[B-Greek] referential complexity: frames & scenarios and Galatians 6:18

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed Apr 28 01:11:24 EDT 2010

Dear All,

Just a few comments to a some of the statements below, the rest deleted:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dr. Don Wilkins" drdwilkins at verizon.net

> When I proposed the idea of a woodenly formal translation, I actually
> thought the linguists on the list might like the idea (silly me!).

I cannot speak for all linguists, but those who actually work as Bible
translators and have been trained in communication theory, see formal
translations as quite inadequate in terms of carrying over the intended meaning
to an ordinary audience, but the preferred style of translation does depend
heavily on the intended audience. And notes are crucial whichever style is used.

> Now then, let me turn to Steve Runge. Steve has distanced himself
> from the NASB and other FE translations; note his statement, "I am
> focused more on exposition and preaching, not translation. If I WERE
> to focus on translation, I would lean more toward the functional
> equivalent end of things, meaning of the discourse features that
> accomplish various tasks, not just preserving the words or
> structure" (April 26, 2010 3:26 PM post).
> The consensus seems to be that the translator/linguist's personal
> input is desirable in translation, i.e. her personal knowledge, her
> professional experience and skills, etc. Obviously this input will
> lead to significant variations in the translation from one translator
> to the next, resulting ultimately in a wide range of translations in
> the marketplace. I have no problem with viewing these translations as
> commentaries, as someone has already suggested. But I have contended
> that there is a need for translations whose goal is to deliver
> something as close as possible to the original text for study
> purposes (if for no other), i.e. a text that just preserves the words
> and structure, to paraphrase Steve above. The negative response this
> has received seems, if I may say so, very much like the opposition to
> a bill in congress posed by many who have not yet read it.

I would say that one or more FE translations are important for study purposes,
but they cannot stand alone. They must be supplemented by meaning-based
versions. I refer to (but do not rely on) 8 English translations on a daily
basis, and have all of them up on my wide screen laptop simultaneously where
they scroll together: GNB, NLT04, GW, RSV, NET, CEV, NIV, KJV.  In another
program I look at the Hebrew OT, the LXX and the GNT together. If I need
additional resources, which I rarely do, I power up BibleWorks.

> Finally, I'll turn briefly to a couple of comments by Carl.
> "A text only comes to mean something in a particular social cultural
> religious framework at particular place and time for members of a
> community of shared meaning."
> I think this is quite true. It suggests, as does the even-more-
> restrictive formulation, "the idea that meaning is only actualized
> for an individual within a very narrow time, location, cultural,
> historical, religious context",  that those who reside outside of
> that "very narrow time, location, cultural, historical, religious
> context" will not ever have access to the entirety of the meaning of
> such a text -- and that includes all of us who confront the Biblical
> Greek text in the 21st century.
> Taking further advantage of Carl's permission to explore the topic, I
> note that there are people who believe that the meaning of the
> biblical text is what it means to a particular reader at a particular
> time, place, etc., completely separated and disentangled from
> whatever it may have meant to the original audience. I *think* that
> we are all at a consensus in rejecting this position and viewing the
> irrelevant mental and experiential baggage that a translator or
> reader brings to the text as an impediment to correctly understanding
> it. Whatever we individually think of the value of linguistics in
> exegesis, I infer that we value and focus on the details of the
> original text and the original scenario, i.e. the textual and
> historical contexts. I would like to know if this is a mistaken
> inference on my part.

One could make a distinction between "subjective meaning" and "originally
intended meaning". The subjective meaning is what the reader understands from
his or her background knowledge. How much that meaning has in common with the
intended meaning varies from very little to a great deal, depending on the
reader's background knowledge of the language used and subject matter.

The goal for translators is to immerse themselves in the original language and
culture to such a degree that they can get as close as possible to the
originally intended meaning (i.e. good exegesis). After that, they can then
express that assumed intended meaning in another language to people of another
time and culture so that the readers come as close as possible to understanding
the originally intended meaning. In my experience, this has never been done and
can never be done in a FE translation, but can be done in a good meaning-based
translation (not all such translations are good and none are perfect. That is
one of the many reasons for notes.)

Iver Larsen

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