Language is a funny thing - and a very serious thing. Words never convey exactly 'the thing in itself'. But then if two people use the same word, it will resonate with different tones and notes depending on experience, personal usage, accepted meaning and much else. It gets more complex translating words into another language where none of the foregoing can be assumed, and where questions of accuracy oscillate between literal and dynamic equivalents. Add to that a gap of two thousand years and a cultural gulf between Greco-Roman and Postmodern Western civilisations and ways of life, and translation becomes pure dead complicated. (Pure dead is a compound adjective used in the West of Scotland for 'very', as in its phonetic use puredeadbrilliant) Oh, and by the way, I have a friend who also uses the term 'pure disgrace' as his ultimate term of moral opprobrium by oxymoron.
Anyway, I was reading Stephen Fowl's commentary on Ephesians, and his translation of verse 11a. I'm used to the phrase, 'In Christ we have an inheritance....' Fowl translates 'In Christ we have an allottment...'. a long footnote justifies this choice of word because 'it does not invoke the image of passing on property through death.' The commentary explains this further, quite persuasively. However. Language is a funny thing. The word 'allottment' may not invoke the inheritance theme, but to one brought up in the West of Scotland it certainly evokes the image of a fertile vegetable allottment. Those collective squares of quilted horticulture, 10 metres square or so, have been so important in staving off starvation, and then during the two World Wars providing fresh produce, and now husbanded by many an amateur gardener. You can read the history of the British Allottment movement here. Of course land development has bulldozed over many of them, to build yet more business opportunities. But the word allottment is still a powerfully evocative word for soil cultivation, food production and many a productive hour of gentle labour.
I will forego the children's talk formula, "That's a bit like Jesus.... In Jesus we have an allottment." But I think I'll have to retrain my mind if I'm to manage to read this verse in Fowl's translation without the extraneous connotations of something entirely different. Which of course is one of the major headaches for a translator - what seems fitting and appropriate to one mind, seems strange to another, because, well, words do not contain all the resonances and associations from one mind to another. Stephen Fowl in Baltimore, Maryland, cannot possibly be expected to know that his chosen word when heard by Scottish ears evokes very different images.
That aside, I think Fowl's commentary is puredeadbrilliant. :))
The photo of allottments is by Kate Davies whose own blog you can find here. I hope you don't mind its reproduction here Kate.