Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


For More and Better Translations
R. Reed
84260 N. Enterprise
Pleasant Hill, OR 97455

From: JASA 36 (June 1984): 127.

While trying to get caught up on old reading material I came across a book review that I thought needed answering. It is in the June 1983 issue of your journal, and is the review of The Translation Debate. There is really no place I can fault the reviewer, I agree with almost all his points, however he leaves the feeling that much Bible translation work is poorly done, perhaps worthless. On a scholarly level perhaps it may be imperfect, but on a practical level it can be very satisfactory.

Often the choice is between giving the people a less than perfect translation and giving them no translation, or perhaps letting them wait for 20 or more years for a translation. Then again perfection is a relative thing, else why the great number of English translations. Not that I am arguing for poor translations, the translator should do the best he can and use the best materials he can handle, but just because he is not fluent in Greek and Hebrew doesn't mean he can not make a translation by which tribal people can understand God's message to men. Given the choice of a translator who only knows English (or Spanish?) but knows the tribal language and culture well, and a Greek scholar who has a superficial knowledge of the tribal situation, I would choose the former. If we can find God in the English Bible, then it provides a suitable, if not ideal, basis for a translation. After all, people even found God in the King James edition!

I am reminded of the time we needed electricity during the day time in the Philippines. We were told that we needed a battery charger, a 'deep charge' storage battery and an inverter. The 'deep charge' battery is made for drawing much of the current out and then replacing it, in contrast to a normal car battery which usually is only superficially discharged and then immediately recharged. We couldn't get a 'deep charge' battery in the Philippines so went ahead anyway and used a jeep battery for 2 or 3 years, quite satisfactorily. And at the end of that time the battery was still performing its function. No doubt the 'deep charge' battery is better, but for us it was better to use what we could get than not to have electricity.

By the way, there is also an index to Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. It was compiled by Bruce Einspahr and offers the translator of the O.T. the same help that Alsop's index does for the New Testament.

Yours for more and better translations.