Rebuilding the Tower of Babel: Ælfric and Bible Translation

Tristan Major

Abstract


The Old English homilist Ælfric is well known for his reluctance to translate the Bible and other patristic works into the vernacular; nonetheless, his corpus includes a large number of such translations. This paradox is partly resolved through an examination of Ælfric's perspective on the biblical narratives of the Tower of Babel, Christ's sending out of the disciples, and Pentecost. For Ælfric, the linguistic diversity of the Tower of Babel creates problems for translating the very sensitive texts of the Bible from one language into another, yet the narratives of Christ's sending out of the disciples and of Pentecost not only provide biblical sanction for translation but stress the necessity of translation in the evangelization process.

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