His name might not be prominent, but Eugene A. Nida's influence can be found in most Christian homes—more specifically, in their Bibles.
Nida, one of the leading advocates for dynamic equivalence translation, died August 25 at a hospital in Brussels, Belgium. He was 96.
Dynamic equivalence translation (a phrase which Nida coined) is a "meaning-based" approach to biblical translation; it focuses on translating "thought-for-thought" rather than "word-for-word." In a 2002 interview with Christianity Today, Nida said that this shift in translation was his most important contribution: "To help people be willing to say what the text means—not what the words are, but what the text means."
Nida's career in translation began in 1936, when he graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Greek and a minor in Latin. The summer after he graduated, Nida attended the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a faith-based nonprofit that serves language communities by using research, training, and development to "build capacity for sustainable language development." After his introduction to SIL, Nida returned every summer from 1937 to 1953 to teach there.
Nida continued his studies at the University of Southern California, where he earned a master's degree in New Testament Greek. He completed a doctorate in linguistics at the University of Michigan in 1943. That same year, he was hired by the American Bible Society as associate secretary of versions. He became the executive secretary for translations in 1946, a position that he held until his retirement in 1980. He was present at the founding conference of the United Bible Societies in 1946, and in 1949 he founded The Bible Translator, a ...