Monday, March 24, 2008

Why Does the NLT Do This?

The question has been raised (from my last entry) as to why the NLT would do this. The only answer I have is that it fits with the NLT's philosophy of translation. Much ink has been spilled over the last twenty years regarding translation philosophy; whether the translation should take a "formal equivalence" approach, or a "dynamic equivalence" approach. While that is a useful discussion, it does avoid questions about what a translation is supposed to do. If the only thing a translation is supposed to do is to transfer information, then I don't think it makes much difference how that is done, whether "formally" or "dynamically." If "information transfer" is all that is desired, then I don't really see the problem with the "summarized translation" of Numbers 7 as found in the Contemporary English Version. But I think more than "information transfer" should be the goal of Bible translation. I think a Bible translation ought to enable us to "see" the original. Thus, the annoying and extensive repetition of Numbers 7 ought to be presented in its entirety. The casting of Joseph's brothers as "the men" enables the reader to "see" the original in way that casting them as "his brothers" does not. We ought to be able to "see" the difference s between the style of Isaiah and the style of Jeremiah when we read a translation.

Unfortunately, most modern translations don't do that. And, unfortunately, the worst offenders are the "dynamic equivalence" translations. They end up turning the biblical text into generic English mush, where there is no difference between Isaiah and Hosea, no difference between Job and the Psalms, and everything is equally boring to read. No wonder people have a hard time reading the Bible. The translators have succeeded in making it all equally uninteresting.