Translation and Rewriting

The Nature of the Gods
Marcus Tullius Cicero

In his translator’s comments on Cicero’s Nature of the Gods, H. C. P. McGregor makes the following observation about the task of translation:

One can . . . choose verbal accuracy at any price, translate each sentence word for word, and so produce a safe bud deadly crib. In an opposite extreme, one may throw all scholarly impedimenta overboard, let vocabulary and syntax go, seeking only to preserve in English dress the sense and argument of the original. . . . A third method goes beyond translation altogether and creates a new work in the image of the old, as Pope and Chapman did with Iliad and Odyssey. (64)

Although his main interest in this introduction lies elsewhere, the passing reference to “creat[ing] a new work in the image of the old” seems also to be some good, vivid language for describing what happens in “rewritten Bible” texts from the Second Temple period.

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