Translation Theory and Methods Bibliography

For online books and articles go to the resource page Translation Theory

James Barr, “The Typology of Literalism in Ancient Biblical Translations,” in Mitteilungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens, 15 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), pp. 279-325.

John Beekman and John Callow, Translating the Word of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974.

Sebastian Brock, “Aspects of Translation Technique in Antiquity,” in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 20/1 (1979), pp. 69-87.

Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, Scripture and Translation, edited and translated by Lawrence Rosenwald and Everett Fox. [from Die Schrift und ihre Verdeutschung, 1936] Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Argues for foreignizing translation, as exemplified in Everett Fox’s Five Books of Moses.

Calvary Baptist Theological Journal 12/1-2 (1996) is a thematic issue on the topic “Text and Translation,” with essays from a fundamentalist perspective on translation theory and textual criticism. The articles define a communication model in translation and hold that divine preservation of the biblical text does not necessarily require a pro-TR/KJV only view. Titles include: C. McLain, “Toward a Theology of Language,” S. Horine, “Bible Translations: Do We Have the Right Models?” G. Lovik, “The Controversy Over Greek Texts,” C. McLain, “Variants: Villainous or Validating,” D. Burggraff, “Paradigm Shift: Translations in Transition—We’ve Been Here Before” (Jerome vs. Augustine), C. Banz, “A Seventeenth Century English Bible Controversy” (early criticism of KJV).

Ellis W. Deibler, “An Index of Implicit Information in the New Testament,” in Translators Workplace 3.0. Dallas and New York, SIL and UBS, 1999.

Paul Ellingworth, “Translating the Bible,” Epworth Review 20 (1993):113-118. A broad survey of books for or about Bible translating, which at the same time sketches the progress of the enterprise in this century. Some pungent paragraphs on theology and translation.

Edwin Gentzler, Contemporary Translation Theories. London: Routledge, 1993.

Frederick C. Grant, Translating the Bible. Greenwich, Conn.: Seabury Press, 1961.

Wayne Grudem, ed., Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2005. ISBN: 1581347553. Contains four articles first presented as papers at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2004:

  1. “Are Only Some Words of Scripture Breathed out by God? Why Plenary Inspiration Favors ‘Essentially Literal’ Bible Translation,” by Wayne Grudem;
  2. “Five Myths About Essentially Literal Bible Translation,” by Leland Ryken;
  3. “What the Reader Wants and the Translator Can Give: First John as a Test Case,” by C. John Collins;
  4. “Truth and Fullness of Meaning: Fullness Versus Reductionistic Semantics in Biblical Interpretation,” by Vern Sheridan Poythress;
  5. “Revelation Versus Rhetoric: Paul and the First-century Corinthian Fad,” by Bruce Winter.

Ernst-August Gutt, “A Theoretical Account of Translation—Without a Translation Theory,” Target: International Journal of Translation Studies 2/2 (1990), pp. 135-164.

Ernst-August Gutt, Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. London: Blackwell, 1991. ISBN: 0631178570. Second edition, Manchester: St Jerome, 2000. ISBN: 1900650223.

Ernst-August Gutt, “Translation, Metarepresentation and Claims of Interpretive Resemblance,” in Similarity and Difference in Translation, edited by Stefano Arduini and Robert Hodgson (American Bible Society, 2004) pp. 93-101.

Ernst-August Gutt, “Aspects of ‘Cultural Literacy’ Relevant to Bible Translation,” Journal of Translation 2/1 (2006).

Gerald Hammond, “The Authority of the Translated Word of God: A Reading of The Preface to the 1611 Bible.” Translation and Literature 2 (1993).

Cecil Hargreaves, A Translator’s Freedom: Modern English Bibles and Their Language. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993.

G. M. Hyde, “The Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis and the Translation Muddle.” Translation and Literature 2 (1993).

Louis G. Kelly, The True Interpreter: A History of Translation Theory and Practice in the West. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979.

Ronald A. Knox, On Englishing the Bible. London: Burns & Oates, 1949.

Mildred L. Larson, Meaning-Based Translation: A Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence. 2nd ed. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1998. First published in 1984. This is an introductory textbook designed for use at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, where translation consultants for the Wycliffe Bible Translators are trained. The book is wholly derivative, and represents only the theories and methods developed by Eugene Nida and his followers. The preface states: “The author is deeply indebted to the late John Beekman, from whom she learned much of what is included in this book. The material presented here borrows heavily from his writings and those of John Callow, Kathleen Callow, Katherine Barnwell, and Eugene Nide [sic]. This book simply takes the translation principles expounded by them and puts these principles into a new framework as a textbook for prospective translators, especially speakers of the many minority languages of the world.”

Johannes P. Louw, ed., Sociolinguistics and Communication. New York: United Bible Societies, 1986. Includes “Sociolinguistics and Translating” by Eugene A. Nida. ISBN: 343997801X.

Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain, Coined By God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in English Translations of the Bible. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2003. ISBN: 0393020452. 150 entries, with meanings and sources. This is useful information for study of the history of translation. The translators of the early English versions enriched the English language with new words and idioms when they found that English had no exact equivalent for the words of the Bible.

Robert P. Martin, Accuracy of Translation: The Primary Criterion in Evaluating Bible Versions; with Special Reference to the New International Version. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989.

Charles Martindale, “Unlocking the word-hoard: in praise of metaphrase,” in Comparative Criticism edited by E.S. Shaffer, vol. 6 (Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 47-72.

Eugene Nida, God’s Word in Man’s Language. New York: Harper and Row, 1952.

Eugene Nida, Message and Mission: The Communication of the Christian Faith. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960.

Eugene Nida, Toward a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill, 1964.

Eugene Nida and Charles R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: Brill, 1969.

Eugene Nida and Jan de Waard, From One Language to Another: Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986.

Eugene Nida, “The Sociolinguistics of translating canonical religious texts,” in TTR: Traduction, Terminologie, Rédaction. 7/1/94:191-217. Discusses sociolinguistic factors affecting the acceptability of translated canonical texts: the power of tradition, expectations in the areas of literalness, level of language, format, issues of orality, diversity of genres, and interpretive notes.

Stanley E. Porter and Richard S. Hess, eds., Translating the Bible: Problems and Prospects. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999. Contains thirteen essays by ten scholars, some of which directly criticize or defend the “dynamic equivalence” approach as developed by E.A. Nida. Whang, Pearson, and Rogerson are critical of it, while Porter, O’Donnell, Martin-Asensio, and Hatina are supportive. The essays are:

  1. “Introduction: The Problems and Prospects of Translating the Bible,” by Stanley E. Porter and Richard S. Hess (pp. 13-16);
  2. “The Contemporary English Version and the Ideology of Translation,” by Stanley E. Porter (pp. 18-45);
  3. “To Whom Is a Translator Responsible-Reader or Author?” by Y. C. Whang (pp. 46-62);
  4. “Remainderless Translations? Implications of the Tradition Concerning the Translation of the LXX for Modern Translational Theory,” by Brook W. R. Pearson (pp. 63-84);
  5. “Is a Translation Inspired? The Problems of Verbal Inspiration for Translation and a Proposed Solution,” by Craig D. Allert (pp. 85-113);
  6. “The Old Testament Translator’s Translation-A Personal Reflection,” by J. W. Rogerson (pp. 116-124);
  7. “Reflections on Translating Joshua,” by Richard S. Hess (pp. 125-141);
  8. “Judges 1-5 and its Translation,” by Richard S. Hess (pp. 142-160);
  9. “Translation and the Exegetical Process, Using Mark 5.1-10, ‘The Binding of the Strongman,’ as a Test Case,” by Matthew Brook O’Donnell (pp. 162-188);
  10. “Foregrounding and its Relevance for Interpretation and Translation, with Acts 27 as a Case Study,” by Gustavo Martin-Asensio (pp. 189-223);
  11. “The Perfect Tense-Form in Colossians: Verbal Aspect, Temporality and the Challenge of Translation,” by Thomas R. Hatina (pp. 224-252);
  12. “Assumptions in th Criticism and Translation of Philemon,” by Brook W. R. Pearson (pp. 253-280);
  13. “Original Text or Canonical Text? Questioning the Shape of the New Testament Text We Translate,” by Kent D. Clarke (pp. 281-322).

Stephen Prickett, Words and the Word: Language, poetics and biblical interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Prickett (a professor of comparative literature) criticizes the facile assumptions and results of “dynamic equivalence” from a literary standpoint. He asks, “How far is it possible, in the words of the Good News Bible’s Preface, ‘to use language that is natural, clear, simple, and uambiguous,’ when the Bible is not about things that are natural, clear, simple, and unambiguous?” (p. 10). Most of the book consists of detailed discussions of literary aspects of selected passages of the Bible.

Douglas Robinson, ed., Western Translation Theory from Herodotus to Nietzsche. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1997. A collection of readings in translation theory from the fifth century BC to the end of the nineteenth century. Includes 124 texts by 90 authors. Unfortunately the volume is not well edited. The readings are given only in English translations, but original texts might have been included also, if so much space had not been wasted on material of little value. A long-winded preface informs us that “in patriarchal hierarchies the translator stands to the original author as woman does to man ... they are expected to be seen but not heard,” etc. The biographies take up far too much space (e.g. the life of Cervantes being described with over 600 words, to introduce a mere bon mot in Don Qixote that some translations are “like viewing Flemish tapestries from the wrong side.”) Most of the translations from German sources, newly done by the editor (who is an advocate of “dynamic equivalence”), are much too paraphrastic and inaccurate to be of much use in scholarly work. For example, we find that in Schleiermacher’s essay the words wo an ihrer [der Sprache] Leitung die Blize der Gedanken sich hingeschlängelt haben (where on [language’s] conducting line the lightning bolt of thought has wound itself along) are translated “where the verbal lightning has snaked down out of the sky of thought,” which quite destroys the sense. Some readings are only tangentially related to translation theory, apparently included for political reasons (e.g. Montaigne “On Cannibals”); and others have apparently nothing to do with it (“Notker the German”). The inclusion of excerpts from private letters of female “theorists” – dealing mostly with their personal relations and problems – is rather patronizing.

Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2003. ISBN:1581344643. Ryken (professor of English at Wheaton College) Advocates a literal approach to translation, and focuses on literary aspects of the Bible.

Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet, eds., Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Werner Schwarz, Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation: Some Reformation Controversies and their Background. Cambridge: University Press, 1955.

John H. Skilton, editor, The New Testament Student and Bible Translation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1978. Part I of this book is a “Forum on Principles of Bible Translation,” consisting of twenty-two essays by various scholars, representing different points of view:

  1. “The Book of a Thousand Tongues” by Eugene A. Nida.
  2. “Aphorisms on Bible Translation” by Roger Nicole.
  3. “Normative Principles for Bible Translating” by Milton C. Fisher.
  4. “The Problem of Translation” by Allan A. MacRae.
  5. “Normative Principles of New Testament Translating (As I See It)” by Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
  6. “Inspiration and Translation” by Robert L. Thomas.
  7. “Is the Bible the Word of God?” by J. Gresham Machen.
  8. “Translation or Paraphrase” by Francis R. Steele.
  9. “The Translation of the Scriptures for Indian Tribes” by H. Wilbur Aulie.
  10. “The Problems of Making a Contemporary Translation” by J.B. Phillips.
  11. “The Best Bible” by Robert L. Thomas.
  12. “Translators, Translations, and the Church” by Raymond B. Dillard.
  13. “Questions for Translators” by Noel K. Weeks.
  14. “A Consideration of Some Objections to Idiomatic Translations” by Raymond B. Dillard.
  15. “Some Points for Defenders of Translations” by Noel K. Weeks.
  16. “Which Version? A Continuing Debate” by Iain Murray.
  17. “Translators, Pastors, and Interpreters” by Raymond B. Dillard.
  18. “Translating the TEV New Testament” by Robert G. Bratcher.
  19. “What is the Best English Version?” by J. Barton Payne.
  20. “Gleanings in the Works of Early English Bible Tanslators and in the English Church Fathers” by L. Paul Dilg.
  21. “The Traits of Modern English Versions of the New Testament: A Study Project” by Tremper Longman III.
  22. “Future English Versions of the Bible and the Past” by John H. Skilton.

Glen G. Scorgie, Mark L. Strauss, and Steven M. Voth, eds., The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. Eighteen articles published “in honor of Ronald F. Youngblood” by various scholars, most of them rather one-sided in their support for the “dynamic equivalence” philosophy of translation:

  1. “Are Translators Traitors? Some Personal Reflections” by Moises Silva.
  2. “Bible Translation Philosophies with Special Reference to the New International Version” by Kenneth L. Barker.
  3. “The Limits of Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation—and Other Limits, Too” by D. A. Carson.
  4. “Current Issues in the Gender-Language Debate: A Response to Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem” by Mark L. Strauss.
  5. “Translation as a Communal Task” by Herbert M. Wolf.
  6. “English Bible Translation in Postmodern Perspective: Reflections on a Critical Theory of Holistic Translation” by Charles H. Cosgrove.
  7. “The Bible in English: An Overview” by Dick France.
  8. “A Translator’s Perspective on Alister McGrath’s History of the King James Version” by Walter W. Wessel.
  9. “Translation Was Not Enough: The Ecumenical and Educational Efforts of James ‘Diego’ Thomson and the British and Foreign Bible Society” by Kent A. Eaton.
  10. “The New International Version: How It Came to Be” by John H. Stek.
  11. “That Fabulous Talking Snake” by Ronald A. Veenker.
  12. “Slip of the Eye: Accidental Omission in the Masoretic Tradition” by David Noel Freedman and David Miano.
  13. “Agur’s Apologia for Verbal, Plenary Inspiration: An Exegesis of Proverbs 30:1–6” by Bruce K. Waltke.
  14. “Justice and/or Righteousness: A Contextualized Analysis of Sedeq in the KJV (English) and RVR (Spanish)” by Steven M. Voth.
  15. “Translating John’s Gospel: Challenges and Opportunities” by Andreas J. Köstenberger.
  16. “‘Flesh’ in Romans: A Challenge for the Translator” by Douglas J. Moo.
  17. “Faith as Substance or Surety: Historical Perspectives on Hypostasis in Hebrews 11:1” by James D. Smith III.
  18. “The Use of Capital Letters in Translating Scripture into English” by Larry Lee Walker.

George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford University Press, New York, 1992. 3rd edition, 1998. Presents some very subtle and often eccentric analysis of translation issues. Steiner approaches the subject in the style of modern French phenomenology.

Thomas R. Steiner, English Translation Theory: 1650-1800. Approaches to Translation Studies 2. Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1975.

Philip C. Stine, “Sociolinguistics and Bible translation,” in Issues in Bible translation. London; New York; Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1988.

Robert L. Thomas, “Bible Translations and Expository Preaching,” chapter 17 in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, edited by Richard Mayhue (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992). Originally published in The Master’s Seminary Journal 1 (Spring 1990) as “Bible Translations: The Link between Exegesis and Expository Preaching.” In this article Thomas describes the advantages of literal translations.

Jakob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible. New York and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, “On Bible Translation and Hermeneutics,” chapter 14 of After Pentecost: Language and Biblical Interpretation edited by Craig Bartholomew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001). Van Leeuwen contributed to the New Living Translation of Proverbs, but in this article he earnestly explains the limitations of such “dynamic equivalence” translations and explains why serious students must use a literal translation in order to make progress in understanding the Bible.

Ernst R. Wendland, Language, society and Bible Translation. Cape Town: Bible Society of South Africa, 1985.

William L. Wonderly, Bible Translations for Popular Use. London: United Bible Societies, 1968.

Gender-neutral language

Bible Translation

The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God, edited by Helen Hull Hitchcock (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992). Contents: Introduction by Helen Hitchcock; “Words, Words Everywhere—and Not a Thought to Think,” by Joyce A. Little; “Because I Said So: Feminist Argument and Inclusive Language,” by Lawrence C. Brennan; “Theological Liberalism Aborting Itself,” by Jon D. Levenson; “‘Sexist Language’: The Problem Behind the Problem,” by John R. Sheets; “Femspeak and the Battle of Language,” by Peter and Brigitte Berger; “The Serious Business of Translation (Including Religious Translation),” by Kenneth D. Whithead; “Generic Man Revisted,” by Ralph Wright; “Feminism, Freedom, and Language,” by Michael Levin; “Inclusive Language Re-examined,” by Joseph C. Beaver; “Old Testament Iconology and the Nature of God,” by Paul V. Mankowski; “A Feminist Psalter?” by Chrysostom Castel; “Authority and the Language of the Bible,” by Donald G. Bloesch; “On Praying ‘Our Father’: The Challenge of Radical Feminist Language for God,” by Roland Muchat Frye; “In the Image of God: Male, Female, and the Language of the Liturgy,” by Suzanne R. Scorsone; “The Spiritual Paternity of ‘Inclusive Language’,” by Paul. M. Quay; “‘Inclusive’ Language in an Exclusive World,” by Donald De Marco; “Father, Son and Spirit—So What’s in a Name?” by Deborah Belonick; “In Defense of God the Father,” by Juli Loesch Wiley; “Statement on Feminism, Language, and Liturgy,” issued by Women for Faith and Family, Forum of Major Superiors, and Consortium Perfectae Caritatis; Bibliography.

Donald A. Carson, The Inclusive-Language Debate: a Plea for Realism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. In this book Carson defends the NIV Inclusive Language Edition that appeared in England in 1995. Carson was born and raised in Canada (province of Quebec). He was educated there and in England. Since 1978 he has been on the faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he is currently listed as “Research Professor.” He was employed by Tyndale House Publishers as a translator for their New Living Translation (1996). He has written several books and articles promoting the use of the “dynamic equivalence” method. One of the chapters of this book lists the guidelines on the gender-language policies of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation, and the Colorado Springs Guidelines drawn up by a meeting of scholars and church leaders opposed to gender-neutral language.

Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, eds. The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000. In this book the authors oppose all gender-neutralizing alterations of the Bible. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary. Grudem is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Read chapter 4 of this book here.

Mark L. Strauss, Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998. Strauss (a professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary) argues in favor of what he is pleased to call “gender accurate” translation (i.e. gender-neutral alterations of the text), but expresses reservations about feminist demands for gender-neutral language in reference to God. He covers much the same ground as D.A. Carson (see above), but goes into greater detail.

Style Guides for Gender-Neutral Language

Francine W. Frank and Paula A. Treichler. Language, Gender, and Professional Writing: Theoretical Approaches and Guidelines for Nonsexist Usage. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1989.

Rosalie Maggio, The Nonsexist Word Finder: A Dictionary of Gender-Free Usage. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1987.

Rosalie Maggio, Talking About People: A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1997.

Casey Miller and Kate Swift, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing for Writers, Editors and Speakers. New York: Lippincott and Crowell, 1980.

Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-free Language of the Association of American University Presses, Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995. The Guidelines urge translators to consider “whether gender-biased characteristics of the original warrant replication in English.” Thirteen pages are devoted to wrestling with alternatives to the generic “he.”

Special topics

Janice Moulton, “The Myth of the Neutral ‘Man’.” Feminism and Philosophy. Ed. Frederick A. Elliston and Jane English. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, and Co., 1971. 124-153.

Janice Moulton, George M. Robinson, and Cherin Elias. “Sex bias in language use: ‘Neutral’ pronouns that aren’t.” American Psychologist 33 (1978): 1032-1036.

Luise von Flotow, Translation and Gender: Translating in the ‘Era of Feminism.’ Translation Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1997.

Simon Sherry, Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission. London: Routledge, 1996.