Friday, September 26, 2008

Prophecies through Jewish Eyes

For anyone studying Scripture, I would suggest reading the Bible through Jewish eyes, in particular the Later Prophets. Our Christian translations are prone to bias based on the theology of the translator.


Tom said...

I think a bias can only really be in a "dynamic equivalent" translation [e.g. NIV, NLT]. In an "essenstially literal" translation [like the KJV, ESV, or NASB], it's tougher for a bias to show because you're translating words as opposed to thoughts.

That being said, many modern translations have a rather large team of translators, with the goal of eliminating biases. [The ESV for example had 50 or 60 from many denominations.]

David Rudel said...

Tom, it's impossible to translate without bias.

You can never translate word-for-word because you always have to figure out which of the many possible English words best fit the meaning the Greek has.

A given Greek word might have 5 or more English meanings, just as a given English word has several meanings. The meaning selected is tempered by your theological preferences.

Take, for example, the word we often translate "justify." Now, you can find translations that simply translate that word as "justify," which doesn't really help unless you come to an opinion on what that word means.

But many literal, word-for-word translations will instead translate that Greek word "declare righteous" because they have chosen that as what "justify" means.

Another example is the word for "redeemer" that shows up often in the OT. That word generally meant something very different to the Jews than it means to us given our theological framework. Often a more accurate casting of Jewish thought would be "vindicator" or "avenger." Once again, your theological preferences will guide the translation.

There are other issues as well. For example, Paul's letters have lots of "holes" in them...because Paul wrote in the intellectual style of his time, which was to leave out anything he could while still conveying the meaning...we now have to fill in those gaps to come to the meaning we think he has.

There are also issues because Greek grammar and syntax does not match English grammar and syntax. This means that even after you have translated the words literally, you still have to figure out what order they go in and what words that were left out of the Greek should go into the English [the Greek often leaves out pronouns, for example]. Greek's were more fluid with their word order than English speakers are, so when translating you have to decide whether you want to keep the Greek word order or move things around, and often your theological interests are served by that.