A Controversial Quote

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Rippon, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. Rippon

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    I was paging through a book I do not own in a Christian bookstore yesterday. The book title is :God,Language, And Scripture : Reading The Bible In The Light Of General Linguistics (Vol. 4). It was written by Moises Silva and published in 1990.

    Here's the quote:

    "Literal translations are easier to produce, and the approach can degenerate into an excuse for not doing the hard exegical and literary work of conveying faithfully the meaning of the ancient text to the modern reader."(p.149)
     
  2. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    Totally an opinion.

    I think the real challenge would be to provide a literal translation that was still readable. To me that would be a lot easier than just guessing what the manuscripts would say if they were being written today.
     
  3. Rippon

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    Totally an opinion.
     
  4. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    Apologies Rip, I got caught in the moment and chose hyperbolising as a debate tool on my last point.

    However, I do think it wrong of the good doctor to accuse those who disagree with him of laziness.

    And I was getting ready to go for a walk and my wife was rushing me so I chose "literal" instead of "formally equivalent" :) .
     
  5. Rippon

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    I have to pay better attention to my own threads.( No reference to my clothes)

    Dr. Silva finds that one who attempts to translate in a more formally-equivalent way may be taking an easier route than those who do it in a more funtionally-equivalent manner.I think he may be on to something.It does take more effort to follow the latter style.John of Japan may have some disagreement with me on this. But has he tried translating with a more dynamic approach?
     
  6. Rippon

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    Miscellaneous Matter

    I was at the bookstore the other Saturday and came across the following book.There it was,Morning and Evening, by Charles H.Spurgeon. Of course,I have the older version of this classic. But this one was different. It was based on the NIV. In the preface it said that there was a need "to make the original [ text ] more accessible to a contemporary audience."

    It went on to say that since Romeo and Juliet,Pilgrim's Progress, and Puritan Paperbacks are using updated language, why not M&E?

    _______________________________________________________________

    I read that Young's Literal Translation has been updated for the 21st century. No one should recoil in horror though. It should be almost as awkward to read as before,with some minor improvements.
     
    #6 Rippon, Jul 30, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2008
  7. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    My whole problem with this, though wrongly hyperbolised, is in my first post. When we try to interpret what they mean instead of what they say we are opening the translation up to our biases and opinions. I realise to some extent that any translation can do that, but think dynamism would be even more prone to it.

    But, I am not a translator so am open to learn on this one.
     
  8. Deacon

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    Let's face it, with the exception of JoJ, none of us are really translators.
    All of us should be open to learning.

    I've heard it said that a translation is exegesis without the explanations.

    A word-for-word translation can be terribly misleading if it doesn't communicate the meaning of the author.
    For example, idioms don't always translate well.

    We are blessed in our English language tradition because the Tyndale Bible (and the KJV in turn) provided a literal translation at a time when the English language was still in a developmental stage.
    This helped us to incorporate many of the literal idioms into our language tradition.

    Other languages don't have this advantage and translation becomes less literal

    Rob
     
  9. Rippon

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    All translation involves interpretation (except for things like Young's) to some degree. Translation=Interpretation,basically.It's hard to get around that.Whether one is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, or a true blue theological conservative.

    What used to be called "dynamic" is not hyper-interpretive. The Message is a different kind of animal. Don't mix that one in there with the more functionally-equivalent ones. You haven't even brought up that translation, I just wanted to clarify.An F-E can be more accurate than a more formally-equivalent version.
     
  10. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    Seems to me that the problem would come in cultured outside of the west. Our thinking and philosophy was strongly influenced by Hebraic/Greco/Roman thought so it seems to me that formal equivalence would be the key to stay as close as we can to the words themselves, for words do have meaning.

    I don't know what to think about eastern cultures who languages would not have that same thought base as our western languages.

    I don't know very much about functional equivalence except the little I have read in this arena so need to educate myself before commenting much on it.
     
  11. Rippon

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  12. Rippon

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    I agree Rip. Sense-for-sense is the way to go. That's the way Purvey went about doing the second Wycliffe Bible. That's the way Luther did his version (which he constantly updated in his life).

    Sense-for-sense renderings is a better way of expressing it rather than the term thought-for-thought. And S-F-S doesn't mean loose translation. It is more functional though than say the NKJ and NASBU.

    Formal equivalency is not the only way to translate faithfully.
     
  13. Forever settled in heaven

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    And, it might be equally well argued, it should be verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph, pericope by pericope, chapter by chapter, book by book, testament by testament, and then in light of the whole canon as one discourse.

    Hmm ... would that explain the interesting way in which the NT authors and scriptures quote the OT?
     
  14. John of Japan

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    I've not read Silva's book, but I resent Silva's statement as it stands. I don't care how many degrees he has, he is wrong.

    First of all, I resent the idea that a literal translation does not translate meaning. All translators, secular and Biblical, do their best to translate meaning. Why in the world would I not want to convey "faithfully the meaning of the ancient text to the modern reader"? The difference is that the literal translator believes that the form of the source text has meaning just as much as the semantic content does. So the literal translator is careful to translate the form (thus Nida's term, formal equivalence) as well as the semantic content (the individual meaning of the words).

    Secondly, the term "degenerate" is value laden and thus insulting. It conveys Silva's belief that a literal translation is thus somehow automatically inferior to a dynamic or "sense for sense" translation. Skopos theory scholars would automatically disagree, saying that there are areas where the skopos (goal, contract) of the translation requires literal rendering.

    Note that Silva's thinking is out of date in the world of translation studies. Secular scholars in skopos theory and polysystem theory basically ignore him. In the 23 page bibliography of The Translation Studies Reader (2nd ed., 502 pages) edited by Lawrence Venuti, Silva is not even mentioned, nor is he mentioned in the index.
     
  15. preachinjesus

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    Several of points here:

    1. I disagree that a literal translation is possible. Take about a week of Hebrew (enough to get past the alphabet) and it becomes obvious that Hebrew word order and formation is not able to be carried across into the English language. Add Greek, yeah it is just not possible. He knows this. So I think he reduced his statement and meant formal equivalence.

    2. It is controversial, but no more controversial than when Andy Stanley said that expository preaching is just plain lazy. Basically what is behind both statements is that it is more of a default to just engage the text technically and produce a simple, and routine reply.

    3. I don't think formally equivalent translations are examples of laziness. (I know more than a few fellows who sat on their translation committees and these guys are prone to intellectual apathy.) I think that too many Christians champion "literalism" because of a theological proclovity that isn't necessary (or good hermeneutics at places.) I will say that a "formally equivalent" translation is a less difficult task than one which seeks to illumine the true meaning of the text in a contemporary way. Particularly with English it is very difficult to do this consistently well. How do you render an aorist passive participle in only a few words. Of course this is why I love the NET Bible.

    Anyhoo, I guess he's being dramatic...which he doesn't have to be. I dunno, maybe we really have traded honest engagement for a vapid source of exclamation...
     
  16. John of Japan

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    I believe you are misunderstanding the meaning of the term "literal translation." To do a literal translation does not mean that the translator has to stick to the word order of the source text. That would be considered an interlinear translation.

    Here is a definition from a secular scholar: "Literal translation is a translation strategy or technique involving a choice of TL equivalents that stay close to the form of the original while ensuring grammaticality in the TL" (Key Terms in Translation Studies, by Giuseppe Palumbo, p. 70). So in Japanese, where the main verb comes last in the sentence (except for certain particles), I don't stick to the Greek word order in my literal translation, but aim for good Japanese grammar--with the main verb always last.

    FYI, the abbreviation TL stands for "target language," the normal term for non-dynamic equivalent translators in the secular world. Unfortunately, many Biblical translation scholars have parroted Nida's term "receptor language" without realized that this term stems from Nida's belief in a code theory of communication.
     
  17. Harold Garvey

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    Regardless of the technique or the rule according to the method of madness, idioms in our English are neither literal, nor formally equivalent in being exact renderings. Idioms are necessary to be given to incite the hearer to reason out an imparticular situation. To quote something a friend recently said, "Too often a stick in the mud is where a hatchet is buried that has been watered with bitterness". Think about all the truths contained in that idiom and without having it spelled out. Each truth must concur with other truths more easily reckoned and without much dissimulation. That is probably why the fellow made his remark about laziness. God wants us to think, but always according to the concurance with emphatic truth
     
  18. Forever settled in heaven

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    that's just humanistic reasoning.

    idioms, however "necessary," do violence to Rev. 22:

    who authorized the adding, deletion, or changing of the original Words?

    :tongue3:
     
  19. preachinjesus

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    I don't think I am, though my first, facetious comment was qualified. How many of our people in the pew have been taught that we need a "word-for-word" translation? It isn't possible. And beyond that, to my second point about the aorist passive participle, it isn't realistic to communicate the concepts of these kind of inflected usages in the original languages.

    The difficulty of a literal translation, whether we choose to consider this term academically or practically, is that it isn't truly possible in moving the language from an inflected to non-inflected, then coupling it with the idiosyncracies of the language of the era of the authorship...we clearly have more than an uphill battle. Frankly, in considering both testaments in various translation efforts I don't see any consistency in acheiving a "literal" translation in their efforts. Often the ones that champion these efforts end up being more dynamic at points than formal. Just an observation. :)
     
  20. Harold Garvey

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    Ok, so now you accuse Jesus of doing "violence" to His own words when he used Hebraic idioms.

    Beam in eye, foot in mouth, deep enough to chew toenails with molars you are.



    If your ideal were to be absolute, everytime you DON'T speak the exact Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic you would invite the curse.

    The idiom is to convey application to the meaning as to cover every aspect and principle of life. That is not in violation of the curse of adding to, or taking away from.:sleeping_2:
     

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