Philosophy of Translation | Pamosu Translation Project

Philosophy of Translation

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Philosophy of Translation
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We believe that the text of God's word means something. Some of what it means is opaque to us as the revelation of its fulfillment is still in the future. However, most of what is written can be understood. That understanding must be carefully considered as we try best to convey that understanding in a new form, the language of Pamosu. We are trying to approach the translation process with discernment recognizing that sometimes we need to translate words and phrases in a more rigid one-to-one equivalency also sometimes referred to as "literal" or "formal equivalence" translation. However, there are other times when we must take the idiomatic(that is to say, not the surface meanings of words) use of the source languages(Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) seriously and find creative ways to convey the same meaning in Pamosu, which is sometimes called "functional equivalence" or "meaning-based" translation.

We have 3 primary goals to achieve a good translation and a secondary goal when translating scripture.


The translation must be clear to its readers in so far as the text itself is clear. Sometimes the text is intentionally ambiguous and we also try to preserve this as well, but for the most part the point is to avoid unnecessary confusion and allow the reader easy access to the content.


The reverence we hold for the Word of God is of utmost importance. We must remain faithful to the text and accurately represent both the meaning and, when possible, the form of the text as well. Inaccuracy doesn’t lead to confusion, that is the domain of clarity, but rather leads to misunderstanding(to clarify here I mean confusion is an awareness of not understanding while misunderstanding is a lack of awareness about your lack of understanding). A person who is clear about what is read but comes to the wrong understanding is in a worse condition than the person who is merely confused about the text and knows they don’t understand. This requires rigorous study of the source texts to retain accuracy as closely as we can, though it should be understood that complete accuracy is impossible largely because there are layers of meaning in the text and to maintain all the layers of meaning is usually impossible and a choice of which layer of meaning should be emphasized is required during translation.


The text should read naturally for the language, in this case Pamosu. The more foreign it is the harder it will be to read and understand. In fact, bringing it naturally to the language is the entire point in doing translation in the first place to give people a text that relates to them.


There are sometimes considerations to be made about what makes a text acceptable to the people. Sometimes it can be as simple as the color of the binding of the printed Bible. These are easy changes to make that do not affect the integrity of the translation. However, there are other categories of acceptability that would decrease text integrity, such as if the people were to ask for a change to the translation that sacrifices any of the 3 primary goals in translation. We will not sacrifice the right understanding of the Bible just to make it more acceptable to people. We can not change the Gospel to make it more palatable to those who do not wish to receive it. So though we try to make some concessions to make a text more acceptable, it is a secondary goal. Ultimately we want to remove any obstacle to the acceptance of the Truth without jeopardizing the Truth.

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The Final Result - Understanding

The final result of a good translation should be understanding. It is a means of conveying to people who could not understand the history of God’s people and the works of God in the languages it already exists.

A clear but inaccurate translation leads to wrong belief and understanding. An accurate but unclear translation leads to confusion at best and rejection at worst. An unnatural translation impedes both accuracy and clarity and also may lead to rejection of the authority of the text.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

-Romans 10:14-17

Likewise, just as a king is given credit for the message he sends through a messenger, so all Glory belongs to God for the message. Also, not all credit belongs to those who are sent(the missionaries), or give the message(the translators), but also to those who do the sending and enable the messengers(those who pray and give).

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