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The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation [Paperback]

By Leland Ryken (Author) & C. John Collins (Contribution by)
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Item description for The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation by Leland Ryken & C. John Collins...

Ryken describes the translation principles that make for reliable English Bible translation, looks at common translation fallacies, and offers principles for good translation. He probes the theological, ethical, and hermeneutical issues involved and surveys difficulties with modern translations.

Publishers Description

With so many Bible translations available, how do you make a choice between them? How do you even know what the criteria should be for making a choice?

As an expert in English literature and literary theory, Leland Ryken approaches the translation debate from a practical artistic viewpoint. He believes that many modern translations take liberties with the biblical text that would not be allowed with any other type of literary work. Also, what readers are presented with as biblical text is actually far from the original text. In literature, a simplified version of Milton's work is not Milton, and neither is an edition written in contemporary English. Anyone who is interested in Milton would find any version that changes his words unacceptable for serious study. Ryken argues that the same dedication to reproducing literature texts as closely as possible needs to be present in biblical translation. To do so it is necessary to take into account the difficulty of working with original languages. Only an essentially literal, "word for word" translation of the Bible can achieve sufficiently high standards in terms of literary criteria and fidelity to the original text.

Ryken does not contest that many modern translations have been used for good, and believes that there is a place for a range of Bible translations, including children's Bibles and Bible paraphrases. His purpose is not to say that the only Bible available should be one that is essentially literal. Instead, he defines the translation theory and principles that would result in the best Bible for English-speaking people and serious students of the Bible, and also for the English-speaking church as a whole. He believes that an essentially literal translation is the natural result of following these principles.

Along with a short history of translation, Ryken evaluates presuppositions that impact translation theory. He also examines fallacies about the Bible, translations in general, and Bible readers that influence what translation decisions are made. Believing that those who undertake the serious work of translating God's Word have an obligation both to God and to others, he assesses the theological, ethical, and hermeneutical issues involved and surveys difficulties with modern translations. Ryken's literary expertise gives him the perspective needed to provide Christians with a standard for comparing contemporary Bible translations, as well as an understanding of why some translations may not convey the very words of God.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Crossway Books
Pages   336
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.54" Width: 5.68" Height: 0.88"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 12, 2002
ISBN  1581344643  
ISBN13  9781581344646  

Availability  0 units.

More About Leland Ryken & C. John Collins

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College and author or editor of more than thirty books, as well as many articles. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and lives in Illinois.

Philip Ryken (DPhil, University of Oxford, England) is president of Wheaton College. He was formerly senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books and lives with his family in Illinois.

Todd Wilson (PhD, Cambridge University) is senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, and lives with his family in Illinois.

Leland Ryken currently resides in the state of Illinois.

Leland Ryken has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Christian Guides to the Classics
  2. Reading the Bible as Literature
  3. Writers' Palette Book

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Language Studies

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Books > Bible Study > Language Tools

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation?

A Must (or at least A Should) Read  Nov 24, 2008
Ryken often seems a bit angry in this book, but once you get beyond that, this is a wonderful book. Christians seem to be afraid of the bluntness that characterized the works of people such as Baxter and Bonnhoeffer (did I spell that right? I never do), and in the past 50 years we have entered into a mushy, undefined period of Christian thought and understanding, and this is most unfortunate. This mushy and anything-goes, human-centered version of our faith has even penatrated how we translate and understand the Bible, which is the foundational document of our faith. One of Ryken's central aspects of this book is that Biblical translation should be God-centered, not human-centered, because our faith should be God-centered, and it is up to God what His Word says, not humans.

Ryken's point in this book is a necessary one: what many of our modern Bibles are telling Christians is NOT what the Bible actually says. He labors this point from time to time, but his reasoning and Scriptural basis is solid.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a new Bible, for church leaders considering a Bible for teaching, for exegetes, for Bible historians, for seminary students (such as myself), and for anyone with an interest in knowing from where their Bible comes.

Whether you decide you agree with Ryken or not, this book will definitely change your perception of what you are reading when you open your Bible.

And by the way, if you want to check what your prefered Bible version says against what the best original language documents say, I recommend any of the wonderful Greek/English or Greek/Hebrew/English Interlinear Bibles.

Oh, and I only gave this book 4 Stars simply because he tends to labor his points too much (although they remain valid and well-presented), and because there does tend to be an overly harsh tone from time-to-time. But that doesn't really diminish the overall message of this wonderful and timely book.
Good overview!  Nov 5, 2008
Good overview of a great Bible Ryken deals very well with the balance of English Style and Accuracy as found in the ESV Bible.
Word of God in English  Jan 25, 2008
This book made me think about my Bible translation and the interpretation that goes into the translation process. The writing was easy to read and understand and well presented. I heartily recommend this to anyone that is serious about Bible study and is interested in knowing what is behind the words they are reading.
Selecting a Study Bible  Oct 31, 2007
I thank Dr. Ryken for his excellent book and meticulous analysis. He carefully explains all the reasons why a serious Bible student needs an "essentially literal" translation of the Bible for detailed study (e.g. ESV, NASB, RSV).

Dynamic equivalence produces translations (e.g. NIV, NLT, NET) that differ greatly from one another, and I have personally been involved in Bible studies taking detours around the biblical author's meaning because of creative translation into English. I could provide examples, but the reader will have more fun seeing the ones that Dr. Ryken presents.

In an age that goes for dumbed-down translations with figures of speech removed, ambiguities "clarified," and relative pronouns made into personal names, give me a Bible translation that is essentially transparent to the Greek or Hebrew text. My thanks to Dr. Ryken for fighting the battle!
A good attempt at being balanced.  Jul 10, 2007
In general, the author tries to be fair in his descriptions of those that he disagrees with. He takes issue with some of the more aggressive "dynamic equivalent" Bible translations. He does not entirely reject "dynamic equivalence" because it is used in literal translations as well (such as the ESV which he worked on). At times, the author seems apologetic for taking issue with his "dynamic equivalent" friends.

This book is not just for those that are involved in translation work. The author does provide a number of good principles to use in choosing a translation to use.

Towards the end of the book, he gets a little subjective when he deals with issues such as "exaltation and beauty". He also makes issue of areas tht only English experts (such as himself) would even notice. I am not sure that most normal English readers would really understand if rhythem is effective or not. Most of us would not realize if a "principle of poetry" had been violated.

There are some spots that the author would have benefited from a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. His experience with translation work seems to be more about polishing up what is already translated. There are a couple of times that I read something that he would not have written had he known some Hebrew.

Overall, this is a good book to have for those interested in translation work or those watching the debate among translators. This book is more balanced than most and a lot less hostile.

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