Yesterday, while working in the nursery during first service, I asked one of the other workers what they thought was a very random question. Out of the blue I said, “If you had to pick any animal that would be associated with the word ‘wise’ or ‘prudent’, what animal would you pick?”
Their response was actually quicker than expected. “Owl.” I had been pulling a blank. But that is a very good answer in my opinion, one that most English-speaking (in any case American) people would be familiar with – for “wise”, at least.
I then asked the follow up to that. What animal would you identify with the word “pure” or innocent”? That was much more difficult of an answer. In fact, no real solid answer was given. But at that point I shared why I was asking – my current work on translating Matthew 10:16-23. I will be done soon. No, really….
What amazed me even more, since it isn’t exactly a normal topic of conversation around the church, was when my conversation partner started waxing eloquent about how important it was to translate into a context that readers could understand, and how many cultures don’t have the same words or connotations attached to things. Brought an unexpected smile to my face.
So what do you think? What animal would best illustrate the idea of “wise”, “prudent” or “thoughtful” to English speakers? And what animal would best illustrate the idea of “pure” or “innocent”? Do you think that the 1st century illustrations from Matthew (serpent/pigeon*) accurately demonstrate cleverness and innocence to English speakers?
* most translations read “dove”, but this itself probably is an attempt to be culturally aware, or maybe just traditional, as the Greek word employed does not indicate the animal we would consider a dove.