H. D. Williams Book on Bible Translating

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Some time ago I wrote a review on Amazon of Dr. H. D. Williams’ book, Word-for-Word Translating of the Received Texts. (You can find the book on Amazon by searching the title, not the author.) Now Dr. Williams has responded on the Bible for Today and Dean Burgon Society websites. Read it all at at: www.biblefortoday.org/Articles/response.htm

    I’m surprised. I didn’t expect that Dr. Williams would think I’m worth the effort. From his response to my little review I know that he thinks I’m a poor linguist if I am one at all, I’m under-educated, I waste my time on Internet blogs, etc. (I intend to answer no personal attacks, nor do I intend to give my resume here. I’m not applying for a job.) Yet he spends 1177 words of effort answering my 592 words! Folks, that’s almost twice the words I used—word for word! So judging by Dr. Williams’ response, my little review hit an exposed nerve, or maybe several of them.

    At any rate, a Greek scholar friend of mine tells me I really should answer this by Dr. Williams, so at his urging I will do so here on the BB. I’ll first give Williams' response to my Amazon review as a quote, then I’ll give my comments.
     
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    My answer: I’m sorry Dr. Williams was disheartened. My goal in writing this review was to show him the errors in his book and thus try to urge him into a rewrite. However, for the record I do not and have never had Dr. Williams e-mail address or other contact information. In fact, I once searched the Internet trying to contact Dr. Williams and could not make the connection. He has never written me, though he has written others about me.

    As to what scriptural principles I violated by writing a review of Dr. Williams’ book, I really don’t know what he means. I’m not attacking him personally, whatever he may think. It’s just a book review! (For the record, I never claimed and do not claim to be a “superior” linguist—just a Bible translator and linguist. These are simple factual statements, as if a man were to say, “I’m a plumber.” They don’t say how good or bad I am at my job.)

    Oh, and by the way, I am not presently writing a book on translating, though my son and I are discussing it and have started research. But if I were it wouldn’t matter. No matter how you cut it, Williams’ book has many, many errors. Yet instead of investigating what I say, he charges me with libel, though in my review I dealt only and exclusively with these errors. Are we to conclude that Dr. Williams considers his book to be inerrant?
     
  3. John of Japan

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    My answer:
    I humbly admit that all of these men have more degrees behind their name than I do. (Though I do say I prefer my regionally accredited MA over a Ph. D. from a correspondence school.) And Dr. Williams’ point is what? Either my criticisms of his book are correct or they are not. Now if Dr. Williams’ book does have these errors in it, than all of these men with all of their degrees have done a grave disservice to Dr. Williams by praising his book and patting him on the back. Furthermore, they have set back the cause of fundamental missionary Bible translating by recommending this error-filled book by Williams. And I’d like to note that the man berating this missionary linguist—H. D. Williams—is the “missionary representative” of the Dean Burgon Society!

    A word about this book as a Ph. D. thesis. First of all, check out his school. Louisiana Baptist U. is a correspondence school, apparently has no residency requirement and has no biblical language requirement. Furthermore, Williams’ thesis includes such very questionable sources as Gail Riplinger, but the whole bibliography includes only one source from a theological journal. And amazingly there are only 16 sources on translation in the bibliography of this 239 page book on translation. Folks, a 15 page paper for an accredited M. A. would be required to have better sources than this! If I were Dr. Williams I would wonder if I got my money's worth.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    My response—I’ll modestly refrain here from discussing what books I’ve written in English and Japanese. It’s just not germane! But I do really wonder why Dr. Williams suddenly began referring to himself in the third person while he tells his qualifications as an author.

    Now Dr. Williams says that I don’t appreciate that the requirement for translating God’s Word must come from God. Dr. Phil Stringer (who wrote a chapter of this book, and has been gracious in his contacts with me) has written a useful document, “The Word of God for All Nations,” listing the translations in many countries which were made from the Received Text. Dr. Springer got his information on Japan from my little book on the history of Bible translation in Japan, the file of which I sent to him. (Aw, shucks I let it slip that I have a book out in English.)

    Anyway, Dr. Springer than quotes me, thus disproving Dr. Williams view that I don’t know God’s qualifications for a translator: “Translating the Word of God from a pure heart of faith is a massive job, and not one for the quitter. Only those who have been gifted by God with ability in languages and called of God to this task should attempt it, and it should only be done for the glory of God and to uplift Jesus Christ.” Maybe Dr. Williams has not read his friend’s document.
     
  5. John of Japan

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    My response: I don’t know what ad hominem attacks Dr. Williams is referring to. Please read my review at Amazon, someone, and tell me how I insulted him personally rather than dealing directly with what he wrote. And I’m not bitter. I don’t even know the guy! I strictly dealt with the mistakes in the book in my Amazon review, not with Dr. Williams’ character.


     
  6. John of Japan

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    My reply: I must have really stung Dr. Williams here, since his reaction is so strong. I’ve said nothing about my understanding of any of these things, just said that he doesn’t understand them. But think about what he is saying. He is admitting to using a simple dictionary definition of semantics in his book. However, we are talking about linguistic and translational issues. Why isn’t he using a strict linguistic definition?

    The truth is, there are two books in Dr. Williams’ bibliography that would have helped him in this area.

    According to Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, by David Alan Black (the only book on linguistics in the bibliography): “The branch of linguistics concerned with meaning is called semantics” (p. 120). And the title of chapter five in Black’s book is “Semantics: Determining Meaning.” So there is no excuse for Dr. Williams to say such things in his book as, “Semantics and interpretation added to the source-language should be no consideration” (p. 236). This is Rule #48 of Dr. Williams list of 77 rules for translators!

    Dr. Williams is virtually admitting that he knows little about linguistics or translating, since he gives a non-linguistic, common use dictionary definition of the word and then defends his warnings against a translator using semantics.

    Again, Biblical Bible Translating by Charles Turner (a genuine fundamentalist Bible translator and linguist), also listed in Dr. Williams’ bibliography, also has a chapter on semantics entitled, “Chapter 14, Semantics: Verbal Meanings.” But Dr. Williams says in his book that semantics should be no consideration! We are left to wonder if Dr. Williams completely read the books on translation he has in his bibliography.
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Me again: Dr. Williams does like hyperbole!
     
  8. John of Japan

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    My response: Dr. Williams considers a simple statement of fact as slander and libel. What I referred to here was in Chapter Ten where he gives examples of how to translate. He got his information from Dr. W. A. Waite in Examples 1 and 4, Dr. Humberto Gomez in Example 5, and Missionary Pete Heisy in Example 7. So out of 7 examples, he uses the opinion of others in four of them. So, Dr. Williams labels his opinion of what I might be implying as “serious, libelous and false” allegations. I’m wondering. Is he going to sue me for his opinion of what my opinion is? :smilewinkgrin:
     
  9. John of Japan

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    My reponse: In his book, in a footnote on page 69, Williams writes, “Greek gegraptai is the perfect tense indication something was present in the past, is still present, and will be present in the future.” Now let’s see what Dana and Mantey, who he refers to, writes: “The perfect is the tense of complete action. Its basal significance is the progress of an act or state to a point of culmination and the existence of its finished results” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 200). So according to Dr. Williams the Greek perfect indicates the presence of something, but according to Dana and Mantey the perfect shows an act and its results. Can Dr. Williams understand the difference between existence and action? Evidently not.

    I also took a look at Dr. Waite’s book referred to by Dr. Williams. (Actually, the discussion of the perfect is on p. 9.) It is a discussion of gegraptai in Matt. 5:17-18, but Dr. Waite says nothing like what Dr. Williams thinks he said: “the perfect tense indicates that an action has begun in the past and the results of that act continue right on down to the very present.” There you have it: action and its result (the proper view of the Greek perfect) versus existence (Dr. Williams’ view). Perhaps Dr. Williams should have asked Dr. Waite for a private session on the meaning of the perfect tense!
     
  10. John of Japan

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    My answer: If anyone thinks I made up the term “reader response,” just Google it! I got 540,000 hits on the term in quotes! It is extremely important in Nida’s theory (as it progressed from his first book on it). Almost every issue of “The Bible Translator,” a journal founded by Nida I believe, has something on it. I’ll not take time here to discuss the difference between the terms “receptor” and “reader response,” though there is a difference.

    However, Dr. Williams wants to avoid discussing Nida here. He would rather instead attack my method of translating—though he gives no evidence that he can read Japanese, though I have nowhere put my complete method in print, though he can’t read my mind, though he hasn’t sat in on my translation committee. It appears that any Bible translator who criticizes Dr. Williams’ book must ergo be using the wrong method of translating according to him. (For the record, I use a formal equivalence method in Nida’s terminology, or a word-for-word method in Dr. Williams’ terminology—just not Williams’ precise method.)
     
  11. John of Japan

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    I respond: According to Dr. Williams, dynamic equivalence is worth mentioning and opposing, but the word-for-word method of optimal equivalence is a “method out of the well of darkness?” What a strange thing to say.
     
  12. John of Japan

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    My response: Unfortunately for Dr. Williams, translation studies scholars don’t agree with him. According to Edwin Gentzler, “Nida’s theory was based on his experience translating the Bible; his early theoretical assumptions were visible in articles written in the fifties and in his book Message Mission (1960)” (Contemporary Translation Theories, p. 44-45).

    Again, in Philip Stine’s evaluation of Nida’s work, he says, “For his part, Nida continued to develop a theory of communication that would support solid translation practice. A major effort in this direction was a 1959 article, ‘Principles of Translation as Exemplified by Bible Translating’” (Let the Words Be Written, p. 37).

    I have on order from Amazon Nida’s own book about his work, Fascinated by Language. It should get here later this week, at which time I should be able to give a quote from Nida himself proving that no, his 1947 book was not the “nidus of Nida’s DE (FunE) translating theory” as Dr. Williams puts it.
     
  13. John of Japan

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    My reply: I suggest once again that Dr. Williams needs to rewrite his book if he really thinks he was being an encouragement rather than a teacher. After the last chapter he has “77 Criteria for Translating,” in which the words “under no circumstances” appear over and over again. A criterion is “A standard, rule, or test on which a judgment or decision can be based” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, accessed through Microsoft Bookshelf 98). Sounds to me like Dr. Williams wants to run things rather than encourage missionaries.

    And once again, Dr. Williams speculates about my method of translating without ever having read a word of my work, without sitting in on my committee, without asking me how I translate.
     
  14. John of Japan

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    My response: My opinion of myself is that I am a missionary linguist and Bible translator. That is a simple statement of fact, and that is all I said about myself in my Amazon review. And for that, Dr. Williams decides that the translation I am working on (with two other missionary linguists, a Japanese linguist as my partner, my linguist son who grew up in Japan and maybe four Japanese laymen—the numbers vary) should be boycotted.

    Here is what is very sad about that. Dr. Williams is the “missionary representative” of the Dean Burgon Society. He is also part of the “leadership team” of the William Carey Bible Society, a new organization which aims to help missionary translators of the Received Text. I’m here to tell you that there are no other options for a TR loving missionary or national pastor in Japan than the NT translation I am working on—none! So instead of wondering if maybe I’m right in my criticisms, Dr. Williams would rather let his uninformed views of what I am doing keep good missionaries and national pastors and believers in Japan from having a translation of the Word of God they can rejoice in.
     
    #14 John of Japan, Jun 22, 2009
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  15. jonathan.borland

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    It doesn't sound to me as though Word for Word Translating should have been awarded a Ph.D.
     
  16. annsni

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    John - Thank you for your posts - it's very enlightening to see what happens when one hits a nerve, isn't it? I know that you are doing your work for God's approval and not man's but it is still bothersome when someone attacks you so. I'll pray for you and your great work in Japan and for God's protection on that work and for you and your team.
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I suspect that deep down inside Dr. Williams knows this, since he had to work so hard earlier in life for his medical degree.
     
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Thanks much for the encouragement and for the prayers, Ann. Fortunately, the other missionaries here in Japan know me and my abilities and my work. And of course, God knows and He's the One who called me, so I work for Him!
     

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