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




  1. Thank you dear friend and brother! As you know, a discussion
    of "Bible versions" is an emotional issue with many people.
    May God help us to reason from evidence and to allow the
    facts to guide us along the pathway of truth.