The Translation Of The Sacred – Analysis

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The aim of this analysis is to reflect on the problem of religious translation, taking advantage of the bibliography available in the hermeneutica sacra, and in the movements of the reformation, while underlining the points of exegetical convergence between the various hermeneutical, linguistic, translational and theological contributions.

A translation is never done outside of a context.(1)  The choice of texts to be translated or re-translated, as well as the strategies to be used to carry out the translations, are dictated by a complex set of factors that go far beyond the texts themselves.

The controversy of fidelity to form and fidelity to content remains a major question in translation studies, (2) to which even the typology of texts has not been able to provide a definitive answer. As far as the translation of religious texts is concerned, the question becomes more thorny, given the sacred character of the terms and the formulation of the message.

As far as the translation of religious texts is concerned, there is a great effort to render the original text literally and to restore it “faithfully”. However, thanks to the contributions of linguistics and the new approaches of of translatology, this conception of “fidelity” is today strongly questioned.

Translation of religious text

According to Robinson (2000 : 103-107) (3) the relationship between religion and translation is problematic because it calls into question three issues:

  1. The status of the translation;
  2. The status of the sacred; and
  3. The status of the text itself.

Can and should religious texts be translated? How, when, for whom, in what framework and according to what rules should they be translated? Does a translated religious text remain sacred or does it become a mere copy of the sacred text? What is the sacred? Where does it reside? Can it be transported across cultural barriers? What does a religious text represent in an oral society? What are its limits in a written culture? Can a translated religious text retain its liturgical functions? These fundamental questions allow us to contextualize the nature of the translation activity with regard to the three great texts of the three main monotheistic religions: the Talmud for Judaism, the Bible for Christianity, and the Qur’an for Islam.

What is at stake in the translation of the sacred is precisely the articulation of these two notions and what this articulation reveals of its terms.(4)  Our question will not be on the phenomenon since it seems obvious, natural we would say and cultural or rather founder of culture. Revelation is translation, reception is translation and the dynamic thus created is almost prolonged by inertia.(5)  But, this first approach outdated, we must understand that inscribed in a story, the biblical translation covers intentions and strategies to be deciphered. Divergent obviously and different according to the times, cultures and representations of the divine and the human. The sacred is precisely the dimension which not only attaches itself to the divine but which weaves the link, which marks the place where the divine meets and clashes human. (6) In short, the sacred covers both notions.

World based on principles of diversity

In fact, the world is based on the principles of diversity, difference and plurality. Taking this diversity into account is essential, because when it is poorly managed, the tensions and frustrations it creates can lead to intolerance, racism, or more generally to what is called “ethnocentrism. ” When it is a question of an intercultural encounter, the risks of disagreements, or even dissensions, are increased, due to intercultural misunderstandings. The difficulty of reaching a relationship of trust arises, often acutely.(7)  This increases the need to communicate, one communicates to inform, to be informed, to know each other, to explain, to understand and to understand each other.

Intercultural status can take more or less intense forms, and is often an enriching experience. With or without the language barrier which can be an obstacle to exchanges, these encounters with the Other are also an opportunity to reflect on oneself and on the world. They can be at the origin of cultural mixing. The notion of intercultural status, in order to have its full value, must, in fact, be extended to any situation of cultural rupture – resulting, essentially, from differences in codes and meanings -, the differences in play being able to be linked to various types of belonging (ethnicity, nation, region, religion, gender, generation, social group, organization, occupation, in in particular). An intercultural situation therefore exists as soon as the persons or groups in groups in presence do not share the same universes of meanings and the same forms of same forms of expression of these meanings, these differences being able to make obstacle to communication.(8)

In translation, it is a question of carrying out a displacement, a transfer, while keeping a sufficient degree of resemblance between two entities, one of which is derived from the other. We are thus dealing with a special kind of language process that results in a relationship, or rather, a complex web of relationships. And the challenges are perhaps due precisely to the difficulty of finding agreement on the entities or phenomena between which these inter-linguistic and intercultural relationships should be established, as well as on the nature of the relationship itself. Should it be a simple resemblance, or an equality, or even an identity? The term “equivalence”,(9)  now controversial, has often been used in this sense, and the history of translation studies,(10)  as a discipline that studies “translating” theories and practices, is full of different approaches that prioritize equivalence of letter, meaning, or effect.

It is a matter of situating translation in its historical, social and political contexts, and of recognizing that, beyond the difficulties of textual transfer and considerations of the translatability or non-translatability of the divine message,(11)  there are always factors external to the texts that have a determining influence on interpretation (inherent in the act of translating), on translation strategies and techniques, as well as on the very choice of texts to be translated or re-translated, and the sources that will be used.

The translation of the sacred text

The translation of the sacred text raises multiple and formidable questions concerning the relationship of communities and peoples to their languages and to the founding texts of their identities, to the sacred, to the world with its beings and its objects. (12)

The sacred text constitutes a “literary” monument that crystallizes the inherited identity of a community. The question of its translation differs according to religions and beliefs. If we consider the three Abrahamic monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we notice at first sight a radical difference between these three branches of the Abrahamic tradition in the place given to the translation of their sacred text.

Thus, the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (13) underlines the fact that revelation has an ineffable character and cannot be expressed in human language.(14) Translation would be blasphemy. Steiner points out that Judaism harbors an extreme taboo, the Megillat Taanith (15) of the first century reports that the world was darkened for three days when the Law was translated into Greek (M. Ballard, 2007, p 38).(16)  Thus translation is considered a transgression of the prohibition of communication embodied in the curse of Babel that the diversity of languages represents. Moreover, the refusal of the Judaic religious authorities to participate in the Ecumenical Translation of the Bible confirms the durability of this radical position of Judaism.

If we consider Christianity, we see that translation and interpretation were constitutive of the New Testament (NT). Indeed, if Christ spoke Aramaic, the NT was written in Greek from the first century, and the predominance of Latin in Gaul and Africa created the need for Latin translations of the Bible, a task to which St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus, born in 347) devoted himself.(17) The Bible was then translated into the European “vernacular” languages, some of which founded national languages and identities (for example, German with Martin Luther). (18) The religious aspect supports this centrality of translation and interpretation in the Christian tradition.

The problem of religious translation raises questions about the notion of “religion of the Books”, a notion that is not accepted without reservation by the various monotheisms.

The legitimacy of translation in Christian theology

Among the three monotheisms, a specificity of Christianity is the absence of sacralization of the source languages, which makes the sacred texts intrinsically translatable: the canon is considered sacred insofar as it transmits the divine word, but the language itself (Hebrew, Greek) is not sacralized. In this, Christianity differs from Judaism, which sacralizes Hebrew as the language of the TaNaKh (the Jewish canon, written in Hebrew, comprising the Law, Torah, the prophets, Nevihim, and the writings, Ketuvim) (19),  and from Islam, which posits the Qur’anic text as dictated directly in Arabic. While neither Judaism nor Islam prohibits translations of sacred texts and more generally of religious texts, these translations are not supposed to be the basis for theological debate or prayer, which must be carried out on the basis of the original language text.

It is therefore on translation that evangelization rests: for the Word of Christ to spread universally, it must be able to reach each person in his or her own language. It is also in this that Christianity differs from Judaism : in the fact that it does not address itself to a particular people, but potentially to the universal human community (this is the meaning of the term “Catholic”, copied from the Greek and meaning “general”, “universal”). Moreover, the linguistic transfer is early, since the New Testament is written in Greek while Christ spoke in Aramaic. From then on, the imperative of translating the sacred texts was imposed, as the extension of the confessional public, theoretically universal, was redefined: Christianity aimed at the evangelization of all, without distinction of birth, origin, language, ethnic group or status.

For all that, if the Christian Bible itself presupposes its own translatability, this does not imply that, in practice, anyone undertakes to translate, nor that any translation is received without further ado by the confessing public. From antiquity, two versions were established, whose posterity was immense: the Greek Septuagint (20)  and the Latin Vulgate.(21)  The Greek version, known as the Septuagint, became the version of the Eastern Christians, although it was not of Christian origin. It adds to the New Testament written in Greek the Alexandrian translation of the Septuagint, produced in the third century BC in a Hellenized Jewish environment. The name “Septuagint” refers to the legend that 72 translators were commissioned to translate the Jewish Hebrew canon into Greek and that they produced as many translations, all identical to each other, as a sign that they were inspired by the divine spirit. The production of this translation responded to a double necessity: King Ptolemy’s desire to have a Greek version of the sacred text of the Jews, who were numerous in Egypt, but also the need for Hellenized Jews who no longer read Hebrew to understand the TaNaKh.

The Vulgate, in a Christian context this time, finds its source in the fourth century A.D. in the desire of Pope Damasus (22) (born in Rome around 305 and died in the same city on December 11, 384) to control the distribution of the biblical text in Latin. Indeed, translations were proliferating, now known as the Vetus Latina (“old Latin Bible”), disparate in their principles and allowing the coexistence of several competing lessons. Pope Damasus then commissioned Jerome of Stridon (Saint Jerome) to produce a unified version. Jerome re-translated the Gospels from Greek and most of the Old Testament from Hebrew – the Psalter and the Epistles were simply revisions of pre-existing translations. This translation, called the “Vulgate” because it was written in the vulgar language (Latin, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire), was for centuries the reference version of the Catholic Church, imposing itself as a second original.

In modern times, translations of the Bible into the European vernacular languages multiplied under the dual influence of the spread of printing and the Reformation. Protestants and Catholics did not read the same Bible. The diversification of denominational audiences led to a diversification of Bibles, diverse in their target languages, but also in their source languages and even in the canon that was retained.

The Catholic translations of the Bible, from the first complete Bible in French (Lefèvre d’Etaples – 1455-1536 -, 1530) until the 1950s, were based almost exclusively on the text of the Latin Vulgate, which was declared “authentic” and thus the reference version at the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1553) which organized the Counter-Reformation. The different branches of Protestantism all had in common the opposition to Rome and the return to the sources of Christianity, which implied recourse to the Hebrew and Greek originals for the translation. This immediately raises the question of the edition of the source texts, which are beginning to be printed, while the problem of textual variants emerges, crucial when it comes to establishing a text whose inspired nature is not debated.

Protestants and Catholics therefore read Bibles that have not been translated from the same original, which obviously has an impact on the text and can lead to variants or nuances of meaning. Two examples here. The first shows a case of lexical divergence of the sources : we read in Canticle of Canticles 1 : 2 in Catholic Bibles based on the Vulgate, “your breasts are better than wine“, following Jerome’s reading “ubera tua [your breasts, your udders] meliora vino“, and in Protestant Bibles based on the Hebrew “your loves are better than wine“, following the Hebrew text : “dodeikha” [your loves, your tenderness, your affection]. The Protestant translators use the Hebrew Massoretic text, i.e., fixed in its spelling, vocalization and cantillation, whereas the earlier manuscripts contain a purely consonant text. Presumably, Jerome had read “dadeikha” [your breasts], using a Hebrew version without vowels, prior to the Masoretic edition. A second case shows no misunderstanding this time, but the diffusion of nuances rich in meaning in theology, is to be found in the prologue of the Gospel of John. The Greek puts Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, the word “logos” being translated by Jerome as “verbum.” Following Jerome’s lesson, and because a very similar term exists in French, Catholic translators more or less universally put “In the beginning was the Word.” Protestant translators, on the other hand, tend to translate “logos” by “word“, which is not a misunderstanding of the Greek, but shows a desire to distance themselves from the Latin and Catholic tradition.

Jewish translations of the Bible into French are much later – they emerge during the eighteenth century, the first complete translation being made by the native of Metz Samuel Cahen (1796-1862) in the middle of the nineteenth century. On the one hand, since the sacred language of Judaism is Hebrew, the translation does not have the same status and can only be conceived as an aid to reading. On the other hand, the Jewish communities of France did not become fully French-speaking until quite late, once the emancipation of the Jews gave them the status of French citizens. The need for translations for Jewish use in French (and not in Yiddish or Ladino – the Judeo-Spanish language spoken by certain Sephardic communities – for example) was hardly felt before 1800 (Placial, 2014 : 475 ff.): the first Jewish translations of sacred texts into French, such as those of Mordecai Venture (1730-1789), were aimed as much at non-Jews as at Jews.

It was not until the very end of the nineteenth century that the “Bible of the Rabbinate” (1899-1906), coordinated by Zadoc Kahn (1839-1905), chief rabbi of the Central Consistory, was published, partly using pre-existing translations (that of Lazare Wogue – 1817-1897 – for the Pentateuch and the first Prophets, for example). Obviously, this translation concerns only the Jewish canon and does not include the deuterocanonical books (i.e., the books excluded from the Jewish canon but included in the Catholic canon, such as the book of Judith or the book of Wisdom), nor, of course, the New Testament. Presented as the collective and anonymous work of the French Rabbinate, it is “intended less for worship or study than for further reading” (Kaufmann, 2012), in the context of a French Jewish community that, increasingly assimilated, no longer reads Hebrew. The posterity of this translation is great : initially published in French only, it is reprinted in a bilingual edition ; in the age of the Internet, it is also used, opposite the Hebrew, by the Sefarim site (http://www.sefarim.fr/), developed by Akadem, intended for the study of Jewish texts.

But the Bibles of the various denominations do not differ only in the heterogeneity of their source languages. These Bibles are also distinct by the canon they retain, and the order in which this canon is translated, as far as the Old Testament is concerned. The New Testament, on the other hand, is stable both in its composition and in the order of the books (the four Gospels ; the Acts of the Apostles ; the various Epistles ; and the Apocalypse). The reader of a Protestant or Jewish Bible will not find the deuterocanonical texts, which appear in Catholic Bibles.

Translations of the Torah (TaNaKh)

The exile, the founding experience of Jewish existence, is accompanied by a complex relationship to Hebrew and to languages in general, which assigns a central role to the problem of translation. The Hebrew Bible itself – the 24 books of the TaNaKh (acronym of Torah : Pentateuch, Nevi’im: Prophets, Ketuvim: Hagiographers) – inaugurates the collective history of Israel with an Exodus and ends it with the exile to Babylonia, followed by the Return. This exile is sometimes announced in prophetic form as an experience of immersion among a people “whose language you will not understand” (Deuteronomy 28 :49 ; see Psalms 114 :1). In fact, it will have constituted a linguistic rupture : from the Return onwards, Aramaic will gradually take precedence over Hebrew as the language spoken among the Jews. There is a consensus that the end of classical Hebrew as a spoken language occurred at the beginning of the third century. The relationship to biblical Hebrew, which is properly the language of the biblical text – since the Bible is the principal and almost exclusive document that attests to this state of the Hebrew language – is thus marked, in the Jewish tradition, by the seal of ambiguity : original language, but lost language; at once mother tongue and foreign language.(23)

In the practices of translating the Hebrew Bible, as in the reflections on it throughout Jewish history, a series of tensions is therefore at play : the needs induced by diglossia, amplified in the diasporas, in the face of the risk of profaning a text held sacred, the variable place of the Bible according to context, within a tradition more centered on the study of the Talmud,(24)  and consequently the relations between the elites and the margins. In certain contexts, translations of the Bible become the only means of access to Jewish sources for specific audiences, whether they be women who are traditionally excluded from the study of the Talmud or, more generally, Jews who have stepped outside the framework of traditional study and practice, especially in the modern period.

This practice of synagogal translation was carried out at the very moment of the reading, by a “meturgeman” (an Aramaic term which, through the intermediary of Arabic, gave rise to the French word “truchement“, which designates an intermediary or interpreter). The biblical text must thus be heard in its original Hebrew form, but also be understood by the faithful. One finds in this device a kind of repetition of the Sinai scene. In the first stage, the collective is founded in the direct listening of the divine voice, which proves to be unbearable and inaudible for the people: what is restored by the reading of a Hebrew text which has become partly incomprehensible. In a second stage, Moses sets himself up as an intermediary between God and the people and transmits to them, “translates“, his word: a function which the meturgeman occupies in his own way (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20-25). If this practice of simultaneous translation manifests a concern to protect the mass of the faithful, who no longer understand – or no longer sufficiently understand – Hebrew, from ignorance, it nevertheless appears that a certain control of access to the biblical text is at stake.

The Talmud thus rules that certain biblical passages had to be read without being translated, in order to prevent the common people from committing misunderstandings or irreverent readings (TB, Megilla, 25a-b). For example, when Aaron tells Moses the story of the making of the golden calf, he says: “I said to them, ‘Who has gold?’ and they stripped themselves of it and handed it over to me ; I threw it into the fire and this calf came out of it” (Exodus, 34, 24, Rabbinate translation). To translate this verse, which suggests a miraculous formation of the calf in the fire, would suggest to the uninformed public that “idolatrous worship is based on something real” (Rashi, ad. loc. in the Talmud). The extent to which these restrictions on the synagogal translation of the biblical text reflect actual practice is difficult to ascertain, but they may be seen as a paradoxical distrust on the part of rabbinic authorities of the reading of the biblical text – a distrust that governs the relationship between the Bible and the Talmud throughout the history of the tradition (Attias, 2012). Other Talmudic texts show the concern to control the role of the meturgeman, whose translation cannot be improvised: “Whoever translates a verse literally is a fabulator ; but whoever adds anything to it is a blasphemer” (Tossefta, Megilla, 4, 41 ; TB, Qiddushin, 49a).

This is undoubtedly a formula expressing the great difficulty, if not the impossibility, of the task of the intermediary (Sarna, 1971 : 589). But it also expresses the fact that this translation must correspond to a certain tradition of interpretation of the biblical text, which is not always perfectly literal. In fact, an authorized translation has gradually imposed itself : the Targum Onkelos, attributed to a proselyte (a Greek convert to Judaism) who lived in the second century A.D., although the text was fixed around the third century. To use Jean-René Ladmiral’s (2014) categories, it is a “mute” translation : the Aramaic copies of the Hebrew, both in terms of word order and choice of vocabulary, to the detriment of Aramaic grammar. But the Targum sometimes introduces choices of interpretation, which are sometimes its own, such as the refusal of anthropomorphisms, and sometimes correspond to traditional interpretations. Thus, “you shall not cook the lamb in its mother’s milk” is rendered “you shall not eat meat with milk” (Exodus, 23 :19 ; 34 :26, see Deuteronomy, 14 :21), in accordance with rabbinic law. The Talmud refers to Targum Onkelos as “our translation” (TB, Qiddushin, 49a) and presents Onkelos as translating under the authority of leading rabbis (TB, Megilla, 3a ; although this may be based on a confusion with Aquila, the author of a Greek translation of the Bible) (Sarna, 1971 : 590). The same passage also presents Jonathan ben Uziel (first century BC), to whom is attributed the authorized Aramaic translation of the books of the Prophets, translating under the direct inspiration of the last prophets of Israel. From the Middle Ages onwards, manuscripts of the Bible present the biblical text accompanied by the Targum Onkelos on the Pentateuch or the Targum Jonathan on the Prophets, generally after each verse.

Translation and theology 

The three monotheisms are closely linked to the “holy books”. They constitute the ultimate evolution of religions, attesting to the passage from oral cultures to the “written culture”. The close connection between ‘religion’ and ‘book’ indicates a new form of religious rationality which is intended to break with natural religions and the various types of polytheism and paganism. In spite of the circumstantial differences between revelation (Islam) and inspiration (Christianity), the primacy of the Book has operated an ‘epistemological’ break with the forms of expression of natural religions. But these religions have not disappeared for all that, they keep barely visible traces in the monotheistic religions. We will follow in this sense a suggestion of Jan Assmann, by distinguishing between (ancient) religion and monotheistic counter-religion (Gegenreligion). The effort of hermeneutics is to translate the jargon of the new religions into the primitive mythological language of the natural religions. Religious exegesis (like the work of Ricoeur and LaCocque entitled “Thinking Biblically: Exegetical and Hermeneutical“) (25)  will have the task of translating the biblical language into the mythological language of ancient Egypt, for example.

Religious hermeneutics has also developed in modern times in the wake of the problem of translation. The problem of the unity of the Holy Book, which should ‘accommodate’ the Old Testament to the New Testament in the perspective of one and only one divine word : the Bible), led theologians to propose different types of meaning: typological, tropological, mystical meaning, in addition to the lexical meaning. The translation of the holy book should take into consideration the different dogmatics that prescribe doctrinal reference points for the translation exercise. The quarrels of schools (around the demythologization of Bultmann) (26) show the actuality of the problem of intra- and intercultural translation.

The problem of translation in Islamic countries is currently posed in unprecedented terms. Given the dogma of the preeminence of the Arabic language, the translation of the Qur’an in Islamic lands is generally considered as “bid’â“ بدعة , a term that encompasses the meaning of what is “new, blasphemous and counter-religious“; the translation of the Qur’an is in this perspective an attempt that is inevitably doomed to failure, and when it is sometimes tolerated, it is as a “translation of the meanings of the Qur’an and not of the inimitable one.“ The refusal to “sacralize” the translation of the sacred text comes from a theological conception of language.

In the past, the theological problem of translation could be put in these exclusive terms. The Arabic language was the predominant language of culture and communication. Now, the new problem of translation is the following : Arabic is becoming a minority language in several Muslim countries (Persia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, etc.) and non-Muslim countries (Europe, the Americas, and Africa), not to mention Arabized Muslim countries with a strong non-Arabic ethnic majority, such as those of the Maghreb where Berber/Tamazight is spoken. Hence the need for translation into languages and cultures other than Arabic.

To sum up, it is appropriate to examine the relationship of the sacred text to translation and interpretation according to two main perspectives:

  1. The perspective of verticality, that is, that of “religiō” in the sense of binding, when the holy text-book establishes a covenant (religiō) between Men and God. The divine Word incarnated in the human language is the attestation of this transcendental alliance; and
  2. The perspective of horizontality, that is, that of the “relegere“,(27)  in the sense of re-reading and inter-community inter-textuality : Any new religious vocation is based on the previous cultural heritage. And since the mythological and polytheistic heritage constituted the predominant cultural heritage, it directed the exegetical aims of the researches in the religious sciences.

Firstly, intertextual relationship between Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT), and between OT&NT and Koran, where we could speak of cultural and dogmatic re-enunciation. Secondly, intertextual relationship between OT and the whole Assyrian-Babylonian mythology with its founding narratives, especially those concerning the birth of the world and the creation of man found in the Poem of Atrahasis, in the Poem of Creation, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, in addition to another Babylonian poem entitled “I want to praise the Lord of Wisdom” which has similarities with the biblical Job. Finally, intertextual relationship between the different religious exegetical traditions, biblical and Koranic, and their preponderant role in the institutionalization and consecration of canonical interpretations (Midrash, Targum, Exegesis, Tafsîr), without forgetting the contributions of the three mystics (Jewish, Christian and Muslim).

That it is permissible to translate the Bible does not pose a question within the rabbinic tradition. Moreover, the latter does not fail to compare traditional commentary to a form of translation: if, according to Deuteronomy, 1:5, Moses, on the eve of his death, began to “explain” (be’er) the Torah to the people of Israel, it is because he expounded it in “70 languages” (Rashi ad. loc., Midrash Tanḥuma, Devarim, 2:1). According to a Talmudic commentary, at the very moment of the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai, every divine word was “divided into 70 languages” (Babylonian Talmud [=TB], Shabbat, 88b). This teaching is reminiscent of the motif of the universal translatability of the biblical text, which is at the heart of the Christian rereading of Pentecost, when the apostles began to “speak in other tongues“, to address each one in his own idiom through the intermediary of the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-12). But from the point of view of rabbinic Judaism, this universal translatability rests on the irreducible primacy of the Hebrew original, despite and by virtue of its strangeness and sometimes obscurity.

According to a teaching of the Mishna (28)  (Mishna, Megilla, I, 8) – the oldest stratum of rabbinic literature compiled in the second century – “the books [of the Bible] can be translated into any language,” which seems to imply that their essential function lies in the understanding of their text. Conversely, the texts of the Bible that appear in liturgical objects: phylacteries (tefillin) – cubic boxes containing biblical excerpts attached to the forehead and arm during prayer – and mezuzot – parchment scrolls hung on the lintel of doors – are not to be translated. They are not intended to be read, but to inscribe spaces and bodies under the sign of the biblical text. Their function is not semantic, but semiotic. It is perhaps because the weekly synagogal reading of a passage from the Pentateuch (parashah) is situated at the crossroads of these two functions: to make a sign and to make sense, that the Talmud (TB, Megillah, 8b-9b) reveals strong reticence about the use of a translated text in this liturgical context. A notable exception is made for the Greek translation of the Septuagint, around which the ambivalence of the rabbinic tradition with regard to the translation of the Bible crystallizes.

On the one hand, in both Talmudic and Hellenistic sources (Pelletier, 1962), this translation, produced within the important Hellenistic Jewish community of Alexandria in the third century B.C., is presented as resulting from divine inspiration. This miracle – which justifies the use of a Greek text even in the liturgy – would in some way actualize the biblical announcement of a fraternal closeness between Japheth – the ancestor of Greece, according to the biblical genealogy – and Shem – the ancestor of Israel (according to one of the possible readings of Genesis, 9, 27 ; Levinas, 1988). On the other hand, other texts state that this translation would have caused three days of darkness to fall upon the world (Megillat Ta’anit) or compare it to the making of the golden calf (Massekhet Sefer Tora, I, 8, cf. Massekhet Soferim, I, 8): the translation, like the idol, substituting itself for the original.

In fact, in the Hellenistic Jewish world, the Septuagint will soon become the reference text for Jews who no longer understand Hebrew, before becoming that of the Fathers of the Church. These contradictory texts undoubtedly reflect the tensions which the encounter with Greek culture during the Hellenistic period may have caused, between attraction and risk of assimilation. The negative view of the Septuagint also reflects polemical issues at the time of the rise of Christianity. If the rabbinic sources reveal the perception of translation as constituting a risk of confirming the public’s ignorance of the Hebrew language, translating is nonetheless recognized as a necessity in a situation of diglossia where the “sacred” language is composed of a vernacular language. The Mishna thus relates the ancient practice of combining the synagogal reading of the Torah with an Aramaic translation (the language that had become vernacular by the time of the Second Temple).

Translation of the Koranic narrative

The history of successive translations of the Qur’an from the beginning of the prophetic mission to the present day attests to the interest that the Holy Book has aroused in all times. A real enigma for some, a source of concern for others, the founding text of Islam, represents a kind of challenge to Western intelligence.

Whether it is a question of translations with a confessional vocation, most often carried out by Muslim translators, or translations by laymen, the translated text often sacrifices the effort of exegesis for the benefit of interpretation. This is because the act of translation is not a linear activity, but is based on a confrontation of subjectivities, of multiple readings: reading of the original text, reading of the translations of predecessors, exegetical readings, re-translation of an already existing translation, etc. By dint of reshuffling, readjustments, adaptations, the original text runs the risk of being no more than a pretext either for conveying a literary or cultural tradition; or a tool for adaptations, sometimes for civilizational annexations. Instead of being an attempt at transfer, the translation of the religious sacred becomes an attack, even a sacrilege.

It is in this general context that our approach to the translations of the story of Yûsuf between meta-text, text and pretext from three translations: that of Chiadmi,(29)  Mohamed el Mokhtar Ould Bah,(30)  and finally that of Jacques Berque.(31)

What are the translation strategies and positions of the above-mentioned translators?  How did they assume the limits of the religious translatable? If the Qur’anic narrative finds its legitimacy and raison d’être in its function of guidance, education and communication of norms and laws, what aspects have our three translators enhanced: the literarity of the text? Its poetic beauty? Its message or its effect?  Does the translated text assume the same function as the source text?

Attempting to reflect on the translation of the Qur’anic narrative means embracing in three stages :

  1. The particularities of the narrative in the Qur’an,
  2. The translational horizon and dispositions of the translators, and;
  3. Finally The stakes and limits of the translational strategies implemented.

To what extent did our three translators remain faithful to the source? How can we say that a translation is effective? Can we envisage a translation that breaks the links with the social and cultural system of the host country? Can we decontextualize the attempt to translate the Qur’an and seek only the transmission of the religious message?

The process of analysis of the three translations fits into the general framework of the Germanic approach to translation inspired by Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutics (32) and Jauss’s theory of reception (33); and was guided by the key concepts of: genre, translatology, translational horizon and system of equivalences. It was driven by three underlying questions: Does the Qur’anic narrative bear translation as one would translate a literary narrative? Can the translation of the Qur’anic narrative be read as a mode of aesthetic and literary transfer? Does the Qur’anic narrative and its translation assume the same function?

The narrative in the Qur’an is not the narrative in literature for the simple reason that the Qur’an is not a literary text. The Qur’an as the revealed word of Allah, even when it is in human language, creates its own forms. To confine it to the moulds of categorization and type of literary analysis would be to misunderstand its essence. The Qur’anic narrative is simply what it is.

Literature as art is defined in the opposition between poetic language and practical language. Fiction never takes place in the practice of life. Moreover, what makes literature literary is that it is subject to the evolution of genres. In the literary series, it is the principle of evolution and change of forms that guarantees literarity. Each new literary form corresponds to a great moment of historical rupture, to an ideological turning point.

Moreover, the poetic text is open to multiple comprehensions. The text of literature is in this sense subject to the dialectic of the question/answer and to the changes of horizons of waiting. The sense is in perpetual construction there. It is the reader who actualizes it and gives it life. He becomes co-author of the text and witnesses the death of the initial writer.

On the other hand, the meaning in the Qur’anic text is a revealed, canonical meaning, pre-existing before existence itself and authoritative. The Qur’an also has a mimetic value that allows people of all times to recognize themselves. If the Qur’an was revealed in human language and adopted the literary forms known at the time of the Arabia of the 7th century, it is so that it is accessible and understood. But is it enough to look for literary mechanisms in the Qur’anic narratives that are common to other texts produced by men?

This is to say that it remains insufficient to translate “قصة qişsa” as narrative or story. In the Quranic “قصص qaşaş“, it is the effect and message conveyed that produces the meaning. The qaşaş in the Qur’an are not narrated but evoked in such a way that one immediately perceives the essence : the teaching.  Is the qişsa in the Qur’an a special genre ? Let us recall by way of example that time and place are often neglected in the Qur’anic narrative, events are selected, some details are not mentioned or very little explained. Some names of prophets or facts of history are reiterated in more than one sûrahQişsa’t Yûsuf which will be the subject of our study is an exception. Sûrat Yûsuf (Arabic : يوسف) is the 12 th sûrah of the Quran. It has 111 âyah and it is the only sûrah revealed in one go. It is also the only one that deals with the eponymous prophet. The two times his name is mentioned elsewhere are in sûrahs  : 84 and 40: 34.

Despite the Qur’an’s interest in the aesthetic and artistic pole, the narrative does not constitute an independent literary work in itself, or in its modes of expression. Beyond the literary aspect, it is the didactic and pedagogical value of the Qur’anic message that takes precedence. The narrative in the Qur’an can only be understood if one knows the Circumstances of the Revelation (asbâb an-nuzûl),(34) and the teaching conveyed by the story.

Therefore, the story finds its raison d’être in the objective it pursues.  Firstly, to affirm the Divine Revelation and Message: there is no God but Allah who is the sole holder of the mystery الغيب. Islamic monotheism is a continuation of the sacred lineage of prophecies. This truth is proclaimed in ayah 12: 3 :

“We are going to narrate to you, through the revelation of this Qur’an, one of the most beautiful stories of which you had no knowledge before.”

نَحْنُنَقُصُّعَلَيْكَأَحْسَنَالْقَصَصِبِمَاأَوْحَيْنَاإِلَيْكَهَٰذَاالْقُرْآنَوَإِنكُنتَمِنقَبْلِهِلَمِنَالْغَافِلِين

At the end of this story, within the same sûrah, we read in 12 : 111 :

In their stories there is truly a lesson for people of reason. This message cannot be a fabrication, rather ˹it is˺ a confirmation of previous revelation, a detailed explanation of all things, a guide, and a mercy for people of faith. ”

لَقَدْكَانَفِيقَصَصِهِمْعِبْرَةٌلِّأُولِيالْأَلْبَابِمَاكَانَحَدِيثًايُفْتَرَىٰوَلَٰكِنتَصْدِيقَالَّذِيبَيْنَيَدَيْهِوَتَفْصِيلَكُلِّشَيْءٍوَهُدًىوَرَحْمَةًلِّقَوْمٍيُؤْمِنُون

The Quranic narrative also serves to institute moral and ethical purposes serving to educate man to virtue and good morals, to set an example of model conduct of the prophets, to comfort, support and relieve the Prophet Muhammad and his companions at a time when they were being persecuted by the disbelieving Meccans (أهلمكة). Sometimes, the Quranic narrative may have a legal purpose that concerns jurisprudence and thereby becomes an object of interpretation and adaptation

This is to say that the narrative in the Qur’an has meaning only because it pursues a goal, and this is how it differs from other narratives. Nothing is more significant to summarize our point about the opposition of Qur’anic narrative as a unique and autonomous genre to literature than âyah 12 :111 given here above.

Translation studies and equivalence system

The translation of Quranic qaşaş refers us to many other fields than linguistics. The act of translation goes beyond the simple replacement of lexical and grammatical elements of one language by those of another. The operation of translation involves extratextual, hypertextual, and intratextual considerations.

It is towards the second half of the 20th century that a multitude of voices were raised to institute a science of translation independent of the theories of literature and linguistics.(35)  However, the various related disciplines on which translation is based and the variety of its theoretical anchors mean that it does not have an autonomous descriptive, theoretical and practical system. But it is above all the controversy between the hermeneutic and literalist approaches that characterized the beginnings of translation studies.

Indeed, at the end of the 1970s, interest in the transfer of meaning between texts increased and thus opened up to comparatism and interdisciplinarity. Critics often criticize the semantic approach for distorting the act of translation when the translator’s interest is in the acceptability of the translated text in the target culture and therefore its adaptability in order to reduce the strangeness of the text. Does the translated work still remain a foreign work? To overcome these limitations, some critics call for the literalist model of translation, i.e., word-for-word. But even if we give priority to the letter and not to the meaning, does the translated text remain faithful to the original?

The 90s were marked by the birth of translational linguistics,(36)  which resulted from the introduction of computer technology into the practice of translation. Its objective is to automate the translation operations that lend themselves to it thanks to software for statistical processing of linguistic data, electronic dictionaries, technical writing tools, not to mention automatic spell checkers and morphological and syntactic analyzers. But the scope of its practice is still very limited, especially when it comes to the religious domain.

Generally speaking, translation studies as translation criticism distinguish two approaches in practice and analysis:

  1. On the one hand, the one turned towards the source text and the original language; and
  2. On the other hand, the one turned towards the target language and reader.

Both deploy different mechanisms, relying sometimes on the hermeneutic method, which focuses exclusively on literary problems and rejects everything linguistic ; sometimes on the linguistic method and the language sciences. But the fact remains that a translated text can never be identical to the original. This partly explains why the same Qur’anic narrative is translated differently each time the translator changes. The question that arises at this level of reflection is what are the translational strategies to be developed in order to obtain a target text that is as equivalent as possible to the original text?

The concept of equivalence (37) is at the heart of the controversy about translatability and untranslatability in the Qur’anic narrative. This term, borrowed from the mathematical sciences, refers to the idea of “set” and “variables”. It refers to a symmetrical relationship between data that can be substituted for each other without producing great changes.

Translators see equivalence as the result of the interaction between the translator and the text. For them, equivalence is necessarily asymmetrical because, in dealing with two different languages, it aims at a resemblance of form and function and not of form and structure. A language is much more than an inventory of words, it is a particular way of structuring the world. The issue is when we start from a language that says more to a language that says less or vice versa, do we not risk making the text say what it does not say?

Translational horizon and translators’ positions

The notion of horizon applies to the role that the historical, cultural and literary context plays in the understanding of the work, an act that precedes its translation. The act of understanding implies in itself a conscious or unconscious reconstitution of the different horizons. To understand is to merge these horizons, which can sometimes seem independent of each other. The study of the different horizons in which the translation of the Qur’anic narrative developed at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century places the translated work in a series of successive readings and translations in which the contemporary work tries to resolve and overcome the ethical and formal problems raised by the first translations. It is clear that the Qur’anic text translated by a Muslim is not the same as that of another and does not have the same function.

The exegetical references, the literary and hypertextual considerations depend on each translator. This is indicated by all the notes, prefaces, and explanatory speeches of the translators, in “meta”, which accompany the translation. The translational project appears in the translator’s position (revealed by the metatext that accompanies the translation) and in the confrontation between the source text and the target text. The translator’s position is the specific relationship that the translator has with his or her activity ; it is, to use Berman’s (38) terminology, the translator’s “position vis-à-vis the translation “. The prefaces and forewords of the translators themselves provide us with several pieces of information.

Jacques Berque is considered one of the great orientalists of the 20th century.(39) He was a member of the Arabic language academy in Cairo and an honorary professor at the Collège de France. He devoted 16 years to reading and rereading the Koran and studying Islam. His project to translate the Qur’an lasted five years.

His interest in translating the Qur’an began with the pages preceding Jean Grosjean’s (40) translation. In order to translate the text, Berque felt the need to settle down in a village area in the South West of France on the road to Santiago de Compostela. This is the ideal place that inspired him to engage in a “prolonged dialogue” with the Qur’anic text.

The title that Berque gave to his work gives us a lot of information about his translation project : Le Coran : Essai de traduction de l’arabe annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique.(41)  From then on, it is clear that Berque placed himself on the side of the exegete and that he was more interested in the meaning.

Berque referred to the most credible exegeses such as that of Tabari Muhammad Ibn Jarir, Zamakhchari Muhammad.(42) In addition, the reading of Blachère’s (43) translation marked him a lot by its grammatical rigor, while the reading of Si Hamza Boubaker (44) was a place of “useful confrontations with a Muslim point of view supported by Western information.

In addition, Berque devoted an article to the semiotic approach to Sûrat Yûsuf, entitled : “Yûsuf, ou la sourate sémiotique“, where the emphasis is placed on a literary, hypertextual reading of the sûrah and where we find the repercussions, in his translation strategy, of the Qur’anic narrative that is the subject of our study.

Somewhere at the end of his essay on the translation of the Qur’an, in a chapter entitled Rereading the Qur’an, Berque says:

“Biblical legends and lyrical descriptions, by a recourse to literarity in the first case, and in the second by its sublimation, the Koran thus testifies to an availability of approach that breaks with the hieratic solitude of essence in favor of junctions with the existing to be instructed and transformed.”

Berque’s translation essay closes with an interpretative study with a literary vocation applied to the Qur’an. Among the axes treated are the question of the assembly of the Qur’an, the thematic approach of the sûrahs, the study of the style, the rhetoric and the poetics of the Qur’an: repetition and dissimilation, intertwined structures, multi-angular speech, etc.

In his foreword, Ould Bah evokes his different readings of previous translations. As none of them definitively exhausts the meaning of the Qur’an, his contribution aims at enriching this field for the benefit of French-speaking users who do not have the means to access the Arabic version. Then, the translator reviews the main difficulties encountered during his project, which are syntactic and semantic on the one hand. On the other hand, the transfer of meaning is problematic because it has a civilizational and cultural scope.  Describing his translation method, Ould Bah states:

“(…) we have endeavored in the conduct of this work : -To rely, in case of multiple interpretations of an element of the text, on the authority of the most credible exegetes. In the case of equivalent interpretations, we indicate at the bottom of the page the one that we do not prefer ; – to take as a basis the Medina reading of Nafi’ (…) ; – to specify the circumstances of the revelation when they shed particular light on the meaning or the scope of the text ; – to indicate the verses containing norms that have been abrogated by later verses (…); – at the beginning of each sura, a brief introduction gives the general theme (…)”.

Chiadmi explains these aesthetic and methodological choices at length in his translation of the Qur’an entitled: Le Noble Coran: Nouvelle Traduction française du Sens de ses Versets. (45) This translation is prefaced by eminent researchers and professors in Islamology such as Shaykh Zakaria Seddiki, a graduate in religious sciences from Al Azhar University (Egypt), Shaykh Youssouf Ibram, a graduate in religious sciences from Riyadh University and a member of the European Council of Fatwa (Saudi Arabia), and finally Tariq Ramadan, an Islamologist and philosopher.(46)

Chiadmi, unlike Berque and Ould Bah, has seen fit to publish the translation, in a bilingual edition. The book is presented entirely in the same direction as the Arabic Qur’an, that is, from right to left. The translation is enriched with notes, maps, forewords, appendices including an introduction to the history of the Qur’an, a biography of the prophet, etc. His preface closes with a prayer imploring the forgiveness of Allah, the Clement, the Merciful, for the errors that may be included in the translation text.

Speaking about his translation work, Chiadmi says:

“As for the new translation of the meaning of the verses of the Holy Book, I would like to specify here that the idea of carrying it out goes back to 1975, when I was an inspector general at the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs, in Morocco. That year, I was with a group of ulemas in France (…) it was during one of these talks that this idea was born in my mind, when young Muslims who were emigrants and did not know Arabic well complained about not having a good translation of the verses of the Holy Book. “

One of the major pitfalls faced by translators of the Qur’anic narrative is the interpretation of the meanings of the âyât on the one hand and the form that the Qur’anic narrative takes on the other. How does the translator deal with words that are borrowed or deviated from their proper meaning? What strategy does he adopt to translate the effect of redundancy?  Does he remain faithful to the frequent repetition of concepts in similar or identical terms? How can we translate the rhetorical form called iltifât الإلتفات? Does the translated text pursue the same function as the original text?

To answer these questions regarding the transfer of meaning and form between source and target text, we will discuss the translational strategy of semantic equivalence and formal equivalence.

In any act of translation of the religious text, it is not enough to substitute a linguistic system by another, but the translator must reach the meaning. The translator plays the role of a mediator between the work and the public. He must try to transmit the meaning as faithfully as possible by searching in the target language for linguistic correspondences and structures that are supposed to convey the message of the original text. He must also be interested in everything that is metatextual beyond the words.

Conclusion

There are many ways in which the political interacts with the linguistic and theological, and the relationship between religion and identity is close. Through the Qur’an, Arabic is the founding element of the identity of a people, or even of several. Through his choice to translate the Bible into German, Martin Luther is the founder of the German language. The issue of identity, and especially the issue of identities, is one of the most burning political and cultural questions of our time. Translation has a role to play, as demonstrated by the varied and complementary works of Simon (1996), Bassnett and Trivedi (1999), Baker (2006) or Cronin (2006).

The type of text known as religious covers a panoply of styles of writings and sources of inspiration that it becomes impossible to treat according to a single guideline. In the course of this research, we have observed that, depending on the context, the translator is guided towards a choice of process sometimes linguistic, sometimes interpretative and sometimes literary. It is not possible to to insist on a particular theory, given the diversity of the problems that the translator is supposed to solve.

To the expressive values, in the religious texts, come sometimes figures of style such as metaphors and repetitions. The metaphors sometimes present problems at the level of the translation of the comparative tool. The use of a comparative term sometimes seems necessary to render the exact expression of the meaning, especially when the expressive systems of the two languages are too far apart.

The difference between the linguistic mechanisms of the two languages and target languages has consequences on the translation process of repetitions. For some processes are not common while some do not exist.

Other types of repetition would then have to be used. In general, if we look at the examples, we can see that most of the difficulties faced by the translators are due to both the religious and cultural concepts and the semantic and aesthetic charge of the texts, which lead translators to adopt various strategies.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter : @Ayurinu

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End notes :

  1. Mohamed Chtatou. “ Translation And Its Cross-Cultural Relevance, “Eurasia Review dated May 15, 2021. https://www.eurasiareview.com/15052021-translation-and-its-cross-cultural-relevance-analysis/
  2. The Savvy Newcomer. “Fidelity in Translation, “ The Savvy Newcomer dated May 15, 2018. https://atasavvynewcomer.org/2018/05/15/fidelity-in-translation/ Copeland, R. Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages : Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  3. Robinson, Douglas. “Sacred Texts, ” In The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation, Peter France (ed.). Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000 : 103–107.
  4. Robert Barnes. “The Translation of the Sacred, “The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies. Edited by Kirsten Malmkjær and Kevin Windle, March 2011. DOI : 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199239306.013.0004This article discusses the translation of the Bible, the Qur’an, and Buddhist texts. The Septuagint is a Jewish Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Vulgate is a Christian Latin translation of the whole Bible, i.e. Old and New Testaments. Large numbers of new English versions have appeared in the twentieth century, following different theories of translation. Since 1800, the Bible has been translated into versions of widely spoken languages. Muslims have been reluctant to admit that there are any non-Arabic loanwords in the Qur’an, although Western scholars have argued otherwise. In English, the closest to a ‘classic’ translation of the Qur’an is that of George Sale. Translations of Indian Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese began about ad 150, and continued until about 1050. Translations into Tibetan began in about the seventh century. Finally, this article gives examples of translation from the Bible and the Qur’an
  5. Alexis Nouss. “l’Interdit et l’inter-dit : la traduisibilité et le sacré, “ 7TK, vol. II, n° 1, 1″ semestre 1989.
  6. Michael LaFargue. Rational Spirituality and Divine Virtue in Plato : A Modern Interpretation and Philosophical Defense of Platonism. Albany, NY, United States : SUNY Press, 2016. Michael LaFargue presents an important and accessible aspect of Plato’s legacy largely overlooked today : a variety of personal spirituality based on reason and centered on virtue. Plato’s Virtue-Forms are transcendent in their goodness, ideals that Platonists can use to improve character and become like God so far as is humanly possible. LaFargue constructs a model of inductive Socratic reasoning capable of acquiring knowledge of these perfect Virtue-Forms, then scales back claims about these Forms to what can be supported by this kind of reasoning. This is a critical theory, but also a pluralistic one that accommodates modern cultural diversity. A how-to chapter provides detailed descriptions of the rules of Socratic reasoning basic to this spirituality, which any interested individual can practice today. LaFargue supports his interpretation by a close reading of the Greek text of key passages in Plato’s dialogues. The work also undertakes a broader philosophical consideration, discussing the philosophical foundations proposed for this Platonism in relation to the thought of G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Richard Rorty.
  7. http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20081228.OBS7407/samuel-huntington-theoricien-du-choc-des-civilisations.html Guillaume Nicaise. La gestion de la diversité culturelle et l’empathie, www.guillaumenicaise.com
  8. Gérard Marandon, Au-delà de l’empathie, cultiver la confiance : clés pour la rencontre interculturelle, Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, núm. 61-62, p. 265.
  9. Vanessa Leonardi. “Equivalence in Translation : Between Myth and Reality, “Translation Journal, Volume 4, No. 4, October 2000. Abstract : “The aim of this paper is to review the theory of equivalence as interpreted by some of the most innovative theorists in this field—Vinay and Darbelnet, Jakobson, Nida and Taber, Catford, House, and finally Baker. These theorists have studied equivalence in relation to the translation process, using different approaches, and have provided fruitful ideas for further study on this topic. Their theories will be analyzed in chronological order so that it will be easier to follow the evolution of this concept. These theories can be substantially divided into three main groups. In the first there are those translation scholars who are in favour of a linguistic approach to translation and who seem to forget that translation in itself is not merely a matter of linguistics. In fact, when a message is transferred from the SL to TL, the translator is also dealing with two different cultures at the same time. This particular aspect seems to have been taken into consideration by the second group of theorists who regard translation equivalence as being essentially a transfer of the message from the SC to the TC and a pragmatic/semantic or functionally oriented approach to translation. Finally, there are other translation scholars who seem to stand in the middle, such as Baker for instance, who claims that equivalence is used ‘for the sake of convenience—because most translators are used to it rather than because it has any theoretical status’ (quoted in Kenny, 1998 :77). 
  10. Roberto A. Valdeón ; “From translatology to studies in translation theory and practice, “ Perspectives, 25:2, 2017 : 181-188, DOI: 1080/0907676X.2017.1290123
  11. David S. Cunningham. “On Translating the Divine Name, “ Theological Studies 56, 1995 : 1-26. http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/56/56.3/56.3.1.pdf
  12. Fatma Sinem Eryılmaz. “ Translating Inspired Language, Transforming Sacred Texts : An Introduction, “ Medieval Encounters dated Volume 26 : Issue 4-5, 2020 : 333–348. Abstract: In late medieval-early modern Iberia, translations of sacred texts often involved changes beyond those concerning linguistic and cultural frameworks. The sacred nature of the source text turned it into a potentially powerful tool for a variety of purposes. Translations were used to advance didactic and cultural policies and to disseminate political and religious propaganda. They became building blocks for communal identities under fatal threat. When need be, they could be manipulated both as weapons of self-defense or of belligerent attack against rival religiosities and institutions that harbored them. The power generated by the divine authority that spoke through sacred texts also made their translations and their translators, targets of suspicion and victims of strict control, and at times, destruction. The five articles that I introduce represent a wide spectrum of these possibilities as they examine translation projects of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sacred texts and the transformations they catalyzed. (https://brill.com/view/journals/me/26/4-5/article-p333_1.xml?language=en)
  13. The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians was written from Macedonia in about 55 CE. The letter, which may have been written after an actual visit by Paul to Corinth, refers to an upheaval among the Christians there, during the course of which Paul had been insulted and his apostolic authority challenged. Because of this incident, Paul resolved not to go to Corinth again in person. Instead, he evidently wrote an intervening letter (2 :3–4; 7:8, 12), now lost, in which he told the Corinthians of his anguish and displeasure. Presumably, he sent a fellow worker, St. Titus, to deliver the letter to the community at Corinth. In the second letter, Paul expresses his joy at the news, just received from Titus, that the Corinthians had repented, that his (Paul’s) authority among them had been reaffirmed, and that the troublemaker had been punished. After expressing his happiness and relief, Paul urges the Corinthians to respond generously to his plea for contributions to assist the poor of Jerusalem. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Letter-of-Paul-to-the-Corinthians)
  14. “I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago was taken up to the third heaven (whether it was in his body I do not know, whether it was out of his body I do not know, God knows). And I know that this man (whether it was in his body or out of his body I do not know, God knows) was taken up into paradise, and that he heard ineffable words which it is not permitted to a man to express. I will boast of such a man, but of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. “NT.
  15. Megillat Taanith : “the volume of affliction” is the oldest Jewish calendar that contains the days of the festivals and fasts that were once used by the Jews but are no longer used
  16. Ballard, M. De Cicéron à Benjamin. Traducteurs, traductions, réflexions. Lille, P.U.L., 3e trim. 1992, 299 pages. (Essai sur l’importance culturelle et historique de la traduction ainsi que sur les formes de théorisation qui s’y rattachent) 2e édition, revue et corrigée, Lille, P.U.L. (collection : « Etude de la traduction »), 1995, 301 pages. Réédition, nouvelle préface, Lille, Presses du Septentrion (collection : « Etude de la traduction »), 2007, 305 pages, p. 37.
  17. Jerome of Stridon or St. Jerome (Latin: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus Stridonensis; Ancient Greek: Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος), born around 347 in Stridon, on the border between Pannonia and Dalmatia (in present-day Slovenia or Croatia), and died on September 30, 420, in Bethlehem, was a monk, Bible translator, Doctor of the Church, and one of the four Latin Church Fathers, along with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo and Gregory I. The order of Hieronymites (or “hermits of Saint Jerome”) refers to him. Cf. Megan Hale Williams. The Monk and the Book : Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship. Chicago and London : Chicago University Press, 2008.
  18. Martin Luther, born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, and died February 18, 1546, in the same city, was an Augustinian friar theologian, university professor, initiator of Protestantism and church reformer whose ideas exerted a great deal of influence on the Protestant Reformation, which changed the course of Western civilization. Luther was a man of great influence on the Church and the Church. Concerned with the questions of death and salvation that characterized late medieval Christianity, he found answers in the Bible, particularly in Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Luther, salvation of the soul is a free gift of God, received through sincere repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, without possible intercession of the church. He defied papal authority by holding the Bible as the only legitimate source of Christian authority. Scandalized by the trade in indulgences instituted by Popes Julius II and Leo X to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he published his 95 theses on October 31, 1517. Summoned on June 15, 1520 by Pope Leo X to recant, he was excommunicated on January 3, 1521 by the papal bull Decet romanum pontificem. The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, Charles V, summoned Martin Luther in 1521 before the Diet of Worms. He was granted safe conduct so that he could go there without risk. Before the Diet of Worms, he refused to recant, declaring himself convinced by the testimony of Scripture and considering himself subject to the authority of the Bible and his conscience rather than that of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Diet of Worms, under pressure from Charles V, decided to ban Martin Luther and his followers from the Empire. His friend, the Elector of Saxony, Frederick III the Wise, welcomed him to the Wartburg Castle, where he composed his most famous and widely read texts. It was there that he began to translate the Bible into German from the original texts, a translation that was to have a major cultural influence, both in terms of establishing the German language and the principles of the art of translation11. Towards the end of his life, Luther became increasingly Judeophobic. In 1543, three years before his death, he published Of the Jews and Their Lies, a pamphlet of extreme violence in which he advocated solutions such as burning down synagogues, tearing down the houses of Jews, destroying their writings, confiscating their money, and killing rabbis who would teach Judaism. Condemned by virtually all Lutheran movements, these writings and Luther’s influence on anti-Semitism have contributed to his controversial image. Cf. Atkinson, James (1. Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism, in series, Pelican Book[s]. Harmondsworth, Eng. : Penguin Books, 1968.
  19. Tanakh (Hebrew תנ״ך) is the acronym for the Hebrew “תּוֹרָה – נביאים – כתובים”, in French : “Torah – Nevi’im – Ketuvim”, formed from the initial of the title of the three constituent parts of the Hebrew Bible : T ת: the Torah תּוֹרָה (the Law or Pentateuch); N נ: the Nevi’im נביאים (the Prophets); K ך: the Ketuvim כתובים (the Other Writings or Hagiographers). It is also written Tanak (without an h at the end). The Tanakh is also called Miqra מקרא, terminology : Tanakh, Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. The division reflected in the acronym Tanakh is well attested in documents from the Second Temple period, in the Christian New Testament, and in rabbinic literature, except that during this period the acronym in question was not used ; the correct term was Miqra (“Reading,” referring to a liturgical function of the text), as opposed to Mishna (“Teaching,” “Rehearsal”) or Midrash (“Exegesis”). The term Miqra continues to be used today, along with Tanakh, to denote the Hebrew Scriptures. In modern spoken Hebrew, however, Miqra has a more formal connotation than Tanakh. Since the books included in the Tanakh are mostly written in Hebrew, it is also called the “Hebrew Bible. Although Aramaic has found its way into much of the books of Daniel and Ezra, as well as into a sentence in the Book of Jeremiah and a two-word placeholder in Sefer Bereshit (Book of Genesis), these passages are written in the same Hebrew script. The passages in Aramaic are as follows : Ezra 4 : 8, 4 : 7 and 12 : 26 ; Jeremiah 10 :11 ; Daniel 2 : 4 to 7 : 28. According to Jewish tradition, the Tanakh consists of twenty-four books : the Torah containing five books, the Nevi’im eight, and the Ketuvim eleven. The Hebrew Bible has exactly the same content as the Protestant Old Testament, but the books are presented and arranged differently, the Protestants having thirty-nine books, not twenty-four. This is because Christians have chosen to subdivide some of the books of the Jewish religion. Cf. Levenson, Jon. Sinai and Zion : An Entry into the Jewish Bible. San Francisco : HarperSan Francisco, 1985. Cf. Leiman, Sid. The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture. Hamden, CT : Archon, 1976
  20. The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (from the Latin : septuaginta, lit. “seventy“ ; often abbreviated 70 ; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible, various biblical apocrypha, and deuterocanonical books. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE. The remaining books of the Greek Old Testament are presumably translations of the 2nd century BCE.
  21. The Vulgate is a Latin version of the Bible, composed on the one hand of the translations made at the end of the fourth century by Jerome of Stridon, and on the other hand of independent Latin translations of the latter called Vetus Latina (“old Latin [Bible]”). Jerome begins his edition with the four Gospels, revising and adapting a Vetus Latina version of them that was in common use in the West. He goes on to translate the entire Tanakh from Hebrew and translates some of the Deuterocanonical books from Greek versions of the Septuagint or Aramaic. Jerome also translates the book of Psalms three times : once by revising a Vetus Latina, once from Greek and once from Hebrew. In addition to this, there are some Vetus Latina of biblical books that he did not translate, independently of Jerome.
  22. Damasus or Damasus I, born in Rome around 305 and died in the same city on December 11, 384, was a bishop of Rome who became bishop on October 1, 366. A tireless promoter of Roman primacy, this authoritarian prelate was one of the great episcopal figures of the first centuries of the Common Era, whose energetic action contributed to both “the Romanization of Christianity and the Christianization of Rome”, laying the foundations for the future development of the papacy despite a troubled episcopate following an election marred by violence.
  23. Rosenzweig F., 1982, L’Étoile de la rédemption. Translated from German by A. Derczanski, J.-L. Schlegel, Paris : Éd. Le Seuil, 2003 : 420-422.
  24. Talmud : Oral Law (or Oral Torah) ; the collection of books containing its substance, in particular the code consisting of the Mishnah and its commentary (Palestinian or Babylonian) the Gemara. Fixation, writing of the Talmud ; the teachings, the subtleties of the Talmud. The oral Torah (…) is transmitted in the following works : the Mekhilta, the Sifra, the Sifrey, the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud (…) the term Talmud is usually used (…) to designate the whole of the oral Torah (D. The Talmud is, at the same time as a tradition, the incessant rereading and the constant updating of the unfathomable Torah of Moses by qualified teachers. “Everything that a fervent disciple is destined to bring to the table, we read in the Talmud, has already been said to Moses on Mount Sinai… « (Encyclop. univ.t. 151973, p. 718). V. pharisaic A ex. of Bible 1912.
  25. André LaCocque (Author), Paul Ricoeur (Author), David Pellauer (Translator). Thinking Biblically : Exegetical and Hermeneutical. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2003. Unparalled in its poetry, richness, and religious and historical significance, the Hebrew Bible has been the site and center of countless commentaries, perhaps none as unique as Thinking Biblically. This remarkable collaboration sets the words of a distinguished biblical scholar, Andr&#233 ; LaCocque, and those of a leading philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, in dialogue around six crucial passages from the Old Testament: the story of Adam and Eve ; the commandment “thou shalt not kill”; the valley of dry bones passage from Ezekiel ; Psalm 22 ; the Song of Songs ; and the naming of God in Exodus 3 : 14. Commenting on these texts, LaCocque and Ricoeur provide a wealth of new insights into the meaning of the different genres of the Old Testament as these made their way into and were transformed by the New Testament. LaCocque’s commentaries employ a historical-critical method that takes into account archaeological, philological, and historical research. LaCocque includes in his essays historical information about the dynamic tradition of reading scripture, opening his exegesis to developments and enrichments subsequent to the production of the original literary text. Ricoeur also takes into account the relation between the texts and the historical communities that read and interpreted them, but he broadens his scope to include philosophical speculation. His commentaries highlight the metaphorical structure of the passages and how they have served as catalysts for philosophical thinking from the Greeks to the modern age. This extraordinary literary and historical venture reads the Bible through two different but complementary lenses, revealing the familiar texts as vibrant, philosophically consequential, and unceasingly absorbing.
  26. The concept of demythologization comes from Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent theologian and New Testament scholar in the 20th Bultmann believed that the New Testament was simply the human account of the writers’ divine encounter with God in Christ. According to Bultmann, the Gospel writers used the only terms and concepts they had available to them at the time, and those terms and concepts were inextricably bound to the miraculous and supernatural, which Bultmann saw as myth. Bultmann suggested that, in order to make the gospel acceptable and relevant to the modern thinker, the New Testament must be demythologized. In other words, the mythical (i.e., miraculous) components must be removed, and the universal truth underlying the stories can then be seen. For Bultmann, the universal truth was that, in Christ, God had acted for the good of humanity. However, the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth, walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, giving sight to the blind, and even Jesus’ resurrection must be removed as mythical additions to the essential message. Today, there are many expressions of Christianity that follow this line of thinking, whether they attribute it to Bultmann or not. What may be called “mainline liberalism” relies on a demythologized Bible. Liberalism teaches a vague goodness of God and brotherhood of man with an emphasis on following the example of Christ while downplaying or denying the miraculous. (https://www.gotquestions.org/demythologization.html)
  27. – relegere, delegere (cueillir, rassembler). Cette filiation sémantique et formelle trouve sa source dans Cicéron et est soutenue par Benveniste. C’est l’expérience de la sacralité, voire de la sainteté, de l’indemne sain et sauf : recueillir pour revenir et recommencer, dans une attention scrupuleuse, dans le respect, la patience, avec pudeur et piété. C’est l’être, l’essence, la chose même de la religion. – religare, de ligare (lier, relier). C’est une étymologie probablement inventée par les chrétiens : la religion comme lien, lien social, croyance, lien fiduciaire, crédit fait au tout-autre en sa bonne foi, expérience du témoignage, obligation, ligament, devoir, dette entre hommes ou entre l’homme et dieu. Ces deux sources sémantiques se croisent. Tout en critiquant Benveniste, en insistant sur le fait que l’étymologie ne fait jamais loi, Jacques Derrida les prend au sérieux. La distinction est “quasi-transcendantale”. Elle correspond à deux veines irréductibles de la religion. La répétition de cette division est, “en vérité”, l’origine de la répétition, la division du même. Tant que la religion n’est pas instituée, il n’y a pas de terme commun à ce que nous appelons religion, il n’y a pas une chose une et identifiable que tous s’accorderaient à appeler religion. Unifier les deux termes, c’est résister à la disjonction, à l’altérité absolue. (https://www.idixa.net/Pixa/pagixa-0709031246.html)
  28. Published at the end of the second century CE, the Mishnah is an edited record of the complex body of material known as oral Torah that was transmitted in the aftermath of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, also known as Rabbi Judah the Prince and Yehudah HaNasi, undertook to collect and edit a study edition of these halachot(laws) in order that the learning not vanish. Although the Temple had been destroyed 130 years prior to its publication, in the world described by the Mishnah the Temple still exists and the laws that governed it are expressed in the present tense. While the Talmud (the compendium of the Mishnah and the Gemara, which interprets and comments on the Mishnah) refers to the Bar Kochba rebellion and the defeat by the Romans, the Mishnah itself ignores the events of the Roman occupation of the land of Israel. In this way, the Mishnah is a document that describes a life of sanctification, in which the rituals of the Temple are adapted for communal participation in a world that has no Temple, which escapes the ups and downs of history. Cf. Robert Goldenberg The Sabbath-Law of Rabbi Meir. Missoula, Montana : Scholars Press, 1978.
  29. Mohamed Chiadmi. The Noble Quran, New French translation of the meaning of its verses. Lyon : Tawhid Editions, 2011 (fifth edition). Mohamed Chiadmi. Le Noble Coran : Nouvelle Traduction française du Sens de ses Versets. Lyon : Editions Tawhid, 2011. The translator, Mohamed Chiadmi, has done a very serious job ; the style is refined, the language is sustained. It is today one of the most recognized translations in the French-speaking Muslim world.
  30. Mohamed el Mokhtar Ould Bah. Translation of the Holy Quran. Casablanca :  Najah El jadida Printing Company, 2003.
  31. Jacques Berque. Le Coran, Essai de traduction annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique. Paris : Sindbad, 1990.
  32. One of Ricœur’s major contributions to the field of hermeneutics was the entwining of hermeneutical processes with phenomenology. In this union, Ricœur applies the hermeneutical task to more than just textual analysis, but also to how each self relates to anything that is outside of the self. “In proposing to relate symbolic language to self-understanding, I think I fulfill the deepest wish of hermeneutics. The purpose of all interpretation is to conquer a remoteness, a distance between the past cultural epoch to which the text belongs and the interpreter himself. By overcoming this distance, by making himself contemporary with the text, the exegete can appropriate its meaning to himself : foreign, he makes it familiar, that is, he makes it his own. It is thus the growth of his own understanding of himself that he pursues through his understanding of others. Every hermeneutics is thus, explicitly or implicitly, self-understanding by means of understanding others.” (Cf. Ricœur, Paul, Charles E. Reagan, & David Stewart. “Existence and Hermeneutics.” In The Philosophy of Paul Ricœur : An Anthology of His Work. Boston : Beacon Press, 1978 : 101-106).
  33. Jauss’s reception theory focused on the reader rather than the author or text. The original reception of a text was compared to a later reception, revealing different literary receptions and their evolution. Conceptualized by Hans Robert Jauss in his Toward an Aesthetic of Receptionin the late 1960s, Reception Theory refers to a historical application of the Reader Response theory, emphasizing altering interpretive and evaluative responses of generations of readers to a text. It focuses on the scope for negotiation and opposition on the part of the general public, over a period of time in history, as they interpret the meanings of a text based on their respective cultural background and life experiences. A reader’s response to a text is the joint product of the reader’s own horizon of expectations and the confirmations, disappointments, refutations and reformulations of these expectations. Since the linguistic and aesthetic expectation of readers change over the course of time, and since later readers and critics have access to the text as well as its criticisms, there develops an evolving historical tradition of interpretations and evaluations of a given literary work. Jauss refers to this tradition as a continuous dialectic between the text and the horizon of successive readers ; the literary text, in itself, possesses no inherent meaning or value. (https://literariness.org/2016/11/02/reception-theory-a-brief-note/) Cf. Bennett, Susan, eds. Theatre Audiences : A Theory of Production and Reception. New York : Routledge, 1990.
  34. Ali Ibn Ahmad Al-Wahidi. Kitab Asbab al-Nuzul : Occasions and Circumstances of Revelation. Kuala Lumpur : Dar Al Wahi Publications, 2011. Asbab-al-Nuzul or occasions and circumstances for the revelations ; refers to a field of study and genre of literature devoted to recounting the circumstances of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers when particular verses from the Qur’an were revealed. Legal scholars regard this study as of great importance, on the principle that sound understanding of the revelation proceeds from knowing the reasons Allah revealed the Qur’an and how the Prophet Muhammad applied the revelation when he received it. Asbab al-Nuzul sheds light on the ayah, it enlightens the tafsir and application of the ayah. The earliest and the most important work in this genre is undoubtedly Kitab Asbab al-Nuzul (Book of Occasions and Circumstances of revelation) of Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi. Al-Wahidi mentions occasions of about 570 verses out of 6236 verses of the Qur’an. Wahidi’s work is not only the first attempt to collect all the material regarding the occasions of revelation in one single volume, but it is also the standard upon which all subsequent works were based. (https://ibtbooks.com/shop/kitab-asbab-al-nuzul/) Cf. also, Imam Jalaludin ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Bakr as-Suyuti, Translator & Tahqiq: Muhammad Mahdi al-SharifReasons & Occasions of Revelation of Quran : Asbab Nuzul. Beirut, Lebanon :  Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah (DKI), 2008. Asbab un-Nuzul is an Arabic term meaning “occasions / circumstances of revelation”, is a secondary type of tafsîr directed at establishing the context in which specific verses of the Qur’an were revealed. Knowledge about the asbab Asbab an-Nuzulhelps one to understand the circumstances in which a particular revelation occurred, which sheds light on its implications and gives guidance to the explanation (tafsîr) and application of the âyah in question for other situations.
  35. Jeremy Munday. Intoducing Translation Studies : Theories and applications. London and New York : Routledge, 2001. https://books-library.net/files/books-library.online-12311922Ro5Z2.pdf
  36. The linguistic oriented approach to translation finds the very essence of translation is in the basics of the linguistic concept of translation, which is the fact that the process of translation is a language act in which a text from one language is substituted with an equivalent text from another, by making that substitution in accordance with the regulations of both language systems. This paper will deal with translation related issues through contrastive analyses between Macedonian and English, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. In the process of finding translation equivalence, there are instances of finding absolute equivalence, partial and no equivalence. This paper analyses such examples. In translating lexemes with no equivalent, which are culture specific, translators find themselves in a difficult position. (Cf. Tatjana Ulanska, “The Role of Linguistic Factor in Translation, “Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 191, 2015 : 2585-2587. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1877042815024970?token=E6785D1D6BE78426A4EB3438F59B28C6FCADD52ADE72643DE6E78B67D796DF19FA378FCB5A55E5DBAAE282A683D9D990&originRegion=eu-west-1&originCreation=20210523115317)
  37. Within translation studies, there remains a certain amount of unnecessary discord concerning the use of the equivalence concept and its relevance for translation theory. In the interest of better understanding the various points of view, it seems helpful to consider different perspectives on this concept in light of the varying philosophical assumptions on which they are based. Analogies between the equivalence concept and a concept of scientific knowledge as it is and has been studied within the philosophy of science are highly informative in pointing out the philosophical issues involved in equivalence, translation, and knowledge. Rather than dismissing the concept as ill-defined or imprecise, it is in the interest of the field of translation studies to consider the origins and manifestations of this ‘imprecision ‘ in order that we may be better informed and less inclined towards theoretical antagonism.  (https://benjamins.com/online/target/articles/target.9.2.02hal#:~:text=2.1.-,Non%2DSpecific%20Definitions%20of%20the%20Concept,a%20similar%20effect%20or%20meaning%22.) Cf. also : Davidson, Donald. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1984.
  38. Antoine Berman (1942–1991) was a French translator specializing in translating German and Hispanic literature into French. He was also a well-known theorist of translation whose name is to be linked with such concepts as foreignization, ethics of translation and literal (but not word-for-word) translation. He contributed to the TS as a fierce defender of the foreign in translation and influenced other scholars like Lawrence Venuti who translated his famous essay “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign” (1985). Cf. Antoine Berman. Pour une critique des traductions : John Donne.Paris : Gallimard, 1995. Translated into English by Françoise Massardier-Kenney as Toward a Translation Criticism : John Donne. Kent, OH : Kent State University Press, 2009.
  39. Jacques Berque, né à Frenda (Algérie française) le 4 juin 1910 et mort à Saint-Julien-en-Born (Landes) le 27 juin 1995, est un sociologue et anthropologue orientaliste français. Il est en outre le père d’Augustin Berque, géographe, spécialiste du Japon et théoricien du paysage, des jumeaux Maximilien et Emmanuel Berque, précurseurs du surf dans les Landes au début des années 60 et grands navigateurs ayant notamment traversé l’Atlantique dans un bateau de leur conception (Micromégas) sans montre ni carte ni boussole. Le père de Jacques Berque, Augustin Berque, après avoir été administrateur en Algérie, finit directeur des Affaires musulmanes et des Territoires du Sud au gouvernement général (de 1941 à après les massacres de mai 1942). Jacques Berque est titulaire de la chaire d’histoire sociale de l’Islam contemporain au Collège de France de 1956 à 1981 et membre de l’Académie de langue arabe du Caire depuis 1989. Il est l’auteur de nombreuses traductions, appréciées notamment pour la qualité de leur style, dont celle du Coran, et de nombreux ouvrages et essais, notamment Mémoires des deux rives. Il décrit l’utopie d’une « Andalousie », c’est-à-dire d’un monde arabe renouvelé, retrouvant à la fois ses racines classiques et sa capacité de faire preuve de tolérance et d’ouverture.
  40. Jean Grosjean, né à Paris le 21 décembre 1912 et mort à Versailles le 10 avril 2006, est un poète et écrivain français, traducteur et commentateur de textes bibliques. Cf. Jean Grosjean.  Le  Paris : Philippe Lebaud Editions, 1979.
  41. Jacques Berque. Le Coran : essai de traduction de l’arabe annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique. Paris : Albin Michel, 1998.  Sixteen years of work, and a lifetime devoted to the study of Islam, had been necessary for Professor Jacques Berque to propose an “essay of translation” of the Koran. Both scholarly and literary, this monumental work, testifying to an intimate familiarity with the Arab world and the tradition of Islam, was hailed as an event for the approach of this culture by the French-speaking public. After four more years of work, Jacques Berque, the indefatigable explorer of the thousand subtleties of the Koranic language, improved his text by making hundreds of alterations based on the remarks of erudite readers, particularly those of Islamic sheikhs. This second edition, entirely revised, allows us to rediscover the Qur’an in the spirit of its origins, opening the perspectives of an enlightened Islam where faith and reason would both have their place.
  42. Tabari or Tabarî, from his full name Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad Ibn Jarīr Ibn Yazīd (Persian : محمد بن جریر طبری), was a historian who was born in 839 in Amol, Tabaristan, and died on February 17, 923, in Baghdad. Tabari is most famous for his universal history, the History of the Prophets and Kings (which treats authentic and forged narratives as equals), and his commentary on the Qur’an. He was also the originator of a short-lived school (or “Madhhab”) of Islamic law, the Jarîriyya. A Sunni Muslim, he spent most of his life in Baghdad, writing all his works in Arabic.
  43. Régis Blachère, born in Montrouge on June 30, 1900 and died in Paris on August 7, 1973, was a French orientalist, Islamologist and Arabist. He was a member of the Institute (1972), director of studies at the Institut des hautes études marocaines in Rabat (1930-1935), professor of Arabic at the École nationale des langues orientales (1935-1950), and professor of medieval Arabic literature at the Sorbonne (1950-1970), director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études (1950-1968), director of the Institut d’études islamiques at the University of Paris (1956-1965), director of the Centre de lexicographie arabe, associated with the CNRS (1962-1971)2. He wrote a “critical” translation of the Koran (1947) and an attempt to reclassify the suras in the chronological order of their revelation. Works on Islam: Introduction au Coran, Maisonneuve et Larose, (ISBN2-7068-1031-9); Le Coran. Traduction selon un essai de reclassement des sourates, G.-P. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1949-1977.; Le problème de Mahomet – Essai de biographie critique du fondateur de l’Islam, un volume de 135 pages, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 1952.
  44. Si Hamza Boubakeur, whose real name was Aboubakeur ben Hamza ben Kadour, was a French politician and Muslim cleric who was born on June 15, 1912 in the oasis of Brezina in Geryville and died on February 4, 1995 (at the age of 82) in Paris. Hamza Boubakeur came from a family of educated Algerian notables co-opted by France. The Boubakeur family is descended from the maraboutic, mystical and warrior tribe of the Ouled Sidi Cheikh, which owes its prestige to its Sufi forebears and, according to family tradition, is descended from Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. After a brilliant academic career, this student of the White Fathers obtained his bachelor’s degree and then his agrégation in Arabic (1949). He became a teacher in 1936, teaching in the two colleges (boys and girls) of Philippeville and then as a professor of Arabic at the Lycée Bugeaud (now the Lycée Émir Abd el-Kader) in Algiers and at the Faculty of Algiers. Hamza Boubakeur was a member of the SFIO and Guy Mollet appointed him rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, succeeding Si Kaddour Benghabrit in 1957 ; he remained in this position until 1982. At that time, Hamza Boubakeur ceded the Mosque of Paris to Algeria in exchange for the recovery of the enjoyment of the property nationalized by the Boubakeurs in 1962 in Algeria, but this retrocession was illegal because the mosque belonged to an association. In 1967, he was one of the founding members of the association Fraternité d’Abraham, which promotes inter-religious dialogue. A Sufi master and fine theologian, Hamza Boubakeur was a translator and commentator of the Koran in 1972, his renowned translation still being distributed in Africa8. Hamza Boubakeur was also a Freemason. Hamza Boubakeur was elected on November 30, 1958 as deputy for the Oasis department in the 1st legislature of the 5th Republic from 1958 to 1962. He was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Commission from November 1958 to July 1962 and ran unsuccessfully for a deputy position in 1983. Works: Le Coran : traduction française et commentaire d’après la tradition, les différentes écoles de lecture, d’exégèse, de jurisprudence, et de théologie, les interprétations mystiques, les tendances schismatiques et les doctrines hermétiques de l’Islam, et à la lumière des théories scientifiques, philosophiques et politiques modernes, Fayard, 1972, 1979, 1985, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1995.: Traité moderne de théologie islamique : contenu doctrinal, ramifications, écoles orthodoxes et hétérodoxes, soufisme, théologie comparée, concordances et divergences des écritures révélées (Thora, Évangile, Coran), avenir de l’Islâm dans le monde, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1985, 2003.
  45. The translator, Mohamed Chiadmi, has done a very serious job ; the style is refined, the language is sustained. It is today one of the most recognized translations in the French-speaking Muslim world.
  46. The French translation of the Qur’an by Chiadmi has been proofread and validated by: Shaykh Zakaria Seddiki (graduate in religious sciences from al-Azhar University)  “I would like to emphasize the quality of the translation that was submitted to me. The translator has tried, without dispersing himself too much, not to neglect the polysemy of the terms used, in order to remain faithful to the meaning of the verses while taking into account the linguistic reality of Arabic. “ Tariq Ramadan (Ph.D. in Islamic-Arabic Studies): “The present translation is an important contribution, the formulation is worked out, the meaning preserved. The study is carried out with a rigor and fidelity that must be praised.” Shaykh Yusuf Ibram (graduate in religious sciences from Riyadh University and member of the European Fatwa Council): “There is no doubt that the translator has done a most serious and difficult job. The style is refined, the language is sustained. The work has been deepened by the study of several exegeses, notably those of at-Tabari and Ibn Kathir. “It is enriched with notes, annexes and maps. Numerous notes have been integrated and several appendices and annexes (200 pages) complete the translation of the Qur’an. Notes that are a synthesis of interpretations that can be found in famous and accredited exegeses. Maps that situate the peoples and places as well as the events that took place during the Revelation. An introduction to the history of the Qur’an, which provides an understanding of the circumstances of the Revelation, the transmission and compilation of the Qur’anic text. A glossary that defines Quranic terms and concepts and complements the commentaries given throughout the translation. A biography of the Prophet that gives a chronological presentation of the facts mentioned in the notes. An index that allows the reader to locate proper names

Eurasia Review

Eurasia Review

 

The aim of this analysis is to reflect on the problem of religious translation, taking advantage of the bibliography available in the hermeneutica sacra, and in the movements of the reformation, while underlining the points of exegetical convergence between the various hermeneutical, linguistic, translational and theological contributions.

A translation is never done outside of a context.(1)  The choice of texts to be translated or re-translated, as well as the strategies to be used to carry out the translations, are dictated by a complex set of factors that go far beyond the texts themselves.

The controversy of fidelity to form and fidelity to content remains a major question in translation studies, (2) to which even the typology of texts has not been able to provide a definitive answer. As far as the translation of religious texts is concerned, the question becomes more thorny, given the sacred character of the terms and the formulation of the message.

As far as the translation of religious texts is concerned, there is a great effort to render the original text literally and to restore it “faithfully”. However, thanks to the contributions of linguistics and the new approaches of of translatology, this conception of “fidelity” is today strongly questioned.

Translation of religious text

According to Robinson (2000 : 103-107) (3) the relationship between religion and translation is problematic because it calls into question three issues:

  1. The status of the translation;
  2. The status of the sacred; and
  3. The status of the text itself.

Can and should religious texts be translated? How, when, for whom, in what framework and according to what rules should they be translated? Does a translated religious text remain sacred or does it become a mere copy of the sacred text? What is the sacred? Where does it reside? Can it be transported across cultural barriers? What does a religious text represent in an oral society? What are its limits in a written culture? Can a translated religious text retain its liturgical functions? These fundamental questions allow us to contextualize the nature of the translation activity with regard to the three great texts of the three main monotheistic religions: the Talmud for Judaism, the Bible for Christianity, and the Qur’an for Islam.

What is at stake in the translation of the sacred is precisely the articulation of these two notions and what this articulation reveals of its terms.(4)  Our question will not be on the phenomenon since it seems obvious, natural we would say and cultural or rather founder of culture. Revelation is translation, reception is translation and the dynamic thus created is almost prolonged by inertia.(5)  But, this first approach outdated, we must understand that inscribed in a story, the biblical translation covers intentions and strategies to be deciphered. Divergent obviously and different according to the times, cultures and representations of the divine and the human. The sacred is precisely the dimension which not only attaches itself to the divine but which weaves the link, which marks the place where the divine meets and clashes human. (6) In short, the sacred covers both notions.

World based on principles of diversity

In fact, the world is based on the principles of diversity, difference and plurality. Taking this diversity into account is essential, because when it is poorly managed, the tensions and frustrations it creates can lead to intolerance, racism, or more generally to what is called “ethnocentrism. ” When it is a question of an intercultural encounter, the risks of disagreements, or even dissensions, are increased, due to intercultural misunderstandings. The difficulty of reaching a relationship of trust arises, often acutely.(7)  This increases the need to communicate, one communicates to inform, to be informed, to know each other, to explain, to understand and to understand each other.

Intercultural status can take more or less intense forms, and is often an enriching experience. With or without the language barrier which can be an obstacle to exchanges, these encounters with the Other are also an opportunity to reflect on oneself and on the world. They can be at the origin of cultural mixing. The notion of intercultural status, in order to have its full value, must, in fact, be extended to any situation of cultural rupture – resulting, essentially, from differences in codes and meanings -, the differences in play being able to be linked to various types of belonging (ethnicity, nation, region, religion, gender, generation, social group, organization, occupation, in in particular). An intercultural situation therefore exists as soon as the persons or groups in groups in presence do not share the same universes of meanings and the same forms of same forms of expression of these meanings, these differences being able to make obstacle to communication.(8)

In translation, it is a question of carrying out a displacement, a transfer, while keeping a sufficient degree of resemblance between two entities, one of which is derived from the other. We are thus dealing with a special kind of language process that results in a relationship, or rather, a complex web of relationships. And the challenges are perhaps due precisely to the difficulty of finding agreement on the entities or phenomena between which these inter-linguistic and intercultural relationships should be established, as well as on the nature of the relationship itself. Should it be a simple resemblance, or an equality, or even an identity? The term “equivalence”,(9)  now controversial, has often been used in this sense, and the history of translation studies,(10)  as a discipline that studies “translating” theories and practices, is full of different approaches that prioritize equivalence of letter, meaning, or effect.

It is a matter of situating translation in its historical, social and political contexts, and of recognizing that, beyond the difficulties of textual transfer and considerations of the translatability or non-translatability of the divine message,(11)  there are always factors external to the texts that have a determining influence on interpretation (inherent in the act of translating), on translation strategies and techniques, as well as on the very choice of texts to be translated or re-translated, and the sources that will be used.

The translation of the sacred text

The translation of the sacred text raises multiple and formidable questions concerning the relationship of communities and peoples to their languages and to the founding texts of their identities, to the sacred, to the world with its beings and its objects. (12)

The sacred text constitutes a “literary” monument that crystallizes the inherited identity of a community. The question of its translation differs according to religions and beliefs. If we consider the three Abrahamic monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we notice at first sight a radical difference between these three branches of the Abrahamic tradition in the place given to the translation of their sacred text.

Thus, the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (13) underlines the fact that revelation has an ineffable character and cannot be expressed in human language.(14) Translation would be blasphemy. Steiner points out that Judaism harbors an extreme taboo, the Megillat Taanith (15) of the first century reports that the world was darkened for three days when the Law was translated into Greek (M. Ballard, 2007, p 38).(16)  Thus translation is considered a transgression of the prohibition of communication embodied in the curse of Babel that the diversity of languages represents. Moreover, the refusal of the Judaic religious authorities to participate in the Ecumenical Translation of the Bible confirms the durability of this radical position of Judaism.

If we consider Christianity, we see that translation and interpretation were constitutive of the New Testament (NT). Indeed, if Christ spoke Aramaic, the NT was written in Greek from the first century, and the predominance of Latin in Gaul and Africa created the need for Latin translations of the Bible, a task to which St. Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus, born in 347) devoted himself.(17) The Bible was then translated into the European “vernacular” languages, some of which founded national languages and identities (for example, German with Martin Luther). (18) The religious aspect supports this centrality of translation and interpretation in the Christian tradition.

The problem of religious translation raises questions about the notion of “religion of the Books”, a notion that is not accepted without reservation by the various monotheisms.

The legitimacy of translation in Christian theology

Among the three monotheisms, a specificity of Christianity is the absence of sacralization of the source languages, which makes the sacred texts intrinsically translatable: the canon is considered sacred insofar as it transmits the divine word, but the language itself (Hebrew, Greek) is not sacralized. In this, Christianity differs from Judaism, which sacralizes Hebrew as the language of the TaNaKh (the Jewish canon, written in Hebrew, comprising the Law, Torah, the prophets, Nevihim, and the writings, Ketuvim) (19),  and from Islam, which posits the Qur’anic text as dictated directly in Arabic. While neither Judaism nor Islam prohibits translations of sacred texts and more generally of religious texts, these translations are not supposed to be the basis for theological debate or prayer, which must be carried out on the basis of the original language text.

It is therefore on translation that evangelization rests: for the Word of Christ to spread universally, it must be able to reach each person in his or her own language. It is also in this that Christianity differs from Judaism : in the fact that it does not address itself to a particular people, but potentially to the universal human community (this is the meaning of the term “Catholic”, copied from the Greek and meaning “general”, “universal”). Moreover, the linguistic transfer is early, since the New Testament is written in Greek while Christ spoke in Aramaic. From then on, the imperative of translating the sacred texts was imposed, as the extension of the confessional public, theoretically universal, was redefined: Christianity aimed at the evangelization of all, without distinction of birth, origin, language, ethnic group or status.

For all that, if the Christian Bible itself presupposes its own translatability, this does not imply that, in practice, anyone undertakes to translate, nor that any translation is received without further ado by the confessing public. From antiquity, two versions were established, whose posterity was immense: the Greek Septuagint (20)  and the Latin Vulgate.(21)  The Greek version, known as the Septuagint, became the version of the Eastern Christians, although it was not of Christian origin. It adds to the New Testament written in Greek the Alexandrian translation of the Septuagint, produced in the third century BC in a Hellenized Jewish environment. The name “Septuagint” refers to the legend that 72 translators were commissioned to translate the Jewish Hebrew canon into Greek and that they produced as many translations, all identical to each other, as a sign that they were inspired by the divine spirit. The production of this translation responded to a double necessity: King Ptolemy’s desire to have a Greek version of the sacred text of the Jews, who were numerous in Egypt, but also the need for Hellenized Jews who no longer read Hebrew to understand the TaNaKh.

The Vulgate, in a Christian context this time, finds its source in the fourth century A.D. in the desire of Pope Damasus (22) (born in Rome around 305 and died in the same city on December 11, 384) to control the distribution of the biblical text in Latin. Indeed, translations were proliferating, now known as the Vetus Latina (“old Latin Bible”), disparate in their principles and allowing the coexistence of several competing lessons. Pope Damasus then commissioned Jerome of Stridon (Saint Jerome) to produce a unified version. Jerome re-translated the Gospels from Greek and most of the Old Testament from Hebrew – the Psalter and the Epistles were simply revisions of pre-existing translations. This translation, called the “Vulgate” because it was written in the vulgar language (Latin, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire), was for centuries the reference version of the Catholic Church, imposing itself as a second original.

In modern times, translations of the Bible into the European vernacular languages multiplied under the dual influence of the spread of printing and the Reformation. Protestants and Catholics did not read the same Bible. The diversification of denominational audiences led to a diversification of Bibles, diverse in their target languages, but also in their source languages and even in the canon that was retained.

The Catholic translations of the Bible, from the first complete Bible in French (Lefèvre d’Etaples – 1455-1536 -, 1530) until the 1950s, were based almost exclusively on the text of the Latin Vulgate, which was declared “authentic” and thus the reference version at the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1553) which organized the Counter-Reformation. The different branches of Protestantism all had in common the opposition to Rome and the return to the sources of Christianity, which implied recourse to the Hebrew and Greek originals for the translation. This immediately raises the question of the edition of the source texts, which are beginning to be printed, while the problem of textual variants emerges, crucial when it comes to establishing a text whose inspired nature is not debated.

Protestants and Catholics therefore read Bibles that have not been translated from the same original, which obviously has an impact on the text and can lead to variants or nuances of meaning. Two examples here. The first shows a case of lexical divergence of the sources : we read in Canticle of Canticles 1 : 2 in Catholic Bibles based on the Vulgate, “your breasts are better than wine“, following Jerome’s reading “ubera tua [your breasts, your udders] meliora vino“, and in Protestant Bibles based on the Hebrew “your loves are better than wine“, following the Hebrew text : “dodeikha” [your loves, your tenderness, your affection]. The Protestant translators use the Hebrew Massoretic text, i.e., fixed in its spelling, vocalization and cantillation, whereas the earlier manuscripts contain a purely consonant text. Presumably, Jerome had read “dadeikha” [your breasts], using a Hebrew version without vowels, prior to the Masoretic edition. A second case shows no misunderstanding this time, but the diffusion of nuances rich in meaning in theology, is to be found in the prologue of the Gospel of John. The Greek puts Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, the word “logos” being translated by Jerome as “verbum.” Following Jerome’s lesson, and because a very similar term exists in French, Catholic translators more or less universally put “In the beginning was the Word.” Protestant translators, on the other hand, tend to translate “logos” by “word“, which is not a misunderstanding of the Greek, but shows a desire to distance themselves from the Latin and Catholic tradition.

Jewish translations of the Bible into French are much later – they emerge during the eighteenth century, the first complete translation being made by the native of Metz Samuel Cahen (1796-1862) in the middle of the nineteenth century. On the one hand, since the sacred language of Judaism is Hebrew, the translation does not have the same status and can only be conceived as an aid to reading. On the other hand, the Jewish communities of France did not become fully French-speaking until quite late, once the emancipation of the Jews gave them the status of French citizens. The need for translations for Jewish use in French (and not in Yiddish or Ladino – the Judeo-Spanish language spoken by certain Sephardic communities – for example) was hardly felt before 1800 (Placial, 2014 : 475 ff.): the first Jewish translations of sacred texts into French, such as those of Mordecai Venture (1730-1789), were aimed as much at non-Jews as at Jews.

It was not until the very end of the nineteenth century that the “Bible of the Rabbinate” (1899-1906), coordinated by Zadoc Kahn (1839-1905), chief rabbi of the Central Consistory, was published, partly using pre-existing translations (that of Lazare Wogue – 1817-1897 – for the Pentateuch and the first Prophets, for example). Obviously, this translation concerns only the Jewish canon and does not include the deuterocanonical books (i.e., the books excluded from the Jewish canon but included in the Catholic canon, such as the book of Judith or the book of Wisdom), nor, of course, the New Testament. Presented as the collective and anonymous work of the French Rabbinate, it is “intended less for worship or study than for further reading” (Kaufmann, 2012), in the context of a French Jewish community that, increasingly assimilated, no longer reads Hebrew. The posterity of this translation is great : initially published in French only, it is reprinted in a bilingual edition ; in the age of the Internet, it is also used, opposite the Hebrew, by the Sefarim site (http://www.sefarim.fr/), developed by Akadem, intended for the study of Jewish texts.

But the Bibles of the various denominations do not differ only in the heterogeneity of their source languages. These Bibles are also distinct by the canon they retain, and the order in which this canon is translated, as far as the Old Testament is concerned. The New Testament, on the other hand, is stable both in its composition and in the order of the books (the four Gospels ; the Acts of the Apostles ; the various Epistles ; and the Apocalypse). The reader of a Protestant or Jewish Bible will not find the deuterocanonical texts, which appear in Catholic Bibles.

Translations of the Torah (TaNaKh)

The exile, the founding experience of Jewish existence, is accompanied by a complex relationship to Hebrew and to languages in general, which assigns a central role to the problem of translation. The Hebrew Bible itself – the 24 books of the TaNaKh (acronym of Torah : Pentateuch, Nevi’im: Prophets, Ketuvim: Hagiographers) – inaugurates the collective history of Israel with an Exodus and ends it with the exile to Babylonia, followed by the Return. This exile is sometimes announced in prophetic form as an experience of immersion among a people “whose language you will not understand” (Deuteronomy 28 :49 ; see Psalms 114 :1). In fact, it will have constituted a linguistic rupture : from the Return onwards, Aramaic will gradually take precedence over Hebrew as the language spoken among the Jews. There is a consensus that the end of classical Hebrew as a spoken language occurred at the beginning of the third century. The relationship to biblical Hebrew, which is properly the language of the biblical text – since the Bible is the principal and almost exclusive document that attests to this state of the Hebrew language – is thus marked, in the Jewish tradition, by the seal of ambiguity : original language, but lost language; at once mother tongue and foreign language.(23)

In the practices of translating the Hebrew Bible, as in the reflections on it throughout Jewish history, a series of tensions is therefore at play : the needs induced by diglossia, amplified in the diasporas, in the face of the risk of profaning a text held sacred, the variable place of the Bible according to context, within a tradition more centered on the study of the Talmud,(24)  and consequently the relations between the elites and the margins. In certain contexts, translations of the Bible become the only means of access to Jewish sources for specific audiences, whether they be women who are traditionally excluded from the study of the Talmud or, more generally, Jews who have stepped outside the framework of traditional study and practice, especially in the modern period.

This practice of synagogal translation was carried out at the very moment of the reading, by a “meturgeman” (an Aramaic term which, through the intermediary of Arabic, gave rise to the French word “truchement“, which designates an intermediary or interpreter). The biblical text must thus be heard in its original Hebrew form, but also be understood by the faithful. One finds in this device a kind of repetition of the Sinai scene. In the first stage, the collective is founded in the direct listening of the divine voice, which proves to be unbearable and inaudible for the people: what is restored by the reading of a Hebrew text which has become partly incomprehensible. In a second stage, Moses sets himself up as an intermediary between God and the people and transmits to them, “translates“, his word: a function which the meturgeman occupies in his own way (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20-25). If this practice of simultaneous translation manifests a concern to protect the mass of the faithful, who no longer understand – or no longer sufficiently understand – Hebrew, from ignorance, it nevertheless appears that a certain control of access to the biblical text is at stake.

The Talmud thus rules that certain biblical passages had to be read without being translated, in order to prevent the common people from committing misunderstandings or irreverent readings (TB, Megilla, 25a-b). For example, when Aaron tells Moses the story of the making of the golden calf, he says: “I said to them, ‘Who has gold?’ and they stripped themselves of it and handed it over to me ; I threw it into the fire and this calf came out of it” (Exodus, 34, 24, Rabbinate translation). To translate this verse, which suggests a miraculous formation of the calf in the fire, would suggest to the uninformed public that “idolatrous worship is based on something real” (Rashi, ad. loc. in the Talmud). The extent to which these restrictions on the synagogal translation of the biblical text reflect actual practice is difficult to ascertain, but they may be seen as a paradoxical distrust on the part of rabbinic authorities of the reading of the biblical text – a distrust that governs the relationship between the Bible and the Talmud throughout the history of the tradition (Attias, 2012). Other Talmudic texts show the concern to control the role of the meturgeman, whose translation cannot be improvised: “Whoever translates a verse literally is a fabulator ; but whoever adds anything to it is a blasphemer” (Tossefta, Megilla, 4, 41 ; TB, Qiddushin, 49a).

This is undoubtedly a formula expressing the great difficulty, if not the impossibility, of the task of the intermediary (Sarna, 1971 : 589). But it also expresses the fact that this translation must correspond to a certain tradition of interpretation of the biblical text, which is not always perfectly literal. In fact, an authorized translation has gradually imposed itself : the Targum Onkelos, attributed to a proselyte (a Greek convert to Judaism) who lived in the second century A.D., although the text was fixed around the third century. To use Jean-René Ladmiral’s (2014) categories, it is a “mute” translation : the Aramaic copies of the Hebrew, both in terms of word order and choice of vocabulary, to the detriment of Aramaic grammar. But the Targum sometimes introduces choices of interpretation, which are sometimes its own, such as the refusal of anthropomorphisms, and sometimes correspond to traditional interpretations. Thus, “you shall not cook the lamb in its mother’s milk” is rendered “you shall not eat meat with milk” (Exodus, 23 :19 ; 34 :26, see Deuteronomy, 14 :21), in accordance with rabbinic law. The Talmud refers to Targum Onkelos as “our translation” (TB, Qiddushin, 49a) and presents Onkelos as translating under the authority of leading rabbis (TB, Megilla, 3a ; although this may be based on a confusion with Aquila, the author of a Greek translation of the Bible) (Sarna, 1971 : 590). The same passage also presents Jonathan ben Uziel (first century BC), to whom is attributed the authorized Aramaic translation of the books of the Prophets, translating under the direct inspiration of the last prophets of Israel. From the Middle Ages onwards, manuscripts of the Bible present the biblical text accompanied by the Targum Onkelos on the Pentateuch or the Targum Jonathan on the Prophets, generally after each verse.

Translation and theology 

The three monotheisms are closely linked to the “holy books”. They constitute the ultimate evolution of religions, attesting to the passage from oral cultures to the “written culture”. The close connection between ‘religion’ and ‘book’ indicates a new form of religious rationality which is intended to break with natural religions and the various types of polytheism and paganism. In spite of the circumstantial differences between revelation (Islam) and inspiration (Christianity), the primacy of the Book has operated an ‘epistemological’ break with the forms of expression of natural religions. But these religions have not disappeared for all that, they keep barely visible traces in the monotheistic religions. We will follow in this sense a suggestion of Jan Assmann, by distinguishing between (ancient) religion and monotheistic counter-religion (Gegenreligion). The effort of hermeneutics is to translate the jargon of the new religions into the primitive mythological language of the natural religions. Religious exegesis (like the work of Ricoeur and LaCocque entitled “Thinking Biblically: Exegetical and Hermeneutical“) (25)  will have the task of translating the biblical language into the mythological language of ancient Egypt, for example.

Religious hermeneutics has also developed in modern times in the wake of the problem of translation. The problem of the unity of the Holy Book, which should ‘accommodate’ the Old Testament to the New Testament in the perspective of one and only one divine word : the Bible), led theologians to propose different types of meaning: typological, tropological, mystical meaning, in addition to the lexical meaning. The translation of the holy book should take into consideration the different dogmatics that prescribe doctrinal reference points for the translation exercise. The quarrels of schools (around the demythologization of Bultmann) (26) show the actuality of the problem of intra- and intercultural translation.

The problem of translation in Islamic countries is currently posed in unprecedented terms. Given the dogma of the preeminence of the Arabic language, the translation of the Qur’an in Islamic lands is generally considered as “bid’â“ بدعة , a term that encompasses the meaning of what is “new, blasphemous and counter-religious“; the translation of the Qur’an is in this perspective an attempt that is inevitably doomed to failure, and when it is sometimes tolerated, it is as a “translation of the meanings of the Qur’an and not of the inimitable one.“ The refusal to “sacralize” the translation of the sacred text comes from a theological conception of language.

In the past, the theological problem of translation could be put in these exclusive terms. The Arabic language was the predominant language of culture and communication. Now, the new problem of translation is the following : Arabic is becoming a minority language in several Muslim countries (Persia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, etc.) and non-Muslim countries (Europe, the Americas, and Africa), not to mention Arabized Muslim countries with a strong non-Arabic ethnic majority, such as those of the Maghreb where Berber/Tamazight is spoken. Hence the need for translation into languages and cultures other than Arabic.

To sum up, it is appropriate to examine the relationship of the sacred text to translation and interpretation according to two main perspectives:

  1. The perspective of verticality, that is, that of “religiō” in the sense of binding, when the holy text-book establishes a covenant (religiō) between Men and God. The divine Word incarnated in the human language is the attestation of this transcendental alliance; and
  2. The perspective of horizontality, that is, that of the “relegere“,(27)  in the sense of re-reading and inter-community inter-textuality : Any new religious vocation is based on the previous cultural heritage. And since the mythological and polytheistic heritage constituted the predominant cultural heritage, it directed the exegetical aims of the researches in the religious sciences.

Firstly, intertextual relationship between Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT), and between OT&NT and Koran, where we could speak of cultural and dogmatic re-enunciation. Secondly, intertextual relationship between OT and the whole Assyrian-Babylonian mythology with its founding narratives, especially those concerning the birth of the world and the creation of man found in the Poem of Atrahasis, in the Poem of Creation, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, in addition to another Babylonian poem entitled “I want to praise the Lord of Wisdom” which has similarities with the biblical Job. Finally, intertextual relationship between the different religious exegetical traditions, biblical and Koranic, and their preponderant role in the institutionalization and consecration of canonical interpretations (Midrash, Targum, Exegesis, Tafsîr), without forgetting the contributions of the three mystics (Jewish, Christian and Muslim).

That it is permissible to translate the Bible does not pose a question within the rabbinic tradition. Moreover, the latter does not fail to compare traditional commentary to a form of translation: if, according to Deuteronomy, 1:5, Moses, on the eve of his death, began to “explain” (be’er) the Torah to the people of Israel, it is because he expounded it in “70 languages” (Rashi ad. loc., Midrash Tanḥuma, Devarim, 2:1). According to a Talmudic commentary, at the very moment of the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai, every divine word was “divided into 70 languages” (Babylonian Talmud [=TB], Shabbat, 88b). This teaching is reminiscent of the motif of the universal translatability of the biblical text, which is at the heart of the Christian rereading of Pentecost, when the apostles began to “speak in other tongues“, to address each one in his own idiom through the intermediary of the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-12). But from the point of view of rabbinic Judaism, this universal translatability rests on the irreducible primacy of the Hebrew original, despite and by virtue of its strangeness and sometimes obscurity.

According to a teaching of the Mishna (28)  (Mishna, Megilla, I, 8) – the oldest stratum of rabbinic literature compiled in the second century – “the books [of the Bible] can be translated into any language,” which seems to imply that their essential function lies in the understanding of their text. Conversely, the texts of the Bible that appear in liturgical objects: phylacteries (tefillin) – cubic boxes containing biblical excerpts attached to the forehead and arm during prayer – and mezuzot – parchment scrolls hung on the lintel of doors – are not to be translated. They are not intended to be read, but to inscribe spaces and bodies under the sign of the biblical text. Their function is not semantic, but semiotic. It is perhaps because the weekly synagogal reading of a passage from the Pentateuch (parashah) is situated at the crossroads of these two functions: to make a sign and to make sense, that the Talmud (TB, Megillah, 8b-9b) reveals strong reticence about the use of a translated text in this liturgical context. A notable exception is made for the Greek translation of the Septuagint, around which the ambivalence of the rabbinic tradition with regard to the translation of the Bible crystallizes.

On the one hand, in both Talmudic and Hellenistic sources (Pelletier, 1962), this translation, produced within the important Hellenistic Jewish community of Alexandria in the third century B.C., is presented as resulting from divine inspiration. This miracle – which justifies the use of a Greek text even in the liturgy – would in some way actualize the biblical announcement of a fraternal closeness between Japheth – the ancestor of Greece, according to the biblical genealogy – and Shem – the ancestor of Israel (according to one of the possible readings of Genesis, 9, 27 ; Levinas, 1988). On the other hand, other texts state that this translation would have caused three days of darkness to fall upon the world (Megillat Ta’anit) or compare it to the making of the golden calf (Massekhet Sefer Tora, I, 8, cf. Massekhet Soferim, I, 8): the translation, like the idol, substituting itself for the original.

In fact, in the Hellenistic Jewish world, the Septuagint will soon become the reference text for Jews who no longer understand Hebrew, before becoming that of the Fathers of the Church. These contradictory texts undoubtedly reflect the tensions which the encounter with Greek culture during the Hellenistic period may have caused, between attraction and risk of assimilation. The negative view of the Septuagint also reflects polemical issues at the time of the rise of Christianity. If the rabbinic sources reveal the perception of translation as constituting a risk of confirming the public’s ignorance of the Hebrew language, translating is nonetheless recognized as a necessity in a situation of diglossia where the “sacred” language is composed of a vernacular language. The Mishna thus relates the ancient practice of combining the synagogal reading of the Torah with an Aramaic translation (the language that had become vernacular by the time of the Second Temple).

Translation of the Koranic narrative

The history of successive translations of the Qur’an from the beginning of the prophetic mission to the present day attests to the interest that the Holy Book has aroused in all times. A real enigma for some, a source of concern for others, the founding text of Islam, represents a kind of challenge to Western intelligence.

Whether it is a question of translations with a confessional vocation, most often carried out by Muslim translators, or translations by laymen, the translated text often sacrifices the effort of exegesis for the benefit of interpretation. This is because the act of translation is not a linear activity, but is based on a confrontation of subjectivities, of multiple readings: reading of the original text, reading of the translations of predecessors, exegetical readings, re-translation of an already existing translation, etc. By dint of reshuffling, readjustments, adaptations, the original text runs the risk of being no more than a pretext either for conveying a literary or cultural tradition; or a tool for adaptations, sometimes for civilizational annexations. Instead of being an attempt at transfer, the translation of the religious sacred becomes an attack, even a sacrilege.

It is in this general context that our approach to the translations of the story of Yûsuf between meta-text, text and pretext from three translations: that of Chiadmi,(29)  Mohamed el Mokhtar Ould Bah,(30)  and finally that of Jacques Berque.(31)

What are the translation strategies and positions of the above-mentioned translators?  How did they assume the limits of the religious translatable? If the Qur’anic narrative finds its legitimacy and raison d’être in its function of guidance, education and communication of norms and laws, what aspects have our three translators enhanced: the literarity of the text? Its poetic beauty? Its message or its effect?  Does the translated text assume the same function as the source text?

Attempting to reflect on the translation of the Qur’anic narrative means embracing in three stages :

  1. The particularities of the narrative in the Qur’an,
  2. The translational horizon and dispositions of the translators, and;
  3. Finally The stakes and limits of the translational strategies implemented.

To what extent did our three translators remain faithful to the source? How can we say that a translation is effective? Can we envisage a translation that breaks the links with the social and cultural system of the host country? Can we decontextualize the attempt to translate the Qur’an and seek only the transmission of the religious message?

The process of analysis of the three translations fits into the general framework of the Germanic approach to translation inspired by Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutics (32) and Jauss’s theory of reception (33); and was guided by the key concepts of: genre, translatology, translational horizon and system of equivalences. It was driven by three underlying questions: Does the Qur’anic narrative bear translation as one would translate a literary narrative? Can the translation of the Qur’anic narrative be read as a mode of aesthetic and literary transfer? Does the Qur’anic narrative and its translation assume the same function?

The narrative in the Qur’an is not the narrative in literature for the simple reason that the Qur’an is not a literary text. The Qur’an as the revealed word of Allah, even when it is in human language, creates its own forms. To confine it to the moulds of categorization and type of literary analysis would be to misunderstand its essence. The Qur’anic narrative is simply what it is.

Literature as art is defined in the opposition between poetic language and practical language. Fiction never takes place in the practice of life. Moreover, what makes literature literary is that it is subject to the evolution of genres. In the literary series, it is the principle of evolution and change of forms that guarantees literarity. Each new literary form corresponds to a great moment of historical rupture, to an ideological turning point.

Moreover, the poetic text is open to multiple comprehensions. The text of literature is in this sense subject to the dialectic of the question/answer and to the changes of horizons of waiting. The sense is in perpetual construction there. It is the reader who actualizes it and gives it life. He becomes co-author of the text and witnesses the death of the initial writer.

On the other hand, the meaning in the Qur’anic text is a revealed, canonical meaning, pre-existing before existence itself and authoritative. The Qur’an also has a mimetic value that allows people of all times to recognize themselves. If the Qur’an was revealed in human language and adopted the literary forms known at the time of the Arabia of the 7th century, it is so that it is accessible and understood. But is it enough to look for literary mechanisms in the Qur’anic narratives that are common to other texts produced by men?

This is to say that it remains insufficient to translate “قصة qişsa” as narrative or story. In the Quranic “قصص qaşaş“, it is the effect and message conveyed that produces the meaning. The qaşaş in the Qur’an are not narrated but evoked in such a way that one immediately perceives the essence : the teaching.  Is the qişsa in the Qur’an a special genre ? Let us recall by way of example that time and place are often neglected in the Qur’anic narrative, events are selected, some details are not mentioned or very little explained. Some names of prophets or facts of history are reiterated in more than one sûrahQişsa’t Yûsuf which will be the subject of our study is an exception. Sûrat Yûsuf (Arabic : يوسف) is the 12 th sûrah of the Quran. It has 111 âyah and it is the only sûrah revealed in one go. It is also the only one that deals with the eponymous prophet. The two times his name is mentioned elsewhere are in sûrahs  : 84 and 40: 34.

Despite the Qur’an’s interest in the aesthetic and artistic pole, the narrative does not constitute an independent literary work in itself, or in its modes of expression. Beyond the literary aspect, it is the didactic and pedagogical value of the Qur’anic message that takes precedence. The narrative in the Qur’an can only be understood if one knows the Circumstances of the Revelation (asbâb an-nuzûl),(34) and the teaching conveyed by the story.

Therefore, the story finds its raison d’être in the objective it pursues.  Firstly, to affirm the Divine Revelation and Message: there is no God but Allah who is the sole holder of the mystery الغيب. Islamic monotheism is a continuation of the sacred lineage of prophecies. This truth is proclaimed in ayah 12: 3 :

“We are going to narrate to you, through the revelation of this Qur’an, one of the most beautiful stories of which you had no knowledge before.”

نَحْنُنَقُصُّعَلَيْكَأَحْسَنَالْقَصَصِبِمَاأَوْحَيْنَاإِلَيْكَهَٰذَاالْقُرْآنَوَإِنكُنتَمِنقَبْلِهِلَمِنَالْغَافِلِين

At the end of this story, within the same sûrah, we read in 12 : 111 :

In their stories there is truly a lesson for people of reason. This message cannot be a fabrication, rather ˹it is˺ a confirmation of previous revelation, a detailed explanation of all things, a guide, and a mercy for people of faith. ”

لَقَدْكَانَفِيقَصَصِهِمْعِبْرَةٌلِّأُولِيالْأَلْبَابِمَاكَانَحَدِيثًايُفْتَرَىٰوَلَٰكِنتَصْدِيقَالَّذِيبَيْنَيَدَيْهِوَتَفْصِيلَكُلِّشَيْءٍوَهُدًىوَرَحْمَةًلِّقَوْمٍيُؤْمِنُون

The Quranic narrative also serves to institute moral and ethical purposes serving to educate man to virtue and good morals, to set an example of model conduct of the prophets, to comfort, support and relieve the Prophet Muhammad and his companions at a time when they were being persecuted by the disbelieving Meccans (أهلمكة). Sometimes, the Quranic narrative may have a legal purpose that concerns jurisprudence and thereby becomes an object of interpretation and adaptation

This is to say that the narrative in the Qur’an has meaning only because it pursues a goal, and this is how it differs from other narratives. Nothing is more significant to summarize our point about the opposition of Qur’anic narrative as a unique and autonomous genre to literature than âyah 12 :111 given here above.

Translation studies and equivalence system

The translation of Quranic qaşaş refers us to many other fields than linguistics. The act of translation goes beyond the simple replacement of lexical and grammatical elements of one language by those of another. The operation of translation involves extratextual, hypertextual, and intratextual considerations.

It is towards the second half of the 20th century that a multitude of voices were raised to institute a science of translation independent of the theories of literature and linguistics.(35)  However, the various related disciplines on which translation is based and the variety of its theoretical anchors mean that it does not have an autonomous descriptive, theoretical and practical system. But it is above all the controversy between the hermeneutic and literalist approaches that characterized the beginnings of translation studies.

Indeed, at the end of the 1970s, interest in the transfer of meaning between texts increased and thus opened up to comparatism and interdisciplinarity. Critics often criticize the semantic approach for distorting the act of translation when the translator’s interest is in the acceptability of the translated text in the target culture and therefore its adaptability in order to reduce the strangeness of the text. Does the translated work still remain a foreign work? To overcome these limitations, some critics call for the literalist model of translation, i.e., word-for-word. But even if we give priority to the letter and not to the meaning, does the translated text remain faithful to the original?

The 90s were marked by the birth of translational linguistics,(36)  which resulted from the introduction of computer technology into the practice of translation. Its objective is to automate the translation operations that lend themselves to it thanks to software for statistical processing of linguistic data, electronic dictionaries, technical writing tools, not to mention automatic spell checkers and morphological and syntactic analyzers. But the scope of its practice is still very limited, especially when it comes to the religious domain.

Generally speaking, translation studies as translation criticism distinguish two approaches in practice and analysis:

  1. On the one hand, the one turned towards the source text and the original language; and
  2. On the other hand, the one turned towards the target language and reader.

Both deploy different mechanisms, relying sometimes on the hermeneutic method, which focuses exclusively on literary problems and rejects everything linguistic ; sometimes on the linguistic method and the language sciences. But the fact remains that a translated text can never be identical to the original. This partly explains why the same Qur’anic narrative is translated differently each time the translator changes. The question that arises at this level of reflection is what are the translational strategies to be developed in order to obtain a target text that is as equivalent as possible to the original text?

The concept of equivalence (37) is at the heart of the controversy about translatability and untranslatability in the Qur’anic narrative. This term, borrowed from the mathematical sciences, refers to the idea of “set” and “variables”. It refers to a symmetrical relationship between data that can be substituted for each other without producing great changes.

Translators see equivalence as the result of the interaction between the translator and the text. For them, equivalence is necessarily asymmetrical because, in dealing with two different languages, it aims at a resemblance of form and function and not of form and structure. A language is much more than an inventory of words, it is a particular way of structuring the world. The issue is when we start from a language that says more to a language that says less or vice versa, do we not risk making the text say what it does not say?

Translational horizon and translators’ positions

The notion of horizon applies to the role that the historical, cultural and literary context plays in the understanding of the work, an act that precedes its translation. The act of understanding implies in itself a conscious or unconscious reconstitution of the different horizons. To understand is to merge these horizons, which can sometimes seem independent of each other. The study of the different horizons in which the translation of the Qur’anic narrative developed at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century places the translated work in a series of successive readings and translations in which the contemporary work tries to resolve and overcome the ethical and formal problems raised by the first translations. It is clear that the Qur’anic text translated by a Muslim is not the same as that of another and does not have the same function.

The exegetical references, the literary and hypertextual considerations depend on each translator. This is indicated by all the notes, prefaces, and explanatory speeches of the translators, in “meta”, which accompany the translation. The translational project appears in the translator’s position (revealed by the metatext that accompanies the translation) and in the confrontation between the source text and the target text. The translator’s position is the specific relationship that the translator has with his or her activity ; it is, to use Berman’s (38) terminology, the translator’s “position vis-à-vis the translation “. The prefaces and forewords of the translators themselves provide us with several pieces of information.

Jacques Berque is considered one of the great orientalists of the 20th century.(39) He was a member of the Arabic language academy in Cairo and an honorary professor at the Collège de France. He devoted 16 years to reading and rereading the Koran and studying Islam. His project to translate the Qur’an lasted five years.

His interest in translating the Qur’an began with the pages preceding Jean Grosjean’s (40) translation. In order to translate the text, Berque felt the need to settle down in a village area in the South West of France on the road to Santiago de Compostela. This is the ideal place that inspired him to engage in a “prolonged dialogue” with the Qur’anic text.

The title that Berque gave to his work gives us a lot of information about his translation project : Le Coran : Essai de traduction de l’arabe annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique.(41)  From then on, it is clear that Berque placed himself on the side of the exegete and that he was more interested in the meaning.

Berque referred to the most credible exegeses such as that of Tabari Muhammad Ibn Jarir, Zamakhchari Muhammad.(42) In addition, the reading of Blachère’s (43) translation marked him a lot by its grammatical rigor, while the reading of Si Hamza Boubaker (44) was a place of “useful confrontations with a Muslim point of view supported by Western information.

In addition, Berque devoted an article to the semiotic approach to Sûrat Yûsuf, entitled : “Yûsuf, ou la sourate sémiotique“, where the emphasis is placed on a literary, hypertextual reading of the sûrah and where we find the repercussions, in his translation strategy, of the Qur’anic narrative that is the subject of our study.

Somewhere at the end of his essay on the translation of the Qur’an, in a chapter entitled Rereading the Qur’an, Berque says:

“Biblical legends and lyrical descriptions, by a recourse to literarity in the first case, and in the second by its sublimation, the Koran thus testifies to an availability of approach that breaks with the hieratic solitude of essence in favor of junctions with the existing to be instructed and transformed.”

Berque’s translation essay closes with an interpretative study with a literary vocation applied to the Qur’an. Among the axes treated are the question of the assembly of the Qur’an, the thematic approach of the sûrahs, the study of the style, the rhetoric and the poetics of the Qur’an: repetition and dissimilation, intertwined structures, multi-angular speech, etc.

In his foreword, Ould Bah evokes his different readings of previous translations. As none of them definitively exhausts the meaning of the Qur’an, his contribution aims at enriching this field for the benefit of French-speaking users who do not have the means to access the Arabic version. Then, the translator reviews the main difficulties encountered during his project, which are syntactic and semantic on the one hand. On the other hand, the transfer of meaning is problematic because it has a civilizational and cultural scope.  Describing his translation method, Ould Bah states:

“(…) we have endeavored in the conduct of this work : -To rely, in case of multiple interpretations of an element of the text, on the authority of the most credible exegetes. In the case of equivalent interpretations, we indicate at the bottom of the page the one that we do not prefer ; – to take as a basis the Medina reading of Nafi’ (…) ; – to specify the circumstances of the revelation when they shed particular light on the meaning or the scope of the text ; – to indicate the verses containing norms that have been abrogated by later verses (…); – at the beginning of each sura, a brief introduction gives the general theme (…)”.

Chiadmi explains these aesthetic and methodological choices at length in his translation of the Qur’an entitled: Le Noble Coran: Nouvelle Traduction française du Sens de ses Versets. (45) This translation is prefaced by eminent researchers and professors in Islamology such as Shaykh Zakaria Seddiki, a graduate in religious sciences from Al Azhar University (Egypt), Shaykh Youssouf Ibram, a graduate in religious sciences from Riyadh University and a member of the European Council of Fatwa (Saudi Arabia), and finally Tariq Ramadan, an Islamologist and philosopher.(46)

Chiadmi, unlike Berque and Ould Bah, has seen fit to publish the translation, in a bilingual edition. The book is presented entirely in the same direction as the Arabic Qur’an, that is, from right to left. The translation is enriched with notes, maps, forewords, appendices including an introduction to the history of the Qur’an, a biography of the prophet, etc. His preface closes with a prayer imploring the forgiveness of Allah, the Clement, the Merciful, for the errors that may be included in the translation text.

Speaking about his translation work, Chiadmi says:

“As for the new translation of the meaning of the verses of the Holy Book, I would like to specify here that the idea of carrying it out goes back to 1975, when I was an inspector general at the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs, in Morocco. That year, I was with a group of ulemas in France (…) it was during one of these talks that this idea was born in my mind, when young Muslims who were emigrants and did not know Arabic well complained about not having a good translation of the verses of the Holy Book. “

One of the major pitfalls faced by translators of the Qur’anic narrative is the interpretation of the meanings of the âyât on the one hand and the form that the Qur’anic narrative takes on the other. How does the translator deal with words that are borrowed or deviated from their proper meaning? What strategy does he adopt to translate the effect of redundancy?  Does he remain faithful to the frequent repetition of concepts in similar or identical terms? How can we translate the rhetorical form called iltifât الإلتفات? Does the translated text pursue the same function as the original text?

To answer these questions regarding the transfer of meaning and form between source and target text, we will discuss the translational strategy of semantic equivalence and formal equivalence.

In any act of translation of the religious text, it is not enough to substitute a linguistic system by another, but the translator must reach the meaning. The translator plays the role of a mediator between the work and the public. He must try to transmit the meaning as faithfully as possible by searching in the target language for linguistic correspondences and structures that are supposed to convey the message of the original text. He must also be interested in everything that is metatextual beyond the words.

Conclusion

There are many ways in which the political interacts with the linguistic and theological, and the relationship between religion and identity is close. Through the Qur’an, Arabic is the founding element of the identity of a people, or even of several. Through his choice to translate the Bible into German, Martin Luther is the founder of the German language. The issue of identity, and especially the issue of identities, is one of the most burning political and cultural questions of our time. Translation has a role to play, as demonstrated by the varied and complementary works of Simon (1996), Bassnett and Trivedi (1999), Baker (2006) or Cronin (2006).

The type of text known as religious covers a panoply of styles of writings and sources of inspiration that it becomes impossible to treat according to a single guideline. In the course of this research, we have observed that, depending on the context, the translator is guided towards a choice of process sometimes linguistic, sometimes interpretative and sometimes literary. It is not possible to to insist on a particular theory, given the diversity of the problems that the translator is supposed to solve.

To the expressive values, in the religious texts, come sometimes figures of style such as metaphors and repetitions. The metaphors sometimes present problems at the level of the translation of the comparative tool. The use of a comparative term sometimes seems necessary to render the exact expression of the meaning, especially when the expressive systems of the two languages are too far apart.

The difference between the linguistic mechanisms of the two languages and target languages has consequences on the translation process of repetitions. For some processes are not common while some do not exist.

Other types of repetition would then have to be used. In general, if we look at the examples, we can see that most of the difficulties faced by the translators are due to both the religious and cultural concepts and the semantic and aesthetic charge of the texts, which lead translators to adopt various strategies.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter : @Ayurinu

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End notes :

  1. Mohamed Chtatou. “ Translation And Its Cross-Cultural Relevance, “Eurasia Review dated May 15, 2021. https://www.eurasiareview.com/15052021-translation-and-its-cross-cultural-relevance-analysis/
  2. The Savvy Newcomer. “Fidelity in Translation, “ The Savvy Newcomer dated May 15, 2018. https://atasavvynewcomer.org/2018/05/15/fidelity-in-translation/ Copeland, R. Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages : Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  3. Robinson, Douglas. “Sacred Texts, ” In The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation, Peter France (ed.). Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000 : 103–107.
  4. Robert Barnes. “The Translation of the Sacred, “The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies. Edited by Kirsten Malmkjær and Kevin Windle, March 2011. DOI : 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199239306.013.0004This article discusses the translation of the Bible, the Qur’an, and Buddhist texts. The Septuagint is a Jewish Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Vulgate is a Christian Latin translation of the whole Bible, i.e. Old and New Testaments. Large numbers of new English versions have appeared in the twentieth century, following different theories of translation. Since 1800, the Bible has been translated into versions of widely spoken languages. Muslims have been reluctant to admit that there are any non-Arabic loanwords in the Qur’an, although Western scholars have argued otherwise. In English, the closest to a ‘classic’ translation of the Qur’an is that of George Sale. Translations of Indian Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese began about ad 150, and continued until about 1050. Translations into Tibetan began in about the seventh century. Finally, this article gives examples of translation from the Bible and the Qur’an
  5. Alexis Nouss. “l’Interdit et l’inter-dit : la traduisibilité et le sacré, “ 7TK, vol. II, n° 1, 1″ semestre 1989.
  6. Michael LaFargue. Rational Spirituality and Divine Virtue in Plato : A Modern Interpretation and Philosophical Defense of Platonism. Albany, NY, United States : SUNY Press, 2016. Michael LaFargue presents an important and accessible aspect of Plato’s legacy largely overlooked today : a variety of personal spirituality based on reason and centered on virtue. Plato’s Virtue-Forms are transcendent in their goodness, ideals that Platonists can use to improve character and become like God so far as is humanly possible. LaFargue constructs a model of inductive Socratic reasoning capable of acquiring knowledge of these perfect Virtue-Forms, then scales back claims about these Forms to what can be supported by this kind of reasoning. This is a critical theory, but also a pluralistic one that accommodates modern cultural diversity. A how-to chapter provides detailed descriptions of the rules of Socratic reasoning basic to this spirituality, which any interested individual can practice today. LaFargue supports his interpretation by a close reading of the Greek text of key passages in Plato’s dialogues. The work also undertakes a broader philosophical consideration, discussing the philosophical foundations proposed for this Platonism in relation to the thought of G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Richard Rorty.
  7. http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20081228.OBS7407/samuel-huntington-theoricien-du-choc-des-civilisations.html Guillaume Nicaise. La gestion de la diversité culturelle et l’empathie, www.guillaumenicaise.com
  8. Gérard Marandon, Au-delà de l’empathie, cultiver la confiance : clés pour la rencontre interculturelle, Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, núm. 61-62, p. 265.
  9. Vanessa Leonardi. “Equivalence in Translation : Between Myth and Reality, “Translation Journal, Volume 4, No. 4, October 2000. Abstract : “The aim of this paper is to review the theory of equivalence as interpreted by some of the most innovative theorists in this field—Vinay and Darbelnet, Jakobson, Nida and Taber, Catford, House, and finally Baker. These theorists have studied equivalence in relation to the translation process, using different approaches, and have provided fruitful ideas for further study on this topic. Their theories will be analyzed in chronological order so that it will be easier to follow the evolution of this concept. These theories can be substantially divided into three main groups. In the first there are those translation scholars who are in favour of a linguistic approach to translation and who seem to forget that translation in itself is not merely a matter of linguistics. In fact, when a message is transferred from the SL to TL, the translator is also dealing with two different cultures at the same time. This particular aspect seems to have been taken into consideration by the second group of theorists who regard translation equivalence as being essentially a transfer of the message from the SC to the TC and a pragmatic/semantic or functionally oriented approach to translation. Finally, there are other translation scholars who seem to stand in the middle, such as Baker for instance, who claims that equivalence is used ‘for the sake of convenience—because most translators are used to it rather than because it has any theoretical status’ (quoted in Kenny, 1998 :77). 
  10. Roberto A. Valdeón ; “From translatology to studies in translation theory and practice, “ Perspectives, 25:2, 2017 : 181-188, DOI: 1080/0907676X.2017.1290123
  11. David S. Cunningham. “On Translating the Divine Name, “ Theological Studies 56, 1995 : 1-26. http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/56/56.3/56.3.1.pdf
  12. Fatma Sinem Eryılmaz. “ Translating Inspired Language, Transforming Sacred Texts : An Introduction, “ Medieval Encounters dated Volume 26 : Issue 4-5, 2020 : 333–348. Abstract: In late medieval-early modern Iberia, translations of sacred texts often involved changes beyond those concerning linguistic and cultural frameworks. The sacred nature of the source text turned it into a potentially powerful tool for a variety of purposes. Translations were used to advance didactic and cultural policies and to disseminate political and religious propaganda. They became building blocks for communal identities under fatal threat. When need be, they could be manipulated both as weapons of self-defense or of belligerent attack against rival religiosities and institutions that harbored them. The power generated by the divine authority that spoke through sacred texts also made their translations and their translators, targets of suspicion and victims of strict control, and at times, destruction. The five articles that I introduce represent a wide spectrum of these possibilities as they examine translation projects of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sacred texts and the transformations they catalyzed. (https://brill.com/view/journals/me/26/4-5/article-p333_1.xml?language=en)
  13. The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians was written from Macedonia in about 55 CE. The letter, which may have been written after an actual visit by Paul to Corinth, refers to an upheaval among the Christians there, during the course of which Paul had been insulted and his apostolic authority challenged. Because of this incident, Paul resolved not to go to Corinth again in person. Instead, he evidently wrote an intervening letter (2 :3–4; 7:8, 12), now lost, in which he told the Corinthians of his anguish and displeasure. Presumably, he sent a fellow worker, St. Titus, to deliver the letter to the community at Corinth. In the second letter, Paul expresses his joy at the news, just received from Titus, that the Corinthians had repented, that his (Paul’s) authority among them had been reaffirmed, and that the troublemaker had been punished. After expressing his happiness and relief, Paul urges the Corinthians to respond generously to his plea for contributions to assist the poor of Jerusalem. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Letter-of-Paul-to-the-Corinthians)
  14. “I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago was taken up to the third heaven (whether it was in his body I do not know, whether it was out of his body I do not know, God knows). And I know that this man (whether it was in his body or out of his body I do not know, God knows) was taken up into paradise, and that he heard ineffable words which it is not permitted to a man to express. I will boast of such a man, but of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. “NT.
  15. Megillat Taanith : “the volume of affliction” is the oldest Jewish calendar that contains the days of the festivals and fasts that were once used by the Jews but are no longer used
  16. Ballard, M. De Cicéron à Benjamin. Traducteurs, traductions, réflexions. Lille, P.U.L., 3e trim. 1992, 299 pages. (Essai sur l’importance culturelle et historique de la traduction ainsi que sur les formes de théorisation qui s’y rattachent) 2e édition, revue et corrigée, Lille, P.U.L. (collection : « Etude de la traduction »), 1995, 301 pages. Réédition, nouvelle préface, Lille, Presses du Septentrion (collection : « Etude de la traduction »), 2007, 305 pages, p. 37.
  17. Jerome of Stridon or St. Jerome (Latin: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus Stridonensis; Ancient Greek: Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος), born around 347 in Stridon, on the border between Pannonia and Dalmatia (in present-day Slovenia or Croatia), and died on September 30, 420, in Bethlehem, was a monk, Bible translator, Doctor of the Church, and one of the four Latin Church Fathers, along with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo and Gregory I. The order of Hieronymites (or “hermits of Saint Jerome”) refers to him. Cf. Megan Hale Williams. The Monk and the Book : Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship. Chicago and London : Chicago University Press, 2008.
  18. Martin Luther, born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, and died February 18, 1546, in the same city, was an Augustinian friar theologian, university professor, initiator of Protestantism and church reformer whose ideas exerted a great deal of influence on the Protestant Reformation, which changed the course of Western civilization. Luther was a man of great influence on the Church and the Church. Concerned with the questions of death and salvation that characterized late medieval Christianity, he found answers in the Bible, particularly in Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Luther, salvation of the soul is a free gift of God, received through sincere repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, without possible intercession of the church. He defied papal authority by holding the Bible as the only legitimate source of Christian authority. Scandalized by the trade in indulgences instituted by Popes Julius II and Leo X to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he published his 95 theses on October 31, 1517. Summoned on June 15, 1520 by Pope Leo X to recant, he was excommunicated on January 3, 1521 by the papal bull Decet romanum pontificem. The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, Charles V, summoned Martin Luther in 1521 before the Diet of Worms. He was granted safe conduct so that he could go there without risk. Before the Diet of Worms, he refused to recant, declaring himself convinced by the testimony of Scripture and considering himself subject to the authority of the Bible and his conscience rather than that of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Diet of Worms, under pressure from Charles V, decided to ban Martin Luther and his followers from the Empire. His friend, the Elector of Saxony, Frederick III the Wise, welcomed him to the Wartburg Castle, where he composed his most famous and widely read texts. It was there that he began to translate the Bible into German from the original texts, a translation that was to have a major cultural influence, both in terms of establishing the German language and the principles of the art of translation11. Towards the end of his life, Luther became increasingly Judeophobic. In 1543, three years before his death, he published Of the Jews and Their Lies, a pamphlet of extreme violence in which he advocated solutions such as burning down synagogues, tearing down the houses of Jews, destroying their writings, confiscating their money, and killing rabbis who would teach Judaism. Condemned by virtually all Lutheran movements, these writings and Luther’s influence on anti-Semitism have contributed to his controversial image. Cf. Atkinson, James (1. Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism, in series, Pelican Book[s]. Harmondsworth, Eng. : Penguin Books, 1968.
  19. Tanakh (Hebrew תנ״ך) is the acronym for the Hebrew “תּוֹרָה – נביאים – כתובים”, in French : “Torah – Nevi’im – Ketuvim”, formed from the initial of the title of the three constituent parts of the Hebrew Bible : T ת: the Torah תּוֹרָה (the Law or Pentateuch); N נ: the Nevi’im נביאים (the Prophets); K ך: the Ketuvim כתובים (the Other Writings or Hagiographers). It is also written Tanak (without an h at the end). The Tanakh is also called Miqra מקרא, terminology : Tanakh, Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. The division reflected in the acronym Tanakh is well attested in documents from the Second Temple period, in the Christian New Testament, and in rabbinic literature, except that during this period the acronym in question was not used ; the correct term was Miqra (“Reading,” referring to a liturgical function of the text), as opposed to Mishna (“Teaching,” “Rehearsal”) or Midrash (“Exegesis”). The term Miqra continues to be used today, along with Tanakh, to denote the Hebrew Scriptures. In modern spoken Hebrew, however, Miqra has a more formal connotation than Tanakh. Since the books included in the Tanakh are mostly written in Hebrew, it is also called the “Hebrew Bible. Although Aramaic has found its way into much of the books of Daniel and Ezra, as well as into a sentence in the Book of Jeremiah and a two-word placeholder in Sefer Bereshit (Book of Genesis), these passages are written in the same Hebrew script. The passages in Aramaic are as follows : Ezra 4 : 8, 4 : 7 and 12 : 26 ; Jeremiah 10 :11 ; Daniel 2 : 4 to 7 : 28. According to Jewish tradition, the Tanakh consists of twenty-four books : the Torah containing five books, the Nevi’im eight, and the Ketuvim eleven. The Hebrew Bible has exactly the same content as the Protestant Old Testament, but the books are presented and arranged differently, the Protestants having thirty-nine books, not twenty-four. This is because Christians have chosen to subdivide some of the books of the Jewish religion. Cf. Levenson, Jon. Sinai and Zion : An Entry into the Jewish Bible. San Francisco : HarperSan Francisco, 1985. Cf. Leiman, Sid. The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture. Hamden, CT : Archon, 1976
  20. The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (from the Latin : septuaginta, lit. “seventy“ ; often abbreviated 70 ; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible, various biblical apocrypha, and deuterocanonical books. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE. The remaining books of the Greek Old Testament are presumably translations of the 2nd century BCE.
  21. The Vulgate is a Latin version of the Bible, composed on the one hand of the translations made at the end of the fourth century by Jerome of Stridon, and on the other hand of independent Latin translations of the latter called Vetus Latina (“old Latin [Bible]”). Jerome begins his edition with the four Gospels, revising and adapting a Vetus Latina version of them that was in common use in the West. He goes on to translate the entire Tanakh from Hebrew and translates some of the Deuterocanonical books from Greek versions of the Septuagint or Aramaic. Jerome also translates the book of Psalms three times : once by revising a Vetus Latina, once from Greek and once from Hebrew. In addition to this, there are some Vetus Latina of biblical books that he did not translate, independently of Jerome.
  22. Damasus or Damasus I, born in Rome around 305 and died in the same city on December 11, 384, was a bishop of Rome who became bishop on October 1, 366. A tireless promoter of Roman primacy, this authoritarian prelate was one of the great episcopal figures of the first centuries of the Common Era, whose energetic action contributed to both “the Romanization of Christianity and the Christianization of Rome”, laying the foundations for the future development of the papacy despite a troubled episcopate following an election marred by violence.
  23. Rosenzweig F., 1982, L’Étoile de la rédemption. Translated from German by A. Derczanski, J.-L. Schlegel, Paris : Éd. Le Seuil, 2003 : 420-422.
  24. Talmud : Oral Law (or Oral Torah) ; the collection of books containing its substance, in particular the code consisting of the Mishnah and its commentary (Palestinian or Babylonian) the Gemara. Fixation, writing of the Talmud ; the teachings, the subtleties of the Talmud. The oral Torah (…) is transmitted in the following works : the Mekhilta, the Sifra, the Sifrey, the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud (…) the term Talmud is usually used (…) to designate the whole of the oral Torah (D. The Talmud is, at the same time as a tradition, the incessant rereading and the constant updating of the unfathomable Torah of Moses by qualified teachers. “Everything that a fervent disciple is destined to bring to the table, we read in the Talmud, has already been said to Moses on Mount Sinai… « (Encyclop. univ.t. 151973, p. 718). V. pharisaic A ex. of Bible 1912.
  25. André LaCocque (Author), Paul Ricoeur (Author), David Pellauer (Translator). Thinking Biblically : Exegetical and Hermeneutical. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2003. Unparalled in its poetry, richness, and religious and historical significance, the Hebrew Bible has been the site and center of countless commentaries, perhaps none as unique as Thinking Biblically. This remarkable collaboration sets the words of a distinguished biblical scholar, Andr&#233 ; LaCocque, and those of a leading philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, in dialogue around six crucial passages from the Old Testament: the story of Adam and Eve ; the commandment “thou shalt not kill”; the valley of dry bones passage from Ezekiel ; Psalm 22 ; the Song of Songs ; and the naming of God in Exodus 3 : 14. Commenting on these texts, LaCocque and Ricoeur provide a wealth of new insights into the meaning of the different genres of the Old Testament as these made their way into and were transformed by the New Testament. LaCocque’s commentaries employ a historical-critical method that takes into account archaeological, philological, and historical research. LaCocque includes in his essays historical information about the dynamic tradition of reading scripture, opening his exegesis to developments and enrichments subsequent to the production of the original literary text. Ricoeur also takes into account the relation between the texts and the historical communities that read and interpreted them, but he broadens his scope to include philosophical speculation. His commentaries highlight the metaphorical structure of the passages and how they have served as catalysts for philosophical thinking from the Greeks to the modern age. This extraordinary literary and historical venture reads the Bible through two different but complementary lenses, revealing the familiar texts as vibrant, philosophically consequential, and unceasingly absorbing.
  26. The concept of demythologization comes from Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent theologian and New Testament scholar in the 20th Bultmann believed that the New Testament was simply the human account of the writers’ divine encounter with God in Christ. According to Bultmann, the Gospel writers used the only terms and concepts they had available to them at the time, and those terms and concepts were inextricably bound to the miraculous and supernatural, which Bultmann saw as myth. Bultmann suggested that, in order to make the gospel acceptable and relevant to the modern thinker, the New Testament must be demythologized. In other words, the mythical (i.e., miraculous) components must be removed, and the universal truth underlying the stories can then be seen. For Bultmann, the universal truth was that, in Christ, God had acted for the good of humanity. However, the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth, walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, giving sight to the blind, and even Jesus’ resurrection must be removed as mythical additions to the essential message. Today, there are many expressions of Christianity that follow this line of thinking, whether they attribute it to Bultmann or not. What may be called “mainline liberalism” relies on a demythologized Bible. Liberalism teaches a vague goodness of God and brotherhood of man with an emphasis on following the example of Christ while downplaying or denying the miraculous. (https://www.gotquestions.org/demythologization.html)
  27. – relegere, delegere (cueillir, rassembler). Cette filiation sémantique et formelle trouve sa source dans Cicéron et est soutenue par Benveniste. C’est l’expérience de la sacralité, voire de la sainteté, de l’indemne sain et sauf : recueillir pour revenir et recommencer, dans une attention scrupuleuse, dans le respect, la patience, avec pudeur et piété. C’est l’être, l’essence, la chose même de la religion. – religare, de ligare (lier, relier). C’est une étymologie probablement inventée par les chrétiens : la religion comme lien, lien social, croyance, lien fiduciaire, crédit fait au tout-autre en sa bonne foi, expérience du témoignage, obligation, ligament, devoir, dette entre hommes ou entre l’homme et dieu. Ces deux sources sémantiques se croisent. Tout en critiquant Benveniste, en insistant sur le fait que l’étymologie ne fait jamais loi, Jacques Derrida les prend au sérieux. La distinction est “quasi-transcendantale”. Elle correspond à deux veines irréductibles de la religion. La répétition de cette division est, “en vérité”, l’origine de la répétition, la division du même. Tant que la religion n’est pas instituée, il n’y a pas de terme commun à ce que nous appelons religion, il n’y a pas une chose une et identifiable que tous s’accorderaient à appeler religion. Unifier les deux termes, c’est résister à la disjonction, à l’altérité absolue. (https://www.idixa.net/Pixa/pagixa-0709031246.html)
  28. Published at the end of the second century CE, the Mishnah is an edited record of the complex body of material known as oral Torah that was transmitted in the aftermath of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, also known as Rabbi Judah the Prince and Yehudah HaNasi, undertook to collect and edit a study edition of these halachot(laws) in order that the learning not vanish. Although the Temple had been destroyed 130 years prior to its publication, in the world described by the Mishnah the Temple still exists and the laws that governed it are expressed in the present tense. While the Talmud (the compendium of the Mishnah and the Gemara, which interprets and comments on the Mishnah) refers to the Bar Kochba rebellion and the defeat by the Romans, the Mishnah itself ignores the events of the Roman occupation of the land of Israel. In this way, the Mishnah is a document that describes a life of sanctification, in which the rituals of the Temple are adapted for communal participation in a world that has no Temple, which escapes the ups and downs of history. Cf. Robert Goldenberg The Sabbath-Law of Rabbi Meir. Missoula, Montana : Scholars Press, 1978.
  29. Mohamed Chiadmi. The Noble Quran, New French translation of the meaning of its verses. Lyon : Tawhid Editions, 2011 (fifth edition). Mohamed Chiadmi. Le Noble Coran : Nouvelle Traduction française du Sens de ses Versets. Lyon : Editions Tawhid, 2011. The translator, Mohamed Chiadmi, has done a very serious job ; the style is refined, the language is sustained. It is today one of the most recognized translations in the French-speaking Muslim world.
  30. Mohamed el Mokhtar Ould Bah. Translation of the Holy Quran. Casablanca :  Najah El jadida Printing Company, 2003.
  31. Jacques Berque. Le Coran, Essai de traduction annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique. Paris : Sindbad, 1990.
  32. One of Ricœur’s major contributions to the field of hermeneutics was the entwining of hermeneutical processes with phenomenology. In this union, Ricœur applies the hermeneutical task to more than just textual analysis, but also to how each self relates to anything that is outside of the self. “In proposing to relate symbolic language to self-understanding, I think I fulfill the deepest wish of hermeneutics. The purpose of all interpretation is to conquer a remoteness, a distance between the past cultural epoch to which the text belongs and the interpreter himself. By overcoming this distance, by making himself contemporary with the text, the exegete can appropriate its meaning to himself : foreign, he makes it familiar, that is, he makes it his own. It is thus the growth of his own understanding of himself that he pursues through his understanding of others. Every hermeneutics is thus, explicitly or implicitly, self-understanding by means of understanding others.” (Cf. Ricœur, Paul, Charles E. Reagan, & David Stewart. “Existence and Hermeneutics.” In The Philosophy of Paul Ricœur : An Anthology of His Work. Boston : Beacon Press, 1978 : 101-106).
  33. Jauss’s reception theory focused on the reader rather than the author or text. The original reception of a text was compared to a later reception, revealing different literary receptions and their evolution. Conceptualized by Hans Robert Jauss in his Toward an Aesthetic of Receptionin the late 1960s, Reception Theory refers to a historical application of the Reader Response theory, emphasizing altering interpretive and evaluative responses of generations of readers to a text. It focuses on the scope for negotiation and opposition on the part of the general public, over a period of time in history, as they interpret the meanings of a text based on their respective cultural background and life experiences. A reader’s response to a text is the joint product of the reader’s own horizon of expectations and the confirmations, disappointments, refutations and reformulations of these expectations. Since the linguistic and aesthetic expectation of readers change over the course of time, and since later readers and critics have access to the text as well as its criticisms, there develops an evolving historical tradition of interpretations and evaluations of a given literary work. Jauss refers to this tradition as a continuous dialectic between the text and the horizon of successive readers ; the literary text, in itself, possesses no inherent meaning or value. (https://literariness.org/2016/11/02/reception-theory-a-brief-note/) Cf. Bennett, Susan, eds. Theatre Audiences : A Theory of Production and Reception. New York : Routledge, 1990.
  34. Ali Ibn Ahmad Al-Wahidi. Kitab Asbab al-Nuzul : Occasions and Circumstances of Revelation. Kuala Lumpur : Dar Al Wahi Publications, 2011. Asbab-al-Nuzul or occasions and circumstances for the revelations ; refers to a field of study and genre of literature devoted to recounting the circumstances of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers when particular verses from the Qur’an were revealed. Legal scholars regard this study as of great importance, on the principle that sound understanding of the revelation proceeds from knowing the reasons Allah revealed the Qur’an and how the Prophet Muhammad applied the revelation when he received it. Asbab al-Nuzul sheds light on the ayah, it enlightens the tafsir and application of the ayah. The earliest and the most important work in this genre is undoubtedly Kitab Asbab al-Nuzul (Book of Occasions and Circumstances of revelation) of Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi. Al-Wahidi mentions occasions of about 570 verses out of 6236 verses of the Qur’an. Wahidi’s work is not only the first attempt to collect all the material regarding the occasions of revelation in one single volume, but it is also the standard upon which all subsequent works were based. (https://ibtbooks.com/shop/kitab-asbab-al-nuzul/) Cf. also, Imam Jalaludin ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Bakr as-Suyuti, Translator & Tahqiq: Muhammad Mahdi al-SharifReasons & Occasions of Revelation of Quran : Asbab Nuzul. Beirut, Lebanon :  Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah (DKI), 2008. Asbab un-Nuzul is an Arabic term meaning “occasions / circumstances of revelation”, is a secondary type of tafsîr directed at establishing the context in which specific verses of the Qur’an were revealed. Knowledge about the asbab Asbab an-Nuzulhelps one to understand the circumstances in which a particular revelation occurred, which sheds light on its implications and gives guidance to the explanation (tafsîr) and application of the âyah in question for other situations.
  35. Jeremy Munday. Intoducing Translation Studies : Theories and applications. London and New York : Routledge, 2001. https://books-library.net/files/books-library.online-12311922Ro5Z2.pdf
  36. The linguistic oriented approach to translation finds the very essence of translation is in the basics of the linguistic concept of translation, which is the fact that the process of translation is a language act in which a text from one language is substituted with an equivalent text from another, by making that substitution in accordance with the regulations of both language systems. This paper will deal with translation related issues through contrastive analyses between Macedonian and English, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. In the process of finding translation equivalence, there are instances of finding absolute equivalence, partial and no equivalence. This paper analyses such examples. In translating lexemes with no equivalent, which are culture specific, translators find themselves in a difficult position. (Cf. Tatjana Ulanska, “The Role of Linguistic Factor in Translation, “Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 191, 2015 : 2585-2587. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1877042815024970?token=E6785D1D6BE78426A4EB3438F59B28C6FCADD52ADE72643DE6E78B67D796DF19FA378FCB5A55E5DBAAE282A683D9D990&originRegion=eu-west-1&originCreation=20210523115317)
  37. Within translation studies, there remains a certain amount of unnecessary discord concerning the use of the equivalence concept and its relevance for translation theory. In the interest of better understanding the various points of view, it seems helpful to consider different perspectives on this concept in light of the varying philosophical assumptions on which they are based. Analogies between the equivalence concept and a concept of scientific knowledge as it is and has been studied within the philosophy of science are highly informative in pointing out the philosophical issues involved in equivalence, translation, and knowledge. Rather than dismissing the concept as ill-defined or imprecise, it is in the interest of the field of translation studies to consider the origins and manifestations of this ‘imprecision ‘ in order that we may be better informed and less inclined towards theoretical antagonism.  (https://benjamins.com/online/target/articles/target.9.2.02hal#:~:text=2.1.-,Non%2DSpecific%20Definitions%20of%20the%20Concept,a%20similar%20effect%20or%20meaning%22.) Cf. also : Davidson, Donald. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1984.
  38. Antoine Berman (1942–1991) was a French translator specializing in translating German and Hispanic literature into French. He was also a well-known theorist of translation whose name is to be linked with such concepts as foreignization, ethics of translation and literal (but not word-for-word) translation. He contributed to the TS as a fierce defender of the foreign in translation and influenced other scholars like Lawrence Venuti who translated his famous essay “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign” (1985). Cf. Antoine Berman. Pour une critique des traductions : John Donne.Paris : Gallimard, 1995. Translated into English by Françoise Massardier-Kenney as Toward a Translation Criticism : John Donne. Kent, OH : Kent State University Press, 2009.
  39. Jacques Berque, né à Frenda (Algérie française) le 4 juin 1910 et mort à Saint-Julien-en-Born (Landes) le 27 juin 1995, est un sociologue et anthropologue orientaliste français. Il est en outre le père d’Augustin Berque, géographe, spécialiste du Japon et théoricien du paysage, des jumeaux Maximilien et Emmanuel Berque, précurseurs du surf dans les Landes au début des années 60 et grands navigateurs ayant notamment traversé l’Atlantique dans un bateau de leur conception (Micromégas) sans montre ni carte ni boussole. Le père de Jacques Berque, Augustin Berque, après avoir été administrateur en Algérie, finit directeur des Affaires musulmanes et des Territoires du Sud au gouvernement général (de 1941 à après les massacres de mai 1942). Jacques Berque est titulaire de la chaire d’histoire sociale de l’Islam contemporain au Collège de France de 1956 à 1981 et membre de l’Académie de langue arabe du Caire depuis 1989. Il est l’auteur de nombreuses traductions, appréciées notamment pour la qualité de leur style, dont celle du Coran, et de nombreux ouvrages et essais, notamment Mémoires des deux rives. Il décrit l’utopie d’une « Andalousie », c’est-à-dire d’un monde arabe renouvelé, retrouvant à la fois ses racines classiques et sa capacité de faire preuve de tolérance et d’ouverture.
  40. Jean Grosjean, né à Paris le 21 décembre 1912 et mort à Versailles le 10 avril 2006, est un poète et écrivain français, traducteur et commentateur de textes bibliques. Cf. Jean Grosjean.  Le  Paris : Philippe Lebaud Editions, 1979.
  41. Jacques Berque. Le Coran : essai de traduction de l’arabe annoté et suivi d’une étude exégétique. Paris : Albin Michel, 1998.  Sixteen years of work, and a lifetime devoted to the study of Islam, had been necessary for Professor Jacques Berque to propose an “essay of translation” of the Koran. Both scholarly and literary, this monumental work, testifying to an intimate familiarity with the Arab world and the tradition of Islam, was hailed as an event for the approach of this culture by the French-speaking public. After four more years of work, Jacques Berque, the indefatigable explorer of the thousand subtleties of the Koranic language, improved his text by making hundreds of alterations based on the remarks of erudite readers, particularly those of Islamic sheikhs. This second edition, entirely revised, allows us to rediscover the Qur’an in the spirit of its origins, opening the perspectives of an enlightened Islam where faith and reason would both have their place.
  42. Tabari or Tabarî, from his full name Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad Ibn Jarīr Ibn Yazīd (Persian : محمد بن جریر طبری), was a historian who was born in 839 in Amol, Tabaristan, and died on February 17, 923, in Baghdad. Tabari is most famous for his universal history, the History of the Prophets and Kings (which treats authentic and forged narratives as equals), and his commentary on the Qur’an. He was also the originator of a short-lived school (or “Madhhab”) of Islamic law, the Jarîriyya. A Sunni Muslim, he spent most of his life in Baghdad, writing all his works in Arabic.
  43. Régis Blachère, born in Montrouge on June 30, 1900 and died in Paris on August 7, 1973, was a French orientalist, Islamologist and Arabist. He was a member of the Institute (1972), director of studies at the Institut des hautes études marocaines in Rabat (1930-1935), professor of Arabic at the École nationale des langues orientales (1935-1950), and professor of medieval Arabic literature at the Sorbonne (1950-1970), director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études (1950-1968), director of the Institut d’études islamiques at the University of Paris (1956-1965), director of the Centre de lexicographie arabe, associated with the CNRS (1962-1971)2. He wrote a “critical” translation of the Koran (1947) and an attempt to reclassify the suras in the chronological order of their revelation. Works on Islam: Introduction au Coran, Maisonneuve et Larose, (ISBN2-7068-1031-9); Le Coran. Traduction selon un essai de reclassement des sourates, G.-P. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1949-1977.; Le problème de Mahomet – Essai de biographie critique du fondateur de l’Islam, un volume de 135 pages, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 1952.
  44. Si Hamza Boubakeur, whose real name was Aboubakeur ben Hamza ben Kadour, was a French politician and Muslim cleric who was born on June 15, 1912 in the oasis of Brezina in Geryville and died on February 4, 1995 (at the age of 82) in Paris. Hamza Boubakeur came from a family of educated Algerian notables co-opted by France. The Boubakeur family is descended from the maraboutic, mystical and warrior tribe of the Ouled Sidi Cheikh, which owes its prestige to its Sufi forebears and, according to family tradition, is descended from Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. After a brilliant academic career, this student of the White Fathers obtained his bachelor’s degree and then his agrégation in Arabic (1949). He became a teacher in 1936, teaching in the two colleges (boys and girls) of Philippeville and then as a professor of Arabic at the Lycée Bugeaud (now the Lycée Émir Abd el-Kader) in Algiers and at the Faculty of Algiers. Hamza Boubakeur was a member of the SFIO and Guy Mollet appointed him rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, succeeding Si Kaddour Benghabrit in 1957 ; he remained in this position until 1982. At that time, Hamza Boubakeur ceded the Mosque of Paris to Algeria in exchange for the recovery of the enjoyment of the property nationalized by the Boubakeurs in 1962 in Algeria, but this retrocession was illegal because the mosque belonged to an association. In 1967, he was one of the founding members of the association Fraternité d’Abraham, which promotes inter-religious dialogue. A Sufi master and fine theologian, Hamza Boubakeur was a translator and commentator of the Koran in 1972, his renowned translation still being distributed in Africa8. Hamza Boubakeur was also a Freemason. Hamza Boubakeur was elected on November 30, 1958 as deputy for the Oasis department in the 1st legislature of the 5th Republic from 1958 to 1962. He was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Commission from November 1958 to July 1962 and ran unsuccessfully for a deputy position in 1983. Works: Le Coran : traduction française et commentaire d’après la tradition, les différentes écoles de lecture, d’exégèse, de jurisprudence, et de théologie, les interprétations mystiques, les tendances schismatiques et les doctrines hermétiques de l’Islam, et à la lumière des théories scientifiques, philosophiques et politiques modernes, Fayard, 1972, 1979, 1985, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1995.: Traité moderne de théologie islamique : contenu doctrinal, ramifications, écoles orthodoxes et hétérodoxes, soufisme, théologie comparée, concordances et divergences des écritures révélées (Thora, Évangile, Coran), avenir de l’Islâm dans le monde, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1985, 2003.
  45. The translator, Mohamed Chiadmi, has done a very serious job ; the style is refined, the language is sustained. It is today one of the most recognized translations in the French-speaking Muslim world.
  46. The French translation of the Qur’an by Chiadmi has been proofread and validated by: Shaykh Zakaria Seddiki (graduate in religious sciences from al-Azhar University)  “I would like to emphasize the quality of the translation that was submitted to me. The translator has tried, without dispersing himself too much, not to neglect the polysemy of the terms used, in order to remain faithful to the meaning of the verses while taking into account the linguistic reality of Arabic. “ Tariq Ramadan (Ph.D. in Islamic-Arabic Studies): “The present translation is an important contribution, the formulation is worked out, the meaning preserved. The study is carried out with a rigor and fidelity that must be praised.” Shaykh Yusuf Ibram (graduate in religious sciences from Riyadh University and member of the European Fatwa Council): “There is no doubt that the translator has done a most serious and difficult job. The style is refined, the language is sustained. The work has been deepened by the study of several exegeses, notably those of at-Tabari and Ibn Kathir. “It is enriched with notes, annexes and maps. Numerous notes have been integrated and several appendices and annexes (200 pages) complete the translation of the Qur’an. Notes that are a synthesis of interpretations that can be found in famous and accredited exegeses. Maps that situate the peoples and places as well as the events that took place during the Revelation. An introduction to the history of the Qur’an, which provides an understanding of the circumstances of the Revelation, the transmission and compilation of the Qur’anic text. A glossary that defines Quranic terms and concepts and complements the commentaries given throughout the translation. A biography of the Prophet that gives a chronological presentation of the facts mentioned in the notes. An index that allows the reader to locate proper names

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