Every once in a while I see a translation where there is no Greek in any form behind the English. I know at times this is necessary for convey meaning, but every once in a while I suspect something else is in play.
If you translate word-for-word in Acts 6:2, you miscommunicate. The Apostles were not wanting to stop being waiters, they weren't asking to stop “waiting on tables.” They understand that their "service" is different." They understand that their "service" is different.
Dynamic equivalent translations are not overly concerned with concordance, i.e., translating the same Greek word with the same English word. But if it is possible to find the right English word that matches all the different uses of the Greek word, it can be a good thing. Yet that task can be more difficult than you might think. And the Greek of Acts 7:19 is a bit treacherous.
Many people do not use certain gender terms properly, which creates confusion in the discussion of translation theory. What is “gender neutral,” “gender inclusive,” and “gender accurate"? Why is this even an issue?
Is it more accurate to translate word-for-word, or to translate phrase-by-phrase? Some argue the former, but in truth it isn't possible. Meaning is conveyed primarily by phrases, and words gain their specific meaning in the context of the phrase. So accuracy has more to do with the phrase than the individual words.
People often lump functional equivalent translations like the NIV with natural language translations like the NLT, and then critique the former based on the latter. But these are two distinctly different translation theories and should be kept separate, although obviously they share much in common.
"Formal Equivalent Translation" try to translate word-for-word as much as possible, and shift to translating meaning when necessary. This gives the impression of being an "accurate" translation. But the simple fact of the matter is that no translation goes word-for-word in a single verse in the Bible. The nature of language doesn't allow it.
People often say there are two forms of translation, "formal" and "functional." One is more "word-for-word" and the other is more "thought-for-thought." This is not accurate. There are actually five, and a truly "literal" Bible is not really a biblical translation at all.
I am starting a short series of blogs on what I have learned about translation since joining the Committee on Bible Translation, which controls the text of the NIV. In this first posting I am discussing my dislike of the word "literal."