Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Common Misconception of Bible Translation

     One  of  the  most  common  misconceptions  about  the  process  of  Bible
translation  is  the  opinion  that  the  only faithful method to translate the
Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts is  "word for word". People who
believe  this  fail  to  understand  that this is  not how languages function. Their
approach to translating the sacred writings is nonsensical and impractical. What
they demand is not achieved by any existing English translation of the word of
the living God. They require what God does not require, and as a result, they
make a law God has not made! (cf. James 4:12)

     The  best  attempt  at  "word for word"  translation (in somewhat readable
English)  is  likely the  American Standard Version published in 1901, and
even  it is not strictly "word for word" as a close examination of the text of the
ASV and its footnotes will show. No English translation including the KJV,
NKJV, NASB, RSV, ESV,HCSB, NRSV, and NIV is always strictly
"word for word;" neither can they be and retain a considerable degree of
readable English. I will try to illustrate this with a few examples from the
Hebrew and Greek texts.

     A "word for word" translation of Genesis 1:1, following the Hebrew word
order, reads like this, "In  beginning  he  created  God  the  heavens  and the
earth." Genesis 2:24, "For this he will leave man father of him  and mother of
him and he will unite to (in) wife of him and they will be as flesh one."
Genesis 6:14, "Make for you of ark of woods of cypress nests you make in the
ark and you cover her on inside and outside with the tar (resin)."

     Now a "word for word" translation  of  a  few  verses  in  the  Greek text,
following the Greek word order.  Matthew 1:23, "Behold (see) the virgin in
belly  will  have  and  will  give  birth  son  and  they  will  call  the  name
of him Emmanuel which is being translated with us the God." John 1:1,"In
beginning was (being) the word and the word was (being) with (toward) the
God, and God was (being) the word." Acts 2:47, "Praising the God and having
favor toward all of the people and the Lord was adding to the ones being saved
by day on (to) the same (group)."

     The examples from both the Hebrew and Greek texts demonstrate the
fact, that though many people believe "word for word" translation is the only
legitimate way to translate, it is often the case that one word in Hebrew and
Greek must be translated into English with a phrase. Other adjustments must
also be made such as a change of word order so that we may have God's
word in understandable English.

Copyright 2014
                                                                                                      R. Daly



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Perfect Translation of the English Bible

     Many people are so wedded to the awkward and archaic language of the King
James Version of the Bible, that any deviation from it is considered treason. The King
James Version is "good," but it is not perfect. There are words in the KJV that have
changed their meaning since it was published  more  than  400 years ago. There  are
words  and  phrases  that  are  not  correctly translated in the KJV, and there is a
definite Calvinistic influence in certain passages. Nevertheless, many people believe
the KJV is a perfect translation. The fact is, there is no perfect translation of the
scriptures. Translators are not supernaturally guided by the Holy Spirit in their work.
They do their work based on their academic training and theological presuppositions.
To some extent, all translations reflect the training and theology of the translators. This
is unavoidable because all translation involves interpretation. Translators must determine
what words mean in order to choose the most accurate words or phrases in the receptor
language to represent the words or phrases in the source language.  

     All translations of the Bible have problems. Some, like the KJV are influenced by
Calvinism. (Acts 2:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 13:48). Others, like the New King James Version
are monuments to tradition. The use of such words as "baptize," "church," "saint," and
"bishop" reflect loyalty to tradition rather than accuracy.  The English Standard Version
contains several passages that display loyalty  to  tradition  instead  of  linguistic
accuracy.  "Propitiation" (1 John 2:2), "hell"  (Matthew 16:18), "brothers" (Romans 1:13).
The New American Standard Bible, though generally a  modified  literal  version,  reflects
a  premillennial   bias   in   several  passages.  "As"  (Isaiah 2:2;  Micah 4:1),  "will  reign"
(Revelation 5:10), and "they came to life" (Revelation 20:4). The 1984 edition of The New
International Version, and to a lesser extent the 2011 edition, suffers   from  the  tendency
to  leave  important  "connectives"  and  "inferential  particles" untranslated because of its
emphasis on readability and English style. (cf. John chapters 6-8)

     Many  instances  of  translation  shortcomings  can  be  multiplied  from all
translations, including  the  American  Standard  Version,  Revised  Standard  Version,
New Revised Standard Version, etc. But  we  must ask, "Does  the  fact  that  a
translation  has  'errors' and  other weaknesses disqualify the whole?" If so, no 
translation is worthy of use!

     A person can learn God's plan of salvation from the KJV, NKJV, ASV, RSV,
NASB, NIV (1984 and 2011 editions), NRSV and the ESV if he diligently studies
them. There is no "perfect" translation of the scriptures. Jesus and the apostles
quoted the Septuagint, which is a translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures
even though it likewise is imperfect.

Copyright 2014
                                                                                                                       R Daly