Translation philosphy

I wanted to take a moment to address a concern of a fellow "Christian samurai" in regards to the modern translation philosophies of the Bible. I agree with "Deff Jeff" that the Bible should not be changed at all. That each word is the inspired word of God and thus has meaning. We should not be casual in our handling of the scriptures. It is important to remember however, that unless you are reading the scriptures in Hebrew and Greek - you are reading a manuscript other than the original, and thus has been changed in some degree.

The Legacy of the King James Version The King James Version (KJV) was the standard Bible used by the English-speaking world for almost four centuries. It was the one Bible that united the Church, strengthened believers, and brought untold millions of souls to Christ. Its literary beauty helped to shape the English language more than any other printed work before or since. Adults and children studied it and committed its verses to memory. It is still among the top-selling Bibles on current bestseller lists.

The translators of the KJV understood the value of the English translation work that had been done before their time, and they wisely referred to the earliest English Bible translations, dating back to William Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament, in addition to the manuscripts in their original languages.

- quoted from The Standard Bible society

When the King James Version (KJV) was commision it was told to pay particular attention to the original texts and to be a literal as possible. That is to essentially be a "word for word" translation. The result has been marvelous. The KJV is essentially the standard Bible for the English speaking world. It is important to note however that although God's Word never changes - man's does. Human communication, and English in particular (since this is my native tongue), is a dynamic form. Despite English being a 'standard' language for the world as we know it today it is not a stagnant form of communication. Just look at how the 'main' countries that use it differ... The U.K., Australia, and the U.S. all speak English however, the words and phrases are vastly different - and yet all three countries essentially originate from the time of the KJV's commision. The reason I use the English Standard Version (ESV) is that it too seeks to be as faithful to the original texts that the KJV sought to be, but using English in its modern form.

Translation Philosophy The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

In contrast to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a “thought-for-thought” rather than “word-for-word” translation philosophy, emphasizing “dynamic equivalence” rather than the “essentially literal” meaning of the original. A “thought-for-thought” translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.

Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and readability, between “formal equivalence” in expression and “functional equivalence” in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be “as literal as possible” while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence.

Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow, we have rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that show their correspondence. Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the original texts.

As an essentially literal translation, then, the ESV seeks to carry over every possible nuance of meaning in the original words of Scripture into our own language.

- quoted from The Standard Bible Society

The subject of Bible translations is indeed a touchy subject in the world of Christianity. I have seen Christians act out in very UN-Christian like ways in defense of their positions - on whatever side of the debate they are on. And the world has seen this. Not just from the few debates I have seen, by from Christians in general. And the enemy has siezed upon such divisions and twisted it to try and discredit our witness to the world. I encourage any and all who read this to research it. Do not take my word for it. I take my walk with the Lord very seriously and seek to do due diligence to my own reading. If a reader here uses the "The Message" to try and learn about God, and God is speaking to you then I am excited. For me this translation is not good for indepth study as it is to 'free' with the translating. If a reader here uses the NIV and God is using it in your life to help you get to know the Savior deeper than I rejoice. It too has become a little too 'loose' in its translation and my desire to know the "word for word" and original context. However, I know how mightly God used this translation in my life. The church I now go to also uses this version primarily. If a reader here uses the KJV and God is speaking to you and you are growing in your walk with Christ than nothing could be better. But until one can read the scriptures in their original Hebrew and Greek we are all using a translated text. We meed to each be seeking to know what God is saying to us through His Word. And not what do we think it means, but what is God saying in His Word. Too many cults have put their own meaning to God's word, and the result has been devistating to the body's witness to the world. The Bible we hold in our hands today is not just a copy of what men have written. We as Christians know that it was God who used men to copy His words. But it is more than that even. From a human perspective the Bible is the most accurately recorded and translated book in the history of the world. There are literally thousands of copies of the original scrolls. Where the Bible leaves literary works of the world behind is not just in the number of copies, but in the accuracy across those copies. And not just the copies found in one location. From the scrolls used to translate the KJV, to the Dead Sea Scrolls found around a century ago. The accuracy across these source materials is greater than 95%! No other literary work that the academic world holds as great works can match this. I want every one here to Love their Bibles. I want them to read it. I want them to memorize it. I want them to pray over it. Seek to know how it came to be. Was it copied at the local Kinko's or was it commisioned by King James. Well, I have rambled on long enough. Again, my stance on this is that the best translation of the Bible is the one that is used by its reader. The one that God is speaking to them through. The one that is transorming the reader's life. But at the same time - never be complacent. Always seek (especially with careful prayer) to know more. Verse for today: The Bible - read it. :)


ALP said...

Very nice post today...

Glad to see you around... Oh wait it has been me who is missing. ;-)


BigMama said...

Well, I have rambled on long enough. Again, my stance on this is that the best translation of the Bible is the one that is used by its reader.

Amen. Excellent post. (Although a lot to read when I haven't been by in a while! *blush*) ~A