I enjoy working with English Bible translation teams and helping them make improvements to their translations which they are happy with, and which result in their translation becoming more accurate, natural, or clear. As longtime readers of this blog may remember, I am currently reviewing a new translation, the ISV, and to a lesser extent, the TNIV, which is a more mature translation, having been through several decades of revisions already. In this post I want to mention some of wordings which I have flagged for the ISV team and changes which they have made.
I am making this post to encourage more Bible users to help translation teams improve their translations. Believe it or not, most translation teams recognize that there is room for improvement in their translations. If we approach a translation team humbly and graciously, and are willing to make suggestions which fit within their translation principles, we will often find them open to our suggestions for improvements.
Let's look at a few examples from the ISV translation of the Gospel of Mark to see wording issues which I have flagged and resultant changes.
2 So many crowds
wl-2/7/07: It should be either "So many people" or "Such a large crowd."
had gathered that there wasn't any room left for them,
even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking the word
wl-2/7/07: I'm not keen on uppercasing "word" but I think there needs to be some additional clue what "word" this is. One solution would be to say "Jesus was preaching God's word to them …" Also, I don't think it is proper English to say "speaking the word," but I may be wrong.to them 3 when some people came and brought him a paralyzed man being carried by four men.
2 Such a large crowd gathered that there wasn't room for them, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking his message to them 3 when some people came and brought him a paralyzed man being carried by four men
They considered my second suggestion and revised "the word" to "his message". That is better English.
12 So the man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and went out before all of them.
Wl-2/7/07: "before all of them" is ambiguous (maybe only we linguists care; it gives us something to work on!). I don't know how many readers would stumble on the ambiguity, but if you think it should be tweaked, consider "went out in front of all of them" or "went out as they all watched him."
The ISV team chose my first suggestion, as you can see in this revision:
12So the man got up, immediately picked up his mat, and went out in front of all of them.
4 Then he asked them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on Sabbath days, to save a life or to kill it?”
wl-2/7/07: I don't think we can "kill life" in English. We can destroy life. We can kill a person.
4 Then he asked them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on Sabbath days, to save a life or to destroy it?”
5 Jesus looked around at them with anger,
wl-2/7/07: or, "angrily."
because he was deeply hurt because of their hardness of heart.
wl-2/7/07: "because … because" is awkward. Consider something like "because he was deeply hurt that their hearts were hard."
5 Jesus looked around at them in anger, deeply hurt because of their hard hearts.
One need not be a biblical scholar to spot wordings which can be improved. Probably the most important quality to have is a keen eye connected to a brain that can objectively evaluate whether a wording sounds like good quality English or not. We will never gain total consensus on what the best wording is for many Bible passages. A number of different wordings are often possible, even good quality ones.
As the header to this blog states, this blog exists for the purpose of encouraging us to think about how specific Bible versions can be improved in specific Bible passages. I encourage those of you who enjoy good quality English and can spot problems, whether minor ones having to do with punctuation or more major ones having to do with English syntax or lexicography, to report your suggestions to translation teams. Some teams provide an Internet form or email address where you can make suggestions for improvement. Check out the individual version sections in the margin of this blog for ways to report suggestions. If you cannot find a way to report a suggestion to a team, email me (my email address is found in my blog profile) and I can forward your comment to a translation team.
We who speak English are, as I often like to point out, a rich people for having so many English versions. They meet a variety of needs and reading tastes. But any Bible version can be improved. And improvements will help any Bible translation be more effective. And more effective Bibles are, well, you know the line by now, ... better Bibles!