The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation

The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation


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The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation by Leland Ryken

With so many Bible translations available, how do you make a choice between them? How do you even know what the criteria should be for making a choice?

As an expert in English literature and literary theory, Leland Ryken approaches the translation debate from a practical artistic viewpoint. He believes that many modern translations take liberties with the biblical text that would not be allowed with any other type of literary work. Also, what readers are presented with as biblical text is actually far from the original text. In literature, a simplified version of Milton's work is not Milton, and neither is an edition written in contemporary English. Anyone who is interested in Milton would find any version that changes his words unacceptable for serious study. Ryken argues that the same dedication to reproducing literature texts as closely as possible needs to be present in biblical translation. To do so it is necessary to take into account the difficulty of working with original languages. Only an essentially literal, "word for word" translation of the Bible can achieve sufficiently high standards in terms of literary criteria and fidelity to the original text.

Ryken does not contest that many modern translations have been used for good, and believes that there is a place for a range of Bible translations, including children's Bibles and Bible paraphrases. His purpose is not to say that the only Bible available should be one that is essentially literal. Instead, he defines the translation theory and principles that would result in the best Bible for English-speaking people and serious students of the Bible, and also for the English-speaking church as a whole. He believes that an essentially literal translation is the natural result of following these principles.

Along with a short history of translation, Ryken evaluates presuppositions that impact translation theory. He also examines fallacies about the Bible, translations in general, and Bible readers that influence what translation decisions are made. Believing that those who undertake the serious work of translating God's Word have an obligation both to God and to others, he assesses the theological, ethical, and hermeneutical issues involved and surveys difficulties with modern translations. Ryken's literary expertise gives him the perspective needed to provide Christians with a standard for comparing contemporary Bible translations, as well as an understanding of why some translations may not convey the very words of God.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781581344646
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 11/12/2002
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly 50 years. He has authored or edited over fifty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.

C. John Collins (PhD, University of Liverpool) is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been a research engineer, church-planter, and teacher. He was the Old Testament Chairman for the English Standard Version Bible and is author of The God of Miracles, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?, and Genesis 1–4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. He and his wife have two grown children.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Current Debate About Bible Translation13
Part 1Lessons from Overlooked Sources
1Lessons from Literature23
2Lessons from Ordinary Discourse35
3Lessons from the History of Translation47
Part 2Common Fallacies of Translation
4Five Fallacies About the Bible67
5Seven Fallacies About Translation79
6Eight Fallacies About Bible Readers103
Part 3Theological, Ethical, and Hermeneutical Issues
7The Theology and Ethics of Bible Translation123
8Translation and Hermeneutics139
Part 4Modern Translations: Problems and Their Solution
9Ignoring the Literary Qualities of the Bible157
10Obscuring the World of the Original Text173
11Destabilization of the Biblical Text187
Part 5Criteria for Excellence in an English Bible
13Fidelity to the Words of the Original217
14Effective Diction: Clarity, Vividness, Connotation, Ambiguity229
15Respect for the Principles of Poetry243
16Effective Rhythm257
17Exaltation and Beauty269
Conclusion: What Makes the Best Bible Translation?287
AppendixWithout Form, You Lose Meaning295

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The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The bottom line of this book is that a good bible translation is the one that is based on a word for word translation instead of thought for thought. Ryken's uses his literary expertise to explain that no one should change the author's way of telling the story just because people do not understand them. He also goes in details about how the thought for thought translations are twisting the message of God in order to make the bible easy to read. This is a good book with great arguments but the author is trying to sell the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible and sometimes the main message is lost due to this fact. I use the New King James Version for my daily readings and even though the author is selling the ESV, I felt like the King James Version is the bible to be use according to Ryken¿s arguments. Another good resource for the English translation debate.