One Bible, Many Versions

January 13, 2014 — 7 Comments

one-bible-many-versions.png?w=512Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? is a different type of translation book.

It does not deal so much with theory but rather looks at what many English translations have done in light of their description of their theory in the introduction.

His aim is not to fuel the ongoing translation debate, but rather to bring greater unity to the English translations by highlighting their similarities. Brunn claims the different English translations are mutually complementary and mutually dependent, rather than contradictory.

The book provides examples of how translation is more complicated than simply saying we translate “word for word” rather than “thought for thought.”

At the end of the book Brunn has the following list of what all of the translations do.

This is no revelation to translation theorists, or those working in the translation field, however it could come as a surprise to those who have not studied translation technique.

  • Every version translates thought for thought rather than word for word in many contexts.
  • Every version give priority to meaning over form.
  • Every version gives priority to the meaning of idioms and figures of speech over the actual words.
  • Every version gives priority to the dynamics of meaning in many contexts.
  • Every version allows the context to dictate many of its renderings.
  • Every version steps away from the original form in order to be grammatically correct in English.
  • Every version steps away from the form to avoid wrong meaning or zero meaning.
  • Every version steps away from the form to add further clarity to the meaning.
  • Every version steps away from the form to enhance naturalness in English.
  • Every version translates some Hebrew or Greek words many different ways.
  • Every version changes some of the original words to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or multiple-word phrases.
  • Every version sometimes translates an assortment of different Hebrew or Greek words all the same way in English.
  • Every version leaves some Hebrew and Greek words untranslated.
  • Every versions adds English words that do not represent any particular word in the Hebrew or Greek text.
  • Every version changes single words into phrases, even when it is not required.
  • Every version translates concepts in places of words in many contexts.
  • Every version sometimes gives priority to naturalness and appropriateness over the ideal of seeking to be transparent to the original text.
  • Every version sometimes chooses not to use a literal, transparent rendering even though one is available.
  • Every version paraphrases in some contexts.
  • Every version uses interpretation when translating ambiguities.
  • Every version makes thousands of changes that amount to much more than dropping a “jot” or a “tittle”
  • Every version adds interpretation, even when it is not absolutely necessary.
  • Every version replaces some masculine forms with gender-neutral forms.
  • Every version often sets aside the goal of reflecting each inspired word in order to better reflect the inspired naturalness and readability of the original.

Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

7 responses to One Bible, Many Versions

  1. Good summary points from a great book. Every pastor and seminary student should read and wrestle with Brunn’s work.

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