Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Against the Theory of "Dynamic Equivalence"

The debate surrounding how to translate the Bible is one that will probably never go away.  If someone were to ask me if I favor dynamic equivalence or formal equivalence I would have to say on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I favor formal equivalence and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday I favor dynamic equivalence.  On Sunday's I try not to think about it.  All of that to say I have learned much from both sides and I understand their passion.  But I want to point you to an article (book?) by Michael Marlowe who is decidedly against the theory of dynamic equivalence.  I've read Marlowe's stuff for years and I like much of what he has to say.  This article (an updated version of a previous article) is one of the finest pieces I've read which opposes dynamic equivalence. Marlowe has thought long and hard on this issue and he has some penetrating criticisms which bear hearing.  I should make a couple of observations.

1)  Marlowe acknowledges in several places some of the deficiencies in translations like the ESV, NASB or the RSV.  He is not blind to the legitimate complaints about these translations and he has several of his own.

2)  Marlowe does not simply parrot other critics of dynamic equivalence like Leland Ryken.  Marlowe is much more conversant with the original languages and with linguistic theory.  Some of the history that he reveals about Eugene Nida is very interesting.

3) His tone is sometimes too harsh for me and he does make some unnecessarily sweeping statements.  These kind of comments may well cause some to reject the article has just another pejorative rant about dynamic equivalence. I've read worse but Marlowe could lower the heat in a few places. 

4) His criticisms of the New Living Translation are almost all of the first edition.  He is certainly aware of the second edition (He did a review of it and he thinks it is an improvement over the first edition.) but the citations he makes in this essay are all of the first edition.  It would have been nice if he had acknowledged where they had made some appropriate changes.

5) His primary targets are the New Living Translation, the Good News Bible (also known as Today's English Version), the Contemporary English Version and the New Century Version

This is an excellent work and would benefit anyone who has an interest in Bible translation.  Bible translation aside Marlowe's website, Bible Research, is a gold mine of information on the history of the canon, texts, and versions of Scripture.

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