Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: Is it a problem that there is no official translation of the Bible?


The Main Questions


Answer the following questions without discussing the Bible.


  • As a group, define the relationship between the below items as clearly as possible:
    • language and culture
    • language and individual cognition
    • language and the material world
  • Describe the relationship between the meaning of a sentence and the linguistic structure of the sentence. Can you have one without the other? If not, is translation possible? If yes, is meaning without language possible?
  • What is happening in an act of linguistic translation? Can the meaning of a sentence in one language always be expressed in another language? Why or why not?


Considering the previous discussion, now turn to the specific issues of the Bible and translation.


  • The Scriptures were written within various cultural linguistic communities. Is it possible to extract the complete meaning of these texts into our own cultural linguistic communities? Why or why not?
  • Look at the definitions for the Dynamic Equivalence Approach and the Formal Equivalence Approach. These are the major theoretical approaches to biblical translation. What might be the pitfalls and benefits of each approach?
  • Islam allows for translations of the Koran, but the only authoratitaive text is the one in Arabic. Christians, on the other hand, have been translating the Bible from its inception and do not regard any translation as authoritative. Why is this possible, and what does it say about the relationship of the Bible to the Christian community?
  • Is translation, as an act, theologically significant for the Chrsitian faith? Why or why not?


Key Definitions


  • Dynamic Equivalence Approach // When a translation attempts to render the text in a phrase-for-phrase or thought-for-thought manner. It is not so much concerned about the grammatical form of the original language as it is the thought or meaning of the original language. The dynamic translation wants to bring across the meaning of the original. It does not necessarily concern itself about the grammatical form in which it was written. // Don Stewart, Blue Letter Bible
  • Formal Equivalence Approach // When a translation attempts a word-for-word translation. The idea behind formal equivalence is to render the text in the same form as the original. This can also mean using the same word order as the original language. With formal equivalence each word of the original language is represented by a word in the target or receptor language. // Don Stewart, Blue Letter Bible


Important Scripture


  • The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, // Acts 17:30
  • Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. // 1 Corinthians 14:19
  • Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. // Matthew 28:19-20
  • For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. // 1 Corinthians 2:11


Thoughts from Others


  • Even the simplest word can never be rendered with its exact equivalent into another language. // Kimon Friar
  • The original language of Christianity is translation. // Lamin Sanneh
  • Christianity spawns variety and diversity because it is invested in translation, which is dependent on interpretation. // Lamin Sanneh
    Cultural differences affect the messengers, but they also affect the gospel message. Each society looks at the world in its own way, and that way is encoded in its language and culture. No language is unbiased, no culture theological neutral. // Paul Hiebert
  • To use the same words is not a sufficient guarantee of understanding; one must use the same words for the same genus of inward experience; ultimately one must have one’s experiences in common. // Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly, I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat… where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches. // Ursula K. Le Guin