Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Review: How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth

How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible VersionsThe issue of Bible translations has been a perennially controversial one for many Christians - particularly those on the more conservative end of the believer spectrum. For some, the only legitimate translation is the King James Version (KJV) and there has been a good deal of ink spilled over the alleged distortions of modern versions that depart from the manuscripts on which the KJV was based. Much of this controversy is based on misinformation and distortion of the reality of translation. At last, there is a well-written, easy-to-understand, balanced, informative, practical book on the whole topic. Gordon D Fee (How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth; How to Read the Bible Book by Book) has teamed up with Mark L Strauss (Distorting Scripture?) to bring us How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions. Whatever you have read on this topic before, this book is worthy of your consideration. The authors have divided their discussion up into 5 parts:
  1. The Task of Translation - where the need for and the meaning and task of translation is described and discussed.
  2. Making Words Work - covering the actual process of what translators do when they try to translate words, figurative language into English. They also discuss the problem the Greek genitive. A whole chapter is devoted to this important problem.
  3. Translation and Culture - discusses the implications of trying to understand the original meaning of the text in ancient cultures and making them meaningful and impactful in English.
  4. Other Translation Issues - covering the issue of the "original text" (is it possible to know what it really was?) and questions of how the Bible is presented insofar as style and format are concerned (issues not usually covered but which, it turns out, are pretty important).
  5. The Bible in English - a brief history of the Bible in English and a survey of some of the more well-known contemporary versions available.
The book is rounded off with a helpful glossary of technical terms. At only 170 pages, this is an extremely helpful little book. The essential thesis is that the incredible range of modern Bible translations is a great blessing to the church. Understanding more about biblical translation allows the reader to make use of this gift in a balanced, positive way. Fee and Strauss provide a very useful continuum on which they map the Bible translations. It ranges from what is called formal equivalent translations (e.g. New American Standard Bible, KJV, New Revised Standard Version) which try to find a word-for-word equivalence between the biblical languages and English. At the other end of the spectrum are the functional equivalent translations (e.g. The Message and the New Living Translation). These translations attempt to convey the original meaning of the text, including its emotional impact, in English by rendering the meaning using modern metaphors, words, and grammar. In between these two are what the authors call the mediating translations (e.g. New International Version and the New English Translation) which attempt to strike a balance between the two ends of the continuum. Fee and Strauss recommend that readers should choose a selection of translations from each category on the continuum depending on their purpose for reading or studying. The authors, in their book, provide all the information and guidelines one needs to make the best choices. They are not prescriptive believing that it is up to each person to make these choices for themselves. They do, however, let the reader know of their own personal recommendations. How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth is one of the best (if not the best) book I have read on this subject. D A Carson, who has written on this topic himself) has said, ’Yet another book on translation? Yes, and this is the one I shall now recommend.’ I agree. Whatever you might already think about the issue of Bible translations, get this book and read it! It will enrich your appreciation of the unprecedented tapestry of Bible translations we have available to us. Purchase How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions Related Links

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, God's Word should be in the "language of the people" which means the everyday language, and not the English of 500 A.D. or 1000 A.D. or 1611 A.D. or 1800 A.D. or 1900 A.D. We are living in the 2008 A.D.'s language. People to say that we should stay with an Old English Bible or KJV or whatever, when we need to focus on the "language of the people," in today's time.

    The only perfect Bible was those original manuscripts which are not currently available. God has preserved the translation of His truths over the years and we can trust our Bibles by relying on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit have been with the translators while they were translating. Remember, God is control and keep in mind, its good to see 66 books agree with one another.

    When picking a Study Bible will probably depend on your theological leanings. The designation "study Bible" can refer to two things. In some contexts it refers to the translation itself, to a version of the Bible suitable for study. More often, however, it refers to a translation plus a set of features designed to help one read and study the text.