Statement of Philosophy and Procedures
Is a new English translation of the Bible really needed? If so, how should it be developed? And for what readership?
Before any Bible translation project is undertaken, it is essential that the need for such a translation project be investigated. Although several widely used translations already exist in English, none of these seems fully satisfactory.
Below is a statement of philosophy and procedures by the Committee on Translation for the International Standard Version
Excessively Literal vs. Excessively Idiomatic
In some cases, the translation is excessively literal, many of the phrases are unnatural and heavy, and the language is archaic. In other cases, the general language and style of the translation are fully adequate, but the level of paraphrasing is so high that people have difficulty using the translation in preaching, teaching, and personal study.
In both cases, the need is for a translation that is both accurate and readable, dignified and literary. In other words, it is the coherence of the text as a whole and the accuracy of information provided to the reader that need to be corrected. This can never be done on a piecemeal or haphazard basis.
In view of this situation, a new translation of the Bible in contemporary English seems to be justified. This new translation will be called the International Standard Version (ISV®). The ISV will embody the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of Scripture, and will express this meaning in clear and natural English.
It will be intended for liturgical and pulpit uses as well as for devotional reading, Bible study, and reading in the home. The ISV will be a moderately literal translation and will seek to avoid the paraphrasing tendencies of some modern versions.
It will seek a compromise between formal equivalence and functional equivalence by attempting to stay as close to the source text as possible without losing communication. The target reading level in English will be 7th-8th grade.
Practical considerations of committee organization and procedures for carrying out the work of translating are treated below. The plan of operation given here is designed for a situation in which a team, rather than a single individual, is given the task of translating the Bible.
Committees and Editors
All of the participants in the project should be appointed by the sponsoring organization. It is by this same procedure that agreement should be worked out on the conditions of employment and remuneration. The sponsor will provide for the actual work of translating by appointing:
- A Committee on Translation, who will oversee the work of translation from beginning to end, including the supervision of all translators and consultants. The ideal number of Committee members will be between six and eight. These individuals will be selected primarily for their competence in biblical studies, rather than on the basis of denominational representation of the total spectrum of the Christian community. It is essential that all members of the Committee on Translation be of such outstanding ability that they are acceptable to the constituencies involved and that they have a mutual respect for one another.
- A General Editor, who will be responsible for organizing and directing the work of the Committee on Translation and who will be selected from among the members of that Committee. It will the task of the General Editor to continually evaluate the project in terms of the quality of the translation and the efficiency with which the work is pursued. The General Editor should be able to give a major part of his or her time to the translation, including the following aspects of the undertaking:
- Preparing copies of the manuscript to be sent to the various participants
- Receiving, analyzing, and classifying the suggestions that come from translators and reviewers so that the Committee on Translation can deal with them quickly and efficiently
- Proofreading the manuscripts for content and orthographic accuracy
- Carrying out the routine correspondence for the work; and
- Making arrangements for meetings. Although other persons may be engaged for typing and proofreading, the General Editor should oversee the work of the Committee on Translation and be responsible for it.
- Associate Editors for the Old and New Testaments, who will be especially capable in the biblical languages and exegesis and who will coordinate all Committee procedures related to their areas of expertise, including the formation and oversight of Old and New Testament Subcommittees and (eventually) an Apocrypha Subcommittee.
The Committee on Translation, under the direction of the sponsor, will in turn appoint:
- A select group of Contributing Scholars, who will be representative of competent biblical scholarship and fully committed to the authority of Scripture, and who will prepare draft translations of the individual books of the Bible.
- An English Review Board, who will be responsible for checking the translation for its adherence to modern literary and communication standards and who will suggest more felicitous phrasing for the consideration of the Committee on Translation. While all of the members of the English Review Board should be fully competent in English, some may be selected especially for their excellence as creative writers and communicators to the general public.
- A Board of Reference, who will review the translation for use in preaching, teaching, evangelism, Sunday School materials, etc. This Board will be as broad as possible in terms of geography, denominational representation, and ability to give promotional help. Its members are sharply distinguished from the translators and English reviewers, who are selected primarily for their linguistic competence. Accordingly, the Board of Reference should include any persons who by virtue of their position or influence should be related to such a major undertaking, and whose good will is necessary to the public approval of the translation. Such persons will be chosen from three basic categories:
- Officials of national Christian organizations;
- Administrative officers of institutions of higher education; and
- Individuals who have rendered significant Christian service on regional, national, or international levels.
These leaders will offer counsel and advice, make the project known, give technical assistance, pray for the work, and agree to lend their names to the promotion of the translation. Membership on these Boards will not be limited to a fixed number, and members will be free to terminate their relationship at any time.
Three Levels of Review
Three levels of review will be established.
- The Contributing Scholars, who will agree to follow the principles of translation set forth below and to a deadline for the completion of their work, will submit their work to the Committee on Translation. The Old and New Testament Subcommittees will then check the initial drafts in detail and with constant reference to the original languages, and will incorporate all corrections of obvious minor errors and all changes that are so evidently within the scope of the statement of principles that they do not require further discussion. When the entire Committee meets, discussion will focus on matters relating to substantial changes and on checking for consistency. Differences of opinion will be resolved either by the Committee’s reaching a consensus or, in serious cases of disagreement, by the adoption of alternative readings to be published as footnotes to the text. It is not necessary, however, that in their first discussion of a passage the Committee members attempt to make final and binding decisions. Many of the same issues will reappear when the consultative groups have had opportunity to study the drafts.
- Second drafts of the work will be sent to the original translators, who will have the opportunity of commenting on all changes incorporated by the Committee on Translation. Here again, to avoid delay, the translators will be given deadlines for completing their comments on the work. All suggestions should be made in writing and sent to the General Editor. At the same time, second drafts will be submitted to the English Review Board and Board of Reference, who will be asked to criticize the translation and offer suggestions with a view to improving its readability and usefulness in the church. From time to time members of these Boards may be called together to discuss specific items, but they will not meet as committees to discuss in detail all that the translators have done. The members of the English Review Board will concern themselves with the level of English employed in the translation, i.e., that it be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary but not dated. Their aim will be to make the final product consistently dignified yet appropriate to the genre being translated: poetry, law, narrative, etc. All comments made by the Boards are to be communicated in writing to the General Editor within a stipulated period of time.
- A final review will be conducted by the Committee on Translation before the completed translation is issued. For the Committee to receive the greatest value from the contributions of others, the comments received from the Contributing Scholars and the Review Boards will be carefully studied and classified by the General Editor. In this way the Committee members can consider systematically and at one time all the comments on a particular verse, or all suggestions relating to a particular type of wording or syntactic construction. On matters pertaining strictly to either Hebrew or Greek, it may be necessary to convene the Old and New Testament Subcommittees to ensure the most efficient use of time in resolving such questions.
An International Version
The International Standard Version®, to be truly “international,” will actively seek the participation of translators and consultants from both the United States and other English-speaking countries such as Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The translation work will be regularly reported to the sponsor, who will have the opportunity of inspecting the work and of making detailed comments and criticisms for the consideration of the Committee on Translation. In assigning sections to Contributing Scholars, the Committee on Translation will take into consideration their individual preferences, aptitudes, and the amount of time they will be able to devote to their task. It will also consider their reputation as biblical scholars and denominational affiliations, in order to have a fair representation of the leading scholars and theological institutions. It is essential that each Contributing Scholar understand and accept the principles of translation set forth below. Agreement on procedures at the beginning will avoid a great deal of misunderstanding and will facilitate enormously the progress of the undertaking.
In summary, the following factors need to be clear at the outset of the project. Among types of translation, the version will be a new translation as opposed to a revision of an old one. With respect to level of language to be used, the translation will represent the present-day literary language, which will reflect traditional usage and be used in the churches, and which will at the same time be known and used by common people and be acceptable as a standard for published materials. Finally, in terms of organization and procedure, the project will be guided by the statements included in this document, with the hope that a truly accurate and readable translation of the Holy Bible can be produced.