The Need for a Critical Edition of Reverend Moon’s Words

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By Andrew Wilson

WilsonIn the history of religion, the work of collecting and preserving the founder’s words normally becomes a priority in the years immediately after his passing. Thus the Gospels were collected and written some 40 years after Jesus’ passing, and the leaves of Muhammad’s revelation were collected as the Qur’an within 20 years of his death. This same priority is emerging in the Unification movement.

Although the UM enjoys all the advantages of modern technology for preserving and publishing the words of the founder, technology also makes it easy to edit those words before they reach the printed page. The question of possible distortions introduced by editors, or allegations of such, becomes even more acute in light of the current controversies over Reverend Moon’s words pursuant to claims over succession.

The FFWPU has been consciously setting up a corpus of official writings, all based upon selections from Moon Sun Myung Seonsaeng Malseum Seonjip (Sermons of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon), but the large corpus of his sermons given over more than 60 years, even some of the texts in Malseum Seonjip, may suffer from distortions. There is need for scholars to establish a critical edition of the Rev. Moon’s sermons that preserves what he spoke in exact detail.

Having been involved in editing Rev. Moon’s translated speeches for over 20 years, I learned some of the challenges the task of translation requires. For example, for World Scripture and the Teachings of Sun Myung Moon (2007), the translation work occupied the editors and their staff for two full years. Korean and English are so dissimilar that translation between them is extremely difficult. Furthermore, Rev. Moon had a unique vocabulary and often gave his Korean words shades of meaning distinct from secular Korean. However, while it is well known that many existing English translations fall short, I came to recognize that there are problems in the underlying Korean as well.

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