By Rod Laughlin.
When it became clear that I would have to create a new translation in order to produce a Bible in modern formats, I was astounded, shocked, set-back, unhappy and stymied. How dare I even think of such a thing? It was like a poor man saying he was going to build a rocket and go to the moon. And if I did, who would accept such a translation?
A new translation? Not a pretty thought. Not something I wanted to do or felt qualified to do. But I had to do it.“Had to?” Yes. It had become clear to me over the first year of working on the concept of The Readable Bible that God had called me to create a Bible in modern formats. Not just “had called,” but was calling me to it every day. When I got up, I could do whatever I wanted, but not if I wanted to have peace. I knew what God was calling me to do, so I was determined to do it.
I spent the next year reading whatever I could find about Bible translation, and the meaning and theory of language, writing and reading. It’s funny. Boring, dreary, technical writing can become exciting, enlightening, fun-filled, light reading when it provides the answers to your questions. It reminded me of when I was in ninth grade and wanted to build a transmitter and receiver and a radio-controlled airplane. Wiring schematic diagrams and color coding resistors became exciting because they were going to help me get a plane in the air and bring it back safely.
Reading about translation theory and practice replaced Louis L’Amour westerns for me! I pursued the practical aspects of translation. As anyone can easily see, there are only so many ways that you can say, “Adam made love to his wife, Eve ….” How can one produce a “new translation?” Hasn’t it all been said? Won’t any words you put down violate someone else’s copyright?
The answer is not simple, but it is clear. If you just copy what others have said, you are stealing their words, violating their copyright. If you work from the original text, the Hebrew and/or Greek and you express it in English the way you think is best (given your principles of translation), then if the words happen to be the same, you are not violating their copyright. So it was clear, it was back to Greek and Hebrew. Ugh.
So, to jump to where we are today, every work in The Readable Bible is the result of looking at every word in the original language and asking:
- What words go with what other words to make a phrase, sentence and paragraph.
- What English word(s) best expresses the meaning of the host language word(s)?
- What is the most understandable way to present those words?