This by no means is intended to be an exhaustive treatment of translation
theory, but rather a thumb-nail sketch of the attitudes which govern our work. Our philosophy of
translation is circumscribed in large measure by one presupposition and one hard
fact of life.
The original Biblical writers did not - with a few possible exceptions - intend to be
obscure or ambiguous in their writing. They fully expected their readers to
understand exactly what they meant. They expected them to be
familiar with the idioms they employed and to make proper inferences where
information was omitted. Put another way, we work on the assumption that they
did not expect their readers to scratch their heads in puzzlement when they read
Before the Hard fact of life, an observation ...
It is undeniable that we in the 21 century are far removed from the times and
cultures in which the Biblical authors wrote, so it is sometimes difficult to
understand the idioms, make inferences the author expected us to make, and
resolve apparent ambiguities which have arisen over the centuries. We do
scratch our heads in puzzlement. Nevertheless,
with some dedicated effort even the lay-person in the West can go a long way in
resolving these problems and understanding what the
The "dedicated layperson" in the "West" - he
understands Scripture because he has been raised in a literate society where from early childhood people are trying to make sense out of everything from the label
on their prescription medicine bottles to the billboards along the highway. Every
conversation he participates in from the barbershop to the courtroom employs a whole
series of rules of inference which even the high-school dropout
has internalized in some rudimentary fashion. Moreover, he has studied world
geography and watched CNN, so that the fact that other people (e.g. Bible people) are
different and that he might have to mentally step out of his own culture to
understand them is not all that strange. Thus, with "some
dedicated effort" he brings these faculties to bear on Holy Scripture and he makes much sense out of
it - and just as importantly, knows when it doesn't make sense.
The hard fact of life is ...
Through no fault of their own, the average Kwong millet
farmer is largely bereft of these faculties of literacy, logic and
We know that the forgoing sounds patronizing, and certainly not
politically correct. But that's precisely why we call it a "hard fact of
life." It is hard, and we write it with tears in our eyes. This
is not to say they are incapable of appropriating these kinds of logic
and inferential abilities, but the sad fact is that during the crucial early
years of childhood development, their culture deprives them of those
stimuli which would put them on the path to such an intellectual development. It
is a hard fact that we can not afford to ignore or paper over with platitudes.
What that means...
This means that, to use the earthy metaphor of one our pastors back in the
States, we end up "chewing their food for them" when we translate the
Bible - that is, discerning (with the considerable help of commentators and other people
far smarter than us) what we believe the original author's intended meaning was,
and then conveying this meaning to Kwong readers as explicitly as possible in our
attempt to resolve the ambiguities, make the inferences, and circumvent any
possible misunderstandings of the cultural variety. (We hope on this web site to
post some of the more interesting conundrums we unravel.)
The upshot of this is that the translation we are producing sounds
one of the modern versions or paraphrases - more like the Living Bible than, say, the NASB or
RSV. Making such a colloquial translation is a very steep price to pay.
There is much beauty in the literal text, and much to recommend it to those
who have the intellectual capacity to process it. But the hard fact is,
your average Kwong millet farmer is not blessed with those capacities.
A legitimate question to ask though, is what happens when in
the years to come (and even now, as far as that goes) when there are Kwong folk who can process ambiguity and make inferences and do all the other
mental tasks that go into reading a more literal translation? Another factor
comes into play at this point, namely, that
anyone who gets that far in the Chadian system will most certainly also be fluent in
French - a language for which there is a wealth of translations
in varying degrees of literalness, as well as commentaries and other helps.