Dave's Blog

Notes on Bible Translations

By Dave Zierenberg
Notes and resources on methods of Bible translations and how various translations line up
Limitations of word-for-word translation (transliteration)
Transliteration examples:

John 4.2: "Although Jesus himself not was baptizing but the disciples of him"

Rom 1.12: "This but is to be mutually encouraged in you through the in one another of faith of you and of me."

Matt 1.18: "Of the now Jesus Christ the beginning thus was. Of having become engaged of the mother of him of Mary to the Joseph, before or to come together them {he/she/it} was found in belly having from spirit holy."


This IS strict word-for-word translation, and it simply doesn't work.  So we can see that some kind of adjustments have to be made.


Three philosophies (from Zondervan Publishers)

  • "Formal Correspondence Translations" try to stick as closely as possible to the original wording and word-order of the Hebrew and Greek texts.  Thus they may seem more accurate or "literal," but often require detailed explanations in footnotes to avoid being misinterpreted by modern readers.  They are good for in-depth academic study of the Bible, but may be less suited for public proclamation, since they can be difficult to understand when heard or read aloud.
  • "Dynamic Equivalence Translations" try to put the sense of the original text into the best modern English, remaining close to the ideas expressed but not always following the exact wording or word-order of the Hebrew or Greek originals.  Thus they may seem less "literal" than the formal correspondence translations, but can be just as "faithful" to the original text, and are therefore generally better suited for public proclamation or liturgical use.
  • "Biblical Paraphrases" are not (and do not even claim to be) accurate translations, although they are usually still called "Bibles."  These popular books (esp. those intended for children or teenagers, or the "Living Bible" of 1971) not only condense and/or omit much of the material, but they freely change the wording of the original texts to make the stories easier to understand and/or more "relevant" for their intended readers.
For example, the system of measuring time in ancient Israel was very different from our own.  They counted twelve hours from sunrise to sundown, and subdivided the night into three (or sometimes four) "watches."  Thus, the same time that is called "the eleventh hour" in a formal correspondence translation would be translated "five o'clock in the afternoon" in a dynamic equivalence version (and might simply say "in the late afternoon" in a biblical paraphrase).
Here are some resources for further study.  Some of these use slightly different terminology but the principles are the same.  Notice that even in the charts you'll find on these sites, though they mostly agree, there are some differences on how translations line up.  The first link includes the chart I used in the PowerPoint.
Here is some info I found on the site of an Episcopol Church.  I have not read the whole thing, but what I have read is both detailed and accurate.

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