The MAV Translation
Often the daily Scripture readings in Daily Reflections are from what I lovingly call the MAV translation of the Bible: Mike’s Authorized/Amplified Version.
The MAV is intended as an devotional aid, not an authoritative translation. You can use it in the daily reading, or reference a standard translation such as the English Standard Version (ESV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), New American Standard Version (NASV) or other translation of your choice. Or you can use both (recommended).
I would characterize the MAV as a playful, devotional translation, working from the original languages. I have no seminary or Bible school degrees. I’ve just been reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew for over 30 years. I have immersed myself in its vocabulary and rhythms, and I teach first year courses in both languages. Working out a contemporary translation of my own from the original language is my way of processing the text, chewing on the words and concepts, exploring the author’s verbal connections, and then bringing all that over not just into the English language but into our current cultural context.
In over three decades of public Bible teaching, I have regularly experienced the phenomenon of having to translate the translation, which really defeats the purpose of the translation to begin with. The use of the MAV is essentially getting right to the translation of the translation.
Translation is not a mechanical process. It’s more art than science.
For instance, the other night in my current Hebrew class, a student asked how you would say “You’re welcome” in Hebrew. Now as it turns out, the current Hebrew expression for “You’re welcome” is al lo devar, meaning, literally, “upon not a word.” Good literal rendering. Terrible translation. Translating the translation “upon not a word” with our expression “Don’t mention it” is better and retains an echo of the literally rendered Hebrew expression. But still, “You’re welcome” is how the phrase functions in modern Hebrew, even though the literal Hebrew phrase has no second person pronoun “you,” no verb “are” or anything remotely, literally like “welcome.” A literal translator might ask, “So, how do you literally say ‘You’re welcome’ in Hebrew?” And they would no doubt answer, “You don’t!”
One of the best articles I’ve read on the dynamics of language and translation is “Why Learn a Second Language?” by Tamin Ansary.
It is entertaining, instructive — and it provides the basic rationale for why I am bothering writing the MAV as we study through various books of the Bible. Tamin observes:
Today, we’re all doing high-stakes business across the globe with speakers of other languages. These interactions are always conducted in somebody’s second language or through translators. I hope I’ve demonstrated that translation has some limits. Virtually no message can be mapped directly from one language to another because the act of translation severs countless tendrils of assumptions and understandings that wed that message to its entire cultural context. Any encounter between two languages involves an intersection between two whole frames of reference. Fluency in a second language cultivates an ability to put oneself in another point of view. Monolingualism makes it more difficult to see that one even has a point of view. Communication, I think, can occur only when both parties are able to imagine the existence of another whole frame of reference. Only then can they approach a conversation as an exploration in which the two parties build a common meaning together — a new and shared frame of reference.
To Tamin’s musings may be added the words of the preface to the original King James Version of 1611:
But how shall men meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue? as it is written, Except I know the power of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh, a Barbarian, and he that speaketh, shall be a Barbarian to me. [1 Cor 14] The Apostle excepteth no tongue; not Hebrew the ancientest, not Greek the most copious, not Latin the finest. Nature taught a natural man to confess, that all of us in those tongues which we do not understand, are plainly deaf; we may turn the deaf ear unto them…Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered [Gen 29:10]. Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) [John 4:11] without a bucket or something to draw with; or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, Read this, I pray thee, he was fain to make this answer, I cannot, for it is sealed. [Isa 29:11]
Let’s open the window, break the shell, remove the cover of the well.
Hopefully the MAV, along with these Daily Reflections, will be a handy bucket.