Translation, Interpretation and Culture: On the Disingenuity of a Comparative Theology

S. N. Balagangadhara


In this three-part article, I look at Francis Clooney’s work on comparative theology, identify one of the crucial problems of translation that comparative studies confront and outline the nature of a task for the twenty-first century cross-cultural theology. In the first part, I show that there is no unique ‘translation problem’ but that it actually names a plethora of problems. Such problems include not only the translation of texts across languages but also the philosophical problems of incommensurability of theories and inter-theoretic reductions. In the second part, I undertake a fairly close examination of aspects of Clooney’s enterprise. Here, I show that, quite contrary to what he promises, his project simply rehashes old dogmas of earlier Christian writers albeit in a hidden and implicit manner. In the third part, I suggest that we need to rethink some of the ingrained but hardly orthodox assumptions, if we intend to understand the cultures and practices which are other than those in the West. I suggest that a new theological practice is more adequate to our times than what we have inherited from the past.


Comparative theology; Hinduism; Christianity; India; Translation; Culture

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