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Monday, December 04, 2006

Style-mongers

Justin Taylor is a prolific blogger, and for me often a provocative one. But I am happy to pass on without qualification the following, which is most of one of his recent postings - which he apparently took from Doug Wilson:
"I am thinking of what I call Style-mongers. On taking up a book, these people concentrate on what they call its ‘style’ or its ‘English’. They judge this neither by its sound nor by its power to communicate but by its conformity to certain arbitrary rules. Their reading is a perpetual witch hunt for Americanisms, Gallicisms, split infinitives, and sentences that end with a preposition. They do not inquire whether the Americanism or Gallicism in question increases or impoverishes the expressiveness of our language. It is nothing to them that the best English speakers and writers have been ending sentences with prepositions for over a thousand years" (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p. 35).
It seems to me that C.S. Lewis' point here applies well to many critics of modern Bible translations. Their arbitrary rules may be rather different: not just grammatical ones like objections to singular "they", but translational ones like objections to changes to traditional literal renderings of certain original language words. But Lewis' general point clearly applies: such people judge what they read "neither by its sound nor by its power to communicate but by its conformity to certain arbitrary rules." But Better Bibles are not bound by these kinds of rules, but have been set free to communicate with power, God's power to demolish spiritual strongholds.

3 Comments:

At Mon Dec 04, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

"It is nothing to them that the best English speakers and writers have been ending sentences with prepositions for over a thousand years"

What of Bible translation tradition?

-Nathan

 
At Mon Dec 04, 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, it is nothing to the people who object to "children of God" in Matthew 5:9 on the basis of contemporary reaction against political correctness that this is the KJV rendering.

 
At Sun Dec 10, 01:13:00 PM, Blogger Tim Chesterton said...

Indeed, C.S. Lewis is a prime example of someone who was willing to do whatever it took to write in such a way as to be best understood by his audience. His friend JB Phillips was another, and, in an earlier generation, Bishop J.C. Ryle.

 

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