Is Dynamic Equivalence a Bad Thing?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Bro Tony, Jun 9, 2006.

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  1. Bro Tony

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    It has been shown that even in the KJV, at times dynamic equivalence is used---in the example of the phrase "God forbid". In the matter of translations is dynamic equivalence a bad thing? To some it seems like their reaction to it, is that it is a tool of the devil. There are clearly some translations that are more word for word (KJV, NKJV) and there are those who are more of a dynamic equivalence (NIV). Is this a bad thing when we are trying to understand what has been given to us in another language? Or is there a legitimate place for dynamic equivalent versions of the Bible?

    What do you all think?

    Bro Tony
     
  2. Ed Edwards

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    The double standard is this:

    Dynamic Equivalence is taboo in Modern Versions (MVs);
    Dynamic Equivalence is Holy Spirit Filled wisdom in the KJV.
     
  3. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    I personally wish the KJV translators had not used it anywhere.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    No Kjv Dynamic Equivalence

    Actually, dynamic equivalence did not exist when the KJV was translated,
    since it was invented by Eugene Nida in the first half of the 20th century as he worked in a tribal language translation effort. It is a method of translation to be used in the entire translation, not an occasional technique to be used when you get stuck with an idiom. So there are no dynamic equivalent renderings in the KJV. There is an occasional rendering such as mentioned, the Greek me genoito ("may it not become") into "God forbid," in which the KJV translators elected to swap the English idiom for the Greek idiom, but this is not dynamic equivalence.

    Here is what Nida said about his method: "Three types of formal features...are principally involved in dynamic equivalences: (I) the total number of units in any expression (i. e. the length of the sentences); (2) the arrangement of the parts, in terms of: (a) depth (the number of layers of immediate constituents), (b) direction of attribution (preposed elements generally involve more communication load than postposed ones), and (c) the potential terminal character of the sequence (i. e. whether the expression can be stopped, and at the same time make sense , or whether something else is needed to complete it); and (3) the ways in which the arrangements are signaled, whether by (a) order of words, (b) affixes of case and concord, and/or (c) intonational contours, most of which are unmarked in the average orthography." (From Toward a Science of Translating, by Eugene Nida, 1964, p. 225.)

    Now, does that sound like what the KJV did with "God forbid"? No, I didn't think so. Gotta go take my furo--translated literally bath, but the Japanese furo is a wonderful cultural entity not translatable into English. One can only exchange idioms. :smilewinkgrin: :type:
     
  5. robycop3

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    There are some Greek and Hebrew phrases in Scripture which simply cannot be translated exactly into English, and the translator can only make an "educated guess" based upon the context and his/her overview of Scripture as a whole. And there are others with several meanings which could all be valid for a given use, in which the translator takes the liberty to use the meaning which he believes best fits the passage. For example, the Hebrew word rendered 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14 is 'almah', which literally means "a young, virtuous Jewish woman". She could be a newlywed, or otherwise not a virgin. But in Matthew 1:23, where Isaiah 7:14 is quoted, the Greek word 'parthenos' is used, a word which means 'virgin', male or female. Also, Mary is calles a parthenos in other passages, & says herself, to Gabriel, that she has never slept with a man. Thus, most translators say 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14, even though Hebrew has a more exact word for "virgin"; that word is 'bethulah'. I personally believe such deviation from the exact literal translation is necessary to convey the true meanings of many Scriptures, given the differences in languages.
     
  6. Ransom

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    So-called "Dynamic equivalence" has a very long history in Bible translation. The earliest translations of Scripture into Old English, such as that of AElfric, make use of contemporary equivalents and interpretive comments. AElfric wanted his readers, primarily priests of course, to understand the Scriptures in an age when even the clergy were largely illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible. And so he eschewed ancient place names, since they meant little to people who had never been 20 miles from their own home. And he made sure that they understood that Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, for example, was the "ealdan wesan" (the old way), because he didn't want them to get the mistaken impression that God approved of human sacrifice as a Christian practice.

    Later, of course, we see such dynamic equivalents as "Easter" for Passover (since it gave readers a point of reference that they had personal experience of); British weights and monetary units substituted for Hebrew and Greco-Roman ones; English turns of phrase such as "God save the king" or "God forbid"; Adam wearing "breeches" since medieval Brits knew about short pants even if they'd never seen a loincloth.
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Nope. Uh, uh. No way. Wrong. :rolleyes: :p

    This is like saying that German rationalism in the 19th century was influenced by postmodernism. Postmodernism just didn't exist back then, just as dynamic equivalence didn't exist in 1611. To say it did is confusing paraphrase with DE. Paraphrase and DE are definitely not the same, though DE sometimes produces renderings that are periphrastic.

    DE is a translation method I disagree strongly with, but it is a genuine translation method. To say it existed before the 1940's when Nida was doing his tribal translation work is not only inaccurate, it is disrespecting Nida and his work.
     
  8. Ransom

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    I'm talking about DE not in the technical sense, but as the term is commonly used on this forum: a looser method of translation that deviates from strict literalism in favour of increased readability or understanding.

    Of course, if your only beef is that I'm using terminology that didn't exist before the 20th century even though the concept underlying it did, well, that argument is just silly.
     
  9. John of Japan

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    Of course I'm not talking about the terminology. Where did you get that? I'm talking about methodology. You have read my posts on this thread, haven't you???

    As for how the term DE is used in this forum, simply because others use it inaccurately doesn't mean that they should, and it doesn't mean that I will. Frankly, I think it is sloppy thinking to use the term DE to mean "a looser method of translation that deviates from strict literalism in favour of increased readability or understanding." :rolleyes:

    But just to be sure, let's ask the author of the OP. Bro Tony, what do you mean when you say "dynamic equivalence?"
     
  10. Alcott

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    Bunk. That's equivalence; whether it is "dynamic" is a point of view.
     
  11. John of Japan

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    Huh? I really don't know what you are saying here. Are you saying it is bunk that I said that DE did not exist in 1611? Or did you misread what I said and think I was saying that "God forbid" was somehow not an equivalent of me genoito? Please be more plain if you want to interact.

    Of course it is equivalence. I didn't say it wasn't. The question is what kind of equivalence. Is it dynamic? I say no. Is it complete equivalence (as per Dr. James Price, Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, 1987)? Is it optimal equivalence, as per the CSB? What do you think it is?

    "God forbid" in the KJV replaced the Greek idiom with an equivalent idiom in the English. This is standard practice for professional translators/interpreters in many different fields nowadays. It is not dynamic equivalence. The KJV translators looked at me genoito and thought, "Our typical English reader will not understand this idiom if we translate slavishly literally" ("formal equivalence"). Let's replace it with an English idiom with the same meaning. Hmm. 'God forbid' fits the bill."

    Dynamic equivalence goes further than this. The goal of a dynamic equivalent translation is not primarily to reproduce the meaning of the original in the receptor language, but to reproduce the response. Don't take my word for it. Here is what Nida says: "In contrast with formal-equivalence translations others are oriented toward dynamic equivalence. In such a translation the focus of attention is directed, not so much toward the source message, as toward the receptor response" (Toward a Science of Translating, p. 166). Now I say that is dead wrong. It is God's Word. We should be using a Bible that reproduces the meaning of God's original. If we try to get the same response the original got, we stray into opinion rather than truth. How am I to know what response a 1st century rabbi had to the book of Hebrews? To try to reproduce that in 21st century Japanese, for example, is impossible.
     
    #11 John of Japan, Jun 11, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2006
  12. Bro Tony

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    Well to answer this question, I guess either right or wrong I was using dynamic equilvalence on both a large scale---where rather than a word for word translation a whole passage and maybe book is translated to modern meaning.... and also on the small scale where the translator instead of translating a word or phrase, replaced it with a common meaning of the day for the translator. Again, whether this is the right or wrong understanding of dynamic equivalence, it seems that some translation to the former while more literal word for word translations do the latter. By the way in both cases I am not saying they changed the meaning just that they did not do a literal word for word translation in all cases.

    With this understand is this a bad thing?

    We had a missionary who was working with a native tribe that did not have money at all, they knew nothing of a monetary system. When they translated the verse on "you cannot serve God and mammon" it read someting like this "you cannot stand with your feet in two different canoes"

    Bro Tony
     
  13. John of Japan

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    It is not widely understood that Nida originally developed his dynamic equivalence theory doing just such a tribal translation as you have described. In such cases you simply have to translate as you have described. I have a book by an IFB translator, Biblical Bible Translating, by Charles Turner, which espouses a similar method because Turner also got his start working with tribal languages.

    However, when you bring this method into a first world language such as English or Japanese, it ends up being too interpretative. I personally consider that it looks down on the reader, assuming the reader is unable to interpret the Scripture for himself.

    In my own case, I was once interpreting for a seminary professor who, being a cross-cultural beginner, used an illustration about a spittoon. Well the Japanese, being more intelligent than many Americans, simply do not chew tobacco. I had no idea how to interpret spittoon, but they told me later I said, "a utensil to throw up into." :laugh: :laugh:

    Having said that, the Japanese language has a very large vocabulary. There is rarely a need for a periphrastic type rendering (what you are calling DE). They are smart enough to interpret the Bible on their own. Why interpret it for them if you can help it? Why not translate literally?

    If I were hired by an American company to interpret for a merger with a Japanese company, I would not think of translating with the DE method. It just would not be right to translate other than literally, and I might even get fired if I did so. So why do folk think it necessary to do so with God's Holy Word? It seems to me that the translators of the world are wiser than many Christians in this matter.

    It's bedtime here in Japan. Oyasumi! (Good night.):sleeping_2:
     
  14. Rippon

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    Dynamic equivalence is not a bad thing . But that term was replaced about 20 years ago . Functional equivalence is the more common term used these days . It's a kind of translation which tries to render the closest natural equivalent , and the reader's response is given priority .

    In the dictionary it says : " A literal translation is one in which you translate each word separately , rather than expressing the meaning in a more natural way ." If accuracy is a key element of translation , the word-to-word method is lacking in giving an exact meaning to the reader . A reader's understanding has to be given priority . A so-called literal way of translation falls short of that goal .

    Reference was made to the many times the KJV ( and even the modern REB fails here as well ) used the phrase " God forbid " . Personally I think that terminology is blasphemeous , but I know that wasn't the intent of the translators . The phrase is indeed free . It qualifies as dynamic equivalency though that term did not exist then . The KJV , NKJ , ESV and NASU all use " dynamic equivalence at times " aside from the "God forbid "issue .
     
  15. Askjo

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    Davis Cloud authored, "Dynamic Equivalency Death Knell of Pure Scripture." Read it! It will awake you.
     
  16. Phillip

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    DE

    I have to agree with both Ed and Robycop.

    I think there are often times in any translation that require a certain amount of dynamic equivalency in order to keep the message "intact" so that the readers understands the "intent" of the author.

    An example of low dynamic equivalency would, of course, be the NASB. It is actually quite difficult to read and sometimes even harder than the KJV. I do use it in my studies quite a bit because of its method of translation, but for easy reading of the Bible, it is not my favorite. I would have to say the HCJB or ESV take that place. I think the NIV goes too far with DE.

    It can certainly be abused--just look at "The Message" for an example of poor DE translation.
     
  17. Trotter

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    ALL translations use DE to some extent. Greek sentence structure is totally messed up when compared to Englsih, so a tuely literal translation would be unreadable.

    Oh, and ALL includes the KJV (pick any edition/revision). Changing "May it never be" to "God forbid" involved taken the gist of the expression and saying it in comtemporary (400 years ago) language is not literal. But that ain't the only place(s). The OT uses it more than the NT.
     
  18. Rippon

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    So , it has been established that all versions ( not counting the interlins) use DE ( or FE ) at times . It is a matter of degree . The difference between the ESV and TNIV on this is minimal for instance . The Message and Living Bible ( not referencing 1 and 2 ) are way out there on the other side of the ledger . The TNIV/NIV keeps getting misjudged in this . It is really more formally equivalent ( most of the time ) than most mistakenly believe .
     
  19. John of Japan

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    "Keeping the message intact" is not the goal of dynamic equivqalency. That is the goal of optimal equivalency. The goal of dynamic equivalency is reproducing the response in the reader, as in my quote above from Nida.
     
  20. John of Japan

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    Baloney!! Who established that? No one yet in this thread has given a bonafide example of DE in the KJV.

    And the Message and the LB are not DE, they are paraphrases!! There is a big difference. You really need to study more. Maybe even learn a language and do some translating yourself. :smilewinkgrin: :tongue3:
     
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