Advantages of natural language Bible translation
If a Bible for such people is worded in natural English, it will communicate its meanings most effectively to such people. Cognitive scientists have recognized for years from scientific studies that various kinds of "noise" in a communication channel add to the complexity of understanding a message. Communicative "noise" can be anything which detracts from a natural linguistic exchange. It can be actual noise, perhaps dissonant music in the background which makes some people's minds, anyway, unable to focus well on a message. The more prevalent kind of noise experienced by English Bible users is dissonance that occurs because what they read is not written in their dialect of English. It takes greater mental effort and greater time to try to decode messages which are not in one's own dialect.
Notice how easily the following natural English wordings are processed by you, if you are a native speaker of some standard dialect of English:
Now notice how much more time and energy is required to process unnatural English:
- John is sick today.
- Should we shop for groceries after supper?
- Mary sprained her ankle this morning.
- I've been praying for you every day.
- Adam made love to his wife Eve.
- Finally, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on top of the temple.
- On the day of Pentecost all the Lord's followers were together in one place.
Natural language translations not only take less time and energy to process, but they actually communicate messages more accurately. There is less artificial ambiguity which you may have to wade through to try to figure out what message was intended.
- John is experiencing illness today.
- Should we obtain that which can sustain us after we partake of our evening meal?
- I make petitions to God for you upon every remembrance of you.
- Adam knew his wife.
- In the end, the devil took Jesus into Jerusalem and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple.
- See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
- May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
If we use the older traditional and unnatural wording of "Adam knew his wife and she conceived," a high percentage of speakers of standard dialects of English will experience a mental blip on the word "know". That is not a natural, normal way of referring to the union of a man and woman that results in conception. If, on the other hand, we read either of the following:
there is no mental blip. I think every native speaker of a standard dialect of English understands immediately what they have read. The message comes through without "noise". They can concentrate on the message and not on any communicative "bumps" due to use of obsolete or other unnatural wordings for current, natural good quality English.
- Adam made love to his wife Eve. She became pregnant
- Then Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she became pregnant.
If we translate using natural language forms, we more clearly represent the kind of language which was used in most of the original biblical language texts. Those texts do not, on the whole, consist of language forms which came from a classical form of Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Rather, on the whole, they were written using language forms which most people would have recognized as being within the range of common usage by most speakers of the language.
Translations which do not use natural language forms distort people's perception of the Bible. They can give people the idea that the Bible is about a distant God, a God who is out of touch with most of humanity, who does not speak their language. They give the idea that to be "spiritual" one needs to use some language or dialect other than their own. They communicate the impression that the Bible was written in a sacred language and that we probably should communicate that way also. But neither is true.
The wonder of the incarnation is that the sacred became fully clothed in ordinary humanity.
Others can experience that wonder most accurately and clearly if they hear about it with natural wordings of their own language. This doesn't mean resorting to slang or other colloquialisms. It doesn't mean dumbing down language. It simply means using language which is natural and good sounding to the most number of speakers of that language.
I like to read that kind of language. How about you?