our business here is the soul.

I just finished Translating Truth, a book of essays about essentially literal Bible translation by Grudem, Ryken, Collins, Poythress and Winter. It was truly excellent.

As a reader of a Greek New Testament myself, I especially enjoyed Collins’ essay “What the Reader Wants and the Translator Can Give: First John as a Test Case.” He looked directly at the Greek words and then how the essentially literal, moderately dynamic and fully dynamic translations treated them. Using just that, he showed how much personal interpretation (I use that term cautiously) is lost when the dynamic translation interprets the basic message into something different. As a child who grew up reading both the NIV and the NKJV, I appreciated the insight into ways that a less literal translation might be doing more theological interpretation for you than you would think.

Grudem and Ryken’s essays were both also very good, very accessible and interesting. Poythress was the most technical (discussion of Noam Chomsky should set off alarms all around on the readability front,) but while he said things like “It so happened that generative transformations connected sentences with analogous meanings,” he also wrote this beautiful thought: “[I]n the end, the process of translation is so complex and multi-dimensional that it must remain an art; it involves technique to be sure, as all good art does, but it is never reducible to a merely mechanical or formal process.”

The last essay, a short one by Winter, was the most grounded in secular academics, discussing the epistolary genre in Paul’s time and what that, as well as Paul’s own words, might tell us about how Paul intended his letters to be approached.

If you have any interest in Bible translation, or if you’re in the market for a new Bible and haven’t chosen a translation to pursue, I recommend picking up this light read and considering its words.

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