All translation is interpretation, since it is a choice among meanings; but translation is not the same activity as interpretation. A good translation of a troubling text will preserve the reason for the trouble, and thereby leave open the gates of interpretation. The great Thomist historian of philosophy Etienne Gilson, who served on the French delegation to the San Francisco Conference in 1945, rejected a French translation of the United Nations Charter because it erased certain cunning ambiguities in the original, observing that “il faut traduire le texte dans tout son obscurité.” One must translate the text in all its obscurity: The fidelity of the translator must include a commitment to honoring the density and the alienness of the original. The translator must not preempt the mental toil of the reader.

Leon Wieseltier, in a characteristically ill-tempered essay — but this is a vital, vital point.

I have to add one little comment, though. Wieseltier complains about a word being translated as “set apart” when, he thinks, it ought to be “ sanctified.” Apparently he doesn’t know that in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alike the words for “sanctification” and “holiness” just mean “set apart.” To be holy, to be sanctified, is simply to be set apart for God’s purposes. But don’t let this point distract you from this excellent insight into the nature of good translation!