What Is Meant By A Literal Translation?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by TCGreek, Jul 27, 2007.

  1. TCGreek

    TCGreek
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    1. For years I have been wrestling with this idea: "The literal translations of the text is." But it seems not to make much sense. Here's why:

    a. Grammarians have come up with all these categories of function, which are built on the forms:

    i. For example, Dan B. Wallace has 15 different functions of the Genitive, which he calls the Adjectival use of the Genitive. Then he has another 8 different functions of the Genitive under the Adverbial Genitive.

    ii. And according to Dana-Mantey, the preposition en just doesn't mean "in," it can also mean "besides," "with," "because of," "into," "by," etc.

    2. So when we come to a passage like James 2:4:

    a. "Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?" (NASB).

    b. "Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?" (KJV).

    3. "Of evil thoughts" or "with evil motives" are the translation of two genitives: "of thoughts of evil."

    4. "Of thoughts of evil" we would say is the literal translation, but was that "literal translation" concept in the minds of the writer?

    5. Would it then be best to translate it the two genitives "with evil motives/thoughts" and label the first genitive a Hebrew Genitive/Genitive of Quality rather than speak of "literal translation."

    6. What really do we mean by "literal translation?"
     
    #1 TCGreek, Jul 27, 2007
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  2. Ehud

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    A Simple Thought.

    Some good thoughts, I know this will not be a highly educated answer. I do not think we can ever fully figure this out. That is why I believe that you trust by faith that God preserved his word for us and that 46 scholars (who knew the inn’s and out's of the majority of languages) already dealt with all these issues and gave us the best possible translation. I would never take 1 or two men over 46. When I cannot reasons things to be I have to trust by faith that God gave to English speaking man kind a final authority. Plus I am not that smart.:laugh:

    Ehud
    "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives."
    D.L. Moody:
     
  3. TCGreek

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    1. What should be made of your comments in light of the questions raised?

    2. Must I think that one particular translation has settled the above concerns?
     
  4. Ehud

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    Preservation.

    Well, if one does not get this settled, one will never be settled.
    It depends on what you believe about the doctrine of preservation.
    Do we have a book called the Bible we can hold in our hand and say that this is the preserved word of God? Did God preserve his literal word for English speaking people?

    Ehud :godisgood:

    It is not what I don't know about the Bible that bothers me. It is what I do know, that I don’t do, that bothers me. D.L.Moody
     
  5. TCGreek

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    1. Please, reread my original post to begin the thread and answer accordingly.

    2. This is not about the preservation of God's word. I believe there are other threads addressing that.

    3. This is dealing with grammarians categories.
     
  6. John of Japan

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    Hi, TC.

    This is why translation is an art and not a science. I believe that translation ability is a gift from God. Proper study adorns and develops that gift (skill if you will). But you can ponder Wallace's functions of the genitive all you want and still get it wrong.

    In my view, your translation will be determined by (1) your translation methodology, (2) your understanding of the context, (3) your understanding of the grammar and words of the text (based on experience and research), and (4) your presuppositions.

    Concerning literal translation, I'm on a translation "list" and I've noticed over and over again how the translators' presuppostions and methodology determine their translation.
     
    #6 John of Japan, Jul 29, 2007
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  7. npetreley

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    I agree. It takes good judgement and leading of the Spirit to translate. A literal translation can be useful, but it is also open to abuse (as it is being abused in the case of aionios). As I pointed out in another thread, you could abuse literal translation in order to claim a potato is really an apple (pomme de terre = apple of the earth = potato). That doesn't make a potato an apple. It just makes a keister out of the translator.
     
  8. TCGreek

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    1. "Translation is an art and not a science" I think is the key to a lot of translation issues. Only someone who has done a lot of translation will know that it is an art and not a science. :thumbs:

    2. That's why I have no problem with a dynamic approach philosophy. Though it is not my choice of when it comes to choosing a Bible. But I see how this approach fits the four factors you mentioned above.

    3. I really don't think there's such a thing as "pure, literal translation." As I look at the language, I can see the benefits of word order and the rearranging of elements, which is hard to capture in a receptor language.

    4. As you know, the receptor language strives for readability, what makes the most sense. It's not an easy task.

    5. Yes, I do agree that the hand of God is involved in a faithful translation of His Word. And that's why I have so much respect for faithful translators of the Word.
     
  9. TCGreek

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    1. We have seen the abuse over and over again.

    2. But good judgment comes from the leading of the Spirit. :thumbs:

    3. Now, that's something to think about!
     
  10. John of Japan

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    Personally, I do have a problem with pure dynamic equivalence as originally espoused by Nida. Unfortunately I've never read the functional equivalence books (they cost too much), so I don't know to what extent they have modified the philosophy.

    Nida's original goal was to produce a translation that was focused on the reader's response in the receptor language. This is how Nida could praise Williams' rendering of "give one another with a hearty handshake all around" instead of "greet one another with a holy kiss."

    I believe in focusing on author intent (my own term) rather than reader response. An example I've given before on the BB about this is the reader response of the Japanese to the Potsdam Declaration. They mistook its intent due to a mistake in the translation, refused to surrender, and ended up swallowing two A-bombs.

    Very true. The only true formal equivalence translation is an interlinear.

    Optimal equivalence (the method of the NKJV and HCSV translators, formerly known as direct equivalence) tries to find a balance between "word for word" and "thought for thought."
    Balancing author intent and receptor readability is sometimes very difficult. "Uncle Miya" used to say to us sometimes, "But that reads like a translation!" Missionary M. (now retired from the field) would get frustrated and say, "But it is a translation!" :laugh:
     
  11. TCGreek

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    1. I welcome dynamic equivalence for a creative reading of the text, but that is as far as I would go.

    2. Yes, I believe the dynamic approach can take it a bit too far, causing one to lose cultural elements.

    3. As noble as the "author intent" approach is, though it sounds similar to the NIV's approach, it is open to subjectivism. How do we decide for sure on the "author's intent?"


    4. As you said in another post, "translation is an art and not a science," therefore we must keep at it, while being faithful to the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

    5. Thanks for the humor. :laugh:
     
    #11 TCGreek, Jul 30, 2007
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  12. Rippon

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    The NKJ would not be in the range or style of translation as the HCSB . The latter is more closely aligned with the ISV and TNIV . The last three are the ones which strike a balance between the more formal and the phrase-for-phrase versions .

    BTW , did Nida ever really advocate "pure dynamic equivalence " ?

    It was J.B. Phillips who came up with "give one another a hearty handshake all around" , not "Williams" .
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Oooh, I certainly hope not! :eek: :eek:

    Seriously, my method is closer to "word for word" than the NIV method. Here are some of my principles:

    1. The intent of the divine Author always takes precedence over the understanding of the reader of the translated document.
    2. The original language document always takes precedence in authority over the translated document.
    3. The culture of the original language takes precedence over the culture of the receptor language.
    4. The terminology of the religions of the original language takes precedence over the religion of the receptor language.
    5. The translation should have dignity in keeping with the fact that it is the Word of God.
    6. The translation should have literary quality in keeping with the exalted language of the originals.
    Well, that's for me to decide and then inform everyone else, isn't it? :smilewinkgrin:

    Again seriously, here are some thoughts on my methodology. Note in particular #5 as being important. When we don't understand the divine Author's intent, it is still important to preserve His wording.

    1. Find the closest vocabulary in the receptor language giving the meaning of the original.
    2. Find the equivalent grammatical structure in the receptor language. (This is from optimal equivalence and its use of transformational grammar.)
    3. Translate idioms directly in cases where the meaning comes across clearly in the receptor language.
    4. When the meaning of an idiom does not make sense in the receptor language, find an equivalent idiom or phrase to reproduce the meaning of the original.
    5. Preserve the ambiguities of the original language. (This is particularly important in preserving the author’s intent.)
    6. Only paraphrase the meaning of the original when the grammar of the original cannot be faithfully produced in the translated document.
    7. Only transliterate when the equivalent words of the receptor language are laden with cultural baggage and new terminology must be invented to invest the meaning of the original.
    8. Meaning should be determined primarily from how a word is used in the rest of the New or Old Testament, secondarily from research on documents contemporary with the originals as presented in lexicons of the original languages, and only thirdly from possible reception of meaning by the reader of the translation.
    9. Simple words should be used in the receptor language as a rule. The exception is when there are no simple words in the receptor language that properly convey the meaning of the original.
    10. Translation by concordance (same word in each appearance in the receptor language) should be done when context warrants it (for example, “order of Melchizadek” in Hebrews).

    Note that this is a method specifically for Bible translation. The author's intent becomes less important in such areas as movie or literary or news translation. However, in areas such as diplomatic translation it is particularly important. :type:
     
    #13 John of Japan, Jul 30, 2007
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  14. John of Japan

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    Well you're one up on me here since I haven't read the HCSB. All I know is, Dr. James Price delineated the method of the NKJV in his Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, and was an editor on both Bibles. He says that "complete equivalence" was an editorial decision by the publisher of the NKJV, and the translators preferred the term "optimal equivalence," which is the term used by the HCSB people.

    By the way, Dr. Price has just completed a new book on using optimal equivalence in translating from Hebrew, and it has been accepted by the publishers, but it is very technical. If you don't read Hebrew, forget it!
    Certainly! He invented the term! See his Toward a Science of Translating, (1964), pp. 166-170, 171-175.
    My bad.
     
  15. Plain Old Bill

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    One of the fun things about this board is the things you learn accidentally.I would just think that the grammer and culture of each language would prevent a pure word for word translation so all translations are equivilant in some way.:godisgood:
     
    #15 Plain Old Bill, Jul 30, 2007
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  16. Brother Bob

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    TC;
    You need to clean out your mail box.......:)
     
  17. TCGreek

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    1. I'm appropriately impressed with these principles.

    2. So which version of the Bible do you see reflecting what you advocate?

    3. For instance?

    4. I always thought so. My Greek instructor impressed #4, 5 on me.

    5. Is this true in the case of baptism/baptize? Why keep the transliterations here?

    6. Why then was/is NIV get so much criticism for attempting to do the very thing that you do?

    7. #10 really needs to be understood by those who depend on Strong's. I find this to be a serious problem.

    8. Thanks for those principles. Let me know what the cost is for this class on translation principles and methodology. :thumbs:
     
  18. John of Japan

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    I think I'm slightly more "thought for thought" than the NKJV, but it comes close. (I've been comparing.) The ESV is an interesting comparison with its "essentially literal" method, and is pretty close to my thinking, though occasionally it has a strange rendering. (See the book Translating Truth.)
    The idiom about eternal life, eis tous aionas ton aionon, comes out pretty well in Japanese, though I haven't translated it 100% literally. The eis is hard to get into Japanese, though, since it doesn't have prepositions. (We uses "particles" instead.)
    I actually did a thread on this on the BB last year, but now I can't seem to find it. The peculiarities of Japanese have led me to a unique conclusion. I have used the kanji (Chinese characters) for "immersion ceremony," the normal word for baptism by immersion in Japanese, and added furigana "ruby" pronunciation marks with the normal transliteration used in most Japanese translations. This follows a modern non-traditional usage of the Chinese characters.
    I've never been under the impression that the NIV tried to do what I do. When it first came out it was called "dynamic equivalence." I read it through twice and decided it was a lot looser than I liked. If the translators consciously used dynamic equivalence then their goal was for the readers to have complete understanding from a 20th century viewpoint of the original text. Thus, they did not follow my principles about preserving the ambiguities and culture of the Biblical documents. I suggest you take a representative chapter in the NIV and compare it to the Greek.
    Amen! Funny story by Nida: once a zealous American wrote and said, "I'd like to help with translating the Bible into a tribal language. So, just send me a dictionary of the language and I'll get busy!" :laugh: :tonofbricks:
    Hey, I'd be happy to give a seminar in person if you'll just pay my plane fare from Japan--only about $1400 round trip! I'll be waiting for your check. :smilewinkgrin:
     
    #18 John of Japan, Jul 30, 2007
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  19. John of Japan

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    Bill, the main problem with a pure word for word translation is the grammar barrier. So for example, Japanese uses a strict subject-direct object--indirect object-verb word order, much like Latin. So to keep the Greek word order would lose the meaning in Japanese. Again, Japanese has a very interesting adjective form that can become a verb. Likewise, Japanese verbs can become a kind of adjective. So you have to find equivalents, like you say.
     
  20. Rippon

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    No Mention of Dynamic Equivalence

    What follows is a part of the Preface of my NIV June 1978 , and Revised August 1983 ) .

    The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers . They have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Hebrew , Aramaic and Greek texts . At the same time , they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation . Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language , faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modiifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of the words .
     

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