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We finished the Gospel of Mark! Our part at least, before it is typeset, printed and shared with the team’s community. There have been so many changes over the last year and a half as this team learned how to translate and the community worked out how to express their written language.

We finished Friday just in time. I wasn’t going to have another day with them before the family travels for baby delivery. We checked off the last step in the translation process. We clapped and prayed. Then I had to run out in the lashing rain to make it to my train.

But the rain was warm and the sun shone through. The wet didn’t dampen the moment. It was a little heavenly party.

It’s worth it to see it through.

Dave Brunn in “Translation and Teamwork: A Conversation with Dave Brunn, Part 2”

What’s worth it? Working with people. Partnership in the gospel. Brotherly love.

Here’s my summary of what John Piper said in this podcast: Steward the gift of introversion. Be a Bible translator or a writer to benefit others.

John Piper, “How Do Introverts Guard Against Selfishness?” Ask Pastor John (Dec 3, 2018)

The Myth of Literal Translation: “Why do so many translators feel a need to shoot it down?” /

David Bellos writes, in “The Myth of Literal Translation,” Is That a Fish in Your Ear: The Amazing Adventure of Translation,

[A]rguments against literal translation go back almost as far as written translation itself. … ¶ [F]ew commentators on translation have ever come out in favor of a literal or word-for-word style. Literal translation is precisely what translators in the broad Western tradition don’t do. But if literal translation is not a widespread practice, why do so many translators feel a need to shoot it down — often with overwhelming force?

I wonder why, too.

Octavio Paz… stated the standard view in more recent times: “I’m not saying a literal translation is impossible, only that it’s not a translation.”

How far back does it go? … Cicero… Horace… but a long sentence written by St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin … can be taken as the first full formulation of the lop-sided dispute between “literal” and “free” …: “… apart from translations of sacred scriptures from the Greek, where even the order of the words is a mysterium, I express not the word for the word but the sense for the sense.” …

To put it in a slacker style, “I only translate word for word where the original — even its word order — is completely impenetrable to me.” That is of course what translators have always done. For the most part, they transmit the sense; where the sense is obscure, the best they can do — because unlike ordinary readers they are not allowed to skip — is to offer a representation of the separate words of the original. …

The expression “literal meaning,” taken literally, is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron and a nonsense. ¶ What we probably meant in the distant past when we asserted something was “literally true” in order to emphasize that it was really true, true to a higher degree than just being true, was that it was among those rare things that were worthy of being “put into letters,” of being written down. …

“Literal” isn’t “Word Magic” any more, it’s just a hangover from the past. The terms of debate about translation and meaning need to be updated, and the long-lasting scrap between literal and free should now be laid to rest. …

[A]ll that is actually meant by calling something a literal translation is a version that preserves meaning in grammatical forms appropriate to the language of the translation. It’s just a translation — a plain, ordinary, actual translation of the source. … The left-side player in the long and frustrating game of squash between “literal” and “free” doesn’t really exist.

I cringe when I listen to Bible translators speak strongly against “literal” translation. I’m interested to hear their argument but disappointed when they give poor examples of word-for-word translation of their own making. The other side of their argument is a straw man.


Bellos also describes a good occasion for actual “word-for-word” translation: in school. Literal translation helps students learn to read and write foreign languages. But he suggests the use of another term to describe this important process: “wording.”

Wording translations and facing-page translations (which almost always uses matching sentence length) are not “bad” ways to translate. They are language operations with specific finalities, serving communicative and educational purposes proper to them and to nothing else. Translation is not just one thing; how best to do it depends on what you are doing it for.

No Bible translation in use is a “wording” of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Even if it were, it would have a purpose, particularly for students of biblical languages, such as Bible translators.

“Scripture Engagement: Translation Process” (Nov 8, 2017)

[W]e really value Bible translation. It is beautiful, good, and important to our work as ministers, missionaries, and scholars as well.… Our desire is getting the Word of God into languages where more people can understand it.

—Jonathan Pennington with Bill Mounce, Brian Vickers and Peter Gentry in a panel discussion at Southern Seminary about the importance of Bible translation

I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip and my Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.

—Martin Luther

Quoted in Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, 53, as quoted in Shawn Wright, “Luther’s Battle for Sola Scriptura,” Southern Seminary Magazine.

What we need to say is we believe in words-for-words translation rather than word-for-word.

—Dr. Bryan Harmelink, in response to Dave Brunn (“Bible Translation as Missions” Colloquium)

Baptist Creed on Bible Translation /

These original languages [Biblical Hebrew and Greek] are not known to all the people of God, who have a right to and an interest in the Scriptures, and who are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them. They are therefore to be translated into the common language of every nation to which they come, so that (with the Word of God living richly in all) people may worship God in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.

— Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), updated English by Andrew Kerkham (2001)

“The Text, Variants, and Translations” /

Notes from Dr. Bill Warren’s presentation at NOBTS Colloquium, “Bible Translation as Missions,” Oct. 2014 (“Bible Translation as Missions” Colloquium)

Observations from a Textual Critic

  • A call for training in Greek and Hebrew
  • A call for awareness of textual criticism
  • A call for noting textual information in the translation via notes
  • A call for checking the segmentation of the text versus the original text
  • A call for notes on the importance of variants for understanding the text even when not original — some are likely original to the setting, but not to the text

Concluding Remarks

  1. Missions both promotes the translation of the Bible and is moved forward by the translation of the Bible
  2. Bible translations can become key aspects of Christian life, so need to be done with as much excellence as feasible within the context and time constraints
  3. Translations need to reflect major textual information both within the translation and in the notes included in the translation

If we’re not involved in Bible translation and Bible promotion, I think there’s a real question about what we’re really doing. It doesn’t mean everyone ought to be involved in Bible translation, but everyone ought to be involved in Bible promotion.