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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lexical transliteration

A blog commenter noticed about The Source's translation of Col. 3:18:
I am not sure I quite understand the "just as you are connected to the Lord" part.
This brings up a translation issue which is quite important, so I'll post my comment answer quickly before falling in bed:
That part is a meaning-based translation of Greek en xristou, which is translated as "in Christ" in traditional wordings. The problem with "in Christ" is that it has little, if any, meaning to English speakers. "In Christ" is what some call a lexical transliteration. The words are translated to English, but not the meaning of how the words syntactically relate to each other in Greek. ("Baptize" is another example of a transliteration from the Greek word baptizo.) You have to be taught by a Bible teacher what "in Christ" means to understand it.
Please note that I am not suggesting what is the best translation for Greek en xristou to English. I am only trying to state the issues involved in translation of a biblical language phrase such as en xristou which does not yield the meaning of the Greek simply through translating each Greek word to English and leaving them in the same order as the Greek. I think that most Bible readers today probably prefer the literal rendering "in Christ" plus learning from teachers what it means, rather than having the Greek meaning actually translated to English. Partly, this is how some people frame the issue of whether we translate what the biblical source texts "say" or what they "mean," which is a whole 'nother can of worms (or Diet of Worms, if you prefer).

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