God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Two Kinds of Translation

I’ve seen the word “translation” used (at least) in two different ways. Following a trick I learned from Chomsky, I’ll call them “my way” and “the wrong way.”

My Way: A translation of the Bible into English takes the original Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic of the Bible and tries to find the most accurate English to represent it. While disagreement abounds about how best to do this (word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, etc.), most translators agree on the common goal of accuracy to the original.

The Wrong Way: The other way “translation” is used is more generally to refer to any English that corresponds, however loosely, to the the Bible. The Conservative Bible Project (are we sure this isn’t a parody?), for example, purports to work towards, “a fully conservative translation of the Bible.” This is not translation but rather emendation.

My sarcasm aside, I think emendations can have merit — for example, in providing Bible passages that are more conducive to worship — but I also think we should be clear about the difference between representing the Bible in English and making the Bible into what we want it to be.

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October 6, 2009 - Posted by | translation theory | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I have to say that I hope Conservapedia ends up being an elaborate and very long hoax, but it doesn’t appear to be such. And the Conservative Bible Project is coming from the guy who heads up Conservapedia, so if the one is real, so is the other, sadly. What a sad world this must be for a satirist – whatever he or she would come up with to mock some group of nuts, those nuts have already done them one better in their nuttiness.

    Comment by Bob | October 6, 2009 | Reply


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