God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

On Literal Translations – A Quick Note

A post by Polycarp on his blog calls into question John Piper’s demand for a translation “that has all the words.”

I frequently find it useful to look at modern languages to see how valid a particular approach to translation is. For example, if I’m translating from French into English, which would I prefer?

  • How you call you?
  • How you call yourself?
  • How do you call yourself?
  • What’s your name?

I started with the French, Comment vous appelez-vous? which is how one asks, “what’s you name?” in France.


September 6, 2009 - Posted by | translation theory


  1. This is *quite* fair, as the example is (1) out of context and (2) a fixed phrase.

    Comment by Will Fitzgerald | September 6, 2009

  2. Even fixed phrases have to be translated, and (as we see here, for example) the issue of how to translate them is not settled.

    Many translations render fixed phrases literally, giving us, “lifted up his eyes and saw…” “name of the place is called…” etc.

    Comment by Joel | September 6, 2009

  3. Sorry, I meant to write “This is not *quite* fair, as the example is (1) out of context and (2) a fixed phrase.”

    Ok, Now I’ve actually watched the Piper video; and his point is a bit off, but it’s certainly a different point–about connectives, not fixed phrases. And of course, this point is ancillary to whatever the point of his sermon is.

    Comment by Will Fitzgerald | September 6, 2009

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