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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bible translation is a team effort

Over the years, there have been a number of translations of the Bible produced by individuals, such as The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips (1958), God’s New Covenant by Heinz Cassirer (1989), The Message by Eugene Peterson (1994), and The Source New Testament by Ann Nyland (2004). Some people think individual translations are not as accurate as those produced by a group of translators. However, most translations are the product of extensive research, which includes input from numerous Bible scholars.

For example, although I’m the final decision maker in producing The Better Life Bible, it’s a product of some 40 resources (listed in my May, 2005 newsletter) and 22 reviewers. The current group of reviewers includes two professional Bible translators/consultants, seven pastors, four professional educators, and nine other lay people. When I send them my initial translation of a particular section or book, they offer comments and suggestions for improvement in the areas of accuracy, clarity and naturalness. Their input is an extremely valuable aspect of the team effort to produce The Better Life Bible.

As I read other translations of the Bible, whether produced by an individual or group of translators, I’m often disappointed by the lack of clarity and naturalness. This makes me wonder how much reviewers were involved in the translation process. I’d like to see translators devote more time and effort to checking their translation with their target audience to make sure it’s clear and natural as well as accurate.

Jerome reflects the courage it took to translate the Latin Vulgate (the standard Bible for 1,000 years) clearly and naturally:
My concern is that some readers, whether they are educated or not, will realize that this translation does not agree with what they are accustomed to and will react against me with abusive language, calling me an evil person and a forger for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient text, as though I were trying to make changes or corrections to it.

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At Thu Nov 03, 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Ddot the King said...

Interesting blog...

At Thu Nov 03, 05:55:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for the Jerome quote. I'm sure the TNIV team understand what he was talking about. In fact one of his opponents was the greatest theologian of his day, Augustine. So the TNIV team should not lose heart that they are being opposed by one of today's best known evangelical theologians, but should rather be confident that the quality of their work will become clear in the long term.

And I trust that the same will be true of the Better Life Bible.

At Thu Nov 03, 08:32:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Thanks Dan. And the best on the new translation.


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