When I came back into the church I looked into the different translations of Bibles out there and wanted to stick with the most orthodox. Initially I went with the NAB, because that’s what’s used in the missal, then after some research went into the Douay- Rheims for the direct translation, then the RSV-CE for a happy medium.
Now thinking back to the beginning, there were certain Bibles that I crossed off the list for consideration, one of them being the New Jerusalem Bible, and I did this because it used dynamic equivalence translation instead of formal equivalence. At the time, my thinking was that these translations just gave the “gist” of scriptural meaning and were far from the original, and therefore I didn’t think they were good for lectio divina or study.
I recently started reconsidering after a very well educated and theologically conservative priest I know stated this was, in his opinion, the best translation because it retains the truest meaning of scripture and doesn’t water down the language.
So here are my questions: was I too rash in crossing this Bible off the my list?
Is dynamic equivalence really a detriment to study or prayer?
From the standpoint of a person who speaks and can read the Biblical languages and has also worked as a translator, I can say that not only have I had your same questions but have wondered why formal and dynamic equivalence are used to translated Scripture in the first place.
When I translate from one language into another for a client, I use neither approach. No one does. We translate into the target language using a combination of literal and idiomatic expressions.
If I used formal equivalence to translate Spanish, I would be saying something like, “How many years do you have?” or “How many years do you count as being yours?” for the English question: “How old are you?”
If I used only dynamic equivalence to render the same thing, I would ask: “How many years do you have under your belt?” or “How many years do you take pride in counting?”
But we don’t do that at all in real life. To translate correctly we use whatever gets the point across in the target language (“How old are you?”). We can’t choose word-for-word accuracy if it isn’t understood or use dynamic equivalence just because we think a fresh approach would be more enlightening. That’s not translating, at least not when it comes to translating for the living.
Being from a Jewish household, Hebrew isn’t translated as you find in Bible translations. It’s a lot freer and flexible. I also know Koine Greek, the Greek of the New Testament. Let me tell, the originals don’t read as poetic or clear as you read in English translations. Some of it is so clumsy by its own standards that practically all “formal equivalence” versions are dynamic by comparison.
That being said, I can also report that none of the translations I’ve ever read that the Church approves are far away from the originals. They have different approaches, do things that wouldn’t occur in real life, but in the end you get more than just the gist–even with the NJB.
Now I know I can’t prove this to people who don’t speak or read these other languages. Some people really believe that one translation is more accurate than another. True, some versions may more accurately render a verse than another does, but then it will go the other way with another verse. It all balances out in the end.
I haven’t found a perfect translation into English. If I could make my own it would read with the accuracy and ease of the NRSV but use the appropriate liturgical terms like the RSV-CE 2nd edition does, having with the scholarship of the NABRE and reading with the literary appeal of the NJB.
What bothers me most is when those few important liturgical terms like “Hail, full of grace” are exchanged for something else. Even if this “something else” is just as accurate, it wouldn’t be allowed in translation for a client. You use the phrase that the target audience is familiar with or the one they use the most or the one you want them to use.
If the Church wants us to pray, “Hail, Mary, full of grace,” then all the Bibles need to read that way. There is nothing wrong with adding in a footnote these other ways of translation that currently occur in Bibles, but if you want us to preserve our religious culture and language then you need to render God’s Word into that same religious language. Asking us to keep tradition alive while not giving us the means is not fair and won’t work.
I love my RSV-CE 2nd edition, but not having the updated material that has been uncovered since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found is a real bummer. We need the best all in one. I know I deserve up-to-date and liturgically sound in a Bible, and so does everyone else!
But you won’t go wrong with whatever translation you choose. If it has Church approval, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will use it to enlighten and guide you into all the truth (but keep a couple other versions on hand too for comparison)!
(I hereby get off my soapbox. A lot of this was personal opinion and feelings. But now everyone knows!)