Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Translation bias

My almost, but not quite daily readings and translations from Galatians have reached chapter 1 and verse 15. I have heard people that know say that while the NIV is a good translation it does have a bias towards a certain theology. It is very difficult to do a translation without referring to your own theology! Just as it is always difficult to be truly objective - especially if you are unaware of your own background prejudices.
Today I came across an example of this (although it may just be my inadequate knowledge of Greek!)
The phrase ὁ ἀφορισας με ἐκ κοιλιας μητρος μου occurs. This literally means 'the one having separated me out of my mother's womb', but the NIV says 'who set me apart from birth'. Does the separation refer to the birth process? Or to election and calling?

I think that to decide that it means calling is allowing theology to interfere with the translation. But one would also have to refer to other usages of the phrase to see if there is a pattern in its usage. The one other use of ἀφοριζω that I happened to come across refers to God 'cutting off' people (septuagint Malachi 2:3).

I'm not sure that the NIV is justified in its translation.

The post on my Greek blog is here.


Steve Hayes said...

The English word "dedicate" seems to be closest in meaning. I don't know which English translations (if any) use it for that verse.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Ff that is the case the NIV would seem to be justified in its translation. Thanks.

Steve Hayes said...

Probably. It also fits the context.