A second wierd little experiment

Last post, I mentioned this interesting online tool: babelfish.  Babelfish is a translator.  I was curious about this because it seems like you need a human touch to be an effective translator.  I was also intruiged by this because sometimes randomness turns out interesting things.

This time, I decided to begin with a Spanish version of Genesis 1.  I choose the version at “Bible Gateway” that basically looked like the Spanish words for “New International Version” I then clicked the button so that this would be translated into English.

This is what it came up with:

God, in the principle, it created the skies and the Earth. 2 the Earth was a total chaos, the darknesses covered the abyss, and the Spirit [to] of God went and came on the surface of waters. 3 and God said: “That the light exists” And the light got to exist. 4 God considered that the light was good it separated and it of the darknesses. 5 To the light it called “day”, and to the darknesses, “night”. And the night came, and arrived the morning: that one was the first day.

This is the actual English language version of Genesis 1:

 “1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. ”

Is it just because the words in the first version are fresh and new that I find them cooler than the actual words in Genesis 1?  “God, in the principle…” I love that.  Of course the clunky “it” in the next line has to go, but the image of the Earth being a “total chaos” is so much more interesting than “empty” and that the light “got to exist” after God said it did, it makes me think of light like a happy five year old, happy to get an extra snack.

I know that there’s probably some grump somewhere who finds this irreverant.  I realize that error could creep in here.  I’d never advise a person live their life according to words that were translated by a computer. 

But there is some things that we’ll never have good words for.  There are some ideas that every translation will always fail.  I think anything that allows us to interact with scripture, and explore it, and view it in new ways is a really cool thing.  I’m really looking foreward to playing with this new toy.



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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “A second wierd little experiment”

  1. also being a geek I have used babel fish before. I wrote an e-mail in English and translated it into Portuguese to an English speaking friend in Brazil. I gave them the link and they used it to translate it back to English after they read as much as they could understand… It is cool because it doesn’t revert back to how it was written.
    you should try that and see what you get.


  2. Here’s a good one. I put “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” into Babelfish and translated it into Spanish (“el alcohol esta dispuesto, pero la carne es debil”). I then took the resulting phrase and put it into Babelfish and translated it back.

    It came out: “the alcohol is prepared, but the meat is weak.”


  3. Thanks for the thoughts, guys. Andrew, your “discovery” was so cool that I put it in the ‘quote of the week’ section of my blog. (Top left)


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