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Musings -- A Continuing Series of Comments on Specific Translation Issues within the International Standard Version New Testament

by Dr. David Alan Black

"So great is the force of established usage that even acknowledged corruptions please the greater part, for they prefer to have their copies pretty rather than accurate."


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Dr. David Alan Black
Associate Editor


All translation is necessarily interpretation. Translation is never just a matter of exchanging a word in one language for its equivalent in another language.

While living in Switzerland, I once made a phone call in response to an advertisement for an apartment. When I asked to speak with the lady who placed the ad, the response was "Sie ist am Apparat."

Oh, I though to myself, the lady must be exercising on some kind of apparatus. I therefore asked that she be called to the phone, whereupon the person on the other end of the line burst forth in gales of laughter. You see, the words "Sie ist am Apparat," though literally, "she’s on the apparatus," is the German equivalent to the English expression "speaking." What the dear lady meant was "I’m on the phone speaking to you."

When translating, then, it is necessary to be as faithful to the source text as is humanly possible.

To take a final New Testament example, the first clause of John 3:16 reads "God so loved the world." The NEB translates this as, "God loved the world so much." But this is impossible. The word translated "so much" (houtos) is an adverb, not of degree, but of manner. To remove all possibility of ambiguity, the ISV rendered the clause thus: "For this is how God loved the world."

Dear friend, as you read your ISV New Testament, the most important thing you can do is to believe what God says in John 3:16—that he loves and cares for you deeply. He was even willing to sacrifice his Son to save you from sin, and he wants to give you eternal life and a home with him in heaven. No translation of the Bible is worth very much unless you take this fundamental message to heart.

In the ISV you will hear God speaking to you in clear, understandable English. Our prayer is that as you read the Scriptures you will come to know—in a profoundly personal way—the God who is its great Author and Subject.

Introduction Poetry Lettuce? Press on? Good Giving Good Citizens Can Faith Save? On Poets & Liars An Ode to Love The Disciple Teachable? Sloppy Agape Mustering Mystery Alliteration Whom Sweet Whom Conclusion

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