One More Word on “Translations”: My (Brief) Response to Brian Simmons image

One More Word on “Translations”: My (Brief) Response to Brian Simmons

For the sake of completion, and because some readers have clearly been enjoying the conversation, I thought it was worth posting what I wrote back to Brian Simmons after his very kind email to me (which I posted yesterday). I still stand by the seven points of my original review, and I am delighted that several of them have been taken into account into the version itself and the promotional literature. Nevertheless, the main sticking point concerns whether TPT is materially different from other versions (NIV, NLT, etc), such that we should not call it a translation. I think so, and here's what I wrote:

Hi Brian,

Thank you so much for your incredibly kind and generous-hearted email. I consider it an honour that you would take what I’ve said seriously enough to work through it and reply to it, and I am hugely encouraged by the way in which you have done it!

As I’ve tried to think through the best way to take this forward, two things have occurred to me. The first is to clarify the thrust of my major concern with TPT, which may have been lost in translation (!), and the second is to ask if you would like me to post a response from you, based on your email, on my blog, so that readers can see for themselves how you have processed and replied to what I said. There is no pressure from me on that score at all! But if you think that would be helpful, then I’m very happy to post an edited version of what you’ve written here (or something different, if you’d prefer). Let me know what you think.

Many of our disagreements here are relatively minor, so I won’t go into them point-by-point, except to say that Tom Wright is actually an excellent example of the point I’m making; Tom is a wonderful scholar and a friend, but his translation is an occasionally eccentric paraphrase, and for that reason I linked to Bob Gundry’s review of KNT (“Tom’s Targum”), which makes that point, here. I’m also very grateful for the adaptations you’ve already made when it comes to the publisher website, the references to Mike Bird and Craig Keener, and the textual emendations. And on the Aramaic thing, I’m sure we can agree to disagree!

The major concern I have, and the reason I distinguished between translations (which attempt to render into English the content of the original, whether thought-for-thought or word-for-word) and paraphrases or targums (which add various glosses to the text which are not found in either the thought or words of the original), is based on the additions to the text in the version I have, as per the seven examples I gave from Paul. I am not an expert on The Message, and it may well be that exactly that phenomenon occurs there as well—although I don’t think Eugene Peterson pitches it as the sort of version from which you could do serious Bible study, as your publishers do—but when it comes to the NIV, which I use more often, I simply cannot think of any place in which a new thought is introduced to the text (as opposed to new words, of course, which are necessary for any translation, as you rightly point out). The examples I listed are all examples, as far as I can see, of insertions into the text rather than translations or even paraphrases of what Paul wrote (“my spiritual son Timothy,” “in heaven’s freedom,” “passionate servants,” “we decree over your lives,” “you are becoming well-known,” “fallen from the place of victory,” “salvation by works”, etc), and it is that, rather than any commitment to literalism—which I agree with you is impossible—that explains the forcefulness of my review.

As I say, though, I am more than happy to post a response from you on my blog, if you think that would help to set the record straight on one or two things! And I’m very happy to continue talking if it would be at all helpful.

Once again, thank you so much for the kindness, gentleness and warmth of your email.

With love in Christ,


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