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ElShaddai Edwards

Interesting... where I grew up, "crud" was another way of saying you had a cold or the flu, e.g. "As soon as I shake this crud, I'll feel better."

Mike Aubrey

John, you write: I have often argued on these threads that faithful translation will strive to preserve metaphors. DE (dynamic equivalence) translations too often resolve metaphors into their assumed propositional, analytical equivalents. It’s time to reverse that trend.

I continue to take issue with this. It does not at all connect with my experience or any class on translation that I've either taken or sat in on as a visitor.

Simply put, you:

1) oversimplify meaning based translation method

2) use the NLT (or at least have in the past) as your basic example, which in of itself is a flawed starting point for a discussion of such methodology from my perspective.

Neither of these sit well with everything I've studied and read or with what I've been told directly by translators currently working on translation projects.


Hi ElShaddai,

Yeah, I know of that use of "Crud," too. Good to have you around commenting.

Hi Mike,

Let's back up a second. Here is my statement:

"DE (dynamic equivalence) translations too often resolve metaphors into their assumed propositional, analytical equivalents."

I'm talking about results, not theory or method. That takes care of your point (1).

With respect to (2), yes, I often use NLT as an example of a DE translation. On other occasions, I have used CEV; more rarely, GNB.

I am happy to exemplify my statement from any of the above translations. Should you have another favorite DE translation, I suspect that would serve as well.

Let me know what DE translation of the Bible you hold in highest esteem, and I will exemplify my statement from that point of departure.

Mike Aubrey


Mike Aubrey

And since the REB is based on the NEB, I'd say that one too.



Now I understand where you are coming from.

But NEB/REB is generally far more literal than GNB (TEV), CEV, or NLT.

REB also cleans up NEB's act. Just as NLT2 does with respect to NLT1.

REB is a middle-of-the-road translation. It belongs in the same category as NJPSV, NRSV, NAB, and NJB. I really don't see REB as in the same family of translations as those which go back, ultimately, to the great Eugene A. Nida, with whom, I believe, the term DE originated.

Nida himself did not class NEB in the family of translations he inspired (first called DE, then FE), which have been produced in many many languages by ABS and UBS translators in particular. See his "Theory of Translation" article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

Curiously, Wayne Leman under "Functional Equivalence" (an alternative expression for DE) in the Better Bibles terminology file lists LB, TEV, CEV, and NCV as FE translations, with NLT as "a more literal" translation.

I find that odd. I think of TEV, CEV, NCV, and NLT as quintessential DE/FE translations. LB and the Message are paraphrases.

I don't own a copy anymore of NEB, but I treasure my REB, as you already know. REB, and NEB before it, is markedly better than the DE/FE "common language" translations at metaphor-for-metaphor translation.

However, I will make good on my promise anyway. I will quote from a famous essay by Gerald Hammond entitled "English Translations of the Bible," in Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, The Literary Guide to the Bible (Harvard: Belknap, 1987) 647-666.

"Many modern versions eschew anything which smacks of imagery and metaphor - based on the curious assumption, I guess, that modern English, is an image-free language. When, Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, talks about those who *hunger* and *thirst* for righteousness, the Good News Bible drops the images of hungering and thirsting, and renders it "Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires." And where the Authorized Version has Christ warning that anyone who looks lustfully at a woman "hath committed adultery with her in his heart [kardia]," the New American Bible, disapproving of the idea that the heart should be conceived of as anything but a muscle, translates it as "he has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts" - quite a different idea. Again, it is unfair to imply that all virtue is on one side. We will not find Job's splendid image of the "eyelids of the morning" (3:9) in the Authorized Version, which has "the dawning of the day," but in the New English Bible. But the general tendency is overwhelming, and as a result in the modern versions forms of expression of varying degrees of poeticality are reduced to the prosaic. . . .

The Renaissance translators were still close to a Protestant Reformation which stressed the primacy of the Bible's literal sense . . . Stressing the literal sense very often involves treating the story with as much care as any writer of narrative should do. And so the Authorized Version presents Christ on the hillside delivering his sermon and speaking like a popular preacher. Instead of saying aridly scholarly things like "How blest are those of a gentle spirit; they shall have the earth as a possession" (New English Bible) or "not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen" (New International Version), he says "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" and "one jot or tittle"; and instead of words no mouth could ever utter, such as "And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres" (Good News Bible), he says the beautifully pithy "And whosoever should compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." And when Martha is ordered to open up Lazarus's tomb, she does not protest with the affected "by this time there will be a stench" (New English Bible), but registers frank revulsion; "by this time he stinketh" (John 11:39).

At its best, which means often, the Authorized Version has the kind of transparency which makes it possible for the reader to see the original clearly. It lacks the narrow interpretative bias of modern versions, and is the stronger for it. When the writer of Proverbs asserts that man is constantly aware of his own mortality and the mortality of those he loves, the Authorized Version translates a plain Hebrew sentence as plainly as possible: "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful" (14:13). Versions which replace "is" with "may," as the New English Bible and the New International Version do - "Even in laughter the heart may grieve" and "Even in laughter the heart may ache" - have already begun to interpret away the inconsolability of the original; just as replacing the Authorized Version's splendidly literal translation of the phrase which recurs in the historical books, "him that pisseth against the wall," with "every mother's son" (New English Bible) or "every last male" (New International Version) abandons any real attempt to reproduce its register and tone."

Anything I might say, Hammond can say better.

Mike Aubrey

Based on what else I've read from Nida, I find that really strange.

Nida in The Theory and Practice of Translation:

"The practical implications of a new concept of translating may be readily seen in the comparison of Romans 1:5 in the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and Today's English Version. . . .
Both the NEB and the TEV attempt to restructure this passage in order to preserve the meaning of the original. . . .
Both the NEB and the TEV redically restructure the formal elements o this Greek clause, but it must be noted that they do not introduce any features not clearly implicit in the Greek. They also succeed in reproducing the message of the Greek in a form far more comprehensible than the more liberal translation of the RSV. This is the type of faithfulness to the text of the source language which results in alterations of form in order to preserve content."

Whether Nida consider's the NEB/REB to be part of his legacy or not, his large works make it quite clear that its a translation that follows his goals. The NEB is regularly an example translation this book. Minus the glossary, indices and appendix, the NEB is on average, discussed every 5 pages.

But thanks for the examples. I do appreciate them. But I would again state as I have before that in terms of method, Functional Equivalence is much, much more likely to give you the literary translation you desire rather than Formal Equivalence.



My take is that Nida in the 1969 book you cite used NEB as an apologetic foil for his rather different style of translation, which he refers to in his ABD article as a "common language" translation.

Nida refers to NEB, on the contrary, as a "literary" translation, and more literal translations - he cites RSV(=ESV) - as "traditional, ecclesiastical, [for] Church usage."

According to Nida, "common language" refers to the overlap between the colloquial and the literary. To be honest, I don't think that a "common language" register exists in English or any other language - except in Nida-style translations!

For the rest, I am not interested in "literary translation." Whenever NEB/REB is a literary translation of a non-literary text, it falsifies. Whenever GNB and NLT (for example) are "common language" translations of a high register text, they falsify.

I am interested in translation that is faithful to the register, style, and tone of the original authors. More broadly, faithfulness in translation to the pragmatics and rhetoric of the text is a worthy goal, a goal, I believe, you share as well.

As Hammond shows, a relatively literal translation like KJV succeeds in this sense more often than FE enthusiasts seem willing to admit.

On another note, I wish to emphasize that Nida is right up there with Kenneth Pike for me, a great scholar and a great man of faith. But that doesn't mean we need to follow either, in whole or in part. I suspect they would agree.

Mike Aubrey

I wish to emphasize that Nida is right up there with Kenneth Pike for me, a great scholar and a great man of faith. But that doesn't mean we need to follow either, in whole or in part. I suspect they would agree.

Well, once again, I do agree with you.

It seems, though, that I think about translation in much broader terms than you do.


"In much broader terms than you do."

All the more reason to look forward to your translation work on Ephesians 5:18-33, Chrysostom, etc. The proof is in the pudding.

Mike Aubrey

Unfortunately, I don't know when they'll arrive. At least another week. I've got a conference paper to finish writing for March and a morphology database that prepare along side it.

Not to mention work on 4 Maccabees...which is also due at the end of March.

It'll come, but it will be a while - and I might need a reminder.



I fully expect it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, all the best on your other, more pressing projects.

Mike Aubrey

*to prepare along side it.

I shouldn't be leaving comment before I've had coffee.

In the meantime, I will see about posting other people's translations and a few passing thoughts.

Mike Aubrey


or maybe I simply type too fast.

David Ker

Get 'im, Mike!

J. K. Gayle

The trick is to make the metaphorical transfers involving multiple terms in the source text neither unduly specific nor unjustifiably vivid in the target text.

John, Nicely done. (And thanks for bringing in Harshav, who elsewhere says a translator can take Plato's philosophical dialogues and render them as stories with a much different outcome. Philosophers tend to "equate" what they interpret strictly as philosophical argument into target-language propositions. Likewise, DE translators of the bible tend to do the same - interpreting the text without metaphor and reducing it to their "ideal" reading in the target language. The Greek language - or Hebrew - serves only as the shadow of the real intentions supposedly written by the author. DE gets language out of the way. And Pike would agree with Harshav not with Nida on this, since you weirdly mention Pike to Mike in your first comment.) Had you specified "ear" crud and not let us, your readers, get what can be meant in the context by the metaphor "crud," then you would have faltered here. But you succeeded in a great translation! (And in my comment at David Ker's post, I've applied your translation to Chrysostom with the corroboration of Philip Schaff).



Thanks for understanding my point so well. I mentioned Pike not because he and Nida were always on the same page, but simply because I have learned many things from both of them.


There is a word used in the KJV for earwax. What and where is this word found?

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