On the history of translation (I)

This article is a fairly literal translation of the Spanish original.

I like to go into any subject in depth... I am a lover of Prehistory, in fact I began studying a degree in History just for this reason. I am very interested in discovering the origins of oral language, languages in general, root words, etymology, etcetera, etcetera. Translation was not going to be any less important a subject.

Why do people start translating? Any research into the history of translation always refers to The Bible as the first written evidence of translated texts. But we have evidence that shows that the practice of translation was older, one of them being the famous Rosetta Stone, written in three different scripts, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and ancient Greek, to commemorate Ptolemy V's ascension to the throne.

In ancient times there were already lists of known peoples from populated areas belonging to the Mediterranean basin, and who were opposed to the uncivilized barbarian peoples of the periphery. One of these lists is found in Acts 2, 8-11. Nor can we ignore the biblical story of the Tower of Babel which already appeared in Hittite texts.

Although it is said that The Bible translation was an unprecedented phenomenon, this has to be qualified, since inter-lineal translations from Sumerian to Akkadian or from Akkadian to Elamite, Ugaritic, Hittite or Hurrian are abundant; we find epic poems in Sumerian and Akkadian, bilingual inscriptions and treatises. So we can confirm this in The Context of Scripture, published in three volumes that saw light between 1997 and 2002, compiling a representative collection of ancient texts from the Middle-East, concerning the interpretation of The Bible, some of them accompanied by contemporary translations. Among them, we find a collection of Hurrian/Hittite bilingual tablets, in parallel columns, or the Karatepe inscriptions, one of the longer bilingual texts preserved, in Phoenician and Luwian hieroglyphic.

And I will leave it at that for now, because The Bible translations deserve an entry of their own.