Translation Principles - Accuracy between Languages

NO one ever really talks about this, unless you really have worked on a translation you just don’t really know or think about this. It is the nightmare no translator wants to discuss. Accuracy is how well did the translator take a single Greek word and translate it uniformly into the same English word(s) throughout. Some Greek words actually have multiple meanings, but even then was each meaning rendered uniformly?  Without computers, this is almost an impossible task. Even with computers this is a massive undertaking. No one living has a brain that is good at translating and photographic enough to remember 5500 Greek words or has 50 years to do this; (which by nature the beginning would not match the end in 50 yrs anyway.)

A Greek Interlinear doesn’t necessarily have any better accuracy than a Bible translation. Accuracy drops off dramatically in all translations once you leave the following list:  Modern Literal Version, MLV, Young's Literal Version, LYT, Concordant Version, American Standard Version, ASV. Accuracy is almost non-existent in Dynamic or Free Style (paraphrasing the Greek) or Paraphrases of English to English. Translators understand this but because it is way too much work, they just don’t do it. Single person versions like Young’s and Concordant since they are translated book by book by the same person have slightly better accuracy. But then they have other flaws because of being single person translations. Robert Young did a poor job of Present Active verb tenses and a few Greek idioms; so far all the modern revisions of YLT didn’t fix them either. The Concordant Version used a fair amount of classical Greek definitions for Koine Greek words. 

Tyndale’s translation had almost no accuracy because he actually tried to write it in English prose.  The 1611 King James Version did very few corrections and was 92 Tyndale's. Then the 1769 Cambridge Edition of the King James Version (the one currently used by millions) again did few fixes. Of the literal translations the King James version is the worst as far as accuracy goes.

The Modern Literal Version is the only modern translation that truly attempted this uniformity.  The MLV did also one step further by doing the opposite (something totally unheard of before the Modern Literal Version existed and still is in 2012) rendering an English word for only one Greek word. An Appendix was used to help describe some of the words which have an * (asterisk) on them when just not enough English words to go around.

The best example of this is the mistranslation in almost every translation from Tyndale’s up to now of the Greek word ‘teleo’ in Revelation 20:3, 5, 7. This word is Strong’s number 5055 in Aorist Passive Subjunctive 3rd person form.  Which is ‘may be’ or ‘might be’ and one of the following words ‘finished’ or ‘accomplished’ or ‘ended.’

Modern Literal Version correct in all three places: ‘might be finished’
Young’s Literal Version correct in all three places: ‘may be finished.’
Concordant Version basically correct in all three places: ‘should be finished’
American Standard Version in 20:3&5: ‘should be finished’ 20:7 ‘are finished.’
King James Version 20:3 ‘should be fulfilled’ 20:5 ‘were finished’ 20:7 ‘are expired.’
(With this bad translation and the ‘again’ which has no Greek manuscript counterpart in 20:5 you can see why so many ‘millennium’ teachings exist. But this type of discussion is expanded later.)

The Greek word ginomai Strong's number 1096, about the most diverse word in the Greek New Testament, not counting various tenses is 7 English words in the Modern Literal Version, about 15 in the American Standard Version, 40 in the King James Version, 42 in the New American Standard version.

In closing, if words in the Bible are rendered more uniformly, Bible truths become more evident.

Strong's Concordance
Modern Literal Version Concordance
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation

Copyright by Butch Walker 2012. May be freely copied for non-profit uses. Content may not be changed. All Bible quotes are from the Modern Literal Version New Testament (MLV) unless otherwise stated.

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