As mentioned yesterday there are four kinds of approaches used by modern Bible translators, but two of them are dominant*: formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Today I want to share a few powerful arguments for preferring formal equivalent translations (word-for-word) over functional equivalent translations (thought-for-thought).
Arguments for Preferring Formal Equivalent Translations:
1. Formal translations are more faithful to the original languages.
2. Formal translations use the only translation philosophy known to scholars prior to the middle of the 20th Century.
3. Formal translations protect the reader from translators’ opinions and biases.
When translating the Bible from the original languages, modern English Bible translators do not all use the same approach. Here are the four different kinds of translations available:
1. Formal Equivalent Translation Bible – a.k.a. literal translations, word-for-word translations. This philosophy seeks to translate as close to the original languages as possible and yet understandable to the modern reader. Emphasis is on the ancient text. Tends to be favored by conservatives/fundamentalists and verse-by-verse teachers.
Strength – considered very faithful to the original languages. Traditional approach; the modus operandi for Bible translations up through the mid-20th Century.
Weakness – considered awkward reading with often obscure words and thus difficult to read and understand for some people.
Examples – New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).
There, I said it. Yes, I know I am a Bible design geek and I even laugh at myself about this fact. And I know that most people, upon reading the first sentence of this post would probably react, “And the price of tea in China is…?
But I also have the heart of a pastor, which is another reason why I want to devote this post to this rather obscure subject of double column vs. single column Bibles. As a pastor I want to help people in whatever ways I can to read the Bible more. More pleasurably. More often. And with greater impact. And I truly believe that a single column Bible will in a small way help people experience those things in a greater way.
Like many people, I never paid much attention to the difference between single column vs. double column Bibles, until I came across J. Mark Bertrand’s outstanding blog (Bible Design Blog). Truth be told, I previously preferred double column Bibles, albeit subconsciously. I remember back in college days looking at a friend’s Life Application Study Bible one time and saying to myself, “Something about this Bible doesn’t feel right.” That something was the single column. It didn’t feel right because I had a preconceived notion of what a Bible was supposed to look like, and that was double column. In other words, I was bound by tradition, familiarity.
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