Global Christian Perspectives

I’m planning to join Chris Eyre and Elgin Hushbeck on Global Christian Perspectives this afternoon at 4 pm central time. Join us and comment using the Q&A App.

The topic that interests me most is talking about the differences between perceptions overseas and as seen here in America.

Dave Black on Paraphrasing in Translation

From Dave Black Online:

10:44 AM I really enjoyed reading Thomas Hudgin’s Thinking Past the Glosses. Good Bible translation is scarce, and good Bible translators are even scarcer. Our understanding of Scripture is often hampered by mis- or under-translation. Not a good thing. A good translator is a thinker, first and foremost. He or she is a haggler over shades of meaning. To use Thomas’s example, why not use “I’m dumbfounded” in Gal 1:6 instead “I am amazed”? The other day I wrote a few German sentences on my blog. It included this sentence: “Man learnt nie aus!” Literally one could translate this as “One learns never out!” Idiomatically, however, the sentence means something like “You never stop learning!” Translators must go beyond the mere dictionary meaning of a term. A word’s role in its sentence must be considered. Did you get the denotation right? How about the connotative meaning? Worse still, did you commit the root fallacy? (A Friseur in Germany will cut your hair, not frizz it.) Let me suggest that translators should never be afraid of the word “paraphrase.” “¿Cuántos años tiene Usted?” does not mean
“How many years do you have?” Yes, it is a paraphrase to translate the expression “How old are you?” but a necessary one.

Accurate translation requires more that a word-for-word rendering.

Understand you? (Verstehst Du?)

I quote the entire note, as Dave’s blog doesn’t allow one to link to a specific post.

What Dave says here (and what he links to by Thomas Hudgins) is extremely important. Many readers and even pastors assume that something that is “closer to the Greek text” is necessarily more accurate. “Closer to the Greek text” is often defined as being as close as possible to a word-for-word equivalence. That assumption is incorrect and often terribly misleading.

One can mistranslate using formal equivalence or dynamic equivalence. I find those terms useful, but mostly to help pull us away from a way of thinking. The question is whether you have presented what the author intended to the reader.

Now it’s impossible to attain 100% equivalence, no matter how you define it. So different approaches to translating a text are valuable. Is the primary goal to convey a set of propositions made by the author? Does one want to convey the literary style? The feeling a reader gets when reading?

If you think the latter is not important consider poetry. If I translate a poem into a set of propositions, have I translated it? I may have conveyed the intellectual content, but if the original intended to convey feelings and speak to the emotions, such a translation would be lacking.

In a more nuanced issue, should a translation of Mark and Hebrews sound different? I think so. If you lose the soring rhetoric of Hebrews or the urgent pace of Mark (amongst other things) I think you’ve done author, message, and reader a disservice.

KJV-Only: The Exclusivity Argument

One of the fundamental assumptions of my book, What’s in a Version? is that the Bible should and can be available in any language. Thus the initial chapter starts by asking just what questions onbe might ask if one was deciding how to produce a translation for people who don’t have one.

Advocates of the KJV-Only position, however, argue for exclusivity, i.e. the KJV is the one and only form in which we have the true Word of God. In any argument with them, one comes back to this point. A particular reading or translation cannot possibly be right. Why? Because it’s not what the KJV says.

Fred Butler at Fred’s Bible Talk claims this is the most fundamental argument of the KJV-Only position, and all the other arguments come back to it.

He takes a lot more time with this than I would. In fact, in my book I didn’t bother with the KJV at all. But I think he’s right. He’s also right about the implications. If one follows this argument to it’s logical conclusion, it means that almost all Christians at all times have not had the real Word of God available to them. It also means that those who don’t speak English must either go without or must learn English.

In any case, it’s an interesting article for those who want to take time on this issue.

Churches Rejecting the NIV2011

According to the Christian Post, some major churches are rejecting the NIV2011. Their concern is over accuracy, and particularly “literal accuracy.”

The article cites Pastor Gregg Matte of Houston’s First Baptist Church, and Andrew Werley, pastor of Houston’s Jersey Village Baptist Church.

“I believe the TNIV or the NIV 2011 revision has drifted from what I would consider a true literal translation,” said Werley.

It appears that the most important issue for these readers is the gender language used in these translations. What interests me most is the use of “true literal translation.” The NIV itself was not a literal translation, even insofar as such translation is possible

Of course, truly literal translation is not a possibility because words do not have a one-to-one correspondence between two different languages. Thus it was common in Greek to refer to a group of men and women as adelphoi. A generation ago, the primary way of referring to such a group in American English would have been “brothers.” But today, it is common to refer to such a group as “brothers and sisters.”

So today, “brothers and sisters” is just as literal as “brothers” was a generation ago. What’s more, “brothers” is less literal, always providing one cares about how the word will be understood by the modern audience.

Unfortunately, most debates about Bible versions do not hinge on one’s understanding of language, but rather on theological points. There are those who prefer that the Bible be more male oriented than it is. For these people, the accuracy of the reference is secondary, whether they admit it or not.