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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Translation versus paraphrase

Some people refer to contemporary English translations as paraphrases because they are freer in form than traditional translations. But just because contemporary translations tend to be more clear and natural doesn’t negate the fact that they are translations of the original Greek text.

It is almost impossible to translate a sentence from one language to another without paraphrasing it. So every translation of the Bible is a paraphrase to some extent, even the most literal ones, such as the King James Version. Here are just a few examples of paraphrase in the KJV:

Matthew 1:23
Greek: shall have in belly/womb
KJV: shall be with child

Matthew 27:44
Greek (one word): to insult
KJV: cast the same in his teeth (an English idiom in use during the 16th century)

Luke 23:46
Greek (one word): he breathed out
KJV: he gave up the ghost

Mark himself paraphrased Jesus when he translated Aramaic to Greek in Mark 5:41. Talitha koum in Aramaic means, Maiden, get up. Mark translated it into Greek, Little girl, I tell you to get up. Notice that I tell you is in Mark's Greek translation but not in the Aramaic original. His use of I tell you does not change the sense of the original in the least, but apparently was more natural/normal for his Greek readers.

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