Different translations – gift or curse?

It’s always a struggle to write these posts. First, there’s coming up with a topic to write about. Then there’s deciding what to say about that topic, and how much to say about it. Once I’ve got an article ready, I then whittle it down to enough words that it gets the point across, but not so many that you can’t digest it. Each piece will have gone through a lot of edits by the time it hits the internet. For something that looks fairly simple, blog entries sure require a surprising amount of time and effort to prepare…

But by far the most challenging bit of the whole process is figuring out how to word it. Here’s the deal: I see so many great articles from other sources that have plenty of meat on their bones, but are worded in such a way that I almost don’t want to read them. Being the impulsive 18-year-old that I am, I don’t want to be reading great long pieces if it can be helped. That said, I don’t want to be skimming over important details either, which is why it’s so important to get the balance right. So how do I get the balance right between presenting the clear message, and looking as if I know what I’m on about?

It is possible to say the same stuff in different words. While it’s true that different words do express different levels of intensity, and can change meanings in sometimes quite drastic ways (for example, “smashed into” has more impact than “came into contact with”), it is usually the same meaning that is being expressed. Let’s use 1 Corinthians 13 (a cliched passage, I know) as an example. Verses 9-10 in the New International Version are as follows: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” Compare this to the Youth Bible translation: “The reason is that our knowledge and our ability to prophesy are not perfect. But when perfection comes, the things that are not perfect will end.” I would say the latter translation is more user-friendly; while it uses more words overall, the ones it does use are more high-frequency and easier to understand. And yet, it’s the same meaning being expressed in both translations. You could take two people who are used to reading different versions of the same text, and ask them what meaning they got out of it, and I’d probably bet that they would say the same thing.

On the other side of the coin, the big words used in some articles are there for a reason. Like I previously stated, using different words does express different levels of intensity. The NIV translation of Ephesians 4:3 states “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Compare this to the Youth Bible translation: “You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so do all you can to continue together in this way.” It might just be me, but “Make every effort” seems to have a greater degree of urgency than “do all you can”.

Overall, I do think we need to stop and ask ourselves why we’re using the language that we are. Do we think that in using more complicated words, we’re somehow making it more presentable to God? If we’re using nothing but uncomplicated language, is it to try and disassociate from the “holier-than-thou” types dressing their articles up in big words? Because both of those are missing the point…

(Originally written August 24th 2015)


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