Sunday, August 14, 2011

The KJV, Tyndale, and Translating the Good News

The infamous N.T. Wright recently presented a paper in London at the International SBL conference on Bible Translation. I've given the link here: N.T. Wright SBL Monarch's Message.

This is a must read for anyone involved in the current dialog and debates about which Bible translation(s) to use, and whoever has interest into the story and development of the 1611 King James Bible.

I agree with most, if not all of his points, including his point that people should be comfortable with multiple translations, and that there are so many "layers" to give in a translation, that no one can do it good enough.

Check it out and let me know what you think! I'll be pondering this for a while, no doubt, and I can't wait to get my hands on his own translation (not to mention get a couple of his "For Everyone" New Testament commentary series).


  1. Wow. Thanks for posting this. I'm starting to more and more like N.T. Wright's translation philosophy.

    "But there is a second sort of accuracy, perhaps deeper than this: the accuracy of flavour and feel. It is possible, in translation as in life, to gain the whole world and lose your own soul – to render everything with a wooden, clunky, lifeless ‘accuracy’ from which the one thing that really matters has somehow escaped..."

    Theology and translation is nothing without understanding history. The bible is full of letters, not lessons (Yes, even Leviticus & Numbers). They're personal, not intellectual. If biblical study was only for the intellectual, I doubt Jesus would have let the little children come to him.

    As I'm studying the original languages, I've gained the habit of wooden, extremely precise translations, to reflect differences between, say, a perfect and an aorist. I may understand more deeply than my written translation, but that won't help my reader.

    And then there are experienced linguists, with subtle understandings of historical contexts and events. I love these rare renderings that you'll find in certain devotion books and commentaries (I'm looking at you, RCH Lenski). Warm translations in which ιδου or הִנֵּה might occasionally get translated (accurately) as "Ta-dah!" instead of "Behold!"

    I understand why people agonize over what translation their children should memorize from. That's fine and good. But the best bible I think would be one annotated & footnoted to the brim. It's not necessary to note how the shepherds in Luke 2 "feared a great fear"; but drawing parallels between Matthew's Gospel and the Jewish audience, or Paul and his understanding of Greek philosophical thought would be very welcome. For instance, it took me 'til college to learn that the concept of "resurrection" was foolish to Greek culture.

    My Concordia Self-Study Bible (a heavily footnoted NIV1984) is one of my favorites for this reason. Its' annotations are very very Lutheran (But of course: It's chock-full of Martin Luther's comments). Each book of the bible is preceded by several pages of historical background and even a condensed outline of the book. It's foolish to think that the Bible is not full of rich, wide, diverse, history.

  2. Speaking of Tyndale, check out this website: I would like to see some thoughts about this translation. I personally think this would be far better than the NIV or most modern translations.


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