[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 "bruise"

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Dec 23 14:46:16 EST 2004

On 23/12/2004 18:41, Karl Randolph wrote:

>I tried to download your file, and for some reason all I got was an error message.

I have just checked that this works. Try again. Or I can send it to you 
offlist as an attachment.

>I see your point, I think.
>For example, if I were to translate a Chinese sentence (used for neutrality in this discussion) "Fire wagon yesterday day go across iron road upon" makes no sense to someone who does not know Chinese, so a good translator then paraphrases the sentence to "Yesterday the train went down the tracks." This is where paraphrasing is used as a tool to help with translation. I don't think you object to "paraphrase" being used in this context.

Yes, I do. Well, I accept that "Yesterday the train went down the 
tracks" can be described as a paraphrase of "Fire wagon yesterday day go 
across iron road upon". But I object to this description of how a good 
translator works. Maybe a bad translator first prepares a word for word 
translation and then paraphrases it. But a good translator reads and 
understands the Chinese sentence and naturally produces at the first 
attempt a good understandable meaning-based translation like your second 

>To give another example, there was a "translation" of the Bible made by people who did not believe the stories contained therein, therefore they at the beginning of one story "translated" WYHY as "Once upon a time..." which elicited mirth among those who pointed it out to me. They, profs and fellow students, called that a "paraphrase" which, strictly speaking, is a misuse of the term. That is not a restating into more understandable language, which is the strict definition of "paraphrase", but adding to the text, in other words, a mistranslation. It is that misuse of the term "paraphrase" to which you object. Am I right?

This version is indeed not a paraphrase, it is simply a bad translation.

>Further, my teachers taught that the more one paraphrases, the more likely one is to pass from a legitimate use of paraphrasing as in the first example, to adding or subtracting from the meaning as in the second example, therefore paraphrasing should be done carefully and as sparingly as possible. The way they used "paraphrase" came to mean untrustworthy to possibly incorrect translation, a rather specialized use of the term. I was guilty in using the term in a manner that reflected this meaning, and I think George meant it in this way as well.

Yes, your teachers were using the word "paraphrase" in their own 
idiosyncratic way as a pejorative term for an incorrect translation. And 
so was Jim, not George.

I agree that translation should be done carefully and with as little 
adjustment to the meaning as is necessary. But paraphrasing is not a 
widespread part of the Bible translation procedure. I suspect that your 
teachers just don't know how modern meaning-based translations are 
prepared. They are not prepared by paraphrasing of existing English 
translations, but direct from the original texts, although not without 
comparison with earlier translations.

>Yes, my use of the term was somewhat sloppy, following the example given above. But does this post clear the question up, or is there further clarification needed?
I hope things are clearer now.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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