Last week, I posted a survey on languages and bible preference, which is still open by the way. (If you haven’t spent the 30 seconds necessary to complete its four questions, I would greatly appreciate it.) Soon after, I came across these thoughts on bible translation in the preface to a commentary on Romans by Fr. Lawrence Farley, a priest in the Orthodox Church in America serving at St. Herman’s Church in Surrey, British Columbia. After briefly describing the two principle approaches to translation–formal and dynamic equivalence–he writes:
The English translator is faced, it would seem, with a choice: either he can make the translation something of a rough paraphrase of the original and render it into flowing sonorous English or he can attempt to make a fairly literal, word-for-word translation from the original with the resultant English being stilted, wooden, and clumsy.
These two basic and different approaches to translation correspond to two basic and different activities in the Church. The Church needs a translation of the Scriptures for use in worship. This should be in good, grammatical, and flowing English, as elegant as possible and suited to its function in the majestic function of the Liturgy. The Church also needs a translation of the Scriptures for private study and for group Bible study. Here the elegance of its English is of lesser concern. What is of greater concern here is the bring out of all the nuances found in the original. Thus this approach will tend to sacrifice elegance for literality and, wherever possible, seek a work-for-work correspondence with the Greek. Also, because the student will want to see how the biblical authors use a particular word (especially St. Paul, who has many works included in the canon), a consistence of translation will be sought and the same Greek word will be translated, whenever possible, by the same English word or its cognate.
So, what do you think about Fr. Farley’s observations concerning the place of different translations in the life of the Church? Do you agree that we would do well to utilize a more flowing, dynamic translation for public reading and liturgy as part of worship while resorting to a more literal translation for study? It seems the desire of many (most?) of us is to find that one bible translation that is perfect (or at least suitable) for both worship and study. In the ever-changing landscape of English bible translation, this quest is as elusive as it is ultimately frustrating.
What do you think of Fr. Farley’s advice?