Bible Translation Approaches: Closest Natural Equivalence Maintains the Balance

Closest Natural Equivalence Maintains the Balance

Closest natural equivalence shares some of the concerns of functional­ equivalent translation: It focuses upon meaning and naturalness in the target language. However, closest natural equivalence does not attempt to make all books or passages function on the same level. The more difficult books of the Bible (e.g., Job, Ephesians) are translated to be on the same level of difficulty as they are in the original languages (but no more difficult).

Closest natural equivalence also shares some of the concerns of formal ­equivalent translation. For example, abstract concepts in Greek and Hebrew are translated into abstract concepts in English, and concrete concepts remain concrete in translation. Figures of speech are translated by figures of speech in English when possible. Poetry is not prose with a special layout on the page. Instead, poetry is translated as poetry.



The goal of closest natural equivalence is to communicate as much of the source text as possible in a way that is usable for the type of readers that the original author targeted. At the same time, closest natural equivalence recognizes that not every book of the Bible was intended for every reader.

Closest natural equivalence recognizes that translation should not obscure meaning and make the Bible more difficult to read than it ought to be (as form equivalence may do). But closest natural equivalence also recognizes that Scripture allows for growth and maturity. Therefore, closest natural equivalence does not simplify concepts or run roughshod over the literary artistry of the Scriptures (as function equivalence may do).

Because many factors call for balance and judgment, every translation (even those produced using closest natural equivalence) can be improved. However, one major reason for the high quality of GOD’S WORD is that closest natural equivalence was the theory used in its production. Moreover, the translators of GOD’S WORD understood that natural, readable English was not merely a matter of writing simplified English. A number of factors contribute to making an English text readable and these factors also must be balanced.

For more information, download the complete brochure about the translation process of GOD’S WORD.

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