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3. The substrate of ancient languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Saxon and their influence on modern languages. The model of the Bible: translations by Aquila, Amphictyon, the Seventy and Saint Jerome, and the Vulgate


d) The sphere of ideas

Apart from these considerations, the disputation about Bible translations which arose in antiquity took the ‘numinosity’ from the text, thus placing it in the sphere of ideas and history. Certain traditions, like the Gaelic, remained extraneous to this transformation, since they did not have the Bible as a text around which to aggregate the different visions of the world belonging to their own particular traditions. Even Saxon cultures were only marginally influenced by this revolution; and the consequences can still be seen: the Gaelic tongue does not distinguish the time-space position of its events, and does not work by somatic and individualistic characterizations. The subjects express the action, and not the physical or moral traits of the protagonists. In this tradition, heroes - in the Western sense of the word - do not exist. Instead, they take on abstract principles. The same protagonists of the various events are the forces of nature, rather than real life characters. It would be interesting to see how much this eccentric line of archaic culture has flowed in recent times into the non-anthropocentric poetry of authors like Dylan Thomas, or in the doomed and godless fatalism of Samuel Beckett, where it is the language itself that thinks, outside any idea.

In short, in the perspective we are defining, the entire matter of literature is the development of four different concepts of literary translation. Whereas translation is the transition of consciousness from the dimension of being, to that of becoming: a path along which the archetypes constitute the places of aggregation of cultural awareness. Bible translations that perceive God as "All" in being "One" emphasize the eidetic intuition of phenomenal detailed descriptions; those that think of God as "One, who becomes All" define an extrovert, objective concept of the literary act.

The peculiarity of the Saxon tradition with respect to this confusion is seen by Martin Luther’s choice of providing the German nation with a translation of the Bible, as a ’revolutionary’ act towards the Roman Catholic Church. This translation gave rise to the modern German language. In Luther’s Bible, God is defined as "the uniquely said"; coming to the end of a debate on the language where the way of calling God was also a debate on contrasting visions of the world, Luther was obliged to take note of the historical turn that occurred prior to him. This is why German is a monumental language that proceeds by stratification of memory rather than by original definitions. For Luther, "in the beginning there was the Word" is understood not as a ‘sacred name’ like in St. Jerome, but simply as pre-established ‘grammar’. The German obsession with history as an organization chart of ideas, the German triumph of Idealism, and even Kant’s philosophy, are the outcome of this belated compliance with the translation dictates of the Western world. Without knowing this, no translator could possibly enter the poetic world of authors such as Hölderlin, Trakl, or Hoffmansthal: poets whose Classicism is always monumental rather than antiquarian, like in the culture of Latin countries. In other words, for them every idea of the past is present with others on the same axis, and namely that of being, rather than being the stage of a historical becoming; the circumstance is all-important when it concerns translating the time-space coordinates of these poetic texts from German into Italian, Spanish or French. In this case, ‘historicizing’ would in fact be a serious mistake.