Bible Translation


Translation is the art and practice of rendering one language into another. Translators not only need to know the source language well, but also need a thorough understanding of the field of knowledge covered by the text, and of any cultural, social or emotional connotations that need to be specified in the target language if the intended message is to be conveyed.

Translators also need to know the target language well and understand points of special phrasing, contemporary fashions or taboos in expression, local variations, idioms and styles of language. Accurate translation also depends upon the purpose of the text e.g. poetry has to be beautiful whilst medical instructions have to be clear and unambiguous.

Usually translators translate into their mother tongue from a source language, to ensure a result that sounds as natural as possible.


Not all religions favour the translation of their sacred texts, because they stress the sacredness of the text and language itself. However Judaism and Christianity have a long history of translating the Bible, considering the contents to be the most important.

The aim of Bible translation is to be accurate, faithfully representing the meaning of the source texts, insofar as can be known, but making the translation acceptable so that it is understandable to the community for whom it is aimed. Sometimes translators also try to make the translation sound good to the ear and try to meet the changes in the target language and take on board new ideas about the source text. Unfortunately no translation can meet the demands of all the interested parties and to some extent all translations are controversial because of differences in doctrinal, literary, stylistic and linguistic opinions.


The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, and Greek and some bits in Aramaic, so unless you happen to be fluent in these languages, you will need a translation.

The work of Bible translation is done by linguists working on languages all over the world. Today computer technology is embraced to assist the translation process but it still requires patient and careful work. A typical translation project takes many years from inception to completion. There are a number of translations available in English. The most important thing is to find one whose language you can understand.

Bible translation is an ongoing project because there are many languages which have only partial or no Scriptures in their own language. Additionally translations need to be updated in line with changes in language and the latest research. Many Christian organisations are involved in Bible translation work. e.g. the United Bible Societies and Wycliffe Bible Translators and BFBS.

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