Alpine Summit

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lost in Translation

Dory at Wittenberg Gate, the creator of the Christian Carnival, talks about a paper written by Leland Ryken; a professor of english at the University of Oregon. The paper is about choosing a Bible specifically, which translation is best to use.

His conclusion is that it's best to use more literal translations, also known as "word-for-word," rather than dynamic equivalence or "thought-for-thought" translations. His point was that the literal translations aren't perfect reproductions, but the mistakes are more a language barrier than anything else. At the same time, the dynamic equivalent versions express an opinion of how the words are supposed to be read, and hence, the opinions of the committees who interpreted the book are within their version of the Bible.

He cites several examples of how this applies and many of them are indeed similar in wording, but not the same in meaning. He cites several Bible versions and their exerpts to back up his claims. I have to say he makes a really convincing argument as to why more literal translations, such as the King James Version, should be preferred over more paraphrased versions such as The Message or The Living Bible.

My own personal preference is the King James Version of the Bible. It's written in Middle English, but is a very literal translation (NKJV uses modern equivalent words, but all I have KJV). I do, as Ryken mentions, have trouble from time to time with the wording in the KJV. During those instances, I read different versions, NIV (New International Version), DRB (Douay Rheims Bible), and ESV (English Standard Version) being my preferred, to see what the thought behind it was (as a matter of fact, Ryken lists the ESV as a literal translation). I do recognize that translations are going to be different when viewed through the lens of an interpreter, but they're also good to jumpstart thinking on a particular passage.

Sometimes I need help with literal translations and reading more interpretive translations is good for that. So, while I prefer the literal (KJV), I don't just sit unsatisfied in ignorance after reading something, I see what others think about that passage and then decide for myself what I think is really being said. The dynamic-equivalence Bibles are perfect for that.