Saturday, March 26, 2011

great translations 2

Eugene Peterson has a Masters degree in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. As such, his modern translation of the Bible, called "The Message", is just that, a translation, not a paraphrase. It is not a more literal word-for-word translation like, say, the NASB or ESV. Indeed, that is not necessarily the best way to communicate God's truth to generations thousands of years removed from the events the Bible describes. Eugene's is a "dynamic equivalence" translation. All that means is he tries to communicate God's truth with the same sense and effect it would have had on its hearers 2000 years ago. You do that by asking yourself, "If Jesus was walking the streets of America or Canada or the UK or the world today, in 2011, and saying the same things we read about in the Bible - how would he say the things we're used to hearing him say? How would he put it? What expressions would he use? What sort of slang or colloquialisms?"

Bottom line: How would he talk to us so it hit with the same force as it hit the Greeks and Romans and Jews of 30 AD?

For instance, if someone comes up to me and calls me a "swank", what on earth does he mean? That was an expression commonly used early in the 20th century. If someone translated that literally to me I would still end up with the word swank and have to look it up - it means a "show off". A translation that strove for "dynamic equivalence" would not try to use the exact word the original used because that would not have the same effect on a 21st century listener. So, depending on the culture the translator is aiming at, he or she might use the expression "strutting his stuff", or "proud as a peacock", or "you're so vain", or simply "flaunt". To say "someone that shows off" does not have the same force. It's accurate to a point, but the word "swank" had more punch to it when it was used in the 1920s and 30s. (If you've seen the film "Chariots of Fire" one of the Cambridge students calls Abrams a swank just before he attempts to beat the clock in his race around the quad. He could have said, "Abrams, you're just a show off," but swank had more bite to it.)

So, without further ado, here is Eugene's wonderful translation, from New Testament Greek, of Philippians 4:6&7 -

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."


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