Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)

Translation Issues


The meaning of “a” and “ex” (paper by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn)

The Church in Holland has been brought to a crisis over the translation of “a” and “ex” into the Butch language. At first sight it may appear strange that the translation of these two little words could lead to such a serious crisis; it is therefore important to consider the matter as fully as we can.

The question of the proper mode of translation has always been a matter of argument in the Church from its beginning. There were always those who translated the Writings, as they were called, as exactly as possible and those who attempted to translate them freely into as literary a form as possible.

The first translation into English was a translation of the second volume of the Arcana Coelestia, made by a translator whom Swedenborg chose and commissioned to do the translation. It is evident from this translation that the translator had been strictly ordered to translate the Latin very exactly, for the English contains a carrying over of the Latin idiom, that is a departure from ordinary English, and this at times to an extent not found in later translations. For example in this translation we find “intellectuals , “rationals”, in place of the common translation “intellectual things”, and “rational things”.

In the early translations of the Latin Word into English, French and German, particularly into French there was an effort to translate the exact meaning even when this necessitated a departure from the usual idiom of the language.

But, as the Church began to decline, and the center of effort was placed on attempting to bring as many into the Church as possible at the expense of internal development, new translations were made to appeal as far as possible to the newcomer at the expense of accuracy.

With the forming of the Academy and the acknowledgement of the Writings as the Word of the Lord, the importance of a faithful and accurate translation again came to the fore. And the Academy took a strong stand for exact and faithful translations even when this required departure from the common English idiom.

When Mr. Hyatt came to see that the Writings of Swedenborg were also the Word even as to its letter, he realised for the first time fully the great importance of an exact translation, in a light that was new in the Church. And the same applied to the Church in Holland…

Read the full paper on the meaning of “a” and “ex” by Rev. Pitcairn.

Errors and omissions in the present English translations of the Arcana Coelestia by Rev. P.N. Odhner

Some translation issues of Divinum vs. Divinitas, verum vs. veritas are discussed brief here: A COMMENTARY ON THE PAMPHLET AND SERMONS OF MR. GEORGE A. de С. MOUBRAY

Anton Zelling’s contribution on the synonyms in the Latin Word, and also on the principles of the translation work (pp.16-19). Abridged.

Bishop Odhner’s Review of a few translations of the Latin Word