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Featured Books on Bible Translation

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by John of Japan, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Well, since my thread on Greek grammars was a repeat, let's try one on books about Bible translation. Now I don't really want to do the KJVO debate on this thread, so please don't post stuff like James White's The King James Only Controversy. On the other hand, secular works on translation theory are welcome, and I'll post some of those myself.

    First of all, a good book presenting the "essentially literal" methodology is Translating Truth, by four authors: Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, C. John Collins, Vern S. Poythress, and Bruce Winter. These are all good scholars, and together they present a very good position on the literal side of Bible translation. Of the four, Poythress has impressed me most with his Biblical approach to language, In the Beginning Was the Word. That book gives a theological explanation of language based on the trinity--good stuff.

    Translating Truth has five chapters, one by each of these men. They present a theological case for essentially literal translation, answer the critics, discuss meaning, and give historical background. Whether one agrees with their position or not, this is an essential book.
     
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  2. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Been awhile since I've read it but this one would be right up your alley.
    Have you heard of this one?

    Translating the Word of God, by John Beekman and John Callow. Zondervan. 1974. 399 pages
    The authors were translators and consultants for a number of minority languages.

    Rob
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    "Beekman and Callow" is a work in the dynamic equivalence line. I've never read it yet, but it's well known in the field, quoted by many. One of these days I'll get the college to buy it for me. :)
     
  4. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Well, here I am at my office, waiting for my wife who is working in the church kitchen. So I might as well add one or two more reviews.

    To give Eugene Nida credit, his books on dynamic equivalence helped launch an entire secular field of study called translation studies. A great basic textbook in that field is Translation Studies, 4th ed., by Susan Bassnett. This book is an excellent introduction to the field, as can be seen by the fact that it is in the 4th edition.

    Ironically, she is not impressed with Nida's method. She refers to Nida's endorsement of the J. B. Phillips rendering of "holy kiss" as "hearty handshake," calling it, "a piece of inadequate translation in poor taste" (p. 36). I'll mention other secular books later, but I'll just say I have been surprised at the negativity about DE from various secular authors.
     
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  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Now, to be fair to Nida, his early books Bible Translating (1947, rev. in 1961) and God's Word in Man's Language (1952) are a joy to read. They are full of great stories from his work as a UBS translation consultant, and translation problems and how they were solved.

    We recently had dinner with a friend, a top translator who has worked as translator or consultant on 11 projects. Anyway, I mentioned a story from the '61 revision of Bible Translating about the Reina Valera revision committee. It seems that a man attended the committee uninvited, and declared himself the top Hebrew scholar in Mexico, saying they must then use him in their effort. The committee simply ignored him until he left. :Biggrin My friend knew the story and had a friend on the committee who had verified the story.

    Let me tell you, there are a lot of wannabe Bible translators out there. One day in Japan I got a call from a man who wanted to help. "Do you know Greek?" I asked. Nope. "Do you know Japanese?" I asked then. Nope. "Well you can contribute financially through our mission board." Nope, he only gives through a local church. Well, then, he asked about us using a Japanese man he knew to be a translator. "We'll see," I said. "Have him send me some of his work." And that was the end of that.

    Anyway, these two books were written before he completely developed his theories, though there are hints of his DE in them, especially in the 1961 rev. of the first book. His fully developed theory was presented in his 1964 book, Toward a Science of Translating. I'll review that later.
     
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  6. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
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    John
    Thank you for these postings.

    Very informative, and enjoyable read!
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    You are entirely welcome.
     
  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    So, back to 1964 and Toward a Science of Translating by Eugene Nida. This book literally launched the scholarly discipline of translation studies. It also signaled a war of Bible translation theories. Until then you did not have much in the way of theory: Jerome commenting on his methods in "Letter to Pammachius" ( CHURCH FATHERS: Letter 57 (Jerome)), Schleiermacher delineating "foreignizing" and "domesticizing" translations ("On the Different Methods of Translating" in 1813), and a few others.

    Contrary to some here on the BB and even some scholars of Bible translation, Nida did not simply present a "thought-for-thought" or "free translation" method. He innovated in several ways. (1) He invented "reader response," in which what matters is not the original words, but how the modern reader responds to the meaning. (2) He utilized modern linguistic theories to bolster his position, mostly code theory and transformational grammar. (3) He discussed "machine translation," thus prefiguring Google Translate! These reasons are why I refuse to call any translation done before this book appeared in 1964 "dynamic equivalence."

    Nida also changed the field by inventing the terminology that most Bible translation scholars use nowadays: dynamic equivalence (later renamed functional equivalence), formal equivalence, receptor, etc. Unfortunately, most who use these terms do not realize they come from neo-orthodoxy.

    Anyway, this book by Nida is compulsory reading for anyone who wishes to know how we got where we are in Bible translation theory.
     
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  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I have to leave for home soon, and may not get back here until Monday, so I thought I'd add just one more. Biblical Bible Translating is a basic textbook by fundamentalist Charles V. Turner. Turner was trained as a translator under New Tribes, and has an M.A. in missions from Columbia Graduate School of Missions. This is all good training, though I don't respect his Ph.D. much, since it is from an ostensible degree mill.

    Unlike some other fundamentalist KJVO authors I could name ;) (and probably will later), Turner actually is an experienced Bible translator, having lived and translated for 20 years with the Sinasina people of Papua New Guinea. After that, as I understand it, he taught at the Baptist Bible Translators' Institute in Texas.

    This is a good basic textbook, with practical teaching and exercises. Not only is the teaching on Bible translating good, he ties it in to evangelism and church planting. (Here at our school we believe that it all goes together: soul-winning, discipling, church planting, and Bible translating. It's all missions.
     
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  10. Rob_BW

    Rob_BW Well-Known Member
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    John, if I may ask, what do you view as the top difficulties in translation?
     
  11. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    This popped up in my desktop this afternoon

    An article in Journal of Translation, (vol 7, number 1, 2011), called
    Dynamic Equivalence and it’s daughters”, the author lists a number of influential books on the topic of bible translation.

    Major Publications in Bible Translation Theory and Practice
    Following are some of the major publications in Bible translation theory and practice:
    • Nida, Eugene – Bible Translating (1947, 1961)
    • Nida, Eugene – Toward a Science of Translating (1964)
    • Nida, Eugene and Charles Taber – The Theory and Practice of Translation (1969)
    • Beekman, John and John Callow – Translating the Word of God (1974)
    • Barnwell, Katharine – Introduction to Semantics and Translation: With Special Reference to Bible Translation (1980)
    • Nida, Eugene and William Reyburn – Meaning Across Cultures (1981)
    • Barnwell, Katharine – Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles (1986)
    • de Waard, Jan and Eugene Nida – From One Language to Another (1986)
    • Price James D. – Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation (1987)
    • Gutt, Ernst-August – Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context (2000)
    • Wilt, Timothy (ed.) – Bible Translation: Frames of Reference (2003)
    • Price, James D. – A Theory for Bible Translation: An Optimal Equivalence Model (2007)
    • Wendland, Ernst – Contextual Frames of Reference in Translation: A Coursebook for Bible Translators and Teachers (2008)
    Rob
     
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  12. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    In a word, equivalence. Many articles and even whole books have been written on the subject. When languages can be so different, how do we find an equivalent in the target language?

    One might think that grammatical equivalence is the most difficult, and it can indeed be hard. How do you get the meaning of the Greek or Hebrew perfect tense into English or Japanese? You can't, really. What you do is look for the nearest meaningful equivalent and go with that. How do you get any tense into Chinese, which has no tenses? You look for an adverb of time that carries the meaning.

    In the practice of DE, they effectively ignore the grammatical forms and look for equivalence in meaning. On the other hand, literal methods emphasize that grammar has nuance, and seek to transfer that. At some point the translator understands the original and target languages well enough that finding equivalent grammar becomes less of a problem, more automatic.

    Having said that, the translator will always struggle with semantic equivalence (equivalence in meaning). The amateur might think that every word in their language has an equivalent in any language, but this is not so. In particular, theological terms (forgiveness, righteousness, regeneration, omnipotence, etc.) can be very difficult to translate.

    I'll give just one example. The word "forgive" in Japanese is yurusu. Simple, right? However, the same word can also mean "allow." The only difference is what Chinese character is used. Forgive is 赦す (very rare outside of the Bible), and allow is 許す. There is another word for forgive, 容赦する (yousha suru), but Uncle Miya wouldn't let me use it, since it is always only used negatively ("unforgivable").

    The word "justify" must be translated into Japanese with a whole phrase, gi to mitomerareru (義と認められる), meaning, to be recognized as righteous. This should show how important theology is in translation. Our M.A. requires the student to take several courses in systematic theology, in distinction from the usual such program which only emphasizes linguistics and translation theory.
     
    #12 John of Japan, Oct 21, 2019
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  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    The author of this article is Glenn Kerr, a wonderful translation consultant with Bibles International. I've heard him lecture and met him briefly. This is an excellent list, but he leaves our Mildred Larson's Meaning-Based Translation: A Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence. My friend Bill tells me that he gets asked about or hears references to this book quite often. I recently finished reading it, and it's very long and sometimes boring, but an important read. More about this book later.

    Dr. Wendland (the last book) recently came to our school and met with our translation faculty. We had a wonderful time with this gracious man, though he is in the DE lineage. I don't have any his books, but feel the need to read what he's written. Brilliant man!
     
    #13 John of Japan, Oct 21, 2019
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  14. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    My old Hebrew professor Dr. James Price wrote two books about his translation theory, optimal equivalence, Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation (Nelson, 1987), and A Theory for Bible Translation: An Optimal Equivalence Model (Edwin Mellen Press, 2007). The OT editor of both the NKJV and the HCSB, he received his Ph.D. in Hebrew at Dropsie College, a Jewish school.

    The first book is only a pamphlet, 46 pages long, but very useful in presenting a literal method of translating and opposing DE. Dr. Price's title used the term "Optimal Equivalence" since direct equivalence is usually impossible, but the publisher overruled him and used their own title. Here is a quote from the book:

    “It is quite clear that paraphrase is unavoidable with dynamic equivalence theory. Glassman wrote, ‘It is, in fact, impossible to analyze, transfer and restructure (referring here to the transformational grammar basis of DE--JoJ) without paraphrasing, at the level of the underlying kernel structures; and that, in turn, shows up at the final level of the surface structure.” (Quoting Eugene Glassman, The Translation Debate, p.66—JoJ.) This is primarily true because of the subjectivity involved in the transfer step. The failure to employ transfer rules, but rather to depend on the translator’s subjective judgment, makes it almost certain that the information transferred to the receptor language will lack complete equivalence with the information of the source message. Thus the theory fails to accomplish equivalence; it is instead scientific paraphrase.”
    Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, p. 17.
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Dr. Price's second book, A Theory for Bible Translation: An Optimal Equivalence Model, is the highly technical tome on his theory of translation, which depends on the transformational grammar theory of linguistics as propounded by famous linguist Noam Chomsky. The publisher is known for publishing scholarly monographs at a very high price. (I paid over $100 for mine with "found" money from the Japanese government. :))

    To succeed in understanding this book, one must be proficient in both Hebrew and transformational grammar. I did not completely succeed. :Unsure To make a long story short, Dr. Price explained the theory in the first chapter, and from then on presented a complete transformational grammar of the Hebrew language, useful in translating the OT. The rest of the book is taken up with this.

    There are seven appendices, several of which are quite useful, including a list of Hebrew grammatical idioms, followed by a helpful "Glossary of Terms." Buy the book if you know Hebrew and have the money--you'll figure out the transformational grammar on the way.
     
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  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Just one more today, before I go home: Contemporary Translation Theories, 2nd ed, by Edwin Gentzler.

    This is a secular book, but I require it for one of my classes. It is a very good introduction to what is happening in the secular discipline of translation studies, but it also has a great chapter on Nida and his theories in regards to Noam Chomsky, the inventor of transformational grammar (also called generational grammar). Gentzler points out that Chomsky did not intend his theory to be used for translation studies, as Nida does. Interestingly enough, Gentzler also objects to what he view as Nida's purpose of evangelical recruitment!

    Anyway, the secular theories discussed include Skopos, Polysystem, Deconstruction, and the theories of Venuti. All of these are applicable to some extent to Bible translation with the exception of Deconstruction, which is an awful theory. For more of my take on some of these theories, see my thread of 10 years ago: New Translation Theories
     
  17. Deacon

    Deacon Well-Known Member
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    Ouch, offered on Amaz for just under 3K. I’ll have to pass on that one!

    You might want to glance at Robert Alters recent addition, The Art of Bible Translation.

    He has a high respect for the KJV and it’s translators.
    But tweets it into a more perfect form.
    Not a hard read. Not technical by any means.
    More artistry than grammar.

    Rob
     
    #17 Deacon, Oct 21, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Looks very interesting. Thanks for the heads up.
     
  19. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Well-Known Member
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    One book about Bible translating and secular translating is entitled:
    English Renaissance Translation Theory. It is edited by Neil Rhodes with Gordon Kendal and Louise Wilson, and is published by Modern Humanities Research Association with a 2013 copyright.

    The introduction states the aim is to assemble "the most significant discussions of the principles underlying English translation practice from Caxton through to the 1620's" (p. 1).
     
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  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    That sounds like a great read. There are not many books out there on the history of translation in general.
     
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