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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Determining accuracy in translation

I think most people desire an accurate translation of the Bible. But how do we determine accuracy? Here are a few possible criteria:

1. Does the translation reflect my personal beliefs?
2. Does the translation follow the form of the Greek language from which it is
translated?
3. Does the translation convey the meaning that the original author intended?

The problem with #1 is that the Bible should be the standard by which we measure our beliefs, not the other way around.

The problem with #2 is that the closer a translation follows the form of the Greek language the more obscure and sometimes distorted the meaning becomes. For example, try reading Romans 5:16 without the words in bold type (not in the Greek), which the New King James Version added to clarify the meaning:
And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

Option #3 is preferable to the other two. But the problem here is that there is often a difference of opinion among translators regarding the meaning that the original author intended. Many words in every language convey a variety of meanings, depending on the context in which they are used. For example, the King James Version translated the Greek word logos, most often translated word, with 21 other terms in various contexts. In Dr. Clarence Hale’s booklet entitled, The Meaning of IN CHRIST in the Greek New Testament, he suggests 241 ways to translate the expression in Christ (and its equivalents in Jesus, in the Lord, in the Son, etc.). According to A Literary-Semantic Analysis of Paul’s First Discourse to Timothy by Richard Blight, there are more than 100 places in Paul’s first letter to Timothy (113 verses) where commentators or translators disagree about the interpretation of the text.

Although we would like translations to be accurate, it is a difficult quality to measure.

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2 Comments:

At Sat Jul 16, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Nice post, Dan. Another criterion some people use for accuracy is whether people (especially church leaders) they respect say that a particular version is accurate. I suppose this could be a subpoint under your #1.

 
At Mon Jul 18, 02:18:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

This again points to the need in an honest translation for copious notes!

And, to continue riding a hobby-horse, the contemporary electronic networked environment means this could be done at very low cost!

 

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