Thursday, September 17, 2009

Perspectives on Translation: Ryken vs. Fee & Strauss

Regardless of your opinion on Bible translations, it's important to educated yourself about the issues involved in faithfully translating the Biblical messages from the original languages into English (or any other language). That's why it's imperative to listen to people on both sides of the "Formal vs. Functional Equivalent" debate. Too many unfortunate misunderstandings arise when individuals either blindly latch onto formal equivalence translations as the most "literal" (and therefore most "accurate"), or consider only contemporary relevance and side with functional equivalence in contrast to (supposedly) "wooden" and "archaic" formal translations.

As with most complex issues, the truth is somewhere in between. While volumes have been written on translation issues, two good (and free!) introductions to the arguments for Formal Equivalence and Functional Equivalence are, respectively, The Word of God in English by Leland Ryken (advocates formal translation) and It's All Greek To Me by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss (advocates functional and mediating translations). I won't hide the fact that I'm more persuaded by Fee and Stuart's arguments, but Ryken's book does highlight some issues worth considering.

I should also note that Leland Ryken has a new book coming out this week, Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach. The Crossway blog has a series of interviews with him about the book and translation theory in general.

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