Richness of the Word(s)

Our age is fortunate to have so many Bible translations to choose from; I am regularly surprised at how even the freest of them convey a great deal of the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek originals. But Leland Ryken, who worked on the recent ESV translation, has just written a fascinating book arguing against the freer, “dynamic equivalence” versions. In Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach, he points out that the more literal a version is, the more of the interpretive possibilities of the original are preserved. If the translator chooses a phrase that conveys what he considers to be the meaning of the original, while not remaining close to its form, he is actually foreclosing the reader’s options in understanding the text. I have often had moments with the freer translations in which I’ve thought, Aha, so that’s what the author meant! Ryken’s book says, in essence, that what I receive in those instances may be one of the author’s possible meanings — but that it belongs more in a commentary or a sermon than in the text of the English translation. I remain more appreciative of the dynamic-equivalence translations than Ryken appear to be, but his book is an excellent introduction to the issues involved in Bible translation – and, even more important, a great reminder of the richness of meaning in the Bible text.

Michael Potemra — Michael Potemra was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1964, and spent his childhood years in Montreal, Canada. He received a B.A. in philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He ...

Most Popular


Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More