Bible translation is both an art and a science. In terms of the scientific side, understanding language(s), grammar/syntax, and hermeneutical principles are at play. On the artistic side, utilizing language in beautiful, clear, and comprehensive ways is at work. Balancing these important aspects requires careful attention and diligent effort -- and it is not as simple as it sounds.
Most translators would argue, I'm sure, that the ultimate goal is to reliably transfer the original languages into today's languages. And Bible publishers come alongside this goal to pursue getting God's Word in the hands of as many people as possible, for the glory of God, the spread of the gospel of Jesus, and the advance of the kingdom. In so doing, decisions are made that typically identify a particular Bible's starting point, or translation philosophy. Is it "word-for-word" or "literal"? Is it "thought-for-thought" or more dynamic in its readability? Must translating the Bible be either/or, or can it be both/and?
Recently, a few books have released into the market that help us think through these kinds of questions as they relate to the major Bible translations -- KJV, NIV, HCSB, ESV, NLT. Of course, there are more translations available than just these, but these specific translation remain in the top ten rankings on a consistent basis (click here for the latest rankings). The following books engage the important issues swirling around in the art and science of Bible translation, seeking clarity on the "how" and "why" certain decisions were made that produced the translations we have.
Which Bible Translation Should I Use?: A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions, edited by Andreas Köstenberger and David Croteau (B&H, 2012). The result of a symposium at Liberty University, the contributors discuss the translation approach of the ESV, NIV, HCSB, and NLT through the lens of 16 specific passages of Scripture. A fine contribution to the discussion of Bible translation.
One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? by Dave Brunn (IVP, 2013). Brunn's desire is to show how close the major translation actually are in the final analysis. Translations are often defined by their differences, but Brunn skillfully brings light on the complementary relationship between the translations. He also dismantles the rigid distinctions between formal and dynamic translation philosophies by displaying actual data from the translations on how they translate a wide range of Bible verses. Very helpful and clear.
The HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translation, but E. Ray Clendenen and David Stabnow (B&H, 2012). You can access and download this book in its entirety for FREE through the link provided. It's worth a read and clarifies many points of similarities and differences that the HCSB has with the other major translations. The HCSB coined an approach called "optimal equivalence" as its translation philosophy. This book unpacks that idea and how it compares with other versions of the Bible.
Pastors, ministry leaders, Bible students and readers of all walks of life can profit from reading these books and thinking through the issues in a fresh way. If the Bible is God's Word, shouldn't we be eager to consider how we've received it into our own language?
Daniel Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and founder/president of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, listed 5 myths about Bible translation in a recent blog post. At the heart of many people's objections to the Bible is the question of whether or not the Bible can be trusted (is it really God's Word or have people corrupted it or made it up altogether?). I think Dr. Wallace's discussion is helpful and his 5 myths worth sharing here.
1. The Bible has been translated so many times we can’t possibly get back to the original.2. Words in red indicate the exact words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.3. Heretics have severely corrupted the text.4. Orthodox scribes have severely corrupted the text.5. The deity of Christ was invented by emperor Constantine.
Of course, Dr. Wallace notes that these myths are just that--myths. Take some time and click over to this post to read Dr. Wallace's reasons why these myths don't hold water.
Translating the Bible from the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) into another language is challenging, daunting work. It's incredibly important work, too, especially if one begins with the foundational belief that the Scriptures are God's revelation of Himself and His truth to us.
The truth is, Bible translation is both an art and a science. There are exegetical, grammatical, and morphological issues at play -- this is the scientific part. But there are also issues of clarity, flow, and beauty at work -- this is the artistic part. The hard work of translation is finding balance with the science and the art. And a good translation achieves excellence in both aspects.
The chairman of the HCSB Translation Oversight Committee, Dr. Tom Schreiner, recently sent me the following quote on what makes a good translation. I thought it was helpful and worth sharing.
A good translation is neither too much nor too little. It is neither too slavish a reproduction of the Greek (and Hebrew), nor is it too free in its handling of the original. It is neither too modern and casual, nor is it too stilted and formal. It is not too much like the KJV, nor does it depart too far from the time-honored beauty and dignity of that seventeenth-century classic. In short, the best translation is one that has avoided the extremes and has achieved instead the balance that will appeal to the most people for the longest period of time.
*From Donald W. Burdick, "At the Translator’s Table," The [Cincinnati Christian] Seminary Review 21 (March 1975): 44.
The call to be a servant-leader is tough. No one gets it all right, and certainly no one gets most of it right overnight. It’s a life plan — a way of living you grow into with practice and time. Here are 25 suggestions, men, for being a servant-leader in your home.
1. Include your wife in envisioning the future2. Accept spiritual responsibility for your family3. Be willing to ask forgiveness and apologize to your family4. Discuss household responsibilities with your wife; are they fairly distributed?5. Consult your wife on major financial decisions6. Follow through on the commitments you make to your wife7. Anticipate and prepare for the different seasons your marriage will pass through8. Anticipate and prepare for the different stages your children will pass through9. Frequently tell your wife what things you like about her10. Provide financially for your family’s basic needs11. Move past distractions so you can talk to your wife and kids12. Pray with your wife regularly13. Initiate meaningful family traditions14. Plan fun things for the whole family15. Give your children practical instruction about life to build their confidence16. Manage the schedule of the family and anticipate pressure points17. Keep out of debt18. Draw up a will and arrange a well-conceived plan in case of your death19. Let your wife and kids into the interior of your life20. Honor your wife in public21. Explain sex to your children in a way that gives them a wholesome perspective22. Encourage your wife to grow as an individual23. Take the lead in establishing biblically-supportable family values24. Join a group of men dedicated to improving their skills as men, husbands, and fathers25. Provide time for your wife to pursue her own personal interests
*Robert Lewis, The Men's Fraternity Bible (Nashville: B&H, 2007).
Which one of these (or maybe several of these) do you need to work on to become a stronger servant-leader in your home?
The Scriptures begin by describing the grandeur of God’s creative work. Having brought planets, light, vegetation, and animal life into existence, the Lord then brought into being that which He deemed “very good”—humankind. Made in the image of God, humans unique among all of God’s creation. Tragically though, our first parents
marred that image through disobedience.
When Adam and Eve faced temptation, they chose to believe a lie rather than God’s truth.
They trusted in their own potential and did not hold God as trustworthy for their future. Because
of their choice, sin entered the world and humanity’s pure relationship with the Heavenly Father
became broken. Goaded along by the cunning of our enemy—the fallen angel Lucifer in the form
of a serpent—humanity seemed to have met its end right at its beginning. Ashamed of their
unclothed state, Adam and Eve hid from God and covered themselves from one another’s sight.
It is, however, for His glory and our benefit that God is by nature on mission. This is seen first
in the fact that God sought out the shamed and sinful pair. He sought reconciliation with Adam and
Eve even though it would be at great cost to Him. He confronted their sinful state and the deceitful
serpent who had coaxed them into ruin. Adam and Eve had excuses and accusations on their lips, but God was undaunted. He was committed to the mission to reconcile humanity to Himself
by being the One who does the seeking. Though Adam and Eve hid because of their shame, God
sought them out for their benefit. He is committed to more than just scolding them for their sin. In
Genesis 3:14-15, the Lord pronounces judgment on the enemy and promises to send a Messiah. He
said to the serpent, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and
her seed. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel” (v. 15). God said life would be difficult
due to the curse, but He also said that the “seed” of the woman would strike the head of our enemy
and prevail against Satan.
This statement about the One to come is the first prophecy of the Christ. As inheritors of a sin
nature that opposes God, it should amaze us that God so quickly moved from His role as Creator to
that of Redeemer. We expect wrath and judgment, not grace and a promise of a coming Savior. But
God shatters our expectations. His love for humanity drove Him to provide the Savior who can make
all things new.
From the beginning, God has done every work necessary so that we might know Him and
abide with Him. He sought us when we did not want to be found. And at just the right time, God
sent the Christ to die as a ransom for sin and rise in victory over hell itself. Our God is a God who
sends, redeems, and restores.
*Philip Nation, "The Messiah Foretold," in The Mission of God Study Bible (Nashville: B&H, 2012), 4.
Dr. Philip Nation is co-editor of The Mission of God Study Bible with Dr. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. Philip is director of adult ministry publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources and is the teaching pastor for The Fellowship, a multi-campus church in Nashville, TN. You can connect with him on Twitter and his blog.
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