God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

A Sweet Translation

I stumbled across this blog post that laments what the author calls “Cultural Diabetes.” She starts by pointing out that Americans (in particular) have become so accustomed to sweetened food that anything unsweetened seems unacceptable, but her point is that the problem is more widespread:

Just as the American palette cannot bear the taste of non-sweet foods, our brains and appetite for news and information seem unable to process or stomach anything that hasn’t been coated in a fine sugary glaze.

I wonder if the same hasn’t become true of Bible translations.

And I wonder if modern translations — in particular, the wildly popular The Message — aren’t like overly sweet food: they seem appealing, but they dull the reader to the subtle underlying beauty of the original.

Thoughts?

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January 26, 2010 - Posted by | Bible versions | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. We must also realize that the text is not only an object to be admired for it’s beauty. It is also much more than that. Ideally, I would contend, English translations should blend elegant style with clear meaning as best as possible.

    Th idea you have suggested would also seem to apply to smorgasbord style interpretation. In reference to a translation, this would refer to simply choosing a translation because one likes the meaning more than another translation (i.e., pick whichever one you want). With no methodological controls other than “preference,” there are bound to be some serious interpretive blunders.

    Comment by Seth Ehorn | January 26, 2010 | Reply

    • In reference to a translation, this would refer to simply choosing a translation because one likes the meaning more than another translation (i.e., pick whichever one you want).

      I agree, and I agree that this is a problem. Too many people choose a “translation” because they like what it says, rather than because it conveys what the original said.

      Comment by Joel H. | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. Garrison Keillor said that Pastor Inkfess was considering taking an offer to pastor a Lutheran Church down in Florida. The Church grew from 150 people to over 6,000, recently. They preach only positive messages. They also have a much smaller Bible that they use in Lake Wobegon, because they took out all the discouraging parts!

    Comment by WoundedEgo | January 26, 2010 | Reply

    • No surprise. See also Brian Houston of Hillsong church in Australia. There’s health-and-wealth gospel at its most unhealthy. He actually authored a book called “You Need More Money.” Can you believe that? He doesn’t own up to it, but there are a few copies floating around Amazon. I ordered one.

      You know, Joel, I read this post and my thoughts went in a completely different direction. For a moment, I thought you were alluding to translation taboos of not-very-nice words/phrases in the Bible, such as Genesis 16:5 or Judges 5:30.

      Comment by Gary Simmons | January 28, 2010 | Reply


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