April 22, 2020

The Bad Automatic Translation of the Bible

The Lord has been talking to me about a big project. Really big. Big enough to make me nervous enough that I've been procrastinating it for longer than I feel comfortable admitting. My mission, if I should choose to accept it is to work on a translation of the Bible. As one does.

Now that I've surrendered, this means a number of things. First, there's the matter of learning Biblical Greek. Second will be Biblical Hebrew. I will need to learn each of these languages far better than average. Translation is tough work and excellent language skills are required in both the source and target languages. Third, I will need to upgrade my publishing skills. I have a number of self-published books already under my belt, but a Bible (even allowing for just starting with the New Testament first) is a more complicated undertaking. And fourth, I gotta find a way to have fun in the process.

How does a guy have fun with Bible translation? I don't know how anyone else does it, but my plan is to translate it twice. The primary way will be the official way that other translators do it, lots of books and scratching my head and fussing over individual Greek words. The adding some fun into the mix will be to run a parallel translation where I do everything programmatically. Yes, this is crazy, but it's for fun. Even the name is fun. My current project codename for this is the "Bad Automatic Translation". Which makes it the BAT Bible and who doesn't think that isn't a fun name?

So, with the help of the Interwebs, I scrounged up a copy of the Scrivner 1550 Textus Receptus, grabbed the first chapter of the gospel of John out of it and whipped up a quick program in TCL (Tool Command Language). The input looks like this:

JHN1:1 ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

JHN1:2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν

John 1:1-2

The first output from my still very simple program then looks like this:

JHN1:1 in [the] beginning was which [the] Word and which [the] Word was with the God and God was which [the] Word

JHN1:2 this was in [the] beginning with the God

John 1:1-2

To be perfectly honest, this actually doesn't look as bad as I feared it would. Perhaps I need to find another codename for the project!

Tags: Church Personal