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2.3 Careful translation

Because to translators the Bible represents God's Word to the faithful, it is not only among the world's most translated texts but also among the most carefully translated. As suggested by the explosive increase in number of translations described above, wide use and acceptance of translations is a relatively recent phenomenon. A large part of the history of translation theory in general is directly or indirectly due to past and present biblical translation [Nida1964, Nida and Taber1969, Robinson1991]. Much current theory and practice grew out of the zeal of Protestant missionaries of the past two decades, eager to present the Bible in the language of the people [Bassnet-McGuire1980].

Numerous publications on Bible translation discuss nuances and difficulties of translation at a microscopic level, sometimes providing sentence-by-sentence guidance to translators at the linguistic, semantic, and pragmatic levels (see, for example, [Beekman and Callow1974, Blight1992, Deibler1993, Moore1993, deWaard and Smalley1979]). Similar care is taken in the introduction of new translations: a recent attempt to introduce gender neutral language in the New International Version (NIV), last revised in 1983, met with a great outcry in some segments of the population, leading the publisher to abandon the project [LeBlanc1997]. Translations in established languages, therefore, tend to be conservative. And first translations in a given language are subject to rigorous scrutiny at every stage. We may therefore be confident that the texts we have are as accurate as humanly possible.

In languages with multiple translations, texts could also be paired according to age and style of translation: there are many translation contemporaries of the King James Version, for example. These include Luther's German and the Spanish Reina de Valera, which have a literary feel and may be too formal for some purposes. In contrast, versions published by the United Bible Societies and the Summer Institute of Linguistics tend to follow ``dynamic equivalence'' theories of translation [Nida1964, Nida and Taber1969], attempting to make the impact of the original text idiomatic for today. For example, an original Greek phrase in Colossians 1:20 translates literally as ``the blood of his cross,'' whereas the Good News Bible has ``God made peace through his Son's sacrificial death on the cross'' [GNB1976], emphasis added. Alignment of such translations would therefore serve as an important source for pairs of idioms and figures of speech.gif


next up previous
Next: 2.4 Standard structure and Up: 2 Why this text? Previous: 2.2 Availability

Philip Resnik
Tue Oct 21 19:23:13 EDT 1997