In this article, condensed from the November/December 1995 issue of CT's sister publication BOOKS & CULTURE, Daniel Taylor, and English professor at Bethel College in Minnesota, gives us a glimpse into that most daring of undertakings—humans translating God's Word.
As a stylist on a new translation of the Bible financed by Tyndale House Publishers, I worry over the effectiveness of the language into which the text is translated. In general, Bible scholars worry first about accuracy; stylists worry first about effectiveness. Together they labor to create a final product that is both faithful to the original text and compelling to the modern reader—Scylla and Charybdis goals that have brought many a translation to grief.
It is said that people should not see how either their sausage or their laws are made. Perhaps the same could be said of their Bible translations. I am greatly impressed by the scholarship, hard work, good will, and genuine devoutness of my colleagues on this project. I am also keenly aware how human we are. A phrasing that would die an unlamented death at nine in the morning will somehow survive if it comes up instead at four in the afternoon after a long and tiring day. God willing, it meets its just reward at the next level of review, but I have spent too much time noting the infelicities in existing translations to have overwhelming confidence in that.
It must have been late in the day, for instance, when the New Jerusalem Bible translators nodded approval for "when the guests are well wined" (John 2:10), or the NIV had the psalmist declare, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High" (Ps. 77:10), or the NRSV translators thought they were using modern English with "they ...1
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