Translation Theories:
Lecture 13E
I.
II.
III
IV.
V.
Formal Equivalence
Dynamic or Idiomatic Equivalence
Optimal or literal-idiomatic Equivalence
A Closer Look into Translation
Use of Theological Vocabulary in Translation
TRANSLATION THEORIES:
I.
Consider the following three main approaches:
A.
Formal Equivalence (word-for-word)
B.
Dynamic-Functional or Idiomatic Equivalence
(thought-for-thought, literary translation)
C.
Optimal Approach (combines literal-idiomatic
aspects together); tends towards idiomatic
approach.
TRANSLATION THEORIES:
I.
Consider the following information provided by ISV
Foundation:
All major translations of the Bible fall somewhere on a scale between
complete formal equivalence and complete functional equivalence.
Translations that are quite literal include:
A.
The King James Version [KJV],
B.
The New King James Version [NKJV],
C.
The American Standard Version of 1901 [ASV],
D.
The New American Standard Bible [NASB],
E.
The Revised Standard Version [RSV],
F. The New Revised Standard Version [NRSV].
TRANSLATION THEORIES:
Translations lean toward the idiomatic end of the spectrum include:
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
The New International Version [NIV];
The New English Bible [NEB];
The Revised English Bible [REB];
The Good News Bible [GNB];
The New Living Translation [NLT];
The Contemporary English Version [CEV ].
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000
(Print on Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA
I.
Formal Equivalence:
WHAT IS THE FORMAL EQUIVALENCE APPROACH?
Part I.
ESV, NASB, NKJV.
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
 Often called “word-for-word” translation, this approach seeks to be as
“literal as possible.”
 This view seeks to preserve the structure, meaning, & idioms of the
original language:



Etymologically historical (sensitive to the intrinsic development
of and normative meaning/nuances of words).
Grammatically transparent (singular, plural, feminine, masculine,
tense, mood, figures of speech, etc).
Syntactically transparent (The arrangement of the words in a
given sentence).
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
Consider the following statements from the English Standard
Version Committee:
 “The ESV is an ‘essentially literal’ translation that seeks as far as
possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the
personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “wordfor-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account
differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary
English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to
the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the
structure and meaning of the original.”
The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.). Good
News Publishers: Wheaton
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
ESV Translation Philosophy Committee continues:
“In contrast to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a
‘thought-for-thought’ rather than ‘word-for-word’ translation
philosophy, emphasizing ‘dynamic equivalence’ rather than the
‘essentially literal’ meaning of the original. A ‘thought-for-thought’
translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive
opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary
culture.”
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.).
Good News Publishers: Wheaton
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
Consider the NASB Translation Committee:
“The attempt has been made to render the grammar and
terminology in contemporary English. When it was felt that the
word-for-word literalness was unacceptable to the modern reader, a
change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom.
In the instances where this has been done, the more literal
rendering has been indicated in the notes. There are a few
exceptions to this procedure.”
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. The Lockman
Foundation: LaHabra, CA
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
Consider the NASB Translation Committee:
In addition to the more literal renderings, notations have been
made to include alternate translations, reading of variant
manuscripts, and explanatory equivalents of the text. These
notations have been used specifically to assist the reader in
comprehending the terms used by the original author.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. The Lockman
Foundation: LaHabra, CA
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
ESV Committee:
“Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal
precision and readability, between ‘formal equivalence’ in
expression and ‘functional equivalence’ in communication, and the
ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be
‘as literal as possible’ while maintaining clarity of expression and
literary excellence. Therefore, to the extent that plain English
permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to
use the same English word for important recurring words in the
original; and, as far as grammar and syntax allow, we have
rendered Old Testament passages cited in the New in ways that
show their correspondence.”
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
“Thus in each of these areas, as well as throughout the Bible
as a whole, we have sought to capture the echoes and
overtones of meaning that are so abundantly present in the
original texts.”
“In each case the objective has been transparency to the
original text, allowing the reader to understand the original
on its own terms rather than on the terms of our presentday culture.”
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.). Good
News Publishers: Wheaton
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
 Positive Benefits:




Presupposes Verbal, plenary inspiration.
Places importance upon knowing the Scripture as it was
originally stated.
Promotes access to the structure & meaning of the Scripture in
the original languages.
Provides opportunity for in-depth inductive Bible study.
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
 Positive Benefits:



Promotes word-for-word correspondence to the extent that the
English has an exact equivalent for each word & that the
grammatical-linguistic structure can be reproduced in
understandable English.
Proclaims sensus singular (single intended meaning); more
objective.
Provides boundaries for interpreting & validating the Scripture
within the framework of the author/Author’s intended meaning;
I.
Formal Equivalence Approach:
 Criticisms:

An exact equivalent for each & every word cannot actually be
reproduced.


The pattern/structure of the original language in every respect
cannot be reproduced in an understandable language.


Objection: teach what the original word means; Christians should be
teachable. This is a minor issue.
Objection: Again, teach the Word as it is; this is a minor issue.
It could result in awkward statements and thus lead to potential
misunderstandings of the author/Author’s intended meaning.

Objection: clarify in footnotes as some translations do (e.g., NET).
II. DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE:
WHAT IS THE DYNAMIC OR FUNCTIONAL
APPROACH?
Part II.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
 Often called “thought-for-thought” translation as opposed
to a “word-for-word” translation.
 Distinguishes the meaning of a text from its form and then
translates the meaning so that it makes the same impact
on modern readers that the ancient texts made on its
original readers.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
 Positive Benefits by its Proponents:

High degree of clarity and readability.

Appeals to a wider range of audience.

Focuses on the meaning-statement-thought.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
 Criticisms:




Not transparently dependent on original language (word for
word).
Tendency to promote multiple meanings (sensus plenior).
Less objectivity, more interpretative license regarding original
language.
Difficult to verify accuracy & usefulness for in-depth Bible study.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
New Living Translation Committee comments:
The goal of this translation theory is to produce in the
receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the
message expressed by the original-language text—both in
meaning and in style. Such a translation attempts to have
the same impact on modern readers as the original had on
its own audience.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
The ISV Foundation that produced the NIV Bible describes
dynamic equivalence as follows:
“The other method is termed ‘idiomatic
’ or ‘functional equivalent.
’ The
goal of an idiomatic translation is to achieve the closest natural
equivalent in modern language to match the ideas of the original text.
Idiomatic translations have little or no concern for maintaining the
grammatical forms, sentence structure, and consistency of word usage
of the source languages.”
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print
on Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
New Living Translation Committee comments:
A dynamic-equivalence translation can also be called a thoughtfor-thought translation, as contrasted with a formal-equivalence
or word-for-word translation. Of course, to translate the thought
of the original language requires that the text be interpreted
accurately and then be rendered in understandable idiom. So the
goal of any thought-for-thought translation is to be both reliable
and eminently readable. Thus, as a thought-for-thought
translation, the New Living Translation seeks to be both
exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
New Living Translation Committee states:
In making a thought-for-thought translation, the translators must do their
best to enter into the thought patterns of the ancient authors and to
present the same ideas, connotations, and effects in the receptor
language. In order to guard against personal biases and to ensure the
accuracy of the message, a thought-for-thought translation should be
created by a group of scholars who employ the best exegetical tools
and who also understand the receptor language very well.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
On the issue of clarity & readability, the New Living
Translation Bible Committee states:
The translators have made a conscious effort to provide a text that can be
easily understood by the average reader of modern English. To this end, we
have used the vocabulary and language structures commonly used by the
average person. The result is a translation of the Scriptures written generally at
the reading level of a junior high school student. We have avoided using
language that is likely to become quickly dated or that reflects a narrow
subdialect of English, with the goal of making the New Living Translation as
broadly useful as possible. Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale
House: Wheaton, Ill.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
They continue to state:
But our concern for readability goes beyond the concerns of
vocabulary and sentence structure. We are also concerned
about historical and cultural barriers to understanding the
Bible, and we have sought to translate terms shrouded in
history or culture in ways that can be immediately
understood by the contemporary reader.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
The New Living Translation Committee Approach:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
They assigned each book of the Bible to 3 different scholars.
Each scholar made a thorough review of the assigned book &
submitted suggested revisions to the appropriate general
reviewer.
The general reviewer reviewed & summarized these suggestions &
then proposed a first-draft revision of the text.
This draft served as the basis for several additional phases of
exegetical & stylistic committee review.
Then the Bible Translation Committee jointly reviewed &
approved every verse in the final translation.
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
II. Dynamic or Functional Approach:
Comments regarding Dynamic Equivalence:
The New King James Committee states:
“Dynamic
equivalence, a recent procedure in Bible
translation, commonly results in paraphrasing
where a more literal rendering is needed to reflect
a specific and vital sense.”
The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson:
Nashville
\
III. Optimal Approach:
WHAT IS THE OPTIMAL OR LITERALIDIOMATIC APPROACH?
Part III.
HCSB & NIV
III. Optimal Approach:
•
Optimal Approach as used by HCSB uses the following:
•
Starts with an exhaustive analysis of the text at every level (word,
phrase, clause, sentence, discourse) in the original language to
determine its original meaning and intention (or purpose).
•
Then relying on the latest and best language tools and experts, the
nearest corresponding semantic and linguistic equivalents are used to
convey as much of the information and intention of the original text
with as much clarity and readability as possible.
III. Optimal Approach:
•
Optimal Approach as used by HCSB uses the following:
•
This process is used to assure the maximum transfer both word and
thoughts contained in the original.
•
When a literal translation meets this criteria, it is used.
•
When a clarity and readability demand an idiomatic translation, the
reader can still access the form of the original text by means of a
footnote with the abbreviation “Lit.”
III. Optimal Approach:
•
Criticism of Formal Approach:
“In practice, translations are seldom if every purely formal or dynamic
but favor one theory of Bible translation or the other to varying
degrees.”
“Optimal equivalence as a translation philosophy recognizes that form
cannot be neatly separated from meaning and should not be changed
(for example, nouns to verbs or third person ‘they’ to second person
‘you’) unless comprehension demands it. The primary goal of
translation is to convey the sense of the original with as much clarity as
the original text and the translation language permit. Optimal
equivalence appreciates the goals of formal equivalence but also
recognizes its limitations.” HSCB, xi.
III. Optimal Approach:
•
The ISV Foundation states:
A good translation will steer a careful course between word-forword translation and interpretation under the guise of translating.
In other words, a good translation will be both reliable and
readable . The best translation, then, is one that is both accurate
and idiomatic at the same time. It will make every effort to
reproduce the culture and exact meaning of the text without
sacrificing readability. The ISV Foundation calls this type of
translation ‘
literal-idiomatic.
’”
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print on
Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA.
III. Optimal Approach:
•
The ISV Foundation goes on to say:
Of these three basic types of translation—literal, literal-idiomatic, and
idiomatic—the translators of the ISV have, without hesitation, opted for
the second. This is not because it happens to be the middle option,
simply avoiding extremes, but because the literal-idiomatic translation is
the only choice that avoids the dangers of over-literalness and of overinterpretation discussed above. Teaching biblical truth demands
extreme fidelity to the original text of Scripture. However, a translation
of the Bible need not sacrifice English clarity in order to maintain a
close correspondence to the source languages. The goal of the ISV,
therefore, has been both accuracy and excellence in communication.
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print on
Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA.
III. Optimal Approach
Positive Benefits:
A. One can appreciate the sensitivity of this
approach in view of their attempt to
combine both the strengths of formal
equivalence and dynamic equivalence.
B. Particularly, when clarity and readability
“demands” an idiomatic translation,
one can appreciate the HCSB
committee for giving a footnote citing the
literal form.
III. Optimal Approach:
Criticisms:
A. This approach tends to weigh more towards
dynamic equivalence than formal
equivalence; balance or symmetry is hard
to achieve in combining both approaches.
B. While the optimal approach may allow for a
deeper in-depth Bible study, a formal
approach is still favored.
C. Is this approach promising too much?
IV. A Closer Look into Translation:
A CLOSER LOOK INTO TRANSLATION:
PART IV.
Consider the following…
IV. A Closer Look into Translation:
1.
Who puts together these translations? Can they be trusted?
2.
What are their backgrounds? What are their qualifications?
3.
What procedures do they follow in order to safe guard their
translations from personal biases, preunderstandings, and
inconsistencies?
4.
Are they committed to a certain translation approach?
5.
Are they committed to a certain systematic theology?
IV. A Closer Look into Translation:
Consider the Revised Standard Version Committee:
“The Revised Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body,
comprising about thirty members, both men and women. Ecumenical in
representation, it includes scholars affiliated with various Protestant
denominations, as well as several Roman Catholic members, an Eastern
Orthodox member, and a Jewish member who serves in the Old Testament
section, For a period of time the Committee included several members from
Canada and from England.”
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989. Thomas
Nelson: Nashville.
IV. Consider the approach used by
the ISV Foundation….
The ISV Foundation for the NIV has the following
procedures for translation [what do you think of their
approach in view of checks and balances?]
“A Committee on Translation , which is overseeing
the work of translation from beginning to end,
including the supervision of all consultants. These
individuals have been selected for their competence
in biblical studies and on the basis of an interdenominational representation of the worldwide
Christian community.
IV. The NIV approach:
A General Editor , who is responsible for organizing and
directing the work of the Committee on Translation. The
General Editor continually evaluates the project in terms of
the quality of the translation and the efficiency with which
the work is being pursued.
Associate Editors for the Old and New Testaments, who
are especially capable in the biblical languages and
exegesis. Associate Editors coordinate all Committee
procedures related to their areas of expertise.
IV. The NIV Approach…
After the Committee on Translation produces draft
translations of the books of the Bible, a select group of
Contributing Scholars carefully reviews the drafts and
offers suggestions for their improvement. At the same time,
an English Review Committee checks the translation for
adherence to modern literary and communication standards
and suggests stylistic improvements for the consideration of
the Committee on Translation.”
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print
on Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA
IV. Consider the NIV Approach…
“When the text can be understood in different ways, an
attempt is made either to provide a rendering in which the
same ambiguity appears in English, or to decide the more
likely sense and translate accordingly. In the latter case, a
footnote indicates the alternative understanding of the text.
In general, the ISV attempts to preserve the relative
ambiguity of the text rather than to make positive
statements that depend on the translators
’ judgment or
that might reflect theological bias.”
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print
on Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA
Is their a better approach one can use for checks and balances?
IV. Consider this statement from the
editors of the New King James
Version:
“In faithfulness to God and to our readers, it was deemed
appropriate that all participating scholars sign a statement
affirming their belief in the verbal and plenary inspiration of
Scripture, and in the inerrancy of the original autographs.”
The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas
Nelson: Nashville.
Is this needed? Why or why not?
V. Use of Theological Vocabulary:
WHAT ROLE SHOULD THEOLOGICAL TERMS
HAVE IN TRANSLATION THEORY?
Part V.
Should words like “regeneration,” “sanctification,” “redemption,”
“propitiation,” etc. be used or should they too be translated using
dynamic equivalence?
Where does one draw the line between readability & instruction?
Is there even a line to be drawn? Are we “watering down”
basic theological terms by translating them in contemporary
words? Are we asking too little of our people to know what
these terms mean in terms of its classic literal translation?
V. Compare the following regarding
Theological Vocabulary…
HOLY BIBLE: NEW LIVING TRANSLATION COMMITTEE STATES:
“For theological terms, we have allowed a greater semantic range of
acceptable English words or phrases for a single Hebrew or Greek
word. We avoided weighty theological terms that do not readily
communicate to many modern readers. For example, we avoided using
words such as “justification,” “sanctification,” and “regeneration.” In
place of these words (which are carryovers from Latin), we provided
renderings such as “we are made right with God,” “we are made holy,”
and “we are born anew.”
Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.
V. Compare the following regarding
Theological Vocabulary…
THE ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION COMMITTEE:
“The ESV also carries forward classic translation principles
in its literary style. Accordingly it retains theological
terminology—words such as grace, faith, justification,
sanctification, redemption, regeneration, reconciliation,
propitiation—because of their central importance for
Christian doctrine and also because the underlying Greek
words were already becoming key words and technical
terms in New Testament times.”
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (electronic ed.). Good
News Publishers: Wheaton
V. Compare the following regarding
Theological Vocabulary…
HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE:
“Traditional theological vocabulary (such as justification, sanctification,
redemption, etc) has been retained in the HCSB, since such terms have
no translation equivalent that adequately communicates their exact
meaning.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Bible Publishers, 1999,
2000, 2002, 2003).
V. Compare the following regarding
Theological Vocabulary…
THE ISV FOUNDATION FOR THE NIV TRANSLATION:
“The ISV uses literary English, avoiding idioms that come and
go, and is as traditional as necessary. Terms such as
‘justification,
’ ‘
redemption,
’ ‘atonement,
’ and the Johannine
‘
abide in
’ formulae have been retained. Where the Committee
on Translation determines that a word-for-word translation is
unacceptable, a change can be made in the direction of a more
current language idiom. In these instances, the more literal
rendering is indicated in a footnote.”
International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print
on Demand ed.). The Learning Foundation: Yorba Linda, CA
V. Compare the following regarding
Theological Vocabulary…
1.
What do you think of this issue?
2.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of translating
theological vocabulary?
3.
What are the implications of translating classic theological
terms like “justification” into phrases like “we are made right
with God?”
THE END
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Translation Philosophies: