The Biblical expressions in English and Russian languages and the complexity of their translation | Статья в сборнике международной научной конференции


Рубрика: 7. Вопросы переводоведения

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V международная научная конференция «Актуальные вопросы филологических наук» (Казань, октябрь 2017)

Дата публикации: 27.06.2017

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Библиографическое описание:

Артемова М. В. The Biblical expressions in English and Russian languages and the complexity of their translation [Текст] // Актуальные вопросы филологических наук: материалы V Междунар. науч. конф. (г. Казань, октябрь 2017 г.). — Казань: Бук, 2017. — С. 45-47. — URL (дата обращения: 25.06.2018).

It is known that the Bible is one of the most outstanding books in our life, and it is the most widely read and quoted book all over the world. Thanks, the high value of the biblical stories and symbols along with semantic depth existing in the Bible, Holy Writ is one of the richest and inexhaustible sources of phraseological composition of many languages. Currently there is a revival of interest in religion and directly to the Bible as an authoritative source which for many centuries defined the spiritual life of man. There are many turns of speech that came to us from the Holy Writ. The cause is because in this book included a bunch of long, unique, historical experience. The aim of this work is the general conclusion and systematization the information about the Biblical expressions in English and Russian languages. The aim is fulfilled in the course of solution the following tasks:

  1. To consider the Holy Writ in English and Russian languages as sources for the penetration of the Biblical expressions in English and Russian languages.
  2. To consider the similarities and differences of the Biblical expressions in the Russian and English languages.

In the process of given work I would like to know whether English biblical expressions have equivalents in the Russian language and how to translate these phraseological units from one language to another. The object of this work is biblical expressions in Russian and English languages.

The biblical texts throughout their existence have attracted the attention. The priests, theologians, philologists, linguists were working on the translations. Today the Bible is of interest not only from religious but also from a linguistic point of view as a collection of classic texts and being an integral part of world literary heritage.

The history of the Bible translations into English can be divided into three parts: the Old Testament time, the Middle Ages and New time. The Septuagint is the oldest known translation of the Old Testament into Greek. The Septuagint was written in the III—I centuries BC in Alexandria. By the end of the IV century was appearing the necessity in the translation of the Holy Scriptures on the Latin language, which was made by the blessed Jerome with Hebrew and Greek sources. This text received the name of the Vulgate. The translation which becomes central to English culture, as Luther's is to German, is the King James Bible (also called the Authorized Version). Edited by forty-seven scholars between 1604 and 1611, it aims to take the best from all earlier translations.

Unlike the English translation, Russian history cannot boast of such an abundance of different variations, though, because historically Russia was not such a sharp division in the Christian world. The main languages are old Church Slavonic and Russian, respectively, with edits and amendments at different times. Together with the translation of the Bible enlighteners Cyril and Methodius brought to the Slavs their writing. In A. D. 863, Rostislav, Prince of Great Moravia, sent a petition to Byzantium asking the emperor to send him some teachers of the Christian faith. The emperor responded by sending two brothers: Cyril and Methodius. Cyril and Methodius’ translations spread widely among the Slavonic tribes, including the Rus.

In the 15th century, people in Rus still didn’t have the entire Bible, although they used its separate books. The necessity of the full collection of the Bible’s books appeared as a result of an argument between Zachariah, a leader of one of the monasteries, and archbishop Gennady. The Bible of Gennady is the first complete Slavonic Bible. The Russian Bible Society was established in 1814 by the edict of Tsar Alexander I, who himself was an active member of the Society. At first RBS was distributing Slavonic Bibles. In the 1816 the Society published its own edition of the Slavonic Bible and also the New Testament as a separate book.

Nowadays the native speakers of English use biblical quotations in everyday speech, they meet them in different sources and they even don’t know about their origin. Studying of biblical phrases in English language is necessary and interesting because to know language means to know a lot of aspects and also biblical words. There’s no generally accepted classification of biblical phrases in the world. The linguists classify them according to different principles. Phraseological units of biblical origin often remain far apart with their biblical prototypes. It is associated in some cases with the fact that the biblical prototype often can be rethought and to be changed word order.

The fate of the biblical phraseology of the Russian language is quite unusual. Being very common in all areas of language before 1917, it has significantly decreased in volume and lost its readers during the years of Soviet power, when the Bible was banned. As a result, many biblical phraseological units fell into the category of obsolete. Expressions that came from the Bible, and varied greatly in nature and activity of the use: some of them are common — ничтоже сумняшеся, камень преткновения, валаамова ослица, хлеб насущный, подставить другую щеку, не хлебом единым, да минует меня чаща сия, аредовы веки, много званых, да мало избранных; многие будут последними, и последние будут первыми; в поте лица своего,петь Лазаря.

Many biblical expressions in the process of their functioning in the Russian language have acquired new meanings or have changed their semantics and grammatical form. So, the value of biblical expression «Вааламова ослица» (a humble, silent man, who unexpectedly expressed their opinion or protest) is international but only in the Russian language there is yet another value (it is a stupid, stubborn woman, because in Russia national culture donkey is a benchmark of stupidity and stubbornness).

Another interesting example with the biblical expression of “the fiery furnace” (печь огненная). This expression is quite common in Byzantine and ancient texts, like in the old Testament and the new Testament value. The word «печь» in the biblical text repeatedly acts as a symbolic designation of God's wrath, retribution for human sins. Pay attention to one of the most important biblical passages which refers to the expression “печь огненная”. In the third Chapter of the book of Daniel tells the story of the three youths Hananiah, Azariah and Misael, refused worship the idol at the command of king Nebuchadnezzar.They were thrown into the “печь огненная”, but thanks to the intervention of God remained intact.This story has a deep symbolic implication. The fire and “печь” act as the phenomenon of punishing, but at the same time cleansing and healing of the soul. The flame wasn’t seared the young men and wasn’t brought them suffering. The test revealed that they overcame this trial with dignity thanks strongholds of their faith. So we see that in the Old Testament books originally formed the idea of the fire, where the fire is cleaning the righteous. However, in the later books of the Old Testament appearing other meanings of that expression.

There are difficulties in translating biblical phraseological units. To avoid these difficulties it’s necessary to know how to translate biblical words. There are 3 main groups of biblical phrases, for each of the group there are certain ways of translation.

1. The same meaning and sphere of use of Russian and English biblical units. While translating them we use Russian equivalent.:daily bread – хлеб насущный, the salt of the earth — соль земли, by/in the sweat of one’s brow — в поте лица своего, to turn the other cheek — подставить другую щеку, blind leaders of the blinds — слепые поводыри слепых, to cast pearls before swine — метать бисер перед свиньями, the sign of the times — знамение времени, not by bread alone — не хлебом единым. It’s not difficult to translate this group.

2. English biblical phraseological units which have no equivalents in modern Russian language. The aim of the translator is to find the corresponding Russian equivalent. In some cases it can be translation — explanation, in some — descriptive translation, in some cases — phraseological unit. For instance: at the eleventh hour(Matthew 20:9) — в одиннадцатом часу, в последнюю минуту, в самый последний момент; hewers of wood and drawers of water(Joshua 9:21) — рубящие дрова и черпающие воду — люди (а также группы населения и целые страны), выполняющие тяжелую, черновую работу (обыкн. физическую);to hide one’s light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15) — держать свет свой под спудом/сосудом/скрывать свои достоинства, способности, быть излишне скромным, не использовать своих возможностей, талантов (ср.: зарывать талант в землю); to play Samson in the temple (Judges 16:21–30)– поступить, как Самсон в храме/погубить врагов/противников и погибнуть при этом самому; damascus road/road to Damascus (Acts 9) — путь/дорога в Дамаск — переломный момент в чьей-л. жизни; поворотный пункт, решающий момент; прозрение; внезапное озарение (за которым следует резкая перемена); to cast one’s bread upon the waters (Ecclesiastes 11:1)– отпускать хлеб свой по водам- делать что-л., не ожидая немедленных результатов; делать добро, не ожидая вознаграждения, бескорыстно.

There are biblical phraseological units in both languages but there are some discrepancies while translating them. For example: Что-л./это — от лукавого (Matthew 5:37) — it is the work of the devil; it comes straight from the devil; на злобу дня — smth. topical; dealing with the topic of the day -Творить/сотворить себе кумира (Exodus 20:4) to idolize smb; to make an idol of smb.; to make smb. an icon; to iconize smb.; to put smb. on a pedestal; Manna (of heaven; in the wilderness; in the desert) (Exodus 16:14–36) — манна (небесная)еда., 1. to fall/rain down/drop/descend on/upon smb. like 1. русск.- тж.падать/свалиться на кого-л., как 2. что-л./кто-л. очень желанное/ый, долгожданное/ый, сильно ожидаемое/ый, редкое/ий: to be like; to be as welcome as 2. русск.- тж. ждать чего-л./кого-л. как/будто/словно/точно манны небесной 3. духовная пища русск. — такого значения нет 4. что-л. очень вкусное: to feed on; to partake of -русск. — такого значения нет.

Based on the same Bible story in English and Russian languages there are different expressions whose values need to know exactly, not to be confused with the visible similarities. For example: As old as Adam (разг.)- старо, как мир; так заведено давным-давно/испокон веков: The custom is as old as Adam.-русск. — такого значения нет.; Not to know smb. from Adam (Eve) (colloquial.) -совершенно не знать кого-л., не знать кого-л. в лицо (ср.: они меня в глаза никогда не видели); не узнать кого-л.- русск. — такого значения нет. Job’s news- печальные новости/вести; весть о несчастье. русск. — такого выражения нет.

This artistic book of Job in English and Russian languages included the following statements: The Lord gave and the Lord hath/has taken away (1:21) — Господь дал, Господь и взял; Let the day perish wherein I was born (3:3) — погибни день, в который я родился; Our days upon earth are a shadow (8:9) — наши дни на земле тень.

In English and Russian established various syntactical-morphological patterns of biblical equivalents. There exist the following examples: To wash one’s hands of smb./smth. (Matthew 27:24) (обыкн.с дополнением)-умывать руки (без дополнения); Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings (Psalms 8:2, Matthew 21:16) употр. в такой форме-библ: из уст младенцев и грудных детей; обыкн. употребляется: устами младенцев глаголет истина; In smb’s image, after one’s likeness (Genesis 1:22) обыкн.только: in smb’s image/in the image of smb.-по (чьему-л.) образу и подобию/кого-л. (всегда целиком);

Several biblical expressions are used in English in Latin form (sometimes in parallel is in use and English version), they often correspond to Bible in Russian Church Slavonic form. There are: Fiat Lux (Let there be light) (Genesis 1:3)-Да будет свет (иногда тж. употр. по-латыни); Ecce homo (Behold the man) (John 19:5)-Се человек; Quo Vadis? (Whither goest thou?) (John 16:5) -Камо грядеши; Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:29) -Ныне отпущаеши.

The use of quotations from the Bible — original or modified — is more characteristic of the English language; some of them are constantly used: I am not/am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9); Let us now praise famous men (Ecclesiasticus 44:1); What is truth? (John 18:32); And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32); Whither goest thou? (John 16:5); The rain falls on the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:45);

The Bible in English-speaking countries constantly used as a source of headlines and book titles. The Bible can also be cited for a particular reason (and there are quotes for all occasions). For example, during prohibition in the United States used the quote: “There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone” (Isaiah 24:11) — плачут о вине на улицах; помрачилась всякая радость; изгнано всякое веселие земли.

In different languages biblical expressions are not similar. However, even parallel phraseological units of biblical origin differ in semantic characteristics, or its grammatical structure. This is due to linguistic reasons (different language system), and extralinguistic (intercultural differences).

In both analyzing languages-English and Russian, there are certain fixed images connected with Christianity. But for the English people the Bible has always been the main book and has kept its strong positions practically in all spheres of life. Russian people were remoted from the sacred book, so they don’t know lots of plots from it. Nevertheless, the Holy Bible has made strong influence on the language itself and remained its trace in the Russian phraseology.

Thus, summarizing, from the above we can draw the following conclusions:

First of all, biblical expressions are actively used both for the Russian and English languages. Holy Scripture is the main source of collocations and phraseological units of biblical origin, which when borrowing can undergo various semantic transformation. In General, modern English shows a more intensive use of Sola Scriptura than Russian, which, apparently, is connected with the extralinguistic factors, including historical and cultural.


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