Rolf Furuli furuli at
Tue Jul 20 05:52:38 EDT 1999

Paul Zellmer wrote:

>Rolf frequently posts on the b-hebrew list, and is, I believe, a member
>of this list.  In case I am mistaken on that second point, I'm copying
>Rolf in on my response.  (Hey, Rolf, can you break away from your study
>of weqatals to give Mitch a synopsis?)
>While I have not yet had the opportunity to read his book, there was a
>significant discussion on it about six months ago.  I think that
>discussion took place on the b-hebrew list (although it could have been
>b-greek), but I don't seem to be able to access the archives right now.
>If I recall correctly, the thread used the term "literal translations".
>Based on that discussion, I understand Rolf's main premise in the book
>claims that nearly all the major translations allow the theological
>views of the translators to come into play in selecting the specific
>word used to translate a given Hebrew or Greek word in a particular
>passage.  He argues for the need in certain situations for translations
>which are extremely consistent in using a one-to-one correspondence
>between the major words of the source language and the word chosen
>throughout the entire text of the target language.  These situations
>would be where the target audience is expected to search out for
>themselves the exact range (based on the usages in the entire text) of
>the "translated" concept.
>One of the most controversial points of the book is Rolf's putting
>forward of the New World Translation as a good example of a literal,
>consistent translation.  He is not a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
>or, if he is, he has certainly covered it well over the years. ;^>  But
>he does claim that that translation leaves much of the work of
>understanding the meaning of the text with the reader.
>While I personally agree that translations should not completely
>predigest the text, that there should be work left for the reader to
>study out on his own, I feel that Rolf appears to have gone too far the
>other way.  A couple of facts remain.  One is that many people will take
>"the easy way out," chosing to accept the basic concept as expressed in
>the word chosen in the target language rather than treating that word as
>merely a symbol and then researching out the significance of that
>symbol.  The second is that the translation effort will erase many of
>the clues which we use as we check the lexicons for the range of
>meanings--the prepositions, the collocations with other words, etc.
>I repeat that I have not read the book.  But, Rolf, how did I do on
>presenting your premise?

Dear Paul,

Your presentation of my premise is quite good. I will give a few remarks,
trying to show how the problems discussed in the book may be pertinent to
b-greekers:  I have tried to reveal some of the "power structure" of Bible
translation, discussing to which extent the theology of Bible translators
is forced upon the reader without his or her knowledge. I have further
tried to show that while Nida's "functional equivalence" is useful for most
translations, there are certain advantages with literal translations for
particular groups. One big advantage is that a literal translation is in a
way a semi-finished product where the reader may have a part in the very
translation process; thus being less dependent upon the translators.

Four sides of the book may particularly, in my view, contribute to the the
study of the Greek NT:

(1) The discussion of how modern linguistic principles allow "the word"
rather than  "the kernel" (Nida´s term) to serve as the basic translation
unit. Thus a literal translation need not be based on the "etymological

(2) The discussion of the meaning of Greek and Hebrew verbs (37 pages) with
a stress on the definition of aspect.

(2) The discussion of some of the NT passages which have caused most
controvercy on b-greek (John 1:1; 8:58, Col 1:15,16, Phil 2:6 etc)
basically from a linguistic point of view. No author is strictly objective,
and all of us are to a certain extent lead by our prejudices, including
myself. But in the discussion of these passages I have take great pains to
try to be as balanced as possible and to some extent leave the conclusions
to the readers. Some of the material in these discussions also represent
new viewpoints not hitherto presented in the literature.

(3) The theology of the translators permeats *every* translation, and
theology is rightly an important tool together with philological and
linguistic tools when a translation is made. However, "bias" (defined on
the basis of linguistic criteria) has no place in a Bible translation. I
think the reader will profit from the distinction between "bias" in the
theologicl  and in the lingusitic sense, because such a distinction is not
usually made.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo


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