The basic tool: A good translation

These are my notes on Chapter 2 (of 13) of “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” (2nd edition) by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. Do check out the links at the end!

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic (half of Daniel and 2 passages in Ezra) and Greek.

It is good practice to use mainly one translation, provided it is a good one. This aids memorisation and consistency. For study, it is advisable to use several translations that tend to differ. This will highlight difficult passages that you can then consult a commentary on.

But which translation should you use?

The science of translation

The translator needs to be sure that the Hebrew or Greek text he or she is using is as close to the original as possible. This is the goal of the discipline of textual criticism.

The theory of translation used (literal, free or dynamic equivalence) will determine the language (formal or contemporary) of the translation.

Problems with literal translations:

  • The Greek or Hebrew is rendered into English in awkward ways
  • They can make the English ambiguous

Free translations on the other hand often come too close to being commentaries.

The major problems involved in translation are:

  1. Weights, measures and money – do you transliterate or convert? Marginal notes may be helpful here.
  2. Euphemisms – do you translate literally, translate a literal equivalent, or translate with an equivalent euphemism?
  3. Vocabulary – Some Greek and Hebrew words have wide ranges of meaning, so what is the right word to translate them?
  4. Grammar and syntax – Greek is fond of genitive constructs (‘the book of me’ instead of ‘my book’). So should it be ‘God’s grace’ or ‘the grace of God’? (Consider that it doesn’t mean so much that God owns it as that He gives it, and it comes from Him.)

Extra: Links!

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