Passwords to Paradise: How Languages Have Re-invented World Religions
Passwords to Paradise: How Languages Have Re-invented World Religions  -     By: Nicholas Ostler
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Bloomsbury USA / 2016 / Hardcover

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Passwords to Paradise: How Languages Have Re-invented World Religions

Bloomsbury USA / 2016 / Hardcover

In Stock
Stock No: WW405155

Product Description

Any religion with global aspirations has to wrestle with all manner of troubling questions as its central texts, theological concepts, and liturgies are translated into new languages. One of the world's foremost linguists ferrets out exciting new details on familiar stories and uncovers a host of all-but-forgotten tales. 288 pages, hardcover. Bloomsbury.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 288
Vendor: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 1620405156
ISBN-13: 9781620405154

Publisher's Description

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

So opens the Gospel of John, an ancient text translated into almost every language, at once a compelling and beguiling metaphor for the Christian story of the Beginning. To further complicate matters, the words we read now are in any number of languages that would have been unknown or unrecognizable at the time of their composition. The gospel may have been originally dictated or written in Aramaic, but our only written source for the story is in Greek. Today, as your average American reader of the New Testament picks up his or her Bible off the shelf, the phrase as it appears has been translated from various linguistic intermediaries before its current manifestation in modern English. How to understand these words then, when so many other translators, languages, and cultures have exercised some level of influence on them?

Christian tradition is not unique in facing this problem. All religions--if they have global aspirations--have to change in order to spread their influence, and often language has been the most powerful agent thereof. Passwords to Paradise explores the effects that language difference and language conversion have wrought on the world's great faiths, spanning more than two thousand years. It is an original and intriguing perspective on the history of religion by a master linguistic historian.

Author Bio

Nicholas Ostler is the author of The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel, Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin, and Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (, a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to better know and use their languages. A scholar with a working knowledge of eighteen languages, Ostler lives in Hungerford, England.

Editorial Reviews

"Impressively vast in scope and content." —Kirkus Reviews

"For those fascinated by linguistic transitions, this impressive study is a feast." —Publishers Weekly

"Ostler's extensive research and well-drawn conclusions . . . make this an intriguing read." —Shelf Awareness

“Lucid, erudite and elegant.” —The New York Times Book Review on AD INFINITUM

“Informative and fascinating . . . Ostler's treatment of Latin as a mother to the supple vernacular tongues we call Romance languages is particularly good, and his evaluation of the Renaissance humanists and the way in which they may have loved Latin to death is provocative.” —Los Angeles Times on AD INFINITUM

“What a fascinating book . . . highlights the many currents that change language, that change peoples and nations. Told with tenderness, packed with facts, quotations, jests and illustrations, this is a book that earns the great story it tells.” —Philadelphia Inquirer on AD INFINITUM

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