I was half-considering answering a question by creating my own translation of the Bible. I decided against it (for the time being), but it brought up an interesting question in my mind:

What translations do we accept?

Let's follow the logical train:

  1. Clearly, we accept the original language (Greek / Hebrew).

  2. Clearly, we accept the mainstream translations (NIV, ESV, NASB, etc.)

  3. We have to accept translations from non-mainstream sources (such as Prophets and "fringe" Christian denominations).

    This argument is a bit more complex, but it boils down to the definition of Christianity and the FAQ.

  4. Because of that last one, we must accept any translation. Since we've agreed to accept all self-declared "Christian" groups as actual Christians, we must accept whatever translation that they deem is valid.

Because of this, all translations, regardless of their origin, must be accepted as valid in reference to the given viewpoint.

Am I wrong?


Example:
If I go off and declare Richardism and claim it as a Christian denomination and translate John 1:1 as such:

John 1:1 Richardonian Translation
In the beginning were some words, and these words were with The Greatest of All Creators, and these words proceeded from The Greatest of All Creators.

Would this (completely bogus, horrible, heretical) translation be acceptable given the Richardism viewpoint?

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Wow that translation is horrible! Good thing that was a hypothetical or you'd be burned at the stake for being a heretic! –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 15:38
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What on earth does "accept" mean in this context? –  Caleb Sep 19 '11 at 16:43
    
@Caleb Excellent question. I guess the meaning would be that flags against the question or answer that are purely complaining about the viewpoint and translation used would be ignored. (Obviously voting patterns are going to be what they are going to be, but acceptance on this site would be whether or not something would remain open and visible.) If I had used that translation above in an answer and someone flagged it as Very Low Quality, what should we do? –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 16:53
    
Would the best response to the Richardonian Translation be a comment pointing out that more people will accept the answer if it's based on a more commonly accepted translation? Then if the OP sticks to his translation the only remaining response is to downvote? –  jimreed Sep 19 '11 at 17:33
    
@jimreed Oh, I totally agree. Any answer using a self-created, heretical translation is going to be insanely commented and down-voted into oblivion. But (and this is the key), it will also be flagged. How do we handle those flags? Should we delete answers with made up translations? Or can we accept this as a valid viewpoint? (This is presuming that the post appears to be made in earnest.) Extending this further, what translations are acceptable if the "Richardonian Translation" isn't? –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 17:37
    
Are you suggesting we should accept non-origin, non-English translations, such as Korean? (The answer has been deleted by the OP, but still a valid question, I think) –  Flimzy Sep 19 '11 at 18:41
    
@Flimzy I think we should accept non-original translations. However, we need to stick with English. –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 18:51
    
What's wrong with letting idiosyncratic translations be voted down? Add a comment saying "This is from the Richardonian Bible, which isn't a widely accepted translation", and vote it down. –  DJClayworth Nov 7 '11 at 15:13
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Consider my answer in this question...

Basically, I was talking about the translation of one particular word and not an entire passage, and was trying to bring attention to that. But, it was somewhat confusing as to the best way to denote that one word.

You are correct, in that I could create my own translation on a website and then point to it, and cite it as a legit translation.

But it begs the question, what is a legit translation? Does Eugene H Peterson's 'The Message Bible' count as a legit translation? I think that he started off as a fairly causal attempt at translating small sections of the Bible, and ended up doing the entire thing in an (what some would argue) unorthodox way; though I am personally a fan.

I think that you should denote the translation when ever you make a quote and make a link to it elsewhere. And short of that, the rule of thumb should be, if are quoting from something different than the standard and/or well known translations, or your own translation, then you should DEFINITELY denote it. Like in your example you are making it clear that it is your own translation.

Aside from that, I don't think that there should be an 'officially' accepted/reject translations. There will be too many to review, and to many groups that would be potentially, and unintentionally, offended.

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It should be noted that some translations are under copyright laws and are not published online. Because of this, adding a link isn't always possible. (Particularly in the Richardonian Translation.) –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 16:25
    
Also, I thought it was pretty commonly accepted that the version be posted along with the reference. Hopefully, we'll get a one-box for this eventually. –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 16:26
    
@Richard that is exactly right, the NABRE is the only modern Catholic Bible that is even on the internet (although still copyrighted). The Ignatius Bible is used by lots of Catholic Scholars, but according to the internet it doesn't even exist. –  Peter Turner Sep 19 '11 at 18:28
    
@PeterTurner Wow. That's crazy. Thanks for the info! –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 20:20
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The question as phrased betrays a subtle misunderstanding of how sites like this should work. We are not looking to make a list of acceptable translations, any deviation from which will result in deletion. Instead we are looking to give guidelines to voters to indicate what a good - or bad - answer looks like. With that in mind, the answer becomes surprisingly obvious. All else being equal:

  1. Answers relying on good, scholarly translations should be voted up
  2. Answers relying on idiosyncratic translations or doubtful scholarship should be voted down
  3. Answers relying on self-made or invented translations (like the Richardonian Bible) should be voted down with extreme prejudice.

Answers using paraphrases like the Good News or Message should be voted down if they are used to make a point that wouldn't stand up if a scholarly translation were used; however I wouldn't vote them down just for that, if a scholarly translation could be used to make the same point.

If a question is about a specific branch of Christianity then obviously translations accepted by that branch should be voted up.

We don't need to lay down a list of which translations satisfy those criteria. The community can be trusted to make that judgement.

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If a question is asking for a JH view, the NWT translation is the only Bible that should be used. Outside of Jehovah Witness questions, though, I agree that the NWT will probably be voted down dramatically provided that the translation goes against the voters doctrine. –  Richard Nov 9 '11 at 18:23
    
I absolutely agree. –  DJClayworth Nov 9 '11 at 18:25
    
Also, it's best to keep in mind that all translations are invented by someone. It's the quality of the translation that should be crucially important, not necessarily the credentials. –  Richard Nov 9 '11 at 18:25
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Your question is presuming that an extreme case will present itself. Of course, this being the internet, it's safe to assume that we'll get a case sooner or later.

It's easier to make my point using the "self-identify" rule than using a hypothetical translation.

I don't believe we'll always be able to go with the self-identify rule in all cases. When someone shows up claiming to be Jesus their followers will probably self identify as Christian, but any such claims posted on Christianity.SE are going to be flagged persistently.

When outlying incidents like that happen, the moderators will have to get their heads together and deal with it on a case-by-case basis. If they can agree amongst themselves, then they should act on it.

Christianity.SE is not Survivor. It needs be a "big tent" with a lot of room for views we don't all agree with. However, there are some views that will be so anathema to so many that they will have to be effectively banned here or only the wackjobs will want to participate.

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Wow. Nice wikipedia link! –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 20:11
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I think that down voting will take care of the wack jobs. Realistically, any question that uses the Richardonian Translation (for example) will be downvoted to oblivion. But it's whether or not we should delete these questions/answers. And if we start deleting self-translated texts, what about the text from Joseph Smith? In other words, it's a slippery slope and I can't see any clear "line in the sand", so to speak. –  Richard Sep 19 '11 at 20:14
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@Richard One reason SE uses moderators is to bring in the human element to ensure appropriate things are being done appropriately. I've been very pleased with the wisdom demonstrated by the moderator team so far. I have confidence that when a tough case rears its ugly head, the team will rise to the occasion and do the right thing. –  jimreed Sep 19 '11 at 20:17
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From what I have seen, all quoted scripture should have it's translation noted. This is so important that I think that if a question or answer quotes scripture, the translation should be part of the requirements for a "good question" in the FAQ or elsewhere. Most members are keen enough to ask what translation is being used when scripture is quoted . How could Jesus be Surprised is a good example of why the translation needs to be specified. The whole question revolves around one word in a specific translation, in this case "Surprised" (NLT). If we look at the ESV we see it's "Mavrvel" and this makes a big difference. It's also a good example why some translations should be given more weight than others.

At the very least, members who review questions should ensure quoted scripture has a translation attached. I also believe that ESV or another word-by-word translation should be given precedence over a thought-by-thought translation such as the NLT.

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