In an internet conversation which I was following several weeks ago about a particular passage in the Letter to the Romans, a pastor began a comment with, “We must look at the Greek at the beginning of chapter 2.” His comment was immediately answered by another that asked, “Why must we look at the Greek? We know what it says.”
This exchange started me thinking about the nature of language and the challenges of translation. In an essential way, the function of language is to limit. When I say that I am looking at a chair, I have immediately limited the hearer’s understanding of what the object of my gaze could be. It is not a lamp; it is not a ham sandwich; it is not a surfboard. It is a piece of furniture with a seat, legs, and back, upon which someone can sit.