Emotive translation accuracy
If a less exact/accurate text moves me more than a more precise translation, just what is going on and how valid is that experience?
It's an appropriate question to ask, Dickie, especially since many of us want to have a spiritual experience which is firmly grounded in biblical truth, and not just some "emotional" experience. Of course, putting the issue in precisely those terms does not do justice to the fact that we are made in God's image and emotions are just as much a part of that image as is our cognition and our will. But what I think is the concern of many is whether we allow experiential "reality" to have primacy over revelational reality. For instance, can experience trump what is revealed in the Bible?
Given those comments to try to show that I think I am tuned in to what you are asking, let's now try to deal with the actual question. Why are we moved sometimes more by Bible versions that are less accurate than by those that are more accurate?
Part of the answer to that question depends on how we define accuracy. If we define translation accuracy as existing primarily at the word or word and phrase levels, then it is fairly easily to answer the question, because there is so much more to language than just what we gain of meaning from words and syntactic phrases. There is much meaning which occurs at so-called higher levels of language, including rhetorical meaning, discourse meaning, and coherence. And then there are the critically important figurative meanings we get not from the sum of the meanings of the individual words, but from a meaning which is unique to the entire idiom. Usually idiomatic meaning cannot be translated accurately at the word or phrase level, so if biblical authors intended us to be emotionally impacted by idioms, then we must have translations that accurately convey their figurative meaning in order to be impacted by them.
Next, there is no inherent reason why exegetically accurate translation of the Bible should not move us as much as the biblical authors intended to move their audiences. If we are not moved by an exegetically accurate translation, when the author intended to move his audience through what he wrote, then the exegetically accurate translation is not communicatively accurate. That is, it is not accurately conveying connotations and emotive aspects of the biblical texts.
Finally, a big reason why we are often moved by translations which may be are less exegetically accurate is that such translations are often made by individuals who may be more gifted at writing English well than they are at exegesis Most translators of translation teams are great writers. Most exegetes are not so gifted. Being able to exegete well is a very different skill from being able to write well. The ideal translator is a good exegete as well as someone who knows their own language so well and is creative enough with it that they will only translate to language which is natural. And, because they are good writers, they can add stylistic quality that is above average. We are moved by good style, powerful figures of speech, contemporary language more than outdated language (for most people), rhythm, and a number of other aspects of language which are often overlooked in translations.
I believe that we should try to choose some exegetes for Bible translation teams who are recognized as being talented writers of their language. Or at least we should have literary stylists on translation teams who truly can make a difference in the literary quality of the translation. They should not be outvoted by the exegetes on a team if what they propose has the same meaning as what the exegetes propose, but is written more naturally and more emotively appropriate and accurate.
I hope this helps some, Dickie. I think I should copy this to be a post, beside a comment response to you, since it is such an important part of what it means to produce adequate Bible versions.