Anthropology and the Translation of the New Testament Key Terms

Anthropology and the Translation of the New Testament Key Terms
Author: John Beekman (1980)

Translators face the challenge of correctly representing the message of Christianity by utilizing a vocabulary that has only, or largely, been used to represent a non-Christian system of thought.

Good translation depends on a good understanding of the receptor culture. This is especially true when choosing key terms, as translators have to not only find ways to express the terms in the language; they also have to bridge different systems of thought. Beekman proposes four methods to discover potential terms that communicate in a relevant and accurate way, and two ways to validate what the terms communicate.

He then proposes three options if local terms are not readily available: to borrow a term, to modify an existing term, or to rely on the biblical text to correct the meaning of a term. Although translators are often hesitant to use the latter method, he finds it often makes the translation more relevant from the start, and in the end, context has enlarged or modified the meaning of such words resulting in correct meaning. This article is loaded with examples that give insight into the challenges of Bible translation.

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