Neil W. Aguiar

“The Power of the Word”

Selecting a good set of Bible translations is essential to a person’s growth in the knowledge of who God is and what God wants for our lives.  Through the Bible, God explicitly describes our world, our history and His full involvement with us.  He explains how He communicates with us, how He wants us to communicate with Him, and how we are to communicate with each other.  God explains who He is, who we are, and who He wants us to be.  In summary, the Bible is our manual for living a holy life and how we can grow in our personal relationship with Him.

So it’s clear that the translation we choose will determine what information we are fed.  So this is an important decision and should not be made lightly.  There is much information presented in this Chapter about the process of translating the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.  The process is quite immense.  Fee & Stuart explain it begins with scholars sifting through the thousands of manuscripts that span nearly 1,500 years, comparing the multiple copies looking for differences, called variants.  These variants need to be examined to determine which copies describe the original text and which are in error.  To do this, it requires that translators make use of textual criticism, which is “the science that attempts to discover the original texts of ancient documents.”  From there, the process of translating involves making textual and linguistic decisions.  These decisions involve balancing the textual translation with language functional equivalence.  The key to any successful translation is to be able to properly convey the message of the original author in the fullness of what was written, who wrote it, when it was written and who it was written for.  This requires much study and human interpretation by linguistic scholars which results in the many English translations we have today.

With the multitude of manuscripts in existence, scholars need to assess these manuscripts considering the external (character, quality and age) and internal (copyists and authors) evidence.  Fee & Stuart explain this requires “careful, rigorous scholarship.”  And one can never separate the “human variables” from the translation.  When scholars work in committee, they may find themselves divided.  In these circumstances, the majority choice may be found in the translation, while the minority choice may appear in the margin.

The actual science of translation involves converting the verbal and grammatical text of Greek and Hebrew to English.  But this is not simply translating words.  It involves much more, such as “grammar and idioms as well as matters of culture and history”, as Fee & Stuart explain.  The following scale describes how translations can resemble the original text:

Literal (Formal equivalence) ---> Dynamic (Functional equivalence) ---> Paraphrase (Free translation)

When translating the original manuscripts, scholars need to decide where they will place the emphasis of the translation.  The risk of literal translations is that the reader may not be able to understand the meaning without knowing much of the history of the writer and original language.  The risk of free translations is the reader is left to the translators’ interpretation which may stray from the original author's intended meaning.

Fee & Stuart suggest the TNIV as a good translation as well as GNB and NAB.  They describe the TNIV (NIV) as a “committee translation by the best scholarship in the evangelical tradition.”  I use the NIV study Bible and greatly enjoy the reading and commentary.  At this point, I have yet to select other translations to study, however I have read the Message Bible, a paraphrase translation, in its entirety and I have gained a wealth of understand and knowledge of God and His Truth.  I now understand the need to explore the deeper meaning of the Bible through the use and study of multiple translations to gain a more comprehensive understanding and apply it to my life.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  ~ Colossians 3:16

Neil W. Aguiar  (4/3/2010)


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