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Faithful RenderingsJewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation$
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Naomi Seidman

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226745053

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226745077.001.0001

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False Friends

False Friends

Conversion and Translation from Jerome to Luther

Chapter:
(p.115) Chapter Three False Friends
Source:
Faithful Renderings
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226745077.003.0004

This chapter argues that the ideological stakes for what has been called “the invisible theory of translation,”—the assumption that languages are neutral media for a separable “content”—can be read in the controversy that pitted the Christian Hebraist and New Humanist Johannes Reuchlin against the Jewish apostate Johannes Pfefferkorn at the dawn of the Reformation. In taking the side of Reuchlin over Pfefferkorn and in recommending that translators go to the Jews for the Hebrew grammar and to the [Christian] theologians for the sense, Martin Luther separated the (Jewish) body of the Hebrew letter from its (Christian) spirit and laid the groundwork for a Protestant approach to the Hebrew Bible unmediated by either the Jews or Rome. The invisibility of the translator, from this perspective, is no historical accident—it is a politically and religiously overdetermined erasure. The absence of the Jew, as both privileged and suspect interpreter of Hebrew sources, is not only necessary for the Christian appropriation and German domestication of the Bible, but is also paradoxically central to the development of modern translation in the West.

Keywords:   invisible theory, Johannes Reuchlin, Johannes Pfefferkorn, translators, Martin Luther, Jews, Christians, Bible

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