Which Translation Methodology is Best?

You Decide

The translation methodology that one favors in regard to the Bible will most likely depend on the importance that person attaches to an accurate understanding of what the Bible actually means rather than how easy it is to read the translation. But a translation that adheres as closely as possible to both of the current methodologies would be best. That is precisely what Harper’s Standardized Study Bible seeks to do. Just keep in mind it is a “study” Bible, intended for those who actually want to see what the original text says rather than read someone else’s interpretation of that text.

A Formal-Dynamic Equivalence

The translation methodology represented in Harper’s Standardized Study Bible threads the needle between the formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence approaches to translation so as to produce a translation that is both dynamically equivalent and formally equivalent.

Harper’s Standardized Study Bible produces a formally equivalent translation by first defining and refining the meaning of the terms in the original text so that each term in the text can be assigned a unique word or phrase in the English language that is formally equivalent to the word in the original text. It then translates every noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun, and particle, as well as every use of the verb, in the same way every time.

The translation methodology represented in Harper’s Standardized Study Bible differs dramatically from most formally equivalent translations in that, while the translators who use that approach focus on maintaining the grammar and syntax of the original language, they have a wide range of “acceptable” English words that may be used to translate a word in the original text. In some cases, such translations translate a single word in the original text more than fifty different ways in the English text. And the translators quite often use one English term to translate several different words in the original text. Those same two flaws can be found in dynamically equivalent translations. Such is not the case in Harper’s Standardized Study Bible.

To the greatest extent possible, Harper’s Standardized Study Bible assigns every word in the original text a unique English word or phrase that accurately encompasses the wide range of meaning that word has in the original language. When it is not possible to restrict the translation of a term in the original text to only one word or phrase, it defines the term according to its usage in specific contexts. It produces a dynamically equivalent translation by rearranging the translation of the morphological units found in the original text so that the result is a readable and understandable translation that accurately reflects what the author said. That methodology maintains the original grammatical and syntactical relationship between those morphological units so as to adhere to the formally equivalent methodology.

Comparison of Translation Methods

Matthew 13:1–2

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
—New International Version
1That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
—New American Standard Bible
1[On] [That] [Same] [Day], [after [Jesus] came out] [{of} The] [House], [He was sitting] [by] [The] [Sea]; 2[and] [large] [Crowds] [gathered] [before] [Him]. [So] [He], [after getting in] [to] [a Boat], [was sitting {in it}], [and] [The] [whole] [Crowd] [was standing] [on] [The] [Shore].
—Harper’s Standardized Study Bible (with interlinear brackets and other indicators)

Hebrews 9:13–14

13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
—New International Version
13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
—New American Standard Bible
13[For] [if] [The] [Blood] [{of} Goats] [and] [Bulls], [and] [sprinkling [Ashes] [{of} a Heifer*] on] [those who] [have had sexual intercourse] [makes {them} holy] [with regard to] [The] [Cleanness*] [{of} The] [Flesh], 14[how much] [more] {will} [The] [Blood] [{of} The] [Anointed One]—[Who], [via] [an [eternally burning] Spirit], [brought and presented [Himself] [without blemish] to] [The] [{Living} God]—[cleanse] [our] [Conscience] [of] [dead] [Works] [so] [that] [{we} may serve as priests for] [a [living] God]?
—Harper’s Standardized Study Bible (with interlinear brackets and other indicators)