Proper Names

July 08, 2016 11:21

A well-nigh universal practice in New Testament translations is to Anglicize the proper names, e.g. Ἰωάννης/Iōannēs becomes ‘John’. But we don’t do this with other foreign names. For example, we don’t Anglicize the composer names “Johann Bach” to “Johnny Brook” 1 or “Giuseppe Verdi” to “Joe Green”.

And worse: there is no ‘J’ in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, so ‘Jesus’ bears little resemblance to His name in Scripture (namely Ἰησοῦς/Iēsous).

I just question our seeming obsession with making Scripture easy to read at all costs; I wonder if we don’t run the risk of ‘Wonder Bread’ — processing all the flavor and nutrition right out of it.

The proper names as we know them go back to at least Tyndale’s translation (1526). At the time ‘i’ and ‘j’ were also not yet considered two distinct letters, but different forms of the same letter, hence ‘ioy’ for ‘joy’ and ‘iust’ for ‘just’. The custom of using `i' as a vowel and `j' as a consonant is first found in the 1630s.2 But by then the traditional Biblical proper names had been established.


1 ‘Bach’ means ‘brook’ in German()
2 See the section on ‘Orthography’ in the Wikipedia article on Early Modern English.()

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