Saturday, November 01, 2008

More Excerpts: Translating Truth

Here are a couple more excerpts from the book Translating Truth — The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation edited by Wayne Grudem.

Taken from Leland Ryken's article in Chapter 2: Five Myths about Essentially Literal Bible Translation:

The most common criticism that has been voiced against the ESV, since its publication in 2001, is that it violates its own philosophy in not being totally literal and not retaining the syntax of the original Hebrew and Greek. The criticism is frivolous and wide of [sic] the mark, inasmuch as no essentially literal translation claims to be completely literal, least of all in regard to syntax. The formula "essentially literal" means what is says; it does not mean "completely literal". (p. 58. Bold added)

At the heart of the disagreement between the rival theories of translations lies the disagreement about the nature and primacy of words in language communication. (p. 69)

All translation is lexical translation, but this is the least of what excites dynamic equivalence advocates. ... The second translation [applying dynamic equivalence methodology] actually bypasses linguistic interpretation in the final translation and resorts to interpretation of the conceptual meaning. (p. 72. Bold added)

If it [the translated text] is not what the original text says, a so-called readable translation has actually removed from the Bible from a reader, not, as it is claimed, brought the Bible close to the reader. (p. 74)


I will summarize my five main points by stating them in a format that corrects the misconceptions that detractors of essentially literal translation have asserted.

  1. When essentially literal translators respect and preserve the words of the original, they are not engaging in idolatry but are instead practicing what the Bible itself says about the primacy of words in God's revelation of his [sic] truth in Scripture.
  2. There are two ways in which essentially literal translations are simple or naive, namely, in being uninterested in complex linguistic theory and in sticking with translation rather than mingling commentary and editorializing with the translation. Dynamic translation is naive in more ways than this.
  3. Essentially literal translations are genuine translations, not transcriptions or transliterations.
  4. Essentially literal translations make a necessary distinction between linguistic or lexical interpretation and other types of interpretation, and refuse to add the activities of the exegete and the editor to the task of the translator.
  5. Essentially literal translations are fully readable, and where their renderings are difficult or do not carry all the meaning on the surface, they are being true to the original text.

Essentially literal translation theory and practice are regularly misrepresented by devotees of dynamic equivalence. I have attempted to correct what must be frankly acknowledged often to be caricatures. However, the current debate is more than an intellectual inquiry into correct translation principles and a dispelling of erroneous claims about essentially literal Bible translations. What is at stake is whether the Bible reading public will return to the real Bible or accept a substitute for it. (p. 75-76)

In Chapter 3, C. John Collins writes in his chapter What the Reader Wants and the Translator Can Give:

An irony arises from all this: the motive for the dynamic philosophy is a laudable one, namely to let everyone in on the wonders of the Bible, without allowing the experts to get in the way. Its result, however, is to interpose the translator between the readers and the text. The essentially literal philosophy, whose main interest is in doing justice to the original act of communication, opens up a new world to all manner of people, if they are willing to take the trouble to learn the customs of this foreign land. (p. 106)

As it can be seen therefore, the dynamic equivalent (or D-E) advocates or the anything-goes crowd (as a parody of their opposite extremes the KJVOs) fail on both counts. They fail in faithfully delivering the meaning of the text due to their varied bias thus interposing they as the translator between the people and the text of Scripture, ironically out of a desire to make the Bible accessible to all. They fail in delivering the Scriptures clearly because they have lost the Word during translation, so there is no true Scripture to pass on in the first place. Translators are NOT to make the Word perspicuous and so engage in what Leland Ryken calls conceptual translation, but rather to translate it lexically only. The meaning would thus be available to all to understand as the Word is already by its very own nature perspicuous, if one would just take the time and effort to read and study it.

So let's call the anything-goes movement what it actually stands for: Spiritual laziness and a distrust in the power of God through His Word. They look down on the people's reading ability, and instead of calling them [up] to the biblical standard, they dumb down the texts of Scripture to get a hearing. Coupled with that is the spiritual lethargy that does not want to spend time and effort studying and wrestling with the Scriptures in prayer in order to understand the mind of Christ, but instead want easy quick-fix answers NOW; one minute earlier would be better.

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