Exegeting the US Constitution

Did you know that official German and Dutch translations of the United States Constitution came out while the states deliberated whether to ratify it? I didn’t know that either. A recent article highlights this little-known fact and suggests that the translators’ word choices can shed light on the Framers’ intent in certain obscure parts of the canonical English document.

This claim has a parallel in biblical studies, where the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, known as the Septuagint (LXX), sometimes sheds light on the textual history or the meaning of the original text. I suppose hermeneutics are hermeneutics, whether we try to understand religious or historical or political documents.

Mulligan, Christina and Douma, Michael and Lind, Hans and Quinn, Brian Patrick, Founding-Era Translations of the United States Constitution (August 24, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2486301

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