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DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT AN INSPIRED TRANSLATION HAS TO BE A WORD-FOR-WORD TRANSLATION?

 

 

Copyright July 28, 2005 6:14 AM CST

By Dr. Michael J. Bisconti

 

 

 

Before you read this article, you need to read Does The Bible Teach That A Translated Text Can Be Inspired?

 

 

 

Does the Bible teach that an inspired translation has to be a word-for-word translation?  As a matter of fact, you will be surprised to learn, NO.  The Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew and a little Aramaic, is quoted in the New Testament, which was written in Greek.  For example, the Apostle Paul says in Romans 15:12:

 

And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

 

The Apostle Paul is quoting Isaiah 11:10, which says:

 

And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

 

God gave his word through Isaiah.  Paul then wrote a divinely inspired BUT NOT WORD-FOR-WORD translation of Isaiah’s words in a different language; that is, ancient Greek.  A CAREFUL EXAMINATION OF THE DIVINELY INSPIRED TRANSLATION provided through the Apostle Paul will show that the message (meaning) of the inspired quotation provided through the Apostle Paul and the message (meaning) of the inspired writing provided through the Prophet Isaiah IS IDENTICAL.  However, THERE IS NO WORD-FOR-WORD TRANSLATION.  Note, for example, the following:

 

1.      Paul does not say anything about “an ensign.”

 

2.      Paul says, “trust” while Isaiah says, “seek.”

 

Wow, a translation can be perfect even though it is not a word-for word translation!  How can this be?  This can be explained.  Virtually everyone thinks that the work of translation is what is actually the work of “transverbalization.”  Transverbalization is:

 

Expressing the meaning of a linguistic element (word, phrase, clause, or sentence) in one language using a linguistic element (word, phrase, clause, or sentence) in another language.  THIS IS A ONE-STEP PROCESS.  For example, the FRENCH phrase “déjà vu” consists of “déjà,” which means “already,” and “vu,” which means “seen.”  Therefore, the transverbalization for “déjà vu” is “already seen.”  When a Frenchman says, “déjà vu,” as in “I have déjà vu the movie,” he means “I have already seen the movie.”  The “transverbalizer” may look at a table like this one:

 

 

FRENCH

ENGLISH

déjà vu

already seen

 

 

This is what virtually everyone thinks translation is.  THIS IS NOT WHAT TRANSLATION IS.  Translation is:

 

Expressing the meaning of a linguistic element (word, phrase, clause, or sentence) in one language in the MEANING of another language AND THEN expressing this SECOND meaning in a linguistic element (word, phrase, clause, or sentence) of the other (the second) language.  THIS IS A THREE-STEP PROCESS.

 

For example, the ENGLISH term, “déjà vu,” WHICH IS IDENTICAL IN SPELLING IN BOTH ENGLISH AND FRENCH BUT WHICH DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME THING IN ENGLISH AS IT DOES IN FRENCH…“déjà vu” means “a feeling that one has seen something before.”  Therefore, the translation (from English to French) for “déjà vu” is NOT “already seen.”  It is “a feeling that one has seen something before.”

 

When an English-speaking person says, “déjà vu,” as in “I have a feeling of déjà vu about the movie,” he does NOT mean “I have already seen the movie.”  He means “ I FEEL LIKE I have already seen the movie.”

 

Further explanation is, no doubt, necessary:

 

1.      You cannot jump from “déjà vu” to “already seen” when translating from English to French.  Why?  “Déjà vu” does not mean “already seen” WHEN MOVING IN THE DIRECTION OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE.

 

2.      Number 1 above means that you are BLOCKED from a simple transverbalization (expressing words in one language in the words of another language [see explanation of transverbalization above]).  If the words “déjà vu” were not found in the French language, you could transverbalize them by using “a feeling that one has déjà vu something.”  The main point to get is this:

 

YOU ARE BLOCKED FROM JUST JUMPING IMMEDIATELY FROM AN ENGLISH TO A FRENCH TRANSVERBALIZATION (“WORD EXCHANGE” [READ ABOVE]).

 

3.      Since you are BLOCKED you must SEARCH for the words you need.  However, there is no little table to show you the English meaning of “déjà vu” in French.  Let us illustrate.  The following table does NOT exist WHEN TRANSLATING FROM ENGLISH TO FRENCH:

 

 

ENGLISH

FRENCH

déjà vu

a feeling that one has seen something before

 

 

4.      Therefore, you must look elsewhere for help in translating.  Where do you look?  There is only one place you can look.  What is that?  MEANING.  How do you search for meaning?  First, what is meaning?  Meaning is CONCEPT.  You search for a meaning through CONCEPTS.  What are CONCEPTS?  Concepts are “mental pictures that represent a ‘whole bunch of things of the same kind.’”  For example, here is someone’s concept of “someone who has seen something one time”:    Your concept is probably different.  Well, where can I find a BOOK OF CONCEPTS?  There aren’t any (though we at the L. F. Nexus are working on one).  Well, how have translators gotten along without a BOOK OF CONCEPTS?  They haven’t.  Since people first started translating languages they have, mentally or on paper or in other ways, developed their own PRIVATE BOOKS OF CONCEPTS.  They have known that these “personal books of concepts” were correct through comparison with the “personal books of concepts” of thousands of other translators.  (The study of “the comparison of personal books of concepts” is called “bibliocomparaology.”  It is a part of the field of “idesistemology.”)

 

So the translator, in effect, not actually, looks at a table from his personal book of concepts like this one:

 

 

ENGLISH

ENGLISH CONCEPT

déjà vu

 

 

 

Note that the idea here is that, while one smiley face means “seen once,” two smiley faces mean “seen before (because seen twice).”

 

Once he finds the meaning (concept), he, in effect, not actually, looks at this table from his personal book of concepts:

 

 

ENGLISH CONCEPT

FRENCH CONCEPT

 

 

 

 

You will notice that the FRENCH CONCEPT is NOT identical.  This doesn’t matter.  Why?  The concept itself has its own meaning, a “subconcept, “a submeaning.”  While the concept is different, the subconcept, the meaning of the concept, is NOT different.  In other words, the submeaning of “ ” is IDENTICAL to the submeaning of “ .”  (Obviously, there is more that can be said on the subject of subconcepts [submeanings].)

 

Once the translator finds the FRENCH CONCEPT, “ ,” he, in effect, not actually, consults the next table in his personal book of concepts:

 

 

FRENCH CONCEPT

FRENCH

 

a feeling that one has seen something before

 

 

Now, the translator knows how to translate “déjà vu” into French.  When a Frenchman says “a feeling that one has seen something before” as in “I have ‘a feeling that one has seen something before’ the movie,” he means “I have a FEELING that I have déjà vu the movie.”  Note that “déjà vu” in the last sentence is the way the French understand the words “déjà vu”; that is, “already seen.”

 

Now, getting back to our main point, a translation can be perfect even though it is not a word-for word translation!  How can this be? This can be because, while a transverbalization (read above) can only be perfect if it is word-for-word, a translation can only be perfect if it is MEANING-FOR-MEANING.  To put the latter point another way:

 

A translation can only be perfect if it is a CONCEPT-FOR-CONCEPT translation.

 

To put this point yet another way:

 

A translation can only be perfect if it is a MENTAL-PICTURE-FOR-MENTAL-PICTURE translation.

 

Be sure to read the following articles:

 

·        Is The King James Bible Inspired?

 

·        Does The Bible Teach That A Translated Text Can Be Inspired?