Agency in (re)translating the Bible: the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of taking the ‘liberty’ of (re)creating the ‘untouchable’ sacred texts

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The basis of this project was the re-appropriation of texts from the Catholic Bible in processes of both personal and institutional writing. The endeavor was to examine how two different authors (a literary and an institutional one) integrated specific biblical excerpts into their own discourses. The first was Colleen Carroll Campbell and her autobiographical work My Sisters the Saints: a Spiritual Memoir; the second was the Vatican and its official English version of Pope Paul VI’s speech delivered before the United Nations General Assembly, in October 1965. Considering re-appropriation as a form of translation, and since the Bible is the most translated book in the world, both authors and their texts were considered (re)translators and (re)translations, respectively.
The research strived to understand how and why the authors took the “liberty” to change the biblical versions they admitted to have used as sources. Rhetorical criticism was the methodological procedure followed, since there were several implied meanings involved in both works, deeply related to the contexts upon which each author’s narratives rely: Colleen Carroll Campbell’s personal life story and the historical, political context during the pontiff’s address to the UN. The study was guided by the following research questions: (i) How did the authors re-appropriate excerpts from the Catholic Bible and what changes have they done when compared to the sources they indicated? (ii) To which possible reasons could we associate their re-appropriations: to facilitate the understanding of the biblical messages themselves by integrating them in a fluent, clear discourse, or to sustain their own specific messages with textual, ideological references? (iii) Would the authors promote a different interpretation of the excerpts had they abided by “official”, authenticated versions of the Bible instead? The concept of agency within Translation Studies was, thus, fundamental in the study.
Period25 Jan 2018
Event titleNew Voices in Portuguese Translation Studies: Ist Graduate Symposium in Translation
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map


  • Agency
  • Bible
  • Colleen Carroll Campbell
  • My Sisters the Saints
  • Memory
  • Pope Paul VI