Are you riding the goat?
This translation principle is understood and practiced by some English Bible translators, but not by others. The recently published book, The Word of God in English, seems to argue for translating idioms and other figures of speech in the Bible at the word level. I have great respect for this book's author, Dr. Leland Ryken, who was also the literary stylist for the ESV. Dr. Ryken has spent much of his long academic career teaching his students at Wheaton College the beauty of the literary composition of the Bible, including its idioms. He teaches courses on the literature of the Bible. He has written textbook quality books on the literary aspects of the Bible, including
How to Read the Bible as LiteratureI have had email exchanges with Dr. Ryken and I appreciate him and his dedication to "transparent translation." But he is mistaken if he really believes that idioms and other figures of speech can be translated at the word level and accurately communicate their original meaning. Appropriate places to appreciate the word-level translation of the beautiful figures of speech in the Bible are Bible footnotes, books, such as those written by Dr. Ryken and others, on the literary imagery of the Bible, or classes on the literature of the Bible such as those that Dr. Ryken teaches.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, by Leland Ryken, et al.
Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible
The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, co-authored with Tremper Longman III
In future posts I will point out problems with specific word-level translations to English of biblical idioms and other figures of speech.
So, have you figured out if you are riding the goat? If you have not, you are confirming the point that word-level translation of idioms does not accurately communicate the original meaning of idioms. To know if you are riding the goat, you need to know what the entire idiom means. Try to figure out the meaning of the idiom from the meaning of its parts. Try really hard. Why not put your guesses in the comments section of this post. I can post again, telling you how close your guesses are to the real meaning of the question:
Are you riding the goat?Categories: Bible translation, idioms, translation theory, Ryken, translation accuracy