RE: A Fork In the Road

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Fri Oct 17 1997 - 04:59:53 EDT

David Moore wrote,


<These are a couple of stories that illustrate how semantic domains
<are not always coincident across languages and cultures. This is the reason
<that translations which always translate any given Greek word with
<invariably the same English word must be often misleading. Good translation
<is idiomatic. Although translations that are uncompromisingly literal can
<be helpful for study (cf. Aquila's traslation of the Jewish Scriptures),
<they are specialized tools for people who are willing to invest time in
<learning their special language. On the other hand, translations that seek
<the lowest common denominator are, IMO, niche translations as well; I find
<very few people who want to use them.

<Most of us have our favorites, and maybe there is a golden mean
<somewhere that would be a translation loved by everyone.

Dear David,

Your anecdotes are amusing and your comments are to the point except two
slightly inaccurate statements. You write: "This is the reason that
translations which always translate any given Greek word with invariably
the same English word must be often misleading." This statement,
emphasizing "misleading" is only true if the concept "target group" does
not exist. If we ask "misleading for whom"?, the answer must be "for people
not belonging to the target group". If a translation is made for those with
four heads, it is misleading only for those with one or another number of
heads, as you yourself show in what you further write. The most important
commandment for Bible translators is: "Think target group!" Further am I
not aware of any literal translation (only interlinears) which ALLWAYS
translates any Greek word with the same English word. This is not possible.

When studying a particular passage, it is fine to use several translations
of different kinds. I have found many nuggets in Kenneth Wuest,1970, "The
New Testament An Expanded Translation" which is the very opposite of a
literal translation. (See for instance his translation of SPERMOLOGOS in
Acts 17:18).


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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