Translating the Bible: a critical analysis of E.A. Nida's theory of Dynamic Equivalence and its impact upon recent Bible translations

Anthony H. Nichols

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Developments in translation theory have externalized processes used intuitively by translators for centuries. The literature on Bible translation in particular is dominated by Eugene A. Nida and his proteges whose work is informed by a wealth of intercultural experience. -- This thesis is a critique of the Dynamic Equivalence (DE) theory of translation propounded by Nida, exemplified in the Good News Bible, and promoted in non-Western languages by the United Bible Societies. Section I of the thesis surveys the history of translation, its theory and problems, and describes relevant developments in linguistics. Section II examines Nida's sociolinguistic model and his methods of grammatical and semantic analysis, transfer and restructuring. Section III focuses on the translation of seven texts representing different Bible genres into Septuagint Greek, English and Indonesian versions, noting the distinctive features of DE translations. Section IV takes up and examines key issues that have arisen: the nature of Biblical language, the handling of important Biblical motifs and technical terminology, and the implications of naturalness and explicitness in translation. -- Nida has provided excellent discussion on most translation problems, as well as useful tools for semantic analysis. However, the DE model is found to be defective for Bible translation. Firstly, it underestimates the intricate relationship of form and meaning in language. Secondly, while evaluation of translation must take account of its purpose and intended audience, 'equivalence' defined in terms of the receptor's reactions is impossible to measure, and blurs the distinction between 'translation' and 'communication'. Thirdly, the determinative role given to receptor response constantly jeopardizes the historical and cultural 'otherness' of the Biblical text. Finally the drive for explicitness guarantees that indigenous receptors must approach Scripture through a Western grid and denies them direct access to the Biblical universe of discource.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Sheffield
  • Rogerson, John, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusUnpublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright Anthony Howard Nichols.


  • Nida, Eugene Albert
  • Bible
  • Translating and interpreting


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