Authors and editors are often faced with hard choices when they are producing communications intended for the public. In many situations they know that no matter which option they choose, part of their audience is going to be unhappy with their choice.
For example, the communicator is often between a rock and a hard place when choosing between two grammatical constructions. If he or she chooses option A (the more formal, traditional construction), the message will sound stuffy or stilted to part of the audience, and the communicator will be labeled a "traditionalist snob." If the communicator chooses option B (a more informal, colloquial construction which accurately reproduces contemporary speech) cries of "Bad Grammar!" will arise from grammatical traditionalists. How does a communicator produce a balanced style that results in normal-sounding, non-snooty speech, but also anticipates and deflects erroneous but predicable criticism by grammatical traditionalists?
This dilemma confronts communicators in almost every medium and genre of communication, whether written or oral, but our examples in this mini-conference will be taken from the most sensitive genre of all: Bible translation. This mini-seminar is based on experience gained by the Wartburg Project, a society of professors, pastors, teachers and laypeople, who are working together to produce a new Bible translation, the Evangelical Heritage Version. (See the Wartburg Project website for information about this project.)
The Bible is the most sensitive genre of communication because Christians cherish the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Translators have no calling to edit or "improve" what the Holy Spirit has said. Experienced readers of the Bible have very definite ideas about what a Bible should sound like, but different groups of those readers have very different ideas about what a Bible should sound like. In addition, readers know many Bible passages by heart from various translations. They expect a new translation to improve the readability of the text but without making any noticeable changes to familiar expressions. The task of Bible translation magnifies the tug of war between formal and informal speech, between freshness and familiarity.
We can start the discussion with a simple example. When our project published a sample translation of the Gospel of Matthew we received the following question.
"Why does your translation use bad grammar? In the Garden of Gethsemane you twice have Jesus saying, "Who are you looking for?" It should be "For whom are you looking?" Jesus would not use bad grammar."
Our EHV guidelines that govern this situation are: Observe distinctions between who and whom, etc., but try to avoid uses that sound stilted or pedantic in contemporary English. "Who are you looking for?" sounds like normal conversation to most people. "For whom are you looking?" is not common in conversation. When reporting conversations in writing, try out a few English sentences and see what sounds like normal conversation.
Do the same for the rule "no prepositions last." In Germanic languages "prepositions" (which often are actually detachable particles that are part of the verb) sound natural at the end of a spoken sentence. The editors knew this was a no-win situation. Grammatical purists would say that "who are you looking for?" is bad grammar. But just as many people would say that "for whom are you looking?" sounds stuffy. It makes Jesus sound like a book rather than a living speaker. Other terms some people would use to describe "for whom are you looking?" are "super-formal" and "a school-teacher superstition." There are strong feelings at both ends of the spectrum.
But editors had to make a choice. (Or we could retain Jesus' original English dialect, King James English in which Jesus would say, "Whom seekest thou?")
If you were the editor of Matthew, what would you have Jesus say?
A. Who are you looking for?
B. For whom are you looking?
C. Whom seekest thou?
D. None of the above. Here is my better rendering: ___________________________
Explain and defend your choice.
An option for further study: See Supplement II — The War Over Whom at the end of this presentation.
This is a sample of the kind of question you will wrestle with in this mini-course. But first we have to make a little detour.
Are You a Snoot or a Slacker?
Before you can wrestle with individual cases, we need to adopt some general principles to guide us. What is your basic philosophy about grammar and usage?
Is your approach to grammar prescriptive? When making tough decisions, do you prefer to follow a rule book handed to you by some authority? When you are between a rock and a hard place, do you tend to look the situation up in the rulebook and rigidly follow its advice? Or is your approach to grammar more descriptive? You think, "This is a conversation not a formal proclamation." The people I know do not say, 'For whom are you looking?' The normal way of talking is 'Who are you looking for?'"
Is your approach to grammar more prescriptive or descriptive? (This is, of course, not an either/or.) Where do you think you fall on this 1-5 scale?
Descriptivist Slacker . . . 1 . . 2 . . 3 . . 4 . . 5 . . . Prescriptivist Snoot
(Rules are made to broken) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Rules are Rules!)
Does it matter whether you are writing or speaking?
Does it matter whether you are talking to your grandma or your friend?
Does it matter if you are going to get a grade on it?
An optional further study: Read and evaluate an online article about prescriptive and descriptive grammar.
Twelve Myths People Believe About English Grammar
Here are twelve "myths" about English grammar that are believed by many otherwise sensible people. Most of the otherwise sensible people who believe these myths are staunch prescriptivists. Checking your attitude and practice toward these myths will help you measure whether you are more of a prescriptivist "rules are rules" snoot or a descriptivist "rules are made to be broken" slacker.
These myths are also called grammatical superstitions, which may be defined as "unintelligent applications of an uninformed dogma."
- Myth 1: You should never end a sentence with a preposition.
- This is a valid rule in Latin in which pre-positions must be pre-positioned, but Latin is not English. In English, ending a sentence with a preposition or verbal particle is completely idiomatic. As Winston Churchill remarked, "This is a rule up with which it is not necessary to put."
- Myth 2: You should not split an infinitive.
- You are permitted to politely ignore this rule.
- Myth 3: Do not split a verb phrase.
- This rule has greatly annoyed me for a long time. It also has annoyed me greatly.
- Myth 4: You must not begin a sentence with And or But.
- But that rule has been ignored by fine writers from Anglo-Saxon times till the present.
- Myth 5: Do not write one-sentence paragraphs.
- The previous sentence disproves this rule. One-sentence paragraphs may be emphatic, dramatic, or merely provide relief from wearying verbosity.
- Myth 6: Never begin a sentence with because.
- Because there is no basis for this rule, you may ignore it. But of course you must avoid creating dangling fragments of sentences beginning with because.
- Myth 7: Never use since to mean because.
- Since since may refer to either time or cause, you may use since as an alternative to because sparingly.
- Myth 8: Never use between to express a relationship between more than two objects.
- But since a triangle is a space lying between three points, you do not always have to follow this rule.
- Myth 9: It is best to avoid referring to I and me in formal writing.
- Myth 10: Do not refer to your reader as you.
- The use of you and I makes your writing more warm and personal. Substituting something like the undersigned for a simple I immodestly calls more attention to the writer than a simple I would. There's nothing wrong with warm informality in personal opinions that are inserted into formal writing.
- Myth 11: Don't use contractions in formal writing.
- When you are reporting informal conversation in writing, thou shalt not sound like a snoot. Don't do it!
How many of these "myths" do you believe to be good rules?
How many of these "myths" do you practice?
Have you changed your mind about any of them?
How many of these myths does your English textbook recommend as firm rules?
(There is, of course, a difference whether these are practiced as a rigid rules or useful guidelines.)
People who make fun of people who believe myths about grammar usually believe a few myths themselves. Grammarologist Bryan Garner, who composed the list of myths above, himself believes the following myth:
Myth 12: When it comes to relative pronouns, in restrictive (essential) clauses use that rather than which whenever you can. This distinction between that and which makes good sense. It enhances clarity. And the best American editors follow it.
Garner's claim that this is a rule of English is unraveled by his inclusion of the words "it makes good sense" and "American." Myth 12 is based on an authority's opinion about what the rule should be rather than on objective facts based on the historical usage of the English language. American grammatical authorities have made a lot of progress persuading American editors that this myth about that and which is true, but they have made less progress among adherents of the Queen's English. In the early 20th century H. W. Fowler, who promoted the same that/which distinction as Garner, admitted that neither the most nor the best writers practiced this distinction.
It is, therefore, not necessary to believe the myth which advocates that as the only pronoun to govern essential relative clauses and which as the right word for non-essential clauses. This rule is not supported by the history or usage of the English language. The distinction between non-essential and essential clauses can be clearly marked by the presence or absence of commas. However, you may want to use that as the marker of essential relative clauses more often the historical evidence of English usage would demand, because many people believe this myth and for you to do otherwise would lead to erroneous but predictable criticism.
As long as we are dealing with myths let's tackle one more. The myth: Pronouns that refer to God should be capitalized to honor God.
It has, in fact, been a convention of recent English usage to capitalize nouns and pronouns which refer to God. This practice, however, seems to have begun only in the 20th century. It was not the practice of early English translations, including the original King James. The basic principles of the EHV are: Capitalization of nouns and pronouns that refer to God is not a feature of the original text nor a long-standing practice in English, so it is better not to adopt this practice.
Capitalization is not a feature that marks deity versus non-deity or that conveys honor. Capitalization distinguishes a title or a proper name from a common noun: the Antichrist or an antichrist, the Evil One or an evil one; the Church or the church. But capitalization does not indicate deity or reverence: Santa Claus, Satan, the Easter Bunny, the King, the Great Pumpkin, and I are all capitalized.
This example shows how quickly a grammatical rule can rise and fall. After a heyday of less than a century, this rule is now in decline.
Why do you think that a request to capitalize pronouns referring to God is one of the most common requests our project receives?
Why does this issue have to be handled with care?
Here We Are, Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Now that you have decided whether you are a prescriptivist snoot or descriptivist slacker, or something in between, you are ready to start rendering your verdict on various grammatical dilemmas.
Give your verdict on each choice. Some comments appear at the end of this section. Check them after you have gone through the list.
- Who's there? A) It is I. B) It's me.
- The king will give Vashti's status as queen to someone A) better than she B) better than her.
- A) My mother likes the dog more than me. B) My mother likes the dog more than I.
- We must resist A) the devil B) the Devil.
- Their sin A) stank B) stunk to high heaven.
- The light A) shone B) shined in the darkness.
- Judas A) stoled B) stole C) stold the money.
- She gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in A) a feeding trough B) a manger.
- She wrapped him in A) swaddling clothes B) strips of cloth.
- A) Samuel acted honorably like a judge should. B) Samuel acted honorably as a judge should.
- A) Samuel acted like a judge. B) Samuel acted as a judge.
- A) If I were God, we would be in big trouble. B) If I was God, you would be in big trouble.
- One of the Hebrew words often translated banquet is based on the Hebrew verb for drink. Should it be translated A) banquet B) drinking party C) feast D) party?
- Israel A) worshipped B) worshiped God.
- A) O LORD, you are our God. B) LORD, you are our God.
Comments on the dilemmas above
- Either way someone will complain, so why not avoid the problem and say I'm here?
- The issue is whether than is a conjunction or a preposition. Historical usage shows it may be either. Written in full, the first phrase would be better than she is. Hardcore Conjunctionites are not persuaded that better than her is okay, so if you have a traditionalist audience stick with the use of than as a conjunction unless you are aiming for a relaxed, colloquial tone.
- These sentences say different things, even though than acts like/as a conjunction in both examples. The first means she likes the dog more than (she likes) me; the second means she likes the dog more than I (like the dog).
- In the Bible the Devil is a proper names for Satan, not a name for the subordinate demons. So the Devil is correct, but no honor is intended.
- Irregular verbs are losing some of their irregular parts. Stank is the correct past tense of stink, but stunk to high heaven sounds okay to many people.
- Shone is correct, but shined is making inroads.
- If you listen carefully, you will notice that many speakers say he stold the money, but only stole looks right in print.
- Some think manger is old-fashioned, but farmers have told us cattle and sheep still use mangers and feeding troughs are for pigs (at least in Wisconsin).
- Swaddling clothes sounds old-fashioned until you google Amazon and find they sell swaddling cloths [sic].
- Traditionally, like should not be used as a conjunction.
- Example A means Samuel acted like a judge would, but he was not a judge. B means he acted in the office of judge.
- Were is the contrary-to-fact subjunctive, but this usage is fading in English.
- Let's be honest. If drinking is having an effect on what is happening, the translation must reflect that.
- Many authorities say worshipped is British and worshiped is American, but searching actual usage with Google ngrams shows that worshipped predominates on both sides of the pond. Large databases enable us to search what usage actually is rather than guessing.
- Modern usages prefers vocatives without O, but many readers like O in poetry and prayer.
As long as our language and our audiences have such marvelous diversity, authors and editors who are writing for a diverse set of readers or hearers will often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Actions that will help you solve this dilemma are: lots of listening to all kinds of speakers, reading a lot of good literature, knowing your audience, finding a balanced position in the middle of the road, and accepting the fact that a communicator can't please everyone all the time.
A communicator's degree of freedom depends in part on whether one is acting as an author or an editor. Authors can shape their message to their audience's preferences and biases as long as they do not compromise their message or fail to tell their readers and listeners hard truths which they need to hear. Translators have much less freedom because their duty is to try to convey not only the message, but also the style and emotional impact of the document they are translating. This is even more true when the author is the Holy Spirit. We have no right to soften or "improve" God's message but must convey its emotional impact as best we can. This is true whether the message and language are "in season or out of season."
Thank you for your feedback on this topic. It will help us find the most comfortable spot between a rock and a hard place as we edit EHV. Our current practice is to use more formal language in the formal parts of Scripture such as prophetic oracles but to allow a more informal style in the conversations recorded in the Bible.
Supplements for Additional Study
Supplement I: A New Resource for Grammatical Study — Bryan Garner's Modern English Usage
Supplement II: The Battle Over Whom — Is whom dead or just dying?
Supplement III: Between a Rock and a Hard Place — part II:
Another set of 'rock vs. hard place' decisions involves those places in Scripture where, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writers have used language some readers might consider to be too crude or too sexual. Should translators soften or hide this language with euphemisms as many translations do, or should they use blunt terms where Scripture uses blunt terms? Teachers who would like to read and discuss Prof. Brug's presentation of such dilemmas can contact him directly at email@example.com to receive an electronic discussion guide. The discussion guide includes a consideration of the appropriateness of such discussion on the high school level.
Return to original language with "show original" button at top left.
My question for you is, when you have a word in the original language that has a deep, descriptive meaning, but is often translated into a short English word or phrase, how do you make that decision? (Example: I remember hearing a sermon once about a Psalm in which David uses a word to describe his suffering, but in the original Hebrew it meant something along the lines of "to be baked like a cake". How do you decide when to be literal and when not to?)
My questions for you is where do you fall on this grammatical scale (descriptive or prescriptive) approach? Also, what, if any, of the grammatical myths do you believe in?
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governing Syria. And everyone went to register, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, into Judea, to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was from the house and family line of David. He went to be registered with Mary, his wife, who was pledged to him in marriage and was expecting a child. And so it was that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Many congregations may continue to use the KJV version at Christmas just as they use the traditional Lord's Prayer, and we would not discourage it. Incidentally, during our research we found that both mangers and swaddling cloths are contemporary terms, and both are sold on Amazon.
A similar problem is Psalm 23. Again we tried for a familiar sound, but felt that in interest of accuracy we had to make a few changes. "You anoint my head with oil" gives the wrong impression because it makes people think of the anointing of a king. The Hebrew verb means "drench" and does not refer to anointing to an office, but to being drenched with expensive lotion at a banquet. (The same spirit as a Gatorade bath).
The LORD is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table for me in the presence of my foes.
You drench my head with oil.
My cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
Your question highlights another area in which translators are between a rock and a hard place. People love familiar passages, but at times being more accurate has to receive attention also. We already anticipate that people are not going to like "you drench my head with oil," but we are confident that if it is explained that this gives a more accurate picture of what is happening, people who love the Word will appreciate it. Again, we expect that people might continue to use the beloved KJV edition at funerals, for example.
Incidentally, people's love of familiarity is one reason that we have promised that if someday we produce a new edition of EHV, we will never deny users the right to use the old edition, to which they have become accustomed.
A paperback introductory edition of the New Testament and Psalms of our EHV translation is scheduled to appear next year for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and work on the Old Testament is more than half done, so God willing it will not be "many years."
In the case of preaching. this communication problem applies not only to the outer form but also to the doctrinal content of the message. The most important issue for a preacher is the right balance of law and gospel. When dealing with an individual, the pastor, if he listens to the person carefully, can get a good idea of whether the person is clinging to a sin and needs a strong dose of law, or the person is crushed by guilt and needs pure gospel. In preaching, in a single message the pastor has to address the needs of a diverse group with different spiritual attitudes with a mixture of law and gospel needs.
In secular messages, the communicator can have some more general messages as well as more narrowly targeted pieces, but a Bible translation must always be aimed at the most diverse audience possible. The content, of course, must not be adjusted to the audience, but must reflect what God has said regardless of whether or not the audience wants to hear it.
I would heartily agree with Dr. Woller below who emphasized the importance of continuing competency among pastors of the biblical language, and I respect what seems to be your willingness to take a descriptive approach (through the de-bunking of English grammar myths). These two ideas (pastors must work in the biblical languages; Bible translation can break the "rules" to communicate) bring to mind the first Wartburg translator who wrote about the great struggle "to make the Hebrew writers speak good German!" For Luther, I think we would have to admit, the goal was not teaching his people Hebrew and Greek, but to teach them the saving word in German. If we truly expect our pastors to maintain an ability with the languages, we should expect our pastors to be able to give us the wooden, literal translation, with all the imagery and word play of the original text. Pastors learn the languages so that everyone else doesn't have to learn them, and our translations ought not force them too either, even if we think we are being generous by giving the people Hebrew with English words.
Your work is greatly appreciated! I anticipate the EHV with great joy.
However, not all translations are reliable. The Jehovah's Witnesses made a translation that diminishes the deity of Christ. A Latin version of Genesis 3 makes Mary rather than Jesus the one who crushes the serpent's head. A popular paraphrase version spoke of sharing the blessings of Christ's blood rather than sharing the blood of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16, thus setting aside the real presence. For this reason, when choosing a new translation readers should check several reviews or evaluations of it and check key passages against their knowledge of biblical doctrine. Often passages about the sacraments are a good starting point for such a study.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
There are actually two significant translation issues in this passage. One concerns the word "for." The other concerns the word "mercy."
The Hebrew word "chesed" has traditionally been translated “mercy.” In recent decades some translations began to translate “faithful love” or something like that. Then the translation was shortened to “love.” The EHV does not follow this practice because it blurs the distinction between the related but distinct words “love” and “mercy.” We use the traditional translation “mercy.”
Now to the issue about which you asked. Your question raises the interesting and important issue of what to do when one Hebrew word may have many shades of meaning. The word in question is the Hebrew word" ki." Ki has so many possible nuances, that it is often called “the multi-faceted ki.” Ki may function as quotation marks. It may be translated “that, indeed, for, because, but, although, when, or if” depending on context. Virtually all of its many shades of meaning can be understood as nuances of the basic meanings “that” or “indeed.”
So where does that leave us in regard to Psalm 118? We can start by taking our translation and plugging in the base meaning “indeed.”
Give thanks to the LORD, indeed he is good,
indeed his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Actually, in this case, it would be possible to leave it at that and to consistently translated ki as “indeed.” But there does seem to be a progression here. The first verse invites us to thank and praise God and provides us with a reason for doing that: because he is good and his mercy endures forever. We retain the more traditional word “for” because of its familiarity and liturgical use, and we say it twice because that is the style of Hebrew poetic parallelism. In the next three verses the worshippers express their emphatic agreement. We bring this out with the emphatic word “Yes!”
Your question is important because it bring out the tension over whether to try to translate one Hebrew word with one English word (which helps English readers track the occurrence of Hebrew words) or bringing out the shades of meaning more clearly. Both approaches have their value but clearly communicating the meaning takes priority.
Your question also provides an illustration of the truth that what appears on the surface to be a very simple translation issue may actually be more complex that at first appears.
In the twelve myths you talked about by Bryan Garner, are you going to have your translators use these myths when you translate the Bible? This is important because many people believe in these myths and use them in their everyday language.
We often follow the "myths" because they are not wrong or bad grammar. They are one widely practiced view of English grammar. But they are not the only view, and they are more a reflection of formal writing than the standards for conversation. The Bible is a combination of formal statements and vivid conversation, so translators should not rigidly adhere to one standard but should consider the context in each case.
So, what we understood is that you plan on, in the Wartburg project, ignoring the so-called "rules" of grammar classified as myths. It was interesting to see all of these rules that we have learned in our writing classes be called myths. Do you think that grammar and English instructors should stop teaching these rules to their students?
Interestingly, the spell checker in this system is flagging "worshipped" as misspelled. But the evidence in the ngrams show that it is the spellchecker that is wrong. Spelling is another area in which there are thousands of contradictory rules. It is good to adoption one spelling for sake of consistency, but the Bible does not. It sometimes spells the same name two ways in one verse.
This passage of the article caught our attention because it made us realize how difficult it can be to tell the ideas in God's Word in the way they were originally intended. It is natural for us as human beings to question the meaning and purpose of the Scriptures, but translators must pray for guidance to make sure they display God's Word in the best possible way.
"Experienced readers of the Bible have very definite ideas about what a Bible should sound like, but different groups of those readers have very different ideas about what a Bible should sound like. In addition, readers know many Bible passages by heart from various translations. They expect a new translation to improve the readability of the text but without making any noticeable changes to familiar expressions" (para. 4).
This section prompted the following question: how will the Wartburg Project address the iconic passages that many Christians know by heart? For example, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and even the first half of Luke 2 are committed to memory by many people, usually beginning at a young age. Will this project change the wording of these passages, or will the words stay the way we all learned and know them now? How major a factor is nostalgia or memory in your decision making process?
One question we had was - with all the different ways we might work to spread the Gospel right now, what were the major problems with the existing Bible translations that motivated the Wartburg Project to move forward with their own translation? We understand the King James Bible is difficult for modern readers to understand, but are all the "contemporary" translations lacking in important ways?
Sometimes the difference goes beyond style to substance, and some translations do not express biblical doctrine correctly. The following is repeated from a posting above:
Bible students can benefit greatly from comparing several translations. This has become much easier with computer Bibles. People can carry many Bible translations to class on their phones. If a person's favorite translation is quite literal, it is helpful to compare it with several translations that are more interpretive, and vice versa.
However, not all translations are reliable. The Jehovah's Witnesses made a translation that diminishes the deity of Christ. A Latin version of Genesis 3 makes Mary rather than Jesus the one who crushes the serpent's head. A popular paraphrase version spoke of sharing the blessings of Christ's blood rather than sharing the blood of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16, thus setting aside the real presence. For this reason, when choosing a new translation readers should check several reviews or evaluations of it and check key passages against their knowledge of biblical doctrine. Often passages about the sacraments are a good starting point for such a study. Other issues in contemporary translations include a less clear reflection of direct prophecies of Christ and the use of so-called “gender inclusive language.”
In an ideal world the issue of Bible translations would rest purely on the merits of the translation. But as we know, we do not live in such a world. In the real world practical issues cannot be ignored. When a Bible translation is owned by someone else, they can change it without our consent or they can deny us the right to continue to use the old version to make new works. They have control of the price, etc. Our translation has promised to never deny people the right to continue to use old versions of the translation. This issue is of practicality outside the topic of this seminar, which is translation philosophy and practice, but it is a necessary factor when people are considering whether or not to make a translation.
Another factor is the joy and blessings of working together on a Bible translation. Over 100 WELS and ELS members are participating in some aspect of our work from translation to proofreading--pastors, teachers, and lay people. Working together on such a project not only produces a great increase in Bible knowledge and a better understanding of the process and difficulty of translation. It also gives an example of how to work together harmoniously on a project in which there are many differences of opinion, In a team project everyone does not get their first choice on every issue. This is an important thing to understand about the process of a team translation and a good lesson for the life of the church in general,
In the real world you will receive complaints which are not really justified. You need to listen to them, but as I mentioned above, you should realize that they may not represent your readers.
Another example of "a rock and a hard place" is physical and mental disabilities that sin has brought into the world. Blind people are not "visually disadvantaged." They are blind. Sometimes people are crippled by an accident or war. Neither of these conditions define the totality of the person, but we have to described the evils sin has brought into the world as the evils they are. Many similar issues arise in the area of gender identity etc. Can we use terms that would seem to condone sin? This is another whole aspect of the issue that we did not touch on because, for the most part, it does not involve Bible translation.
Hebrews 13:5 is a good example of how language is complicated. In some languages double negatives intensify, In English they cancel. Literally the passage says," not, not will I leave, not ever not not will I forsake" ( also two different Greek words for "not" are used). In English of course we cannot use a double negative to make an intense negative. We can't say "not ever will I never leave you." A further complication is that this is a translation of the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 31:6 to Greek. Deuteronomy 31 uses simple single negatives, but it uses the stronger of the two Hebrew words for" not."
Right now we have "I will never leave you. I will never forsake you" because it will match Deuteronomy, and we can't really duplicate the double negatives. Would it add punch to say " Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you"? Would adding ! help?
I suppose an exclamation mark hints at the emotional impact, but if it really is three negatives, why isn't it "I will never, never, never leave you or forsake you" ? To me that speaks how strong God's promise is.
What an incredibly difficult, and important job your team has undertaken. Thank you for a challenging discussion.
Can you tell me a little more about what the Evangelical Heritage Version translation is like, mentioned in the “about” section?
Presuppositions of the translation:
Thesis 1: The duty of a translator is to convey all the meaning (or the openness to more than one meaning), all the beauty (or the ugliness), all the style (high or low), and all the emotional impact of the original text into the translation.
Thesis 2: Thesis 1 is impossible.
Thesis 3: Thesis 2 is not entirely correct.
Thesis 4: In bits and pieces a translator can come close achieving the aims of thesis 1.
Tetelestai > It is finished. The only major thing wrong with this translation is that it has too many words. Were it not for the weight of tradition, we could probably improve the translation by reducing it to a single word, “Finished!”
1. Although any skilled linguist who is fluent in the source language and the receiving language can do an acceptable job of rendering the basic. literal sense of the words of Scripture, the most important qualities for a Bible translator to possess are a thorough knowledge of the whole message of Scripture, the aptitude to let Scripture interpret Scripture, and a humble willingness to submit to everything which Scripture says. It was this aptitude, more than the depth of his knowledge of the original languages that made Luther such a great translator.
2. Translators will strive for a balance between preserving the original meaning and producing English which sounds natural, but the preservation of meaning takes priority.
5. A translator should not be too locked in to any one theory of translation whether so-called “dynamic equivalence” or “literal translation” because:
a. Literal (or more precisely, literalistic, word-for-word) translations sometimes give the wrong meaning, or they do not communicate clearly in the receiving language.
b. Dynamic equivalence, though a worthy goal, is not fully possible. Almost always “something is lost in translation.”
c. We would be happy with any translation that was dynamic and equivalent, but too often translations labeled “dynamic equivalent” are either not equivalent or not dynamic. We would like every translation to be both “meaning equivalent” and “emotional equivalent.”
d.The translator will have to weigh whether a more dynamic or more literal approach best conveys the divinely intended meaning on a case-by-case basis.
8. The translator should not specify one level of language and usage to be used uniformly throughout the Bible because the level of language in the Bible itself varies greatly from book to book and from passage to passage. The goal is that the level of difficulty of the translation should be similar to the level of difficulty of the original. In many Bible passages the original language was neither “common” nor “contemporary.” If the word in the original is uncommon or archaic, the translation should try to reflect that.
9. The translator should not drain the color and variety of expressions from passages or level the language by downgrading the imagery. If Scripture uses five different words for a concept, the translation should reflect that diversity.
10. If the text uses a metaphor, the translator should use a metaphor; the same one if possible. Do not make metaphorical expressions prosaic.
11. Poetry should look and sound like poetry. Unusual and emphatic word order may be retained to some degree as it is in our hymns. In translation of poetry pay attention to rhythm and to balance of the length of lines, especially for musical performance.
12. The goal of a translator is not so much to make Judeans sound like 21st century Americans but to make them sound like Judeans who speak good English. Consider the example of the gospels which maintain a Semitic tone in the speech which they record in Greek. The goal is not always to say it “the way we would say it” but to make Judeans speak in a way we can understand.
14. The translator will try to be euphemistic where the original is euphemistic and blunt or coarse where the language of the text is blunt.
17. Translators should be wary of importing their own stylistic preferences into the translation against the preference of the original author, unless such changes are necessary for clear communication in English.
18. Wherever possible, when the text, on the basis of Scripture, is open to two equally valid understandings, the translator should attempt to preserve both options. When this is not possible, one of the options can be preserved in a footnote.
19. In using “gender-accurate language” the translator will strive to be inclusive where the original is inclusive and exclusive where the original is exclusive.
21. Sometimes there is no definitive, consensus solution as to how to translate a given text, so the translator has to make his best effort and use that result. For example, a precise identification of each gemstone in the high priest’s breastplate is beyond our reach. In cases where the meaning of a term or verse is uncertain, this may be indicated in a footnote.
If you are writing about moral issues or doctrinal issues, in many cases, there is an absolute right or wrong as determined by God's Word, In these cases you cannot compromise the message to please the audience. But you should consider a tactful way to present the truth as Paul did with the Athenians in Acts 17 with his message about the unknown God. But that is another subject for another seminar, so I will just give one example. If I was talking to Christians about Islam, I would speak more directly about what is unbiblical about Islam. If I was speaking about Christianity to Muslims, I would focus on the positive message about Christ because that is what wins hearts. The truth cannot be compromised, but Christian communicators need to remember that their goal is not to win the argument but to win the person. This cannot change the message , but it does have an impact on the order and style in which you present the message.
Think where we would be if the Christian church stopped updating the wording of the English Bible . Even the King James Version we use is much updated from the 1611 edition.
The power is through the divinely intended meaning, which can be expressed in many languages and through successive phases of the same language. Moses and Ezra very likely would have had significant problems understanding each other. Our pronunciation of Hebrew is much different than that of Moses and we would not recognize the form of the Hebrew alphabet which he used. The living message of the Bible is expressed by living language.