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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reducing Redundancy: A Response

I greatly appreciate what Dan Sindlinger, my fellow contributor to the blog, is trying to do in his Better Life Bible. However, I think he is taking a wrong direction in his posting on reducing redundancy in translation. Here I am repeating for a wider audience what I wrote in a comment on that posting:
Dan, I have to disagree with your high school English teacher. Well, things depend on what genre you are writing in. You mentioned that it was a "paper" on which your teacher wrote redundant. And I would agree that redundancy is a bad thing in a scholarly paper, if that is what you mean. But in other genres repetition and redundancy is a good thing. It is sometimes part of good literary art, especially in poetry but also for all kinds of literary effect, including for emphasis. It is essential in teaching, which is why you will find a lot of redundancy in modern sermons and teaching materials. Of course Jesus was a preacher, and that is why he used a lot of redundancy in his sermons as well, to make sure that his point struck home. In fact he probably used a lot more repetition than is recorded for us.

Don't make the Bible sound like a scholarly paper, but more like the sermon which much of it is. So, my advice would be, forget your high school English and keep the redundancy.
As an example of this (and at risk of redundancy!), I want to look briefly at Proverbs 4:20, which has been discussed in the posting "Turn your ear". This verse, like thousands of others in the Old Testament, consists (in the original and in most translations) of two parallel and almost synonymous lines. Some translations, such as TEV/GNT and CEV, sometimes collapse such pairs of parellel lines into one. But I would consider this to be a mistake, except where there are special circumstances. For the parallel lines are part of the poetic style of Proverbs, and of much of the rest of the Old Testament - which is also imitated as well as quoted in the New Testament. Also repetition is part of the teaching style of Proverbs, and of good teaching anywhere. Now I don't know if Dan would advocate cutting out the parallel lines in places like this, as CEV does (TEV/GNT does not). But I think it would be a mistake to do so.


At Thu Jan 05, 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Dan Sindlinger said...


Several questions come to mind. When does the amount of redundancy become counterproductive? When does it cease to reinforce one’s point and begin to lead the reader to think that a new point is being introduced? How many illustrations do we (or a pastor) usually give when we wish to make a point? I usually use/hear one, two at the most. In Matthew 24, Jesus (or the author of Matthew) includes six illustrations: verses 28, 32, 37-39, 40-41, 43, and 45-51.


At Thu Jan 05, 12:09:00 PM, Blogger La_Patita said...

I believe this discussion has revealed that there are a variety of rhetorical approaches that can be utilized to convey one's message as well as varying opinions on which is most appropriate. I think the questions you are asking Dan are valid, but have nothing to do with translation. Personal belief as to whether the gospel writer's approach was most effective or not for past or present audiences, however, should have no bearing on a translation of the text. The translation should be as transparent as possible to what the author wrote...and understandable in English. We can choose a different approach in our own explication of the themes of the text (i.e. commentaries, sermons, etc.) but I believe it is at the least troubling that we feel we could edit out whole sections of an author's message in a translation. I personally want (and expect from a translation) to know what the author said, even if I would give it a C for organization or style as an English paper.

At Thu Jan 05, 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Dan, I would feel that it is for the author to decide how much redundancy he or she wants to use, and not for the translator to change that. To that extent I agree with la_patita. Also, I think a good preacher or teacher will use multiple illustrations, at least to illustrate multiple aspects of a point rather than as straight repetition. And I don't think there is straight repetition here in Matthew 24, Jesus is bringing out different aspects of his point.


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