A Dialog with David Brunn: Author of “One Bible, Many Versions”

David BrunnAfter publishing my review of “One Bible, Many Versions,” David Brunn (the author) contacted me and agreed to answer any questions I might have about his book. I have found David to be very open and have really enjoyed the opportunity to dialog with him and value the opportunity I have had to get to know him a little bit. Through this dialog I have found that David and I share very similar views about bible translation and I am truly thankful for his commitment to accurately translating the Word of God.  As I said in my review, “the most common difficulty [in the content of David’s book] arises from what he has not said rather than what he has said” and while I do wish more had been said in some places, I do believe that David’s responses help to bring some understanding about why these omissions in his book exist, what he was trying to accomplish, and how he would respond to questions that are raised because of these omissions. David has very graciously allowed me to publish some of our dialog.

Question: You allude to the idea that there are boundaries to Dynamic Equivalency and even give one extreme example that goes too far but you don’t really draw any clear lines and never suggest that any well-known version has gone too far (even if only in a single passage). Where do you see the lines?

Answer: One problem I see with the books and articles that address the question of “which Bible version is best” is that most authors start by stating their philosophical position (i.e., their personal opinion) and then they cherry-pick examples from Scripture that support their position, totally ignoring every example that might negate or even weaken their stated opinion. For that reason, my strategy in writing One Bible, Many Versions was to avoid expressing my personal opinion as much as possible. That doesn’t mean I have no opinion. But I didn’t want the book to be about my opinion. My aim was to present objective evidence as in a court of law. In that context, my personal opinion is really quite irrelevant. If the evidence I presented seemed weighted in one direction, that is because I tried to include a significant sampling of the evidence that has largely been left out of the discussion.

There is one area where I DID feel I needed to reveal my personal opinion: that is my belief in the “infallibility of the inspired Word of God.” Some authors have attempted to draw an artificial link between “word-for-word translation” and “verbal-plenary inspiration”—suggesting that anyone who would accept a “non-literal” translation certainly must NOT believe in “verbal inspiration.” So in order to make sure I didn’t lose a huge segment of my intended target audience, I needed to make it very clear that “I fully embrace the verbal, plenary, wholly infallible and inerrant inspiration of the Bible” (p. 100).

You acknowledged in your review that I had said that “no translation is perfect.” There are a couple other places where I make similar statements. Here are two (both on p. 191):

  • “I have never found a Bible version I agree with 100 percent; but at the same time, I have never found a version I disagree with 100%.”
  • “As we compare the various English translations of the Bible, we will find that some versions have translated certain verses in a way that may be unduly free.”

I agree with you that I probably should have given greater emphasis to this point. It is a bit buried under a lot of other material. But even if I had emphasized this point more, I still would NOT have given specific examples of where I think a certain version has “stepped across the line,” since that would simply be my personal opinion. I DO agree that some renderings in idiomatic versions went farther than necessary—injecting more interpretation into the text than they needed to (again, my personal opinion). Along with not pointing out those places, I also did not point out places in the “literal” versions where my personal opinion is that they “stepped across the line into highly literal territory—producing zero meaning for some readers” (p. 191).

Question: In your book you seem to imply that ALL English versions are essentially the same, is this really what you intended?

Answer: My intention was to state that ALL English versions (used by evangelical Christians) have value—not that they are all the same. By the way, I had nothing to do with the title of the book, including the sub-title, “Are All Translations Created Equal?”. One of the first things my editor told me when I contacted him was that the publisher always has final say on a book’s title. I had tossed around several possible titles myself, but this is the one they chose to use.

Question: You don’t really address the philosophical differences between different translation theories, what are your opinions in regards to some of the philosophical presuppositions held by Nida, Kraft, etc… that have played a significant part in shaping modern translation theory itself?

Answer: As I stated above, I intentionally stayed away from expressing my personal opinions in the book. (I actually have a second book underway, and having laid some of the groundwork in the first book, I believe I WILL be able to express more of my own personal philosophy in the sequel.) When it comes to translation philosophy, I would like to think that I take a “balanced” view. Maybe we ALL view ourselves as “balanced.” As a translation consultant, I have worked with translators who produced material that was so excessively literal that when I conducted a comprehension check, the target-language hearers had no idea what it was supposed to mean. Obviously, if there is no apparent meaning in a translation, the Holy Spirit cannot use it to transform lives. At the same time, I have worked with translators who, in my opinion, recklessly injected an inordinate amount of interpretation into their translations. (Of course, ALL translations must include some interpretation.) In both scenarios—excessively literal and excessively interpretive—I believe my job as a consultant is to help the translators move toward the appropriate place of balance.

There’s one more point that you mentioned in your review, but not here in your questions, so I thought I would comment on it briefly: my example of the Hebrew word barak (pp. 121-22). I am not unaware of the issues surrounding this word. Early on, I considered eliminating this example altogether because I knew it was one of my weakest. However, I also knew that IVP would contract with outside readers (anonymous to me) who are well-published, recognized scholars in the original languages, so I decided to wait to see what they thought of the example. Since they didn’t comment on that point (they made plenty of other comments), I decided to leave the example in. Maybe that was a mistake.

I hope this helps answer at least some of your questions.

Dave

 

Thank you David for your openness, trust, and your commitment to faithfully translating the Scriptures.

Mike Tisdell

 

 

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