Monday, April 09, 2007

Dynamic Equivalent Is Paraphrastic


In this next paragraph, we now see Stevens showing the relationship between paraphrases and “thought-translations.” They are one and the same. Today we do not call them paraphrases or thought-translations; we call them thought for thought translations or dynamic equivalent translations.

Though the nomenclature has changed, its purpose remains the same. A paraphrase is a retelling of the text in a new and unencumbered way. The original form (both words and structure) is ignored. The “substance of the apostle’s thought” is reproduced with a totally different form (both words and structure).

A paraphrase also has the liberty to express “the implied thought of many passages.” That is, there are many times when so much is going on in the background that a literal translation can not hope to capture all that is found in the original. Sometimes the implied thought is discernable only by knowing the historical context of the author/reader. Other times it is impossible to create a translation that will capture the nuance of a certain grammatical or syntactical structure. Often, a paraphrase can include these complex issues with a limited use of creative license.

On the other hand, a paraphrase could quickly get lost in all the background material, so it is forced to pick and chose which parts to highlight and which parts to ignore. Here, Stevens has expressed this thought by telling us that he is “concentrating attention upon the main drift of the argument.” So, for all its benefits of creating a wider spectrum for understanding, it is very limiting in what it chooses to illuminate.

As in the case in other areas, we see that one of dynamic equivalent’s greatest strengths is also a great weakness. To allow certain aspects of Paul’s thought to fade into the background in order to clarify the main point is not good. Sometimes it is helpful, but ultimately, it is not good. This is why it is not good to have a paraphrase as your only Bible. Though you will have some things brought to the foreground, others will become almost unrecognizable.

Here is a mind picture to help put this idea in perspective. Suppose you took a trip to Europe and took photos at every major stop: Big Ben, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, etc. In each of these photos you placed yourself and a loved one in the foreground and had the attraction placed in the background.

Now suppose you came home and decided to create a photo album to document the trip. Once the photos were exposed you found that each of your photos required someone to do some touchups in Photoshop. Now what would you think if the technician decided that he would make what he considered the main attraction of each photo, you and your loved one, really pop of the page. And what if in order to do that he had to make the major European sights fade into the background?

Would you be happy? Would you pay money for that? Wouldn’t you say, “I could have taken that type of photo in my backyard!” You could take this analogy in any number of ways, for instance, it could have been the opposite, suppose the technician thought that Europe was the main point, and so he cropped you out of each picture. Anyway you look at it, this would be a problem.

I can hear someone protest, “Yes, but sometimes photo shop really does do a good job exposing what is hiding in the dark places of a photo!” Agreed. Every good analogy falls apart. I would not give dynamic equivalent translations that much credit though. The techniques that dynamic equivalent translators use is not as powerful as Photoshop. Anytime you clarify with a paraphrase, you necessarily smudge another section.

More later.

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