Excerpts / "An open letter on translation"
Luther's most notable quote in my retrievable memory is "whenever I pray, I pray for a curse upon Erasmus." (A snippet from a debate published between himself and Erasmus that we read and discussed in the "University Scholars" [cough] program at SPU). If I recall, our conclusion was that he was bold but crass, and not that brilliant. Basically, we thought he sounded like a hot-tempered wind-bag without anything really that intelligent to say. In retrospect I think this conclusion spoke more about my class and I than him - and perhaps a bit about the professors responsible for the curriculum as well. I am now finding that the man was sharper than a tack - and a very enjoyable read to boot!
Because my muse is currently visiting relatives on the other side of the country and I am literally bored stiff, here's some bits from "An open letter on translation."
On criticism received:
"It takes a great deal of patience to do good things in public. The world believes itself to be the expert in everything, while putting the bit under the horse's tail. "
"There is no such thing as earning the world's thanks. Even God himself cannot earn thanks, not with the sun, nor with heaven and earth, nor even the death of his Son."
"I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text"
"Now the papists are throwing a fit about me corrupting the Angelic Salutation, yet I still have not used the most satisfactory German translation. Suppose I had used the best German and translated the salutation: "Gott grusse dich, du liebe Maria" [God greet you, dear Mary], for that is all the angel meant to say, and what he would have said if he had greeted her in German. Suppose I had done that! I believe that they would have hanged themselves out of their fanatical devotion to the Virgin Mary, because I had so destroyed the Salutation."
"The literal Latin is a great obstacle to speaking good German."
"The reader can now run his eyes over three or four pages without stumbling once, never knowing what rocks and clods had once lain where he now travels as over a smoothly-planed board. We had to sweat and toil there before we got those boulders and clods out of the way, so that one could go along so nicely. "
"Translating is not everyone's skill as some mad saints imagine. It requires a right, devout, honest, sincere, God-fearing, Christian, trained, educated, and experienced heart."
"I hold that no false Christian or sectarian spirit can be a good translator." [NRSV?]
"God knows that I have not even sought honor by it, but I have done it as a service to the dear Christians and to the honor of the One who sits above, who blesses me every hour of my life. If I had translated a thousand times more diligently, I should not have deserved to live or have a sound eye for even a single hour. All I am and have to offer is of his mercy and grace, indeed, of his precious blood and bitter sweat."
Praying to the saints:
"People are easily accustomed to turning away from Christ. They learn quickly to trust more in the saints than in Christ himself. Our nature is already too prone to run from God and Christ, and trust in men."
"Since it is not proper in the matter of divine worship for us to do anything that is not commanded by God (whoever does so is tempting God), it is therefore neither advisable nor tolerable that one should call upon the saints to intercede for him, or to teach others to call upon them."
"Second, you know that there is not a single word from God demanding us to call upon either saints or angels to intercede for us, and that there is no example of such in the Scriptures. We find that the angels spoke with the fathers and the prophets, but that none of them had ever been asked to intercede for them."
"Finally, we are sure that God is not angry with us, and that even if we do not call on the saints for intercession, we are quite secure, for God has never commanded it. He says that he is a jealous God, visiting their iniquities on those who do not keep his commandments [Ex.20]; but there is no commandment here and, therefore, no anger to be feared. Since, then, there is on this side security and on the other side great risk and offense against the Word of God, why should we go from security into danger where we do not have the Word of God to sustain, comfort and save us in the times of trial? For it is written, "Whoever loves danger will perish by it" [Ecclus. 3], and God's commandment says, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" [Matt. 4]."