LiFE-Style Translating-1

I have selected some portions from the Preface of this “Workbook for Bible Translators” (subtitle to LiFE-Style Translating, second edition, Dallas: SIL International, 2011) in case some readers might wonder what the text is all about.

This workbook is intended to introduce translators, exegetes, Bible students, and communicators of the Scriptures to some of the main forms and functions of biblical literature, prose as well as poetry. The aim is to enable readers to better understand the original text and then convey selected texts in a correspondingly “literary” – artistic, poetic, rhetorical – manner in their mother tongue or another target language. It is assumed that the readers will have completed at least one to two years of comprehensive biblical studies at a recognized theological college, university, or seminary. It would also be helpful if they will have completed a basic introduction to translation theory and practice.

The following related goals are paramount:
1. To teach translators and other exegetes how to distinguish “more poetic” from “less poetic” passages in the Bible.
2. To introduce translators to the Scripture’s principal literary types, or genres, in comparison with those of their own tradition, whether written or oral.
3. To overview and illustrate the chief characteristics and functions of biblical poetry and prose.
4. To increase translators’ awareness of and sensitivity towards the esthetic beauty and rhetorical power of the various documents that make up the Scriptures as well as the literature and/or orature of their own language.
5. To suggest a practical methodology for the analysis and translation of biblical texts in a more literary manner according to the LiFE (Literary-Functional Equivalence) method.
6. To implement these aims by working with different poetic and prosaic texts of the Old Testament and New Testament passages.
7. To develop an awareness of the nature and importance of contextualizing a Scripture text in order to provide a more adequate frame of conceptual reference for its interpretation and application.
8. To cultivate the skills of literary evaluation and mutual constructive criticism with regard to Bible translations in a cooperative team setting.

Each of the chief topics in this workbook could first be presented by the course instructor with illustrations and opportunities given for class discussion, in keeping with the previously mentioned goals. Alternatively, a certain lesson portion may be assigned for study in advance and the material later reviewed and practically applied in a group session. Key to this approach is ongoing give-and-take. Intermittently, questions pertaining to the subject at hand are incorporated into the text. Their purpose is to keep the lessons interactive by encouraging a more intensive investigation and dialogue concerning the pertinent exegetical and translational issues along with their local project-related applications. These questions are merely suggestive and by no means exhaustive. They may be supplemented, modified, or replaced as needed by the course teacher or translation consultant.

About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa ( My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (
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