Sunday, April 12, 2009

A translation of a translation

Almost all Bibles are a translation of a translation, or a revision of a translation.

The Wycliff translation was made from the Latin Vulgate.

The Tyndale translation was made from Erasmus' Greek - Latin diglot with reference to Luther's translation and the Latin Vulgate.

The Coverdale translation was Faithfully and Truly Translated out of Douche and Latyn in to Englishe.

While the translations of many individuals have broken out of this tradition, the Bibles which are commonly used in churches are translated with reference to this major tradition of translation. With this in mind, it is worth reading this post Are translations really based on the Greek and Hebrew? (Monday with Mounce 31) by on the Koinonia blog.
    As far as English translations are concerned, most tend to be a bit conservative (the NLT and NET being notable exceptions). There is a stream of translation in English, and to move out of that stream requires some strong convictions. People are used to hearing verses a certain way, especially their favorite verses, and to introduce totally new translation can be perceived as dangerous. It is one thing to capitalize many of the occurrences of "spirit" as the TNIV did; it is another thing to break out of the mold and, for example actually translate the imperatives of the Lord’s Prayer as imperatives (e.g., "May your kingdom come" in the NLT).

    This is not all bad. I preached yesterday on the fourth Servant passage in Isaiah, relying heavily on the specific words used by the ESV. But most of the people in this church use the NIV and I knew the words were translated differently, which made it harder for them to follow the sermon. When there is some consistency among translations, as long as it is faithful to the Greek and Hebrew and consistent with their translation philosophy, this can be a good thing.

Although the NIV, TNIV, CEV and others vary from the Tyndale to ESV tradition, there is, nonetheless, tremendous pressure on them to not differ too much, to not take risks. Tradition exercizes a strong influence on all major translations.

1 comment:

CD-Host said...

IMHO Saint Jerome's Vulgate is a line in the sand. After him all translations are responses to the Vulgate.

In my recent post on 10 really good bibles you may not know about I list a bunch of bibles that break free from tradition in various ways for people interested in seeing a less traditional scripture.