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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Literary Style

Calvin D. Linton wrote the chapter of a book linked to this post's title. His comments are well worth reading. The Bible is great literature. It is composed of many different books, written by different authors, writing at different times, in different languages, in their own individual styles, and reflecting the literary genres in which they wrote. I encourage you to click on the title above and read Linton's chapter.

Some recent English Bible versions have deliberately tried to reflect the different literary styles which appear in the Bible in their translation. I know that the NET Bible team did this. The ESV translation, whose chief literary stylist was Dr. Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College, deliberately reflects the different literary styles and genres of the Bible. Dr. Ryken regularly teaches courses on the Bible as Literature to his students at Wheaton and was well-prepared to guide the ESV team in maintaining the differing literary styles of the Bible.

Reflecting the varying literary styles and genre of the Bible is an important part of Bible translation. Those who have read my previous posts on this blog will not be surprised that I would also add that when we try to maintain the different literary styles of the biblical sources texts we need to do so using good literary English. I firmly believe it is possible to translate in a way that reflects the Bible's original literary styles while writing in good literary English that reflects the syntax and lexical patterns of the English language. Just as there are two "horizons" in biblical hermeneutics, the horizon of the source text and the horizon of the reader, there are also the two parallel "horizons" that each Bible translator must honor, faithfulness to the linguistic patterns of the source text as well as faithfulness to the linguistic patterns of the target language. Any Bible version which overlooks the different styles of the Bible has omitted an important part of God's Word. And any Bible version which reflects the different styles of the Bible using deficient English obscures important parts of the Bible for its readers. I am detailing this last point in posts about specific translation wordings in the Versions section of this blog and I will likely address it again in future posts on this main page, since it is a major concern of mine as I study different English versions.

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