In this post I begin critiquing the essay.
The essay begins:
If you went into a Christian bookstore back in the 1960’s, you could usually count on the fingers of just one hand the number of Bible translations on the shelves. Most people knew that there were two broad categories of the types of Bibles you would find. Some followed a “word-for-word” or “essentially literal” translation philosophy.Grudem and Thacker's essay promotes "essentially literal" Bible versions and these introductory comments about there being "two broad categories of the types of Bibles" are "essentially true". But it is possible to characterize Bible versions and individual translation wordings even more precisely.
The other category of Bibles was based on a “dynamic equivalence” or “thought-for-thought” translation philosophy.
Students of translation theory, including as it applies to Bible translation, have recognized for many years that it is more informative to characterize translations as part of a continuum of degrees of literalness. Different English Bible versions are positioned along this continuum. There is no clear qualitative boundary on this continuum between essentially literal translation and another kind of translation. It is all a matter of degree. And it is not even totally accurate to characterize a version as being of a certain degree of literalness. It is more accurate to determine the degree of literalness on a case-by-case, verse-by-verse basis. But there are overall characterizations of English Bible versions which are "essentially true." The NASB is more literal than the ESV. The ESV is more literal than the NIV. The TNIV in a number of passages, and perhaps overall, is more literal than the NIV. The NIV is more literal than the ISV which is more literal than GW. GW is more literal than the TEV (GNB), CEV, and NCV, each of which are more literal than the Living Bible or The Message.
Scholars who have reviewed the ESV, the newest of the "essentially literal" translations, find a number of non-literal translation wordings in it. This is to be expected and it is good translation practice since the biblical scholars who translated the RSV, of which the ESV is a light revision, recognized that some wordings in the biblical texts do not properly translate literally to English or most other languages.
Neither the RSV nor ESV (nor any other "literal" translation that I know of) literally translates to English a Biblical Hebrew idiom for anger as "length of nose" (Ex. 34:6). Instead, they translate God's own reference to himself as being "slow to anger" rather than not being "longnosed". That is accurate thought-for-thought translation.
Neither literally translates the body part metaphor for emotions as "bowels", as does the KJV (Jer. 31:20)
[Is] Ephraim my dear son? [is he] a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.Both the RSV and ESV substitute the English cultural equivalent "heart" for "bowels":
Therefore my heart yearns for himSuch cultural substitution is accurate translation even though it is neither literal nor essentially literal. It is not an example of word-for-word translation, but, rather, of accurate thought-for-thought translation.
Similarly, in the New Testament both the RSV and ESV translate Greek "bowels" idiomatically (thought-for-thought):
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection (KJV: bowels) of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:8)Other thought-for-thought (idiomatic) translations can also be found in essentially literal Bible translations. Each English Bible version is a mixture of both literal and non-literal translation. There are differences among versions based on the degree of literalness employed in each.
We will continue discussing Grudem and Thacker's essay in future posts.
Categories: Wayne Grudem, Jerry Thacker