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All Translation is Supple

October 26, 2009

Bill Mounce has an interesting post on conflicting translational practices in the ESV’s rendering of Rom 2:27, 29. The same word (γραμματος) is translated differently (“written code” and “letter”) in the two verses. Folks wonder why this is so, and Mounce give a rundown on the thought processes behind a biblical translator. What this ends up showing is just how squishy supple Bible translations really are.  He ends his post with a warning against armchair quarterbacking:

When someone says that a translation is “wrong” and that the translators “should” have done it another way, in most cases (in my experience) this comes out of a lack of respect to the complexities of translation and a lack of knowledge of all the procedures being followed by a translation committee.

An interesting post, even if it is about the Jesus festschrift.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 2:33 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the post. I interact with Mounce’s list here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/10/bill-mounce-on-the-translation-goals-of-esv.html

    Did you notice that you reproduced Mounce’s typo, gammatos for grammatos?

    • October 26, 2009 10:24 pm

      That’s funny! I just copy-and-pasted his text. I made sure I grabbed the form in the nominative but didn’t notice the missing rho. I’ve fixed it now.

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