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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Good News for Everyone V: Worldwide English

Here are a few examples of language strategies in the Bible in Worldwide English.

1. Circumlocution

In this case 'who are not true' is used instead of 'false' creating an extremely awkward sentence.
    My dear brothers, do not trust every spirit. But test the spirits to see if they belong to God. There are many prophets who are not true who have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
2. Addition of Implied Information

The words 'to pay for' are added make explicit what is clearly intended in the original.

    This is love! We did not love God, but he loved us. And he sent his Son to be the sacrifice to pay for the wrong things we have done. 1 John 4:10
Here Jesus' name is added where the Greek has the Beloved. This seems to be a legitimate clarification.

    Praise him! His kindness is great and wonderful. We have been accepted by God through Jesus Christ, whom he loves so much. Eph. 1:6
3. Avoidance of Latinization

The phrase 'to make us free' replaces redemption. Since redemption is not a frequently used word in English, and certainly not with this meaning, this seems an improvement.
    Jesus Christ has given his blood [died] to make us free Eph. 1:7
4. Repetition

Verbal phrases are often repeated in order to create short sentences without subordinate clauses and fewer words per sentence.
    God chose us in Christ. He chose us that we should be holy and good before him Eph.1:4
5. Omission

In this case the term 'mystery' is omitted altogether. 'Mystery of his will' is simply written as 'plan.'

    He has shown us the plan he had. Eph. 1:9
Overall, these different strategies create a somewhat uneven language style. However, some make a significant difference and deserve to be emulated. Certainly # 2 and #3 seem like essential translation strategies.

I have below given the BWE, ESV and the GNB for Eph. 1:3 - 10. It is clear that the GNB makes use of many of the strategies of the BWE. The language of the original is notoriously compact and difficult to understand. The ESV more literally represents the Greek, but does not always create meaning in the mind of the English reader.

If, in fact, the words used in Greek were more familiar to a Greek reader than the corresponding words used in the ESV, which I use to represent a traditional and literal translation, then the changes made by the BWE and the GNB would be legitimate.

Ephesians 1:3 - 10

Bible in Worldwide English
    3Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every blessing which is in heaven, such as the Spirit gives us.Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ. He chose us that we should be holy and good before him. 5Because he loved us, he planned that we should be his own children. It is through Jesus Christ that we are God's children. That is the way God wanted it to be. 6Praise him! His kindness is great and wonderful. We have been accepted by God through Jesus Christ, whom he loves so much. 7Jesus Christ has given his blood [died] to make us free. He has forgiven us for our wrong ways. We have been put right with God freely because of his great kindness. 8He has given us blessing after blessing in his wisdom and understanding. 9He has shown us the plan he had. This plan was what he wanted to do through Christ. 10When the right time came, God planned to bring together everything in heaven and on earth, and make Christ head of them all.

    3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us[b] for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth
Good News Bible

    Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world. Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love God F2 had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children---this was his pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son! For by the blood of Christ F3 we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which he gave to us in such large measure! In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.


At Wed Jun 21, 03:18:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

It is good that BWE avoided "mystery" in Eph 1:9, because this is a very misleading translation (although an accurate transliteration) of the Greek μυστήριον. This word means "something formerly unknown but now revealed" (at least, revealed to a limited number of initiates), and has nothing to do with "mystery" in the common modern English sense. GNB "secret plan" is better, in a context which makes it clear that this secret has now been revealed to Christian believers.

At Wed Jun 21, 09:53:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

The ommision of "mystery" was the most arresting part of this post to me, too.

It seems that omitting mystery is significant data loss. A formerly hidden plan recently revealed is different from just a plan. All three of the meanings in TDNT include the hiddenness as important to the basic meaning.

"Secret plan" seems to work, but I would like a richer word than "secret" if I could get it. "Hidden" would be better or "veiled", maybe.

At Wed Jun 21, 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Codepoke, I agree with you in principle, although I would judge "secret" to be a richer word than "hidden", and "veiled" suggests that it was partly visible which is misleading. But this information is also missing in ESV. In modern English a "mystery" is not something hidden or secret, just something strange and not understood.

At Wed Jun 21, 03:41:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Wed Jun 21, 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

This is very beautiful overall, especially

In Christ our release is secured and our sins forgiven through the shedding of his blood

'Release' does communicate the meaning of 'set free' but in a higher stylistic level. I am surprised that it is not used in more translations.

It is always soothing to read this passage in a modern phrasing, but I protest a couple of details - the repetition of 'gracious' and 'graciously' and the use of the word redound.

However, overall it is very refreshing and meaningful.

At Wed Jun 21, 04:35:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Wed Jun 21, 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

"might redound to his praise" (v.6, REB). What does that mean? Is "redound" the verb related to "redundant"? It certainly should be, cf. "abound"/"abundant" etc. Seriously, I don't know. That's the trouble with REB, it uses all kinds of words which sound nice and holy, and iambic, but which people don't really understand. Well, I looked it up at, and that confirms a link with "redundant", but the primary sense is given as simply "To have an effect or consequence", so not really anything very profound here. In fact I can't see what Greek word it translates, perhaps just εἰς eis "to". So this looks like a rhetorical flourish, the translators showing off that they know fancy words which ordinary people (even this one with an MA in theology) don't.

At Wed Jun 21, 05:39:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Wed Jun 21, 06:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Well, I happily accept gracious and graciously, but somehow redound not only sounds odd, but it also looks odd, like 'rebound' mispelled. Surely a word must please the eye as well as the ear.

We are philistines, but you will try to convince us!

I confess I have heard of the word, but that is all.

At Wed Jun 21, 06:29:00 PM, Blogger SingingOwl said...

I've heard it too, but only when someone was reading the King James Version in Church. ;-) No one in my congregation would know what the word meant.

At Thu Jun 22, 01:30:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Thu Jun 22, 03:01:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anonymous, thanks for your controversial contribution. Perhaps I can understand why you insist on remaining anonymous when you write like that!

I was not exactly being sarcastic when I talked about "words which sound nice and holy". But I was not being positive about people like you who are more concerned about what the Bible sounds like than whether it is understood. The Bible was not originally written in high level literary language (except perhaps for a few passages like Luke 1:1-4), nor in especially holy language, but in the oridinary common language of the people. That is very clear with the Greek, which is very similar to the Koine used in everyday letters of the time as well as by secular authors. As for the Hebrew, we cannot be so sure but there is no reason to suggest that the language used was anything special.

You correctly point out that "there are still many passages which remain obscure", and that "a difficult translation may be more faithful to the original". Indeed this may be true of Ephesians 1:3-10 as a whole, which is grammatically complex although not really obscure. But it is clearly not true of the Greek word translated "redound", which is simply the preposition εἰς eis "to". Perhaps something needs to be added here for good English style, but there is no obscurity in the original at this point, and so there is no justification under any translation philosophy for introducing an obscurity here. I doubt if the REB translators thought they were being obscure, it is just that they, probably wrongly, judged "redound" to be a clear and acceptable word to their target audience.

Anonymous, if you really want your Bible to be "holy", in the quite unbiblical sense of the word you have in mind, and don't care about whether it is understood, why don't you just use it in the original "holy" languages of the angels? Then you can leave translation to those who actually want to use God's word in an understandable form, so that we can obey Jesus' final command (Matthew 28:19-20, TNIV) to "make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to obey everything [he has] commanded [us]".

At Thu Jun 22, 06:25:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Well, I have done this in reverse order, reading comments on the next post first. I think the main thing here is that this conversation must continue. We cannot let it founder in a morass of previously decided certainties!

At least for my sake, who am still in the process of forming my opinions on these things. I must admit Anon, that I am on the side of comprehension first, but I do not want to chase away your contributions! I would have a Bible with 'release' in it.

At Thu Jun 22, 12:48:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Jun 22, 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for bringing our attention to that comment thread. One of the more exciting ones I admit. I notice first my own contributions riddled with typos and irrelevancies. But there were some interesting contributions re women and communism which I had not read before - I did not follow all the links. Rather interesting in the end.

I think the central point, though briefly mentioned, was that our commenter posts and supports the Statement of Concern against the TNIV. This is the statement that I personally would like to see withdrawn from the internet.

In fact, this is the single most important reason for me to post here.

So our interaction with this person was on this basis, that we would like to see this statement withdrawn.


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