Klaus Hnilica
Tuesday January 8th, 2019

A Translation Mistake with Consequences ?

Since, after the ‘quiet time‘, we are back to ‘peaceful routine‘, it might be quite interesting to stop and think about all the evolutionary changes that even written texts can undergo. This is especially true for the book of books – the bible /1/:

For instance, in early Hebrew versions of the book Isaiah, there is a prophecy that uses the word alma when it describes the mother of a boy whose name is Immanuel (translation: God is with us).

In some languages, among them the ancient Greek, there is no translation for alma. However, a rough equivalent might be “young lady“ or “young lady who has not yet borne a child“.

When Jesus lived, however, the Jews no longer talked Hebrew. They talked Greek or Aramaeic. Consequently, the word alma became the Greek parthenos, which has a specific meaning, namely “virgin“. The biological term Parthenogenesis (“virginal conception“) is based on it: it describes a reproduction process without male contribution as we find it with some insects and reptiles.

That means that a modified translation of one single word turned a “young lady” into a “virgin” and a child into the Messiah! And the story of how Jesus was conceived suddenly changed completely. …

Matthew and Luke even turn this into a truth in their gospels. And for a billion Christians, it turns into a dogma. Which is exactly what we sing about in our Christmas Carols.

Isn’t it strange?

/ 1 / Adam Rutherford: Eine kurze Geschichte von jedem, der jemals gelebt hat
(Translated by EG)

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