For an Answer Home Studies Index Bibliography Glossary
The Bible Gateway The Blue Letter Bible The Greek New Testament  Greek & Hebrew Lexicons

powered by FreeFind

Topical  Studies



A Book on Translation?

A Review of Rolf Furuli's The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation

James Stewart


This review originally appeared on July 9, 1999


If you are looking for a book on The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation, (in my opinion) you won't find it here. This book claims to be, "...a philological and linguistic approach to the issues, rather than a theological one."(Page xvii) On page 155, Mr. Furuli states, "As we proceed with our discussion, we should keep in mind that the following section of this chapter (or any other part in this book) is not written to defend the renditions of the NWT or the arguments behind them." Again on page 292 he states, "There is therefore, a need for literal Bible translations with extensive footnotes and appendices, so as to inform the reader of the different choices that have been made on his or her behalf. Because the NWT is just such a translation, it was chosen as the object of our study." 

Mr. Furuli does state in note 8 on page xvii, "Any work will, to a certain extent, be colored by the author's theology, this is of course also the case with this book." This is too weak of an admission. What you find is a book that should have been entitled 'New World Translation Defended.' This book is just a Jehovah's Witness apologetic. 

In the description of the author, it does not state that he is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. This book picks out three books critical of the New World Translation to refute. These three books are Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and The Gospel of John by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.; The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament by R.H. Countess; and So Many Versions by S. Kubo and W.F. Specht. Considering the author's claims of providing an objective analysis, it is surprising that he attempts to refute books that are critical of the New World Translation. 

On pages XV and 45, he states that translation is interpretation. On page 27, he criticizes the TEV for some of its translations of SARX stating, "...thus, the interpreting is done for the reader, when it should be done by the reader." But didn't he say that translation is interpretation (rhetorical question)? Again on page 31, he states, "Idiomatic translations convey words that represent the interpretations of the translators. Literal translations convey concepts that the readers can interpret." But didn't he say that translation is interpretation (rhetorical question)? On page 42, he states that Nida & Taber's translation (interpretation) of Eph. 1:4 is forced upon the reader. But this is a two-edged sword. The New World Translation of Eph. 1:4 is forced upon the reader. 

The largest problem with all of this is that he is contradicting his organization! In The Watchtower, 7/1/73, page 402, it stated, "Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book." And, in The Watchtower, 10/1/67, page 587, it stated, "Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason, the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind." 

One glaring deficiency in this book is no discussion of the concepts of 'marked' and 'unmarked' meanings of words. This is fundamental to any book on translation. If you want to read a real book on Bible translation, Mr. Furuli references two books I would highly recommend. They are The Theory and Practice of Translation by E.A. Nida & C.R. Taber published by Leiden: Brill, 1974 and From One Language to Another by J. de Waard & E.A. Nida published by Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986. 

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.