Monday, May 3, 2010

Considerations for Translating New Testament Greek to English

A bit off-focus for this blog, but this is the best place I have for soliciting some help from others of you who regularly with the Greek NT. I am teaching an Advanced Greek class, and I have split the class into translation teams working on translating Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. As one part of the course, we have spent nearly the whole semester working through each verse of the text. Now I am asking them not to simply translate the Greek but to compose a translation of the text. (There is a difference...) I was unable to find any resource that concisely described the types of things I wanted them to keep in mind as they worked. So, I have tried to compose and organize a list of considerations when composing a translation. Here's the introduction I wrote:
When translating New Testament Greek into English, we sometimes are seeking simply to confirm the accuracy of an existing English version. Sometimes we can look at the Greek and produce a translation in our mind that reflects our understanding of the text. In the considerations that follow, however, I am trying to note the kinds of things we should be thinking about if we are actually trying to produce a share-able translation. That is, we are trying to produce a translation that is faithful to the original Greek text, will stand independently from our explanation of it, and will communicate effectively to its readers.
HERE is the 3 page PDF of what I pulled together. If anyone is interested enough to read it and comment upon it (corrections, additions, suggestions...), I would be grateful. If you know of a similar sort of list to which you can point me, that would be appreciated too.


  1. I also add my thanks for a job well done.

    Looking at the project from cultural and a theological point of view, I might suggest one other area for translation testing:

    One might consider how the N.T. Greek compares to Greek Septuagint word usage and its English translations, and how well the N.T. Greek and English Septuagint counterparts express the Hebrew thought (world view).

    For example: Luke 16:22a “Now the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.", describes a Hebrew euphemistic expression for "being gathered to the fathers", and is a way to refer to heaven or spiritual after-life. (Gen 15:15; 47:30; Du 31:16).

    While not necessarily critical to the N.T. Greek/English translation of the selected passage, such a comparison might prove to be an interesting follow up exercise. Perhaps it might be referred to as a 'religious culture' test.

    Actually, I plan on using your guidelines for my own translation efforts. Again, thank you for this outstanding contribution.

  2. Very useful advice.

    I would add something about intra-biblical allusions and echoes as well as citations (mainly OT but also some others). They are easily missed - even sometimes by editors of NA27 - and translators ought to make them as visible/audible as they are in the text.