Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Douglas Moo on Bible Translation and the NIV

2015 sees the 50th anniversary of the New International Version translation of the Bible – or, more exactly, the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the translation committee which would lead to the eventual publication of the New Testament in 1973, the full Bible in 1978, and updates in 1984 and 2011.

Douglas Moo, noted New Testament scholar and current chair of the NIV’s translation committee, delivered the above paper (available as a pdf here) at this year’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego.

He summarises the main concerns of the essay as follows:

‘Specifically, I highlight three basic and generally agreed-upon linguistic principles that have too often been ignored in modern Bible translation. First, linguistics is not a prescriptive but a descriptive enterprise; second, meaning resides not at the level of individual words but at the level of collocations of words in clauses, sentences, and ultimately discourses; and third, the meaning of individual words is expressed not in a single word gloss but in a semantic field.’ (3-4)

It’s a fairly short piece, reflecting on the NIV, the influence of James Barr’s seminal The Semantics of Biblical Language (1961), along with some nice moments of rumination on where Moo himself has fallen short in practice.

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