I discovered that the Greek verb, pisteuw, behind each wording was identical (apart from adjustments for different subject prefixes for those verbs). Because the repetition of the verb was so close within the text, I wondered if the author of this gospel, known for deliberately using stylistic tools for rhetorical effect, was doing just that here. The more I thought about it and examined other English versions, the more I sensed that the author was using lexical cohesion here, using the same Greek verb, in order to contrast the way that the people trusted Jesus but he did not trust them.
We might be able to understand that contrast clearly from the words used in the translation above, words which are in the same semantic set, namely, "believe in" and "entrust to" but I wondered if the contrast could be made clearer in English, as clear as in the Greek, if the repetition of the same verb was stylistically deliberate. So I suggested to the translators of that version that they consider a revision to:
While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many people trusted him because they saw the signs that he was doing. Jesus, however, did not trust them, because he knew all people and didn't need anyone to tell him what people were like, because he himself knew what was in every person.It can be argued whether my omission of literal "in his name" (which is the synecdoche figure of speech where the name of a person represents that person) is legitimate or not, but let's save that argument for another time.
For now, let's focus on the lexical cohesion in the translation of the Greek verb pisteuw. What do you think? Do you think that repetition was deliberate? If so, does it seem to you legitimate to try to translate the Greek verb in such a way that the English in each case is referring to the same thing? Can you think of any better ways to make clear the lexical cohesion of the Greek text here?
I found one other version which attempts to bring out the lexical cohesion which I suggest is part of this text:
Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn't trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like. (NLT)