Thank you very much to each of you who responded to my preceding post. I have had the flu the past two days. Most of the time I was not well enough to walk the stairs down to our office to check my email and blog comments. But when I could check the comments, I have enjoyed them all. Tonight I am feeling well enough to write a followup to the first post on a connection (if there is one) between Bible translation preferences and personality types.
I mentioned in my preceding post that I had started out with a hypothesis about a connection between Bible translation preferences and personality types. The responses to my post showed how weak my hypothesis was. But since I want to be honest with you, I’ll tell you my starting hypothesis anyway, and then maybe we (all of us, I hope) can pull something of value out of all this fun.
Over the years I have been bothered whenever I have had heard someone insist that a literal (or essentially literal) translation was the best kind of translation, the most accurate, whatever. That really grated on me, because I simply knew it was not true. After all, I have seen so many specific examples (!) of literal translation wordings which do not accurately convey the meaning of the biblical text, and I was willing to try to convince people with long lists of such examples. (OK, for those who don’t know my humor or communication style yet, I’m having some fun at my own expense here, as well as stating what I have believed.)
Those with whom I disagreed with about Bible translation were so set (whoops, sorry, deeply principled!) in their ways. And those with whom I have had some of the most difficult interactions in the past often have scored with a “T” (Thinking) on the Myers-Briggs profile. So I assumed that those who believed so strongly in the value of literal Bible translations and lack of value of idiomatic Bible versions must also be a Myers-Briggs “T”.
Well, I was wrong and I hope I have even been humbled enough to grow a little more on that necessary characteristic (which isn’t on the Myers-Briggs profile).
As I read some of the first comments on my preceding post, I began to realize that those who hold so strongly to the value of literal translations (BTW, I do see some value in them, as I have tried to point out in previous posts) as well as those, like myself, who believe so strongly that translations should be worded in natural patterns of the translation language, do so because we value something so strongly. And furthermore, if we are stubborn (whoops, deeply principled), like myself, and believe that the kind of Bible version we prefer is the kind that we should continue to use, that we should recognize its value and stick to it, then we finally get to some connection with personality type (I think). This personality type, of course, which desires predictability, consistency, is the “J” on the Myers-Briggs profile. I have had some of my most difficult encounters in life with TJs. Well, I’m a “J” also–it’s the T-F difference that is difficult for me. And sometimes I just cannot understand why Ts don’t see things my way. It should be obvious, eh?!! 🙂
So, rather than there being some overall connection between personality type and translation preference, I suspect that any real connection is of a less over-arching kind. Some of you who are naturally wired to be flexible and enjoy flexibility and spontaneity appreciate and use Bible versions which are literal as well as ones which are idiomatic. I recall Suzanne making that statement about her own translation preferences in a comment and probably there were others of you, as well.
I like I-ntuitives. They inspire me. I am stimulated by their ideas. Then I like to go into quiet, “practical” mode to try to implement their ideas. I suggest that every Bible translation project should have one or more Intuitives to help the rest of us nuts-and-bolts detail people think outside the box. Surely, Eugene Peterson is an Intuitive. I don’t see how he be anything other than an intuitive to have produced The Message. That translation thinks outside the box, as did J.B. Phillips wonderful translation produced during World War II.
I don’t know what translation preferences Intuitives might have. I haven’t tried to chart any correspondences between translation preferences and personality types from the comments to my post. (Although I would love to do such detailed charting, if I had more data! Data, data, data!! Empirical data!) Perhaps some of you can think of what Intuitives might prefer as Bible translation styles.
I am not an Intuitive. I am a S-ensor. I trust what I see, hear, touch, taste, and feel (with my hands, not my intuition). I want things to be clear and explicit, including the Bible versions I read. For me, I can understand a Bible version more clearly if it is written in some natural, standard dialect of English. There are many more ambiguities (at least ones I, as a language man, can spot) in literal Bible versions. If a translation has “the love of God” (e.g. 1 John 2:5; 5:3; Jude 21), unless the context gives me enough clues, I can’t tell if it is referring to our love for God, or his love for us. If a translation has “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26), I get twisted out of shape because I know that faith can’t obey anything; only people can.
Well, I hope there is enough here to stimulate some more interesting comments. Perhaps you can carry the ideas on and find other connections between personality type and Bible translation preferences. I liked what someone said in the previous comments about artsy people preferring translations like the REB. I suspect there is a lot of truth in that. The REB is a classy translation. But some artsy type folks would also appreciate certain very literal translations, such as those being done by Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who deliberately focuses on Hebrew idioms and other Hebrew language patterns which are important to understanding the Hebrew Bible (and translations of it).
It’s only fair that I tell you my translation preferences. Overall, I think my favorite translation is the CEV. It has the clearest, most natural English of any Bible version I have ever evaluated, at least of versions that include both the Old and New Testaments. Our children grew up on the TEV/GNB which was the pew Bible in the church where we lived when we were translating for the Cheyennes. So we all have a fondness for its clarity and language naturalness, as well. The CEV came later. Both translations were produced by ABS (American Bible Society). Both translation teams included biblical scholars as well as language scholars, which is something that I crusade for. It is not enough (now I’m crusading!) to know the biblical languages well. It is also important to know English well enough (and be disciplined enough to follow that knowledge) to be able to express the meaning of the biblical texts accurately, clearly, and naturally (at least as clear and natural as were the original biblical texts). If we make such translations, those who use them will understand the Bible more accurately than they can translations which are not written in their own language (or dialect).
The artsy part of me (I don’t know where that is on my ISFJ personality profile) is moved by The Message and J.B. Phillips translation. I love Peterson’s and Phillips’ use of natural English idioms and phrasings. I do think that Peterson gets carried away using some idioms which are not very well know to a majority of people. And sometimes accuracy suffers a bit, although far less, I think, than many people think who may not have looked at accuracy above the clause or sentence level, such as the rhetorical levels of language.
Oh, I’ve wondered if some Bible versions themselves fit on a personality profile. So, for fun (only that, I don’t know if there is any value here) I’d suggest that The Message is an Extraverted translation. Most other translations are Introverted. Could I suggest that the NET Bible with its thousands of footnotes suggesting translation variants is an Intuitive translation, perhaps even an NP translation?! The NET translation team did not try as hard for concordance among the translation efforts of the various members of teams, so maybe that shows the flexibility of P.
Finally, I agree with those of you who have noted that personality types, as indicated by instruments such as the Myers-Briggers test, are simply indicators of tendencies. No test can tell us everything about someone, and there are dangers in stereotyping people when we learn their personality type. Our test results are not set in stone. We can change. Some have noted changes in their personalities over the years as reflected in test results. Often such changes are an indication that God has been working in our lives to help us better fit the kinds of work he has for us to do at each stage of our lives. We can also make deliberate choices not to operate with our default pattern in some contexts. That is not easy for me, but sometimes it has been helpful in my relationships with others.
Again, thanks for having fun with me on this topic.