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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Monday, May 26, 2008
Why I like the NASB and the ESV translations...
My first bible was your standard, black, large print, KJV. I got it for free when I signed a card (at the age of 8) during a Billy Graham crusade. Say this prayer, sign this card, now you're a believer, here kid, here's a bible.


I didn't read it much, but I had a bible, and that seemed cool to me. I wasn't saved of course, but I did associate myself with church and Christianity.

My next bible was a paperback NIV New Testament that someone gave to me shortly thereafter I am not really sure who gave it to me, but it was easier to read for me, though that ease didn't translate into actual reading. It was a dust collector just like the KJV.

Years past, and one day I heard the gospel "for real" - and gave my life to Jesus. I didn't buy any bibles, but had a renewed interest in scripture, right up until the next day when I sinned, and believed that by doing so I had not only lost my salvation, but could never get it back.

Ten years past. I sinned a lot, got married, and began to start a family. That was when the Lord put someone in my life who had actually read the bible and believed it - and this same person showed me that I hadn't lost my salvation for ever, but that I had been fed a lie and believed it to my own misfortune. After I learned that there was still hope for me, I went out and bought myself a "good news bible" (TEV) and began reading it. I was quite amazed to learn that many of the superstitions about God that I had believed, were just that - superstitions. As I began to grow, and lear, I was astonished to discover that my translation was not the same as other people's translations - that in some places it was even radically different!

I thought - what is this? Which translation is right? I mean, I wasn't reading God's word in order to impress other people, I just wanted to know what God had to say. If there were an hundred different English translations, I wanted to know which one was the most accurate. I think that is why I wanted to learn the biblical languages. I simply did not "trust" any translation, given that they could radically disagree on the way a text was translated. Of course, I have to trust the translation when a passage surpasses my own (limited) knowledge of the original language - but I mean only that my ability to be satisfied by a translation is proportional to my certainty of its accuracy - and unless I know firsthand that it is accurate, I am at the mercy of well-meaning, but often conflicting opinions about which translation is best.

When I expressed my desire to study the biblical languages, I remember that I was immediately accused of being unspiritual. I heard again and again, that old smug phrase, that "the only reason a person studies the original language is because he doesn't want to do what the text tells him to do in the English!"

It is kinda sad, but I don't expect it is all that rare: people who desire to study the scriptures in the original languages are often accused of doing so out of arrogance, rebellion, or both. I find that the loudest objections come from a rather vocal but small minority. I speak only from my own experiences, but the attitude that I have met with from time to time is was one of "confused piety" - for these seemed to regard as holy and humble their own accepting at face value their particularly favored translation. Such would not regard the Bereans as noble for examining the scriptures to see if they said what was being attributed to them - but would rather regard them as arrogant doubters who only checked the scriptures because they were unwilling to take Paul's word for it. I suppose therefore that I am of that variety that refuses to take man's word for anything.

Not that I thought everyone else was wrong, but that I knew my own self to be so fallible, I began to regard all men as equally fallible, as individuals and even collectively. Do we not regard those faiths which disagree with our own as being in error? How many millions are being misled not only daily, but yearly, and how many false teachings span centuries? Surely there is room in the rational mind to press a matter beyond its face value and see if it holds true or not. It is, in my opinion, no virtue to be naive and gullible. Is there not wisdom in the multitude of counselors? But if we accept everything at face value, we never need consult anyone else again.

To be sure, I expect anyone who is promoting naivety and gullibility as virtuous is probably either knowingly or ignorantly, inspiring people to follow them and what they say instead of follow Christ and what he says.

When I began to examine scripture itself critically I began to take very seriously verses like 2 Timothy 1:13. Here Paul instructs Timothy to retain the same patterns of speech that he had heard Paul use. That is, I see scripture itself teaching that the word of God is so profoundly important, that in handling it we ought not to even change the pattern of words - that is, we ought not to present the truth in a different way that Paul (and by extension, all of scripture, and by further extension, the Holy Spirit) originally delivered it. That is a powerful argument for the supremacy of literal translations over such things as dynamically equivalent translations, etc.

If God's word is so weighty that Paul instructs Timothy to make sure that he didn't even change the manner in which Paul had expressed these things - I reason that the text supports the view that we do well to pursue the most literal translation available, and by contrast, that we would do very poorly indeed to embrace translations that massage the text for us, or to take a laissez faire approach and let be what will be. This was the very thing Paul was instructing Timothy to avoid - don't take liberties with the text - don't word it differently, don't find "better" ways to say it - just repeat it as you heard it, adding nothing to it, and changing nothing of it.

I should say at this point, that I regard the KJV as an excellent, literal translation of its underlaying texts.

Though I don't regard the underlaying texts as the most accurate - having studied to my own satisfaction the science of textual criticism, I am satisfied that the 27th revision of the Nestle-Aland eclectic text is a very accurate representation of the original Greek, and as such I am inclined to favor Bibles that are not only highly literal, but use what I believe to be the most accurate NT texts around.

To this end, I regard the NASB as perhaps the most literal translation, and close behind it, the ESV.

I don't really care for the NIV, and I confess, when I first began to become convinced of the NASB as the best translation out there - I became something of a translation snob. I remember with shame looking down my nose at one of the older members in a previous church who was using an NIV. I don't know if my open disdain was noted, but it was certainly unbridled - and God be praised, I am not so exalted in my own opinions today.

Many of you know that I like to read different translations of the bible. I have read more than half a dozen different translations cover to cover - but I find that my favorite is always the NASB. I know it has been described as a "wooden" translation by those who desire a more flowery translation - but frankly, I like it. I like the clarity of it.

I still use and compare many other translations, and I think it is good to do so, especially if one doesn't have an exhaustive dictionary library of the original languages, as often some nuance may come out in one translation that is less obvious in another. But by and large, if I had to choose, it would be NASB out front, next the ESV, and after that I don't know. I don't have to make choices like that so I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it.

My encouragement to you, reader, is that you take to heart the words of Paul - that we regard the "patterns of words" Paul delivered to Timothy, and by extension, Paul used everywhere in his own writings - as foundational in our evaluation of a translation. I still read other translations, but when I make doctrinal distinctions - I am careful to plumb, not the chaff, but the wheat - that is, I don't turn to a translation that is known for its flowery dynamic equivalence when I want doctrine, no, I get my hands on the most literal translation I can, and deal from there.

If I have any advice for new "bible readers" it is this: Don't let other people chew your food for you. God's word is most effective when it has not been watered down for easy consumption. Get a hold of the most literal translation you can find - do the research yourself - then read, read, read.


posted by Daniel @ 10:51 AM  
  • At 6:07 PM, May 26, 2008, Blogger David said…

    I agree completely. Find the most accurate translation, and if you find it difficult, buckle down and do the work to understand it.

    Daniel, that last paragraph could use some proofreading, I think.

  • At 7:20 PM, May 26, 2008, Blogger Even So... said…

    I see scripture itself teaching that the word of God is so profoundly important, that in handling it we ought not to even change the pattern of words - that is, we ought not to present the truth in a different way that Paul (and by extension, all of scripture, and by further extension, the Holy Spirit) originally delivered it. That is a powerful argument for the supremacy of literal translations over such things as dynamically equivalent translations, etc.

    Different subject, but considering this statement, what then of systematic theology...could this rationale be an apologetic for biblical theology v. systematic?

  • At 7:25 PM, May 26, 2008, Blogger Even So... said…

    IOW, the bible lays out its case progessively, and is its own "system" of delivery...so why the need for categories not spoken of in the text....?

    BTW, I am reasonably sure of your possible answer, and I am not a fan of scrapping systematic in favor of biblical (I believe both are needed), but I did think of this when reading your post, so I just thought I might like to hear your thoughts, if you have the time...becasue I get the same words thrown at me (you are arrogant) when I try and teach or tell someone I study systematic theology...

  • At 8:20 PM, May 26, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    David - thanks. That was a residual thought that wasn't supposed to make it to the post. I tend to shuffle that stuff to the bottom then delete. Sometimes I miss the deletion...

  • At 8:37 PM, May 26, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - I think the distinction between biblical and systematic is more exaggerated than it ought to be. Is it possible to do biblical theology without approaching it systematically, or vice versa? I don't think so, and I don't think you think so.

    The thrust I was going for however was not intended to pit biblical vs. systematic theology, rather to pit the idea of say literal vs. thought for thought. etc.

    Our present church constitution limits the translations we are allowed to use for teaching to the KJV and the NKJV. One of the (influential) men who originally put together our constitution was a strong believer in the superiority of the Byzantine text, and truly believed that the Alexandrian text type was not merely inferior, but purposely erroneous and dangerous.

    The people who held to this notion, and rigidly imposed these restrictions on our assembly are no longer in the congregation, and those of us who are left are not of their persuasion, at least not with respect to manuscript evidence. So I am preparing a motion to wipe out the previous restriction, but I want to ensure that I am not opening the door to preaching "the message" from the pulpit.

    The bulk of this post was intended to show that we ought not to think that all translations are equal, or that even all (however well intentioned) are actually "fit" for instruction - rather we ought to heed the words of the apostle and regard even the patterns of speech to be significant, and to restrict our translations to those translations which are most faithful in maintaining the original script.

    SO that is what was behind it mostly.

    I think historical theologies, systematic theologies, and biblical theologies are all nice "tools" that help us organize and categorize what the bible teaches. But the moment a tool becomes a crutch, or stands in the place of authority, it is no longer an aid but can become a detriment.

    I can honestly say that I don't really have a preference - I think there are many ways to study theology, and a good student can appreciate them all. Which isn't to suggest that I am a good student, but rather that I think that is what a good student would do. ;)

  • At 10:11 AM, May 27, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, interesting article. The NASB was the version I grew up reading and really enjoyed it's ease of readability and literal thought; I always wondered why they kept the thee's and thou's in the psalms etc. though.

    As for JD's question regarding Biblical vs. Systematic theology; I think there is a valid concern here. I have found that many preachers and teachers make the Bible fit their theology or understanding rather that letting the Bible speak for itself. They (I am sure often unconsciously) read into scripture a system or doctrine that the Bible does not itself lay out in such clear and unequivocal terms.

    It would also seem to me that with the abundance of English versions, a proper understanding of words in the original language would become more necessary?

  • At 10:44 AM, May 27, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - I am reminded of one young fellow I knew; he was an avid reader, a diligent student, very, very well read. In fact, he would comb the second hand book stores for theological books and whatnot, and devour them.

    His "theology" seemed to change monthly. One month he believed this, another that, his understanding of God's word was always in a state of flux because as he exposed himself to various ideas and arguments he became convinced by them.

    The only weakness this fellow seemed to have was he didn't really read a lot of scripture. He had read through the bible once, but had read over an hundred (no exaggeration) theological/doctrinal/spiritual books.

    One would expect that someone so well read would be very grounded in what he believed to be true, but rather than certainty and conviction, he only had questions and speculative opinions. It became something of a joke between us, for as long as I had known him, my convictions in what I believe grew deeper and deeper roots - I began to see more and marvelous facets to what I already understood to be true - and such things that made me ache in my spirit over my own wretched state, and causing me renewed hunger and thirst, yet in the same period of time he only flip-flopped about what he would assent to intellectually - never seeming to draw any nearer to the truth, but having a head full of well argued opinions.

    I think there is a danger - even a great danger - in mistaking an academic pursuit for a spiritual one. That is not to say that we are to seek God on some visceral level with our minds set upon a shelf - but rather that we are to seek to know God rather than know about Him. One cannot really know God unless he knows something about Him - and one can only know God in proportion to how much one knows about God - but all that is premised upon the idea that one is seeking God in the first place. It is the easiest deception in the world to think that God is found in knowledge rather than through it. The hammer drives the nail, but one must look beyond the hammer to the hand that wields it - so too, right knowledge leads to the right God - but knowledge by itself is not God.

    I think there are some therefore who are trained not to seek God first, but to seek knowledge about God first - and the premise I think is that when we can intellectually explain everything about God, then we can begin to know Him - and that of course is a false premise. We know God as we surrender to Him, and we surrender to Him as we become satisfied in Him - and we become satisfied in Him as He becomes satisfying to us in and through the His life-giving, bondage-breaking word.

    So I hear you when you speak about those who make the bible suit their theological understanding - and who amongst us can say that we are not in part at least, partakers of this error? I am sure that there is some wicked deception in me, that rests there, and has always been there, that I am blind to, and that hinders my fullest comprehension of truth because I bring it in with me as I consider the word of God - though I reserve the hope that as I find such black spots in me I shall pursue and receive that strength by which such chains of ignorance can be cast off - yet not all are willing to consider the possibility in themselves, and even as you say, there are numbers who come with untold baggage to scripture, and force the text into the shape of their own understanding, and imagine themselves to be good stewards of God's word in doing so. I think inheriting bad theology is where most of this comes from. How many things did I believe in my superstition before God's word washed them away? How many stains in my understanding remain?

    But there is a pattern that you rightly identify, whereby people (and I briefly alluded to this at the onset of my comment) take ignorant liberties with God's word because their theology demands it, and that is certainly a concern for all of us.

    With regards to your second point, I think that scripture (unlike the Qu'ran for instance) has this quality - it is authoritative in whatever language it is translated into, for the message transcends language and speaks to those who whom God Himself makes spiritually receptive - which is to say that the sheep hear the voice of their Shepherd because they are His sheep - and the translation does not hinder that.

    That being the case, an accurate translation is all one needs per se. The trouble is how can one be assured that their translation is accurate? That is where the original languages help. I would never have confidence in the NASB if I hadn't spent so much effort studying to learn how the bible was put together, how the manuscripts were selected, and which translation follows what philosophy. This can be done without knowledge of the original language - but a knowledge of the original surely helps.

  • At 2:08 PM, May 27, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    "I think there are some therefore who are trained not to seek God first, but to seek knowledge about God first - and the premise I think is that when we can intellectually explain everything about God, then we can begin to know Him - and that of course is a false premise. We know God as we surrender to Him, and we surrender to Him as we become satisfied in Him - and we become satisfied in Him as He becomes satisfying to us in and through the His life-giving, bondage-breaking word."

    Amen! Knowing Christ is truly the goal, and as we seek to know Him, He grants revelation and insight into the unchanging truths of His word.

  • At 7:51 AM, May 31, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I gave my NIV (an archaelogical study Bible) to our pastor about a year ago when I was studying Daniel's 70 weeks. The last verse of chapter nine was rendered horrendously (in my view) and confusing - as it states "And on a wing of the temple, he [referring apparently to the 'he' in previous verses, who will confirm a covenant - ie, Christ] will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

    I found that terribly confusing since the ESV states this: "And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."

    In other words, the "he" in the NIV seems to imply that the one who confirms the covenant also sets up an abomination, whereas in the ESV it is clearly a new character introduced. I decided at that point to never again refer to the NIV. I just can't.

    I stick mainly to the NASB Updated (our pastor's preferred translation) and the ESV Study Bible with Sproul's notes. Thanks to your recommendations, I also refer to the NET Bible (and gave copies to my dad and my pastor at Christmas - my dad loves it; my pastor hasn't commented about it). I also purchased at that time the Holman Christian Standard Apologetics Study Bible, but have not yet referred much to it.

    It seems that the more we grow in Christ and are pruned by Him, the closer we get to His Word and not rely on fallible teachings. Not that those teachings aren't accurate - surely many are and I have learned much from men's teachings, but I have grown to recognize that only the Holy Spirit can lead, grow and mold me (sometimes through teachings - more often by direct learning in Scripture and prayer).

  • At 11:15 PM, June 07, 2008, Blogger CD-Host said…

    Just to throw my $.02 in. I don't think there is a "best translation". More its a best translation for what end....

    For liturgical use beauty in English is absolutely key so something like the NASB is a terrible choice. The REB would be my choice here or a for a congregation that is used to the KJV.

    For detailed study I think the ESV is pretty good but not on its own. Far too often it uses minority translations to support fashionable contemporary positions. A good 2nd bible to work with the ESV is the NEB. Of course the concordant is extremely literal. Also I'd throw in the NRSV since IMHO this is probably most scholarly mainstream translation available.

    For expository preaching, given that the pastor can do the word study type work I'd go with something leaning in dynamic direction. TNIV, REB would both be good.

    For first time reading, I'd go with a paraphrase. In an hour of study a naive reader will get far more from a highly non literal translation, so yeah the Message ain't bad for use.

    I'm sure its easy to come up with cases for most good bibles.

  • At 10:25 PM, June 08, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Welcome to the blog CD-Host.

    I think a lot of people would agree with you. Do we really enjoy Shakespeare as much when it is translated into modern English? I think not. To be sure, whether in the secular world or in religion: when we come to a text in order to be entertained by it, we certainly can't beat the old English renderings of scripture.

    Likewise, if the goal of our preaching is to speak for God rather than to let God's word speak - we can't beat paraphrases, and the more modern, the better.

    I remind myself that since the printing press, and especially in our day of desktop publishing and internet access - we need not ingest the word of God directly, we can have it professionally chewed beforehand, and even have the culturally distasteful parts shuffled, lessened, or removed altogether- leaving us to take in only those distilled texts that satisfy our culture and/or our upbringing, and we can remain insulated from the truth for years couched, as it were, within our own opinion and held there without fear because we are surrounded by like minded high-fivers who prefer to receive the word indirectly, and only after it has been neutered until it satisfies their preestablished social status quo.

    Which is far more harsh sounding that I mean it to sound... <grin>

    I personally regard dynamic translations as only slightly better than commentaries - and I use them in much the same way. If a Greek rendering is difficult, I like to see what various commentaries say - and I will check a few dynamic translations to see how it was interpreted in their "translation". But by and large, I relegate dynamic translations to third or fourth string reference material. Sometimes a particular rendering may find its way into the pulpit, but always preceded by a good, solid - "this [preceding literal translation] is what the text literally means, and to give you some idea of how the nuances can play out, here is the way one dynamic version renders it..."

    I think I would personally (and -hey- that' just me) shy away from saying one translation is good for one scenario and another one for another scenario - as that suggests (to me at least) that there is some cleverness or bent in one that is more suited to a situation than another - which is a fancy way of saying when we dress the text up in a tux, it looks nice at the ball, but when we go to the ball game, it should wear jeans - I think that kind of thinking comes from a low view of scripture and a high view of man's ability to cater the text to the situation. As I see it, the only part of the text that can be made to tailor fit some scenario is the part that man adds to it - and that is the very part that isn't going to have any spiritual value.

    Anway - thanks for the comment. I wasn't so much answering you as just free associating on what you said.

  • At 10:56 PM, June 08, 2008, Blogger CD-Host said…

    Daniel --

    Well lets take a simple example. Matt 9:10. Completely annoyance for you average translation. Because "reclining" at a meal is highly informal in 2008 America and formal in 1st century Israel. Translate it literally and most readers get the wrong impression. Translate it dynamically and you end up having to change the main verb, which is why lots of translation drop

    I'd say the level of knowledge of the reader and the context makes a great deal of difference in how to handle this verse. This incidentally is an area where the ESV took a more conservative (literal) position than either the RSV or the KJV; which isn't bad given the way the ESV is used and who it is targeted at. But I don't think the KJV or RSV made a wrong choice either given their targets.

    As for dynamic translation moving in the direction of commentary, absolutely true. I don't disagree in the slightest. I don't think its a bad thing, if the objective is just to be as close as possible, why not use the concordant bible rather than the NASB or ESV?

    Nor do I disagree with as that suggests (to me at least) that there is some cleverness or bent in one that is more suited to a situation than another . That is what I was saying. In translation you have to make either or choices and which choices you make determine the scope of use.

  • At 6:51 AM, June 09, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    CD-Host, I can't really remember the first time I read Matthew 9:10, but I am pretty sure I read it in the KJV, and I was probably around eight years old or something like that. I don't remember being tripped up by it. Eventually I came to understand that the reason they were reclining, and at that point I was a little disappointed with Leonardo Da Vinci for painting such a famous (but entirely incorrect) representation of the event. :) I remember as a child that my minds image of Jesus looked a lot like a brightly coloured, renaissance era, European. I think there was no real (lasting) harm done in my misconception, but there was likewise nothing good about it either.

    Clearly Da Vinci was not painting the last supper as an exercise in accuracy, but rather in a way that would make sense to the European mind. I think we can allow some artistic freedom there - as he wasn't translating scripture.

    At least when it comes to Matthew 9:10, I don't think the text is bolstered any by trying to translate it into some cultural equivalent. The average reader, even a child, is capable of recognizing that there is going to be some cultural differences between their own culture and the one they find in scripture.

    Here we are really talking about translation philosophies, so I want to be measured in what I say (I tend often to overstatement). I think that there are people who believe that God's word needs to be tailored to the target culture into which the text is being translated. I think the motives for translating the text this way are all very well meaning, but ultimately depend upon a low view of God's word.

    I want to be careful when I say "low view" - because by it I do not mean to say or imply that they have the lowest view possible, or that (relative to the majority of readers) their view is "low" - but rather that they give primacy to the literary aspect of the text over the divine; which is to say, they are willing to take greater liberties with the text because it is first of all -just a text- and only secondly "holy writ".

    I don't subscribe to this mentality - believing, as I do, that God's word is first inspired, and only secondly "language" - such that I am impressed to maintain, as much as is humanly possible, the form and pattern of the original language - not because I want to exalt the language structure of the original - but rather because I do not believe I have the perspective 20 centuries removed from the source, what nuance of the text is spiritually significant. Paul exhorted Timothy to maintain even the "pattern of words" that was taught to him; I think it is not only good form, but biblically justifiable to do the same.

    That is my translation philosophy, and because it is, I tend to prefer a good, accurate - one translation fits all - sort of translation.

    Consider whether the following observation is likely true or not, the give some thought to the implications for modern translations): I believe that even if everyone understood the original languages perfectly well there would still be a vibrant market for paraphrased Hebrew and Greek bibles, and likely for the sort of reasons you bring up with Matthew 9:10 - because some one will reason that since most people are ignorant of ancient cultures, we ought to change the original text to make it more relevant to today's culture.

    I think that most of us would never change the original text (fearing not only the curses associated with doing so, but having a genuine reverence for God by extension, for God's word, that would prohibit even fearing to let the smallest jot or a tittle fall from the text, or be appended to in some way). Yet such reverence, such confidence (if you will) in God's word is becoming increasingly rare, and while there are many today who would never augment the original - there are still many who would see no harm in doing so. There are many more however, who, while having reverence for the original text, do not have that same reverence for translations of the text - and what they would fear doing to the original, they readily do in their translation.

    I guess it is my philosophy that God's message ought not to be tampered with. I am reminded of the lofty ideals of modern cultural anthropologists - who regard it as the greatest failure to impose one's own culture upon the culture one is trying to study - though inevitably they all do it, yet they attempt according to their ability and temperment, to engage in examining a culture without polluting it. I follow a similar philosophy when it comes both to reading, and to translating the scriptures - my goal is to take the text as it is, and not to try and plug it into my culture, or my social experience, or even my intellectual experience - but to receive it as is, and to understand it "as is".

    I expect that sounds loftier than I mean it to sound - but that is how I think of it. I appreciate that scripture is the tool used by the Holy Spirit that causes believers to ~know~ God and that the natural person (1 Cor. 2:14) lacks the spiritual ability to accept what is found in scripture - that is, I accept that the two rails that the train of our faith must run upon are scripture on the left, and the Holy Spirit on the right, such that where we err on the side of scripture and our understanding, the Holy Spirit can intervene and salvage the wreck, or at least minimize it - but I don't again allow such a thought to allow slackness with God's word - that is, I don't reason that because the Holy Spirit may bail us out, we can be less exacting with God's word.

    Which again is saying more than I need to say - but I like to express myself in these matters, as in doing so I am forced to articulate to myself the nuances of what I believe and why I believe it. <grin>

    Thanks for the mini-discussion. ;)

  • At 8:48 AM, June 09, 2008, Blogger CD-Host said…

    Daniel --

    I understand the sentiment regarding God's word. What I'm curious about given that sentiment why you stop with the ESV or NASB. Arguably the position you are advocating sounds a great deal like the Jewish and Muslim position that translations are little more than paraphrases, as all translation distorts God's word far too much.

    So I guess given that attitude:

    1) Why not more literal translations (like the concordant)?

    2) Why not a Greek/Hebrew only policy?

    For example the ESV (preforce) has to lose the play between naked and cunning in Gen 3:7. There is simply no way to do that in English.

  • At 11:01 AM, June 09, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    CD-Host, I personally do not stop with the ESV or the NASB. I am presently studying Greek, and plan to begin Hebrew, then Aramaic if time and life permit. But my post wasn't about what I prefer above the translations, rather it was which of the translations I prefer and why.

    My goal is to come to a place (personally) where I am not reading translations, but am reading the most reliable manuscripts in the original languages.

    But my personal policy is not what is being discussed in the original post; rather I am stating which translations I prefer and why.

    I believe that it would be best if everyone mastered Hebrew and Greek. We wouldn't need translations at all - yet I recognize that the best scenario is not going to happen. the next best thing, is to have a translation that adds as little to the text as possible. That is the point of my original post - to describe which translations I regard as superior, and to give my reasoning as to the criteria and explanation of why I hold my opinion the way I do.

    With regards to the word play (intentional or otherwise) found in Gen 3:7, and by extension, and and all "color" that would give a richer flavor to the original than could be communicated in the translation. How many psalms rhyme? How many English translations of a psalm have been able to follow the original cadence, rhyme, and even alliteration of the original? That is, I understand that the color and flavor of speech found in one language will not very often translate freely into another, but that by know means is to suggest that God's word is diminished in a literal translation because that translation doesn't reflect the art and color of the original, for we could carry that idea even further backwards - the original scripture was probably dictated as it was written - but the written word doesn't carry the vocal nuances of the speaker, the timbre of his voice, etc. Yet in reading the written word we are brought into a sufficiently close proximity to what was actually vocalized.

    So too, I think we are to strive for the highest rung, and be satisfied that God, in His sovereignty, intended the highest rung to be sufficient for our purposes. That is, I do not use the notion that some color and nuance is lost in a translation to justify exalting color and nuance over substance - not that I accuse any of doing this, but that I express that certain nuances are never going to translate, and that the movie in black and white is still the same movie even without the color - as long as we don't change the dialog.

  • At 11:04 AM, June 09, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    CD - please forgive the multitude of typographical errors in my last comment. I didn't proofread it before publishing it.

  • At 8:05 PM, June 09, 2008, Blogger CD-Host said…

    Daniel --

    OK I understand your answer, I don't agree at all. I happen to think meaning is vastly more important anything else for most readers.

    I also happen to think that:

    A) "That is my translation philosophy, and because it is, I tend to prefer a good, accurate - one translation fits all - sort of translation."

    B) jot and tittle

    directly conflict.

    I gave an analogy to Jews and Muslims I think you took the wrong way, I probably expressed it badly. So I'll try again. Jews and Muslims hold to very much to a literal camp, the jot and tittle standard. Because of this, they consider all translations to be paraphrases and thus tend in their translation to go for a good paraphrase rather than trying to be literal. That is Jewish and Muslim translations (in general) aim much more for a smooth reading than the accuracy you see in either Christian dynamic or formal equivalence translations. They don't quite go to the level of the The Message, but they aren't far off.

    They would never consider anything other than the original to be "God's Word". Jews go further than Muslims, and hold printed original language texts in much lower regard than properly scribed ones. That is even the original Hebrew text if not scribed properly is not Torah (the Law) but rather Chamush (5 books). Nev'im (prophetic writings) are much lower to begin with and don't have to be scribed at all.

    Anyway that clarifies the point I tried to make earlier, in line with their thinking it would seem that a lower view of scripture is needed to consider any sort of translation to be "God's word". And that is where I saw the conflict.

    I've asked this question about the concordant a few times. To take the ESV, in comparison to more literal translations, The ESV feels free to:

    1) Replace Greek words with different English words depending on their read of the text. (That is they do dynamic equivalence at the word but not the phrase level).

    2) Rearrange the structure of sentences.

    3) Move away from formal equivalence in line with tradition.

    I'm wondering why you consider those 3 acceptable but don't consider:

    4) translate at the phrase rather than the word level (in general)

    5) Replace cultural idioms from the source with recipient cultural idioms.

    to be acceptable. In other words what's the standard that allows for the first 3 and doesn't mandate a translation that doesn't do that (again I give the example of the concordant which:
    -- uses the same English word for the same Greek word every time.

    -- maintains Greek sentence structure and has the reader rearrange the sentences.

    -- Translates each verse in a consistent way, in line with the given text and not other parts of the bible.

    Good discussion. It wasn't my intent to attack just to clarify since in reading your response....

  • At 10:23 PM, June 09, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    CD-Host - thank you for clarifying the Hebrew/Muslim thing - I see what you mean now - Wouldn't go so far as to say that unless I am holding the original manuscripts in my hand, I am not dealing with God's word - rather it is a question of greater integrity in a translation. All things being equal, I can use some of the Google translation tools to translate a page that is written in Japanese. The translation will reveal something of the original intent, but not with any real precision (at least not in 2008). I could likewise have a japanese friend over, and have them do some impromptu translation - and that would certainly be better than the former, but the best case scenario would be to have a group of skilled textual translators take the Japanese text and carefully and precisely craft it into its nearest English equivalent. I wouldn't care too much about ultra precision here, because it is just a web-page, so (to be sure) I probably wouldn't insist on a a very elevated level of linguistic precision or accuracy.

    But if I were translating a new, highly complex, Japanese medical procedure - I would insist on a level of precision that doesn't involve itself with the art and beauty of the language so much as the content of the procedure. I would demand a level of precision, I say, not in conveying the linguistic beauty, but in conveying the essential information.

    I regard scripture as being far more important to my eternal confidence than any medical procedure ever could be, and as such I require a level of precision that I wouldn't expect if I were translating a shopping list, a popular song, or even an ancient novel. In fact, I think if I were translating an ancient novel, I would be inclined less to accuracy, and more inclined to capture style and flow - since the purpose is not informational so much as it is entertainment.

    That is primarily why I would, in translating scripture, seek to capture in as literal a fashion as possible, the language of the original, as the information therein is not being used simply to entertain, or to impress the reader with the flowery prose of the translator - but to convey the original message as simply and as accurately as possible.

    I think too, that because I lack God's wisdom and foresight, it would be intellectually arrogant of me to impose (replace) some recent cultural idiom for one found in scripture. Do I really have enough perspective to say that an idiom God chose to use is insufficient today because I have determined (from my rather myopic vantage) God's motive in using this particular idiom, and having decided that God only used this idiom because of such and such - I am free to replace it with something more relevant or culturally familiar to the reader of today?

    I know it isn't a popular opinion amongst liberal scholars today - but I really do believe that it is somewhat arrogant to second guess idioms - perhaps there is a purpose beyond the obvious for using a particular idiom - do I really think I see so much truth that I can dismiss the possibility? I would rather err on the side of having to explain an idiom than creating one that is alien to the text just because I think I know what God meant to say. That is, I would rather err in being too literal than to take liberties with the text based upon my certainty that my knowledge and sincerty are sufficient to the task.

    There are very few words in any language that have partners in some other language wherein the exact semantic range is identical - given this is self evident, we cannot always translate the same word using the same word in another language all the time. My goodness! The word day, for instance - can mean a literal 24 hour period ("God created the universe in six days"), or perhaps just the time when the sun is up, ("I will see you tomorrow during the day") or it can even mean a season or generation ("Back in my day, we did ...blah blah") - which of these three meanings are we going to insist we "always" translate the word to mean? We wouldn't be honoring either language if we allowed ourselves to fall into such a folly.

    I think that there is room within a semantic range to use close synonyms without offending the pursuit of a more literal translation.

    Likewise, Greek sentence structure, being build around a highly inflected language (as opposed a positional language such as English) doesn't require the aping of language frameworks into the target language. There are certainly times when word order is used in Greek for emphasis, etc. and preserving that has value - but one can retain a level of literacy without nickel-and-diming the thing to death. If one really wants that level of scrutiny, learn the original language - which is again to say, if we are talking about translations, I would not go to an interlinear, (word for word) rendering of the text, because the whole point of having a translation is to have the text in your own language - which includes familiar grammar, and sentence structure. Not that we exalt grammar and sentence structure above the translation so that we can take liberties with the text in the name of smoothing out the grammar or structure - but rather that we translate, as literally as possible, the text into as familiar language as possible.

    I don't think I will be able, in the scope of this post at least, to give a full and thorough dissertation on what makes for good and proper translation and what is offensive - at least not in any convincing way. I can however follow the thesis set out at the forefront, which was, as I have said, to state which translations I think are better and why. :-)

    I appreciate your input, and I too have enjoyed the discussion - thanks CD.

  • At 1:15 PM, June 14, 2008, Blogger CD-Host said…

    Daniel --

    I put together some notes on my blog which are a follow up to the discussion we had here.

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