Re: post prepared for anglican (aka reversible translation)

From: Eric Weiss (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 15:46:52 EDT

>Brian E. Wilson" <> wrote:

> But unless an alternative objective test for distinguishing
>between translating and paraphrasing is laid down, should
>we not draw the conclusion that they are one and the
>same activity, and that when one person says something is
>a translation he is simply affirming that it is the paraphrase
>he subjectively prefers to other paraphrases?

I have no formal training in translation or translation theory, so these
are just my comments. I have a book somewhere called (I think) "Don't
(You) Believe It!" which discusses in layman's terms categories of
logical flaws used in various arguments which when analyzed are found to
evade rather than rebut an argument. Examples include ad hominem
attacks, "poisoning the well" (i.e., discounting the information or
argument because of the person providing it). One of the categories was
"the argument of the beard," which is that though one cannot
whisker-by-whisker prove when merely unshaven becomes growing (or
having) a beard, there IS a difference between having a beard and not
having a beard. I tend to think this might apply here - i.e., that while
it may be impossible strictly to define the difference between a
translation and a paraphrase (and as Mr. Wilson states, the same
activity may be involved when making a translation and making a
paraphrase, and in a certain sense a translation IS a paraphrase and
vice-versa), but there is a difference between them in my mind and I
think other persons' minds, at least at the far ends of the continuum.
Even Taylor (Living Bible) and Phillips (his own translation) called
their works "paraphrases," I believe, so they must have recognized a
difference. I think an example of a paraphrase would be to "translate"
Jesus' "I am the bread of life" as "I am the rice of life" for people
who don't know what bread is but whose staple food is rice. On the other
hand, if ARTOS here means not bread but generically food or sustenance,
"rice" might not be a paraphrase in this instance but a true
translation, if "rice" in the receptor language also had the broader
meaning of "food." There are extreme examples like Clarence Jordan's
Cotton-Patch Gospels & Acts and Epistles, which are in a sense a
translation but are also a combination of paraphrasing and retelling by
substitution, whatever category that would fall under - I don't know
what one should call this kind of work. Anything short of (or more than)
an interlinear is in a sense a "paraphrase," but I think the distinction
is useful and generally understood, even if it can't be strictly
defined. My 2 cents....

Eric S. Weiss
Part-time grad student at The Criswell College
"Send those testimonies!"

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