How Should We Translate the Bible? – The Word of God and Bible Translation Principles (3)

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Against the Theory of ‘Dynamic Equivalence’

by Michael Marlowe

Among Bible scholars there is a school which is always inquiring into the genres or rhetorical forms of speech represented in any given passage of the Bible, and also the social settings which are supposed to be connected with these forms. This approach is called form criticism, and it was developed largely by German scholars in the early twentieth century. Among these scholars, whether they be German or English-speaking, one constantly hears German phrases. The social setting is called the Sitz im Leben. The “oracle of salvation” introduced by “Fear not” is the Heilszusage, and so on. When I was in the seminary learning about all this, I at first wondered why it should be necessary to use these German words; but then I learned that the German words are used because they are recognized as technical terms, and the English equivalents are not. Students were expected to learn the terminology of the field, just as in any other field of study.

Likewise, there were many Greek and Hebrew words to be learned. These were the “technical terms” of the Bible itself. The professors often warned us students about the important semantic differences between various Greek and Hebrew words and their closest English equivalents. The Hebrew word תורה (torah), for instance, was not always equivalent to the Greek νομος (nomos) or the English law, and the Hebrew נֶפֶש (nephesh) did not always refer to the soul, etc. Anyone who has been to a theological school knows very well how often points like this are emphasized by scholars.

I mention this at the beginning of this book on Bible translation because I want the reader who has not been exposed to this kind of study to know how much is made of words and their precise usage in theological schools. Ministers in training cannot go through three years of seminary without being impressed with the undeniable differences between Hebrew, Greek, and English, and with the delicate problems of translating many key words of the Bible into our language. It is not a simple and easy task. Indeed, it is not fully possible, and that is why ministers are taught the biblical languages

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<– Part 1                                                                                         To be continued –>

Read also:  Bibelübersetzung – Bible Translation

1. German Language

2. English Language

Über Jesaja 66:2

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