Changes of Style Within a Bible Translation

When I have the time and energy, I have some posts coming of my own on the more substantial side.

Here is something from Dave Black Online on Sunday, January 23. This topic of different English styles (or register as I’ve read it) has been floating around. After that I have a question of my own regarding the REB.

8:24 AM Is the style of a New Testament document inspired? If so, do different styles in the Greek New Testament require different styles of translation into English? For example, as I translate through Mark I find certain passages to be anything but lackluster in terms of rhetorical style. Any account of poetic effectiveness or literariness must, I should think, influence the way we translate the Gospel in terms of impact and appeal on the audience. After all, style is information.

In the ISV New Testament an attempt was made to produce in sonorous and poetic English at least certain portions of the New Testament (the Christ hymns or the 5 “faithful sayings,” for example) — that is, passages whose literary quality is unquestioned. (Liars ever/men of Crete/savage brutes/that live to eat.) In doing so, I discovered that producing a literary translation is not simple. It will be interesting to see whether there is a ready and willing receptor constituency that will appreciative such an approach when the ISV is published later this year.

But back to my question: Admitting that there is always some loss in translating from language to another, should Bible translators pay greater attention to the rhetorical techniques in Hebrew and Greek? After all, in poetic language, all of the possibilities of language are exploited to communicate meaning.

I think this is one of the things that makes the REB so impressive.
My question: Is the REB static as far as its literary quality and style or does it change with the original language(s)?

As to Dave Black’s question, from a complete amateur, I would love to see translators pay more attention to rhetorical techniques. But I think in order for it to be worth it, it would have to be pretty noticeable to most readers.

God’s Word translation does a good job as far as form with poetry by using a single column format so that parallel lines can be lined up, for lack of a better term, which helps in visualizing that aspect. I don’t know if that’s something that has anything to do with what the original writer would have done if the language permitted it, but it’s helpful for me. It will be interesting to see how the ISV handles this in the Old Testament. A Microsoft Office version of the ISV can be found on their Downloads page.

I’ve done my best to replicate the form of two of the translations mentioned above except for verse numbers, which would have complicated it with GW. Hopefully the CSS will render the same in all browsers. It looks fine in FF, MSIE and Opera on my system.

Proverbs 2:1-5 ISV
My son, if you accept my words,
and treasure my instructions1—
making your ear attentive to wisdom,
and turning your heart to understanding—
if, indeed, you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and learn to know God.

Proverbs 2:1-5 GW
My son,
if you take my words to heart
and treasure my commands within you,
if you pay close attention to wisdom,
and let your mind reach for understanding,
if indeed you call out for insight,
if you ask aloud for understanding,
if you search for wisdom as if it were money
and hunt for it as if it were hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and you will find the knowledge of God.

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