On Omissions and Substitutions in the Medieval English Translations of the Gospel

Wessex Gospels/West-Saxon GospelsOn Omissions and Substitutions in the Medieval English Translations of the Gospel

Lidija Štrmelj (University of Zadar, Croatia)

Slovensko društvo za angleške študije Slovene Association for the Study of English,

Oddelek za anglistiko in amerikanistiko, Filozofska fakulteta, Univerza v Ljubljani Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana,

ELOPEEnglish Language Overseas Perspectives and Enquiries, Volume IX, Autumn (2012)


This paper provides the data on the omissions and substitutions of Latin text fragments made in the Old and Middle English translations of St. John’s Gospel. It aims to explore how frequently and for what reasons one or the other translator, or occasionally both of them, turned to these deviations in the process of rendering, and to find out whether there were some significant differences between the translations concerning these procedures. As the translations were composed over a span of more than 3oo years, some of the evidence certainly reveals changes in the understanding and experiencing of biblical and other terms that occurred over the course of time, as reflected in language. These changes are first and foremost what we wish to discuss in this paper, but other matters will be also considered, such as the authors’ priorities in translation and specific features of their language.

Biblical translators today generally follow the trend of the so–called dynamic equivalence, that is sense–to–sense or thought–to–thought translation, at least in the USA, judging from the examples found in Nida and Taber (2003). When necessary, they adapt the content and the form of the Bible to the modern time and language, and in doing so perform numerous and various deviations, chiefly in order to make the biblical events or circumstances intelligible and close to present–day readers. Opposite to modern trends, during the Middle Ages the translators endeavoured to translate the Bible or its parts as faithfully as possible, according to the dominant attitude of the Western Church, so most medieval translations belong to the so–called formal equivalence or word–for–word translations.

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