John Hobbins divided translations into two classes in a recent post.
Which do you prefer: (1) a translation that makes sense on its own, without off-site explanation, or (2) a translation that is a head-scratcher until an explanation is given which clears things up, and even then leaves you wondering if you have it right?
Almost everyone I know, except J. K. Gayle whom I wish to congratulate for his well-earned doctorate, prefers, all others things being equal, a type (1) translation. …
Now I have a bit of a problem with that division of the types of translations. I’m guessing that John thinks I prefer type 1 translations, since he has responded to some of my comments and I’m not J.K. Gayle, so I’m going to respond as though his answer refers to me. As for J.K. Gayle, he has produced a new blog on Bible translation, which I won’t claim to completely understand, but will certainly read regularly.
That leaves me as a “type 1 preferer” by default.
But is that actually the case? Frankly I have a hard time understanding this division. I am, in fact, an advocate of just about every variety of translation, depending on the purpose for which it is used.
Thus when one is going to sit at one’s desk and study out a passage with commentaries, concordances, and other reference sources, I would often be quite happy with John’s variety #2.
On the other hand, if I’m giving a Bible to a child or young person, or someone who has not previously read the Bible, I’m likely to start with #1.
I frequently ask people to read lengthy passages from the Bible, such as whole books, and again for that purpose I like a Bible that is easy to comprehend without going to external references.
Some may wonder if this is not giving people a wrong impression of the meaning of the various passages they read. The problem here is the assumption that the result of one person’s long study of an obscure verse in a translation that leaves it obscure will result in enlightenment. (John does not partake of this error. He recognizes the tentative nature of conclusions in the post I cited above.)
A person who uses an easy-to-read translation in order to get an overview will not discover all the possibilities for interpretation of the text. That should be no surprise. One won’t do that while reading for overview in any case. Getting an overview of a passage or book is simply one part of studying the passage and should be supplemented by others.
So I would have to say, if asked whether I choose the Bible versions behind door #1 or door #2, “Yes.” On any particular occasion it would depend on the individual (or audience) and the purpose for which the translation would be used.
No translation conveys all that the source text will convey, nor can it be expected to. One must match what is conveyed to the needs of the situation.