Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Degrees of liternalness in Bible translation

Here's a helpful post from Kenny Pearce on Bible translation.

Speaking for myself, I'd add that I tend to enjoy translations which aim for literary excellence as well. In this regard, I think the KJV or AV is, even today, nonpareil. The NEB (or REB) probably comes closest for a modern English translation which isn't in the Tyndale-KJV lineage. But it's far too theologically liberal for me -- owing, at least from what I understand, primarily to the influence of C.H. Dodd (e.g. "expiation" rather than "propitiation"). Still, there's an audible stylistic beauty to the language of the KJV and, to a lesser extent, the NEB. Many passages all but sing with a melodious note which is quite pleasing to hear.

On the other hand, as C.S. Lewis wrote in his preface to J.B. Phillips' translation of the NT:
The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety. In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is a sort of 'basic' Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. . . . When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are . . . wide of the mark . . . The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ's life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.

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