LiFE-Style Translating-4

The subtitle of this Workbook for Bible Translators (see preceding posts) could well be Translating the Bible, the Book of Forms, since every distinct and definable pericope (a meaningful larger unit) of the Scriptures turns out to be a literary type/style/genre of one kind or another (or part of some larger literary form). It therefore also needs to be interpreted and transmitted as such, because the represented macro-form of a text in a given language influences the popular understanding of both its semantic content and its functional intent. In other words, for every sort of meaning-package, pragmatic purpose, and sociocultural setting of use, there is a specific literary style and genre (or some combination of such forms) that is best suited for communicating with the intended audience. This is as true for the diverse texts of the Bible as it is for any other outstanding corpus of literature.

In order to sharpen our perception of the literary component of the biblical text and to encourage at least a partial application in Bible translation, a LiFE method is introduced, explained, and then practiced throughout this workbook. This brings up several further considerations:
1. The term literary implies the importance of language form in translation (i.e., a verbal “style,” whether oral or written); this must always be evaluated according to well-defined, testable linguistic criteria, that is: comparatively excellent, mediocre, or poor in quality.

2. Since oral, as well as written, texts are being considered, the term oratorical may be used with reference to the former, literary to the latter. The point is simply this, Why should vibrant phonic “life” not characterize the words of our vernacular translations of the dynamic Book of Life, which more often than not are aurally perceived and interpreted in some public arena?

3. Since translation entails the skillfully managed replacement of one set of linguistically — and literarily (or “oratorically”) — organized forms with another, ideally translators need to be verbal masters of both the source language (SL) and target language (TL) form-functional sets.

4. The TL textual forms are always perceived, interpreted, evaluated, and reacted to within the general conceptual context — or “cognitive environment” — of the target culture, which is the ultimate frame of reference that translators must strive to fully understand and contextualize in relation to their particular audience, text purpose (Skopos), medium of transmission, and communication setting.

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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