Off topic: Re-thinking over Bible translation
Thread poster: Igor Panarin

Igor Panarin
Russian Federation
Local time: 04:16
English to Russian
+ ...
Oct 13, 2016

Please find strength to read through the boring beginning. I admit if I make logical or other mistakes – I’m not a disciplined expert. Yours pros and contras are really welcomed. Grown in another culture (russian) and having rather poor linguistic background I may sound confusing, offending or illiterate.
The subject – one of western-culture Bible translations – is enough inciting by itself, and the fact that me, somewhat alienated from you culture, start to speculate on it so bluntly – can lead to negative. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ (Russian equivalent – one does not enter a monastery with his own regulations). I intend not to hurt anybody. The followings are mere appearances in my speculating mind, and what I seek for by posting it are some discussions on language, philosophy, intercultural subjects, whatever – with no other aim than to exchange knowledge and thought outcomes.

I should foreword that the sources I use directly are just Wikipedia articles. Two reasons for that: 1) I care not about verifying the sources now, because my text is not an expert resolution;
2) The fact that general public refers to Wiki, so it is commonly perceived as truth-stating. (interestingly for me, it is accordant to the idea that follows down the text)
Now I finally begin. There is a translation – New American Standard Bible, one of the most popular Bible versions nowadays, and the following is from Wiki:
‘The New American Standard Bible is widely regarded as the most literally translated of major 20th-century English Bible translations.’
My first reaction to this text is disturbance since I believe mostly (or entirely) no literal (word-for-word) translation is an adequate or equivalent one. You get my message through a sophisticated process, not just through combination of words you’ve read. So why should I go for literality in reading sacral texts? For me literal translation (LT) simply means literalism. (though now I know the literal translation approach is used in some limited cases)
‘…the translators had a "Fourfold Aim" in this work:
1. These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
2. They shall be grammatically correct.
3. They shall be understandable.
4. They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him; therefore, no work will ever be personalized.’
Firstly, the Aim №4 sounds very curious for me. I believe it would not be too false to call it cultist. But my point is not this.
I've discovered a term 'metaphrase' referring to LT, and quoting Quintilian: 'Metaphrase changes a word, and paraphrase, a phrase'.
So, back to the above, ‘the Words.’ Aren’t they understood literally? It comes from Ancient Greek ‘Logos’. Is Word equals Logos? This is a translation already, but is it adequate?
‘…give Lord his proper place’? ‘The place which the Word gives him’? But look, you’ve changed the words, by the way. So you’ve changed his place to the PROPER? You gave him a room? Seriously? To do this you need a good logistics and nomenclature, you may need to give Christ an ID Card, and enter ‘God’ in his personality status.
In the same Aim №4:
‘…no work will ever be personalized…’ – i.e. the names of scholars translating the texts are never to be discovered. Are there many ways to maintain this in the modern society? Sacrifice these guys maybe?
Next, Wiki on the ‘secrets’ of the translation:
‘…the translators sought to produce a contemporary English Bible while maintaining a word-for-word translation style. In cases where word-for-word literalness was determined to be unacceptable for modern readers, changes were made in the direction of more current idioms.’
Sounds more like a guide for electric teapots translation. Idiomatic processing as the only used step towards adequacy. This makes the whole text chopped in low-level slices. And these slices cannot naturally provide a living whole, an ensemble, a unity. Don’t these last words even sound more spiritual than ‘slicing’ the text? Absurd – as a distortion of original meaning –is simply an outcome of such approach…
The followings (and why not the aboves) are mere my guesses and speculations:
Again, ‘…regarded as the most literally translated…’ Let’s assume the original texts of Bible (if any) as authentic, true – i.e. true to themselves – then the New American Standard is false since it lacks attempt to provide meaning (what is intended to be expressed) but successfully attempts to provide form.
So any references made by commentators and administrator to the readers are inevitably false. But the reference system itself is perceived by the ‘insiders’ as true. It looks like the Matrix.
That’s the end of my speculations for now.
P.S. I went through the Bible website, and evidenced the updates of information (1995), e.g.: 'Verses with difficult word order or vocabulary have been retranslated into smoother English.'
So the inadequate translation went through meaningless but even more 'absurdizing' transformations. Meaningless - because such updates convey no meaning of the original, absurdizing - because now they scatter the words around so now even the structure of sliced elements is distorted.
Conclusion. This word – ‘smoother’… We smooth something to get more comfort, not to get more action. Does Comfort equal to Peace in its Christian meaning? I believe we humans are easily confused in meanings but have strong desire for symbols. Now MY MOST FOOLISH GUESS: this translation is made by symbolists for symbolists to symbolize life. Only true deeds we need to get to Heaven – that’s the point of Christ, I believe. Action, not reaction! And I believe Bible is supposed to CONVEY his true intention, TRUE LOGOS –which the Christ IS – not the symbol, idol, icon, which the literalized text represents.
I would stop not to sound like a preacher, ‘cause I’m not. That’s just a touching point for me for an unknown reason. Thanks for attention (if any)


Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:16
+ ...
Types of translation methods in Bible translation Oct 17, 2016

Hi Igor,
Thanks for starting a thread which is one of very areas where there are different translations made of the same content.
I wrote an article about this a number of years ago to explain the reasons for different types of translations of the Bible into the same target language.

The Bible as a Resource for Translation Software. Jeff Allen. In Multilingual Computing and Technology. 2002. Number 51, Vol. 13, Issue 7. October/November 2002. Pp. 40-45. (URL:

This article is just an introduction to the subject, but it does try to address the point of literal translations vs other versions.
The literal aspect of the translation is not so much to be word-by-word, but trying to maintain the source language and text as the meaning amplifier.
In other more modern translations, the focus moves more to the meaning being transferred over to the target language that the person is reading.



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