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Let's Be Clear About This

2016-10-24

“I saw the man in the park with the binoculars." There's something wrong with that sentence. Can you spot it?

Accuracy, clarity, naturalness and acceptability are the essential qualities of a good Bible translation. You probably noticed that the opening sentence above is unclear. It is well-formed grammatically, but we don't know if the author or the man in the park had the binoculars. 

Because I told you there was something wrong with the sentence, the problem is not too difficult to see. But what if you came across that same sentence in a novel? Assuming it wasn’t clear from the context, I suspect you would have assigned the binoculars to one of the two characters and read on with your own interpretation. If you compared your interpretation to those of other readers, though, you may have discovered each person interpreted it differently.

Striving for clarity in a translation is about making sure that it is not ambiguous—that the possibility for unintended or multiple meanings to come through is either completely eliminated or at least minimized as much as possible. This is not as easy as it might seem.

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