First Translation, Revision and New Bible Translation – An Overview and Perspectives –

Eberhard Werner




First Translation, Revision and New Bible Translation. 1

– An Overview and Perspectives – 1

Abstract 1

1. Question and description. 1

2. Similarities and intersections 4

3. First-Bible Translations – Framework Conditions 8

4. Revision Bible translations – Framework Conditions 14

5. New Bible Translations – Framework Conditions 16

6. A Comparison – Overview.. 20

7. Conclusion and Outlook. 21

Appendix. 25



Revisions and new Bible translations take place where the Christian Church can rely on many years of experience in Bible translation and thus the focus lies on processes within the church. In contrast, projects of first bible translations (also called missionary or pioneer bible translations), as they are carried out on behalf of the church in a global context, face completely different challenges, in particular the lack of an environment relevant to the translation of the Bible, such as an interested audience, native-speaking exegetical tools or organizational production and distribution structures. These differences in the projects for Bible translation have a stimulating effect on both companies. Both the differences and the mutual interfaces with regard to current and expected developments in Bible translation are to be discussed.


1. Question and description

In the scientific discussion on Bible translation and translation science, the differences and similarities of so-called revision, new and first translations in the global Christian ministry are pointed out. In my opinion, there is no scientific discussion on this topic. With this article, I would like to consider the differences, the similarities and possible synergies.

Missiology and theology are not only mingled in this discussion, but also in tension with each other. In the context of biblical studies, theology focuses more on revision Bible translations due to its orientation towards exegetical knowledge. At the same time, as the fruit of theology, missiology, with its diaconal and practice-oriented orientation, seeks interdisciplinary collaboration with linguistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology and other disciplines. Her focus is therefore on first Bible translations. In the science of Bible translation, this orientation is combined to create synergies. Nevertheless, when choosing the audience, the linguistic level in particular, the use of key biblical concepts (e.g. Trinity, biblical proper names, terms such as sin, salvation, law etc.) or the translation theories (e.g. functional, literal, or dynamic-equivalent etc.) critical discussions, but also the mutual evaluation of empirical values can be expected.

First Bible translations are also called missionary or pioneer Bible translations. They take place in Christian development aid and arise in contexts in which there is no Bible translation for a language group or a sociological unit. If you look at the approximately 7,000 language groups or 16,400 ethnic groups of humankind, according to the Wycliffe Global Alliance, this still includes approximately 1,700-1,800 possible projects. This information is not conclusive, as language and culture are constantly developing and new translation requirements are constantly opening up, as was recently shown by the awareness of at least 170 sign languages. For example, the linguistic variety of languages by dialects and idiolects is far from completely clear.

First Bible translations shape the missiological basis for the development and application of theories and models of translation in the context of the applied translation sciences. They introduce linguistic-cultural concepts from the base text into the target culture and language where there is no Christian community, or they formulate oral Christian concepts in written form if a Christian community exists. This creates processes that make it possible to link different scientific disciplines with one another. A test scenario emerges, on which translational intuition is just as important as exegetical analysis or the hermeneutic application of the base text. The source language and concepts to be transferred must be preceded by an exact linguistic-cultural analysis in the target language and culture. Both processes complement each other. Most of these projects are influenced by the outside world and the work with native-speaking translators who are encouraged to study translation.

Revision Bible translations take place in contexts in which there is already at least one Bible translation and thus a theologically interested group of experts. This Bible translation serves as a reference for further Bible translations in this language group. Either this reference work is due for revision, such as in Germany the Luther Bibel (1545 – 2017; LÜ) and the Einheitsübersetzung [Unification-Translation] (1980 – 2016; EIN), in order to adapt it to language and cultural developments, or a new Bible translation (new Bible translation) is planned or published, that separates from the reference work. The latter can be done linguistically and culturally from the target group or translation theory. For example, the Volxbibel (2005 ongoing online revisions), the Bibel in gerechter Sprache [Bible in Just Language] (2006; 2012) or more recently the Neue Genfer Übersetzung [New Geneva Translation] (2009; including Psalms in 2015). These latter new Bible translations represent an intermediate category because they establish their own line of tradition (reception histories). In addition, they are close to revision Bible translations, since they are created in the context of existing reference materials. However, they introduce new genre, new ideas and new vocabulary to the local church. As such, new Bible translations are subject to both the above-mentioned criteria for the first translations described and the revision Bible translations.

Revisions may become necessary early on after a translation is completed, as evidenced by the revision of the New Testament to the Luther Translation (LÜ) from 1975 in 1984. In other cases, it may take decades for a review or revision (LÜ 1984-2017; EIN 1980-2016). Incidentally, the Luther Bible has a very varied reception history of its now four church official revisions from the years 1892, 1912, 1975/1984 and most recently 2017 (detailed Kähler 2016: 7-8). Luther and his translation team revised the translation of the New Testament from 1522 and the full Bible from 1534 with more than 30 revisions until the end of his life in 1546. The so-called “Last Hand Edition”, the last revision from 1545, was made by the cooperation of Martin Luther (Bigl 2016: 32). However, the edition of 1546 prevailed as the «standard bible», in which the last direct suggestions of Luther and his translation team were incorporated (Michel 2016: 255-256).

The following abbreviations are used here: first bible translation (EBÜ), revision bible translation (RBÜ), new bible translation (NBÜ).

2. Similarities and intersections

Revisions and new Bible translations mostly come from initiatives that are theological, rarely linguistic, religious or out of translation science (e.g. old philologist Herrmann Menge 1926 see below). Church associations, individual or multiple scientists or theologians, or groups interested in theology (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses) recognize the need to revise an existing or to create a new Bible translation. The latter is based on a different Skopos (objective) of existing ones.

Revisions and new Bible translations work with an audience that is familiar with the genre of Bible translation and that knows the biblical content, but is open to new linguistic forms. Native theological laypeople or foreign-language missiologists, theologians, cultural or social researchers interested in spreading the gospel, initiate first Bible translations. The Bible translation genre is alien to the public or even opposes it. This applies above all to biblical-Christian concepts.1Socio-cultural background of a Bible translation project. Who’s the audience? A broad social class or micro-cultures (subculture), target group orientation, Christian or non-Christian context.

Bible translation in general is subject to the premises of translation and communication science. Following the laws of communication, any text can be translated into any language. It should also be noted that the languages of the base biblical text were normal languages of antiquity, as has been contested only to a limited extent since Deissmann.2Linguistic-cultural component. Which social and linguistic influences are taken into account, meet each other or which linguistic-cultural demands do people make in translation? From a linguistic and translational point of view therefore it is not a divine text that only a theological or ecclesiastical audience would be accessible, or only in a certain way (e.g. literally etc.) or would not be translatable at all (see Inlibration in Islam). Rather, from the outset, an anthropocentric approach determines the history of Bible translation and thus the way the Church deals with the Bible. This becomes clear

on the translation of the Hebrew text into Greek, the Septuagint (LXX), even before the Christian era,
the fact that the New Testament was written in Koiné Greek, despite its origin in an Aramaic-Hebrew environment3Economic factors that create interests. Who finances the project and how does this influence the project workflow? Is it a long-term project with profit sharing by an organization (e.g. local Bible Society)? and
early translations into Syriac (Peshitta 1st / 5th century), Latin (4th century; Hieronymus), Gothic (4th century; Ulfila) and Slavic (9th century; Methodius and Cyril).
This contrasts with the theological interpretation and worship of the Holy Scriptures, as well as their translations by the faithful as sacred works and ecclesiastical liturgical texts (detailed in Kocher 2016: 258).4Skopos, project plan and process flows. Is theological-exegetical knowledge preferable to translation skills? Are specific translation theories applied? These points must be determined in advance in all translation projects. They bind the participants together and serve to advise and solve problems. In case of high fluctuation in the project, they are important to the integration of new participants. This is to generate the target, a “binding” central German teaching text for preaching, catechumenate and personal use. The same is assumed for the King James Version in the English-speaking realm. The underlying assumption is the idea of a unity of local and global Christianity by a central Bible translation.5The idea of a binding text requires a common mother tongue and a homogeneous religious orientation. However, this fails due to the different linguistic and theological objectives. The central social position of the church in the Middle Ages allowed the binding use of a liturgy Bible, but was already wishful thinking even then, since the Latin Vulgate, different versions of the Luther translation and other German Bibles competed with each other in the ecclesiastical and private spheres (see FN 9; 11; 45). The “creeping” hypothesis of inspiration, which developed over several centuries, led to a central unique position in the German-speaking area for the Luther Bible and in the Anglophone for the King James Version. This central position to the Bible and its translations with biblical references is addressed at a divine origin of the Bible. These include e.g. the divine literal speech “I will …” from e.g. Gen 3:15 or Joshua 7:13, the prohibition of textual changes in Rev 22: 18-19-19, the breath of God after 2Tim 3:16 or the prophetic words “so says the Lord” e.g. in 1Sam 2:27. The theological argument is called “inspiration”, that is, the divine breath of Scripture.6Jeising, Thomas 2012. Was bedeutet Inspiration?, in Mayer, Thomas (Hg.): Die Bibel – Ganze Inspiration. Ganze Wahrheit. Ganze Einheit, 34-59. Nürnberg: VTR. With this reasoning, the content as well as the form eludes human interpretation. “Faultiness” is perceived as a flaw and “flawlessness” or “inerrancy” is proclaimed. This reasoning is cemented by the argument that the definition of “divine word” would result in stricter mindfulness and control when translating and would thus be directly transferred to the translation.

The assumption of an “unchangeable, inspired” text can only be conditionally approved, since the divine value and content, i.e. the deeper statement of salvation or the plan of salvation, is not suddenly revealed to the public. The discrepancy remains that the mediation is on the word, sentence and text level, i.e. on purely human communication channels (Nida & Taber 1969:180 No. 5; see FN 30). This leads to a hermeneutic circular conclusion, which entrusts the care of the writing to the global “church”, but this “divine word” is at the same time regarded as the foundation of the same. In addition, from a translational perspective, the client or the clients, who usually assume a “sacred” work from the outset due to religious motivation, determine the Skopos of a translation of the Bible. Here, it was assumed, literal translations supposedly reflected, so to speak, greater “text accuracy” than communicative ones. In this sense, it should also be mentioned that «Bible translators» do not have to be theologians, but primarily have the ability to transfer content from a foreign linguistic-cultural context to their own or to another. There are examples, e.g. Menge-Translation in which not a theologian but an ancient philologist translated the entire bible (Haacker 2015: 11; see FN 3).7Let me emphasize following: In my opinion, a mistake is made between transfer and translation. An information «transmission» is literally a literal translation from one language group into another. A radio “transmission” represents a one-to-one transmission from a transmitter to a receiver. Change is not possible. In this sense it is better to speak of “paraphrase”, “free translation” or “free to speak transmission”. In my opinion, the semantic variation of “transference” as a “free interpretation of a text” is a metaphor, especially used in the ecclesiastical world, to discredit unpleasant translations and to suspect falsification. Incidentally, it is a German phenomenon, since there is no verbal distinction in the Anglophone and Francophone area. However, there is a clearer distinction between paraphrase and translation.

The attributes of Bible translation textuality, accuracy and intelligibility play an important role. Between these, the translators weigh up their translation proposals. You have to decide to what extent you bring the base text to the reader or to what extent you bring the listener to the base text. The translation scientist Venuti introduces the terms domestication and alienation/ foeignisation (2008: 50).8Venuti, Lawrence S. [1995] 2008. The Translator’s Invisibility: A history of translation. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

The spectrum ranges from: interlinear (literally)9Das Alte Testament: Interlinearübersetzung Hebräisch-Deutsch 2003. Steurer, Rita Maria. Holzgerlingen: Hänssler. Das Neue Testament: Interlinearübersetzung Griechisch-Deutsch 2003. Dietzfelbinger, Ernst. Holz­gerlingen: Hänssler. DaBhaR – DIE GESCHRIEBENE des Alten Bundes und DIE GESCHRIEBENE des Neuen Bundes 1989. 2. Bde. Baader, Fritz Henning. Schömberg: Eigenverlag.,
to literal (e.g. Elberfeld Bible 198010Revidierte Elberfelder Bibel (ELB) 1992. Wuppertal: Brockhaus. Die Heilige Schrift. Elberfelder Über­setzung. Edition CSV Hückeswagen.),
communicative, free translations (Volxbible, Bible in just language) to
paraphrases (comic bibles, Jörg Zink Bible).

The boundaries are fluid and to some extent artificial, as they depend on the subjective understanding of the audience.11Habituation and tradition lead to a loss of awareness of whether content is understood or not. The term “father” was given an extension through the biblical context that was not translated into everyday language use. “Father of many peoples” (Gen 17: 5; similar to Gen 4:21 “Father of all who play the zither” etc.) would never be said in normal usage about a ruler, leader or patriarch. The term “progenitor” has only been used in the church as a term, otherwise “ancestor”, “ancestor”, or “origin of family” is used. The Luther Bible is said to balance between literal and communicative units (Schwarz 1986: 29; Kretzmann quoted in Nida 1964: 29)12Schwarz, Werner 1986. Schriften zur Bibelübersetzung und mittelalterlichen Übersetzungstheorie. Hamburg: Friedrich Wittig. Nida, Eugene A. 1964. Toward a Science of Translating – with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating. Leiden: Brill.. Such a change ultimately occurs more or less in all translations, as every Bible translator knows from experience. Two things have to be decided when translating literally. Firstly, to what extent unknown facts are transferred to the linguistic-cultural world of the audience. An example is the term “savior”, which is used as an equivalent for מוֹשִׁ֣יעַ moschia (e.g. Ps. 17: 7) or σωτήρ sōtër (e.g. Lk 2:11). The term “savior” has been attested since the 8th century and is interpreted christologically by Luther. It stands for “savior” (in LÜ 1984 35x). Furthermore, one had to introduce this understanding as new facts in a linguistic-cultural context. Another example is from the term tabernacle that is מֹועֵ֑ד אֹ֣הֶל moed ohel “tabernacle”. Until then, this facility was not known in German (in LÜ 1984 174x). Another example is the translation of hebr. חֵן hen “grace” into the Greek χάρις xaris «favor, mercy, goodness» (302x), which often should not be reproduced concordant-philologically.

In this context, the deviation from grammatical-syntactic peculiarities of the source language and the impossibility of a complete philological-concordant transmission between two languages should also be mentioned. Just think of idiomatic expressions or grammatical constructions if they can only be translated idiomatically and in context.

Another criterion for any translation activity is its intuitive orientation, which is also a limitation. Translation is always an intuitive approach. Intuition is significant. This creates deviations, changes, but also reformulations. Both literal and free or communicative translation offer only an approximation. All models and theories of translation agree on this. The attributes “loyalty to the text” and “closeness to the word” stand for the question of whether you want to bring the grammatical-philological peculiarities of the source languages closer to the audience. If, on the other hand, the target language with all its peculiarities is to be emphasized, the translation follows the attribute “intelligibility” (preface in the New Geneva Translation 2015: VII).13New Geneva translation (2015), see here: Notes for the reader, p. VII.

3. First-Bible Translations – Framework Conditions

Let us start with first Bible translations from the global Christian ministry because they require framework conditions that differ from revision and new Bible translations.

Globalization and the spread of ideological, religious or economic systems, such as socialism, capitalism, Marxism, radicalism, nationalism and world religions, to name but a few, lead to migration movements that generated new linguistic and cultural identities of people and groups of people (e.g. migrant workers, mercenary armies, multi-national citizens etc.). The identity feature “language” or “mother tongue” is not always establishing the identity and is irrelevant in some places, especially in the diaspora. One example is the “migrant workers”, which also include forced labor performance through targeted indebtedness (forced labor slaves). From poor, mostly Asian countries, these are attracted to the major construction sites of world organizations (FIFA World Cups; International Olympic Committee – Olympics; Urban Development; Panama Canal; World Exhibition etc.). International languages (so-called lingua franca) replace the mother tongue, whereby consciously or unconsciously untrained bilingual people are used as mediators (translators). Many languages from small language groups are never written and are therefore not preserved in the long term.14Language dying, language death, cultural and language changes are complex processes that are increasingly commented, examined and described. However, the description of such processes does not stop them. The description serves more to preserve the ethnic-linguistic profile of the world community. Sociolinguistics offers corresponding description models and instruments (Fasold 1993:213, 215, 239). Fasold, Ralph [1984] 1993. The Sociolinguistics of Society. Oxford: Blackwell. In such contexts, Bible translators increasingly make use of oral translations (oral translations), since these language groups are critical of writing without a focus or hope on further pedagogical development. Verbal translations of this kind are available audio-visually as audio text or as video in the context of digital media (e.g. on the Internet, as an app, a file or video display). In many cases, the oral retelling is no longer written down (oral products), but written biblical products only emerge when needed as part of language development. These are created and published based on the retelling, the biblical base text, as well as socio-linguistically significant Bible translations, e.g. linguistically related national language or language of wider use.

Another aspect of first bible translations is the inclusion of native-speaking translators who are encouraged to study translation principles. As a selective criterion, the ability to translate outweighs theological-exegetical knowledge. The United Bible Societies (UBS) has been promoting this since the 1960s. At the same time, however, they only focused on translation projects in which there were ethnic churches or Christian groups. Since the late 1990s, other Bible translation organizations have also begun to translate not “for” but “with” the public. One step further, Bible translation projects are only supported on site and only by native speakers (Meurer 2001:16). It was realized that an audience only accepts a translation as „own“, if it has also gone through the process of becoming local (:15-16). Modern digitization, in turn, runs counter to this process, since manufacturing and distribution channels are now so diverse that it is difficult to realize joint projects for larger (language) groups. The individualization within the framework of social networks or “ego media” (on the self-presentation focusing social media) is almost limitless. All the more as to those contexts where the dominance of a national or common language puts political groups at a disadvantage due to political and social pressure. Overall, Bible translation organizations today deal with ethnic minorities, regardless of whether there are Christian translators or a local church. Corresponding political tensions with government leaderships that are critical of Christianity are bridged at the local level or in the diaspora, but play a significant role in project planning and implementation.15The absolute majority of Bible translation projects worldwide are carried out by people who no longer live in their original language area. Mostly it is the big cities in their country, western-oriented countries or big Asian cities in which large ethnic groups settle. There, the work of translating the Bible with a foreign or other ethnic background is less noticeable and offers more test personnel. See Kim, S. Hun 2014. Diaspora Mission and Bible Translation, in Im, Chandler H. & Yong, Amos (eds.): Global Diasporas and Mission, 228-235. Oxford: Regnum Books International. Also online: URL: [PDF-File] [accessed 2020-07-20]. To my knowledge, the influence of the political and social environment on a modern revision Bible translation project has not yet been examined. Felber tried to indicate this by using Nida’s communicative translation theory (dynamic / functional equivalence), but falls short due to a self-critical reflection of his own church, which deals with the Luther translation just as dependent on the Zeitgeist. Felber, Stefan 2013. Communicative Bible Translation – Eugene A. Nida and His Model of Dynamic Equivalence. Stuttgart: German Bible Society.

UNESCO promotes so-called mother tongue instruction (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education MT-MLE). Since the year 2000, the mother tongue is celebrated annually on February 21, on the International Mother Tongue Day. This is just one-step to break down hurdles in such contexts. MLE offers everyone involved a Win-Win situation, since the training and work opportunities of educated, bilingual population groups increase enormously, thus relieving the state economically, politically and socially, among other things by gaining mutual trust.

The training of native-speaking translators in first Bible translation projects plays an outstanding role. They must be able to not only master the languages of the base text, but also be able to analyze the own language. It is about phonetic, phonological, morpho-syntactic, but also text grammatical peculiarities. Bible translations in closely related languages, especially if they have a long tradition, should be used as well as those that determine the linguistic-cultural environment (e.g. national languages). The biblical base text is the reference work. Local translators to such an extent must understand that the translation consultants can use it exegetically, when advising to jointly check the translated text. Since the 1960s, it has been criticized  that lexicons and commentaries on the Bible are not helpful to translators. Their word suggestions and literal translations are rarely discussed for translation problems.16Porter points out the changes in the historical development of New Testament commentaries. He does not list translation-related questions, which indicates that this is not a premise for the commentators (2013:51-53). Porter, Stanley E. 2013. The Linguistic Competence of New Testament Commentaries, in Porter, Stanley E. & Schnabel, Eckhard J. (eds.): On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries. Commemorative for Grant R. Osborne on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday, 34-56. Brill: suffering. Online: URL:… [PDF-File] [2017-04-10]. Moo lists two series of comments that break this charge, but these are a big exception (Moo 2013: 67-68). Moo, Douglas J. 2013. Translation in New Testament Commentaries, in Porter, Stanley E. & Schnabel, Eckhard J. (eds.): On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries. Commemorative for Grant R. Osborne on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday, 57-72. Brill: suffering. Online: URL:… [PDF-File] [2020-07-20]. Some tools that represent text-critical content relevant to translators are the UBS Handbook for Translators (comment-like information for Bible translators), the UBS4th ed Greek New Testament edition (2012) and A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Metzger (1975).17GNT 2014. The Greek New Testament. Aland, Kurt, et al. (Ed.). 5th edition of Holzgerlingen: German Bible Society. Metzger, Bruce M. 1975. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Corr. ed. London and New York: United Bible Societies. Others who build on this, such as B. Omanson and Metzger (2006) are mentioned here only briefly. Omanson, Roger L., & Metzger, Bruce M. 2006. A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual commentary for the needs of translators. Stuttgart: German Bible Society.

There is little planning in projects for first Bible translations because the actors can change quickly. This extends from the project management to the translators and the people who distribute the product.

A Bible translation project as a first translation usually involves the following phases:

Analysis of the cultural environment variants (anthropology) and linguistic peculiarities of the language group (linguistics) into which a Bible translation is sought. After phonetic-phonological and text grammatical analysis, an alphabet is suggested for writing (sociolinguistics).
A translation team starts with a gospel, e.g. the Gospel of Luke18Luke’s Gospel offers the best historical overview of what happened to Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.. At the same time, native translators are trained in their own language (linguistics) and culture (anthropology), the languages of the base biblical text (exegesis and hermeneutics) and the theory and practice of translation (translation studies).
The project extends to oral translation, online products (e.g. cultural website) and cultural-linguistic studies (e.g. grammar; ethnography, exegetical aids) around the language group. The goal is to drive the writing of the language forward.
Bible texts are checked by translation consultants, initially tested by a sample audience and finally tested for intelligibility in worship or in evangelism. After subsequent and final processing with everyone involved, a product can go to print or online (app, PDF, interactive website).
Bible translation projects as a first translation offer the opportunity to try out and generate new translation and communication theories. This is due, since no established traditional structures counteract the translation process (see below). This has resulted in many empirical values and innovations. The dynamic equivalence (Nida 1964; Taber & Nida 1969; de Waard & Nida 1986), the frame models (e.g. Katan 1999) and also the relevance theory translation approach (Gutt 1992 and 2000) have developed in this way.19Nida, Eugene A. 1964. Toward a Science of Translating – with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating. Leiden: EJ Brill. (TASOT). Nida, Eugene A. & Taber, Charles R. 1969. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: EJ Brill. (TAPOT). Waard, Jan de & Nida, Eugene A. 1986. From One Language to Another: Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation. Nashville: Nelson. (FOLIA). Katan, David 1999. Translating Cultures: An Introduction for Translators, Interpreters and Mediators. Manchester: St. Jerome.Gutt, Ernst-August 1992. Relevance Theory: A Guide to Successful Communication in Translation. Dallas: SIL International / UBS. Gutt, Ernst-August [1991] 2000. Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context.2nd .ed Manchester: St. Jerome. Vermeer, Hans J. 1978. A framework for a general translation theory. Living languages 23/1, 99-102. Munich: Langenscheidt. Nord, Christiane [1997] 2001. Translating as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained. Reprint. Manchester: St. Jerome.

First Bible translations also serve as a test bed for new theories from translation science, such as the Skopos theory (Vermeer 1989) or the functional approaches (Nord 2001).20In detail Werner 2011:102-193. Werner, Eberhard 2011. Bibelübersetzung in Theorie und Praxis: Eine Darstellung ihrer Interdisziplinarität anhand der Ausbildungspraxis. Hamburg: Kovač.The only German-language translation of the Bible from an explicitly functional point of view is the INSEL translation: Berger, Klaus & Nord, Christiane 1999. Das Neue Testament und frühchristliche Schriften. Frankfurt am Main: Insel. An interplay of applied translation science, missiology and theology is brought about, which leads in retrospect into the increasing integration of translational knowledge in these disciplines. Whereas new Bible translations prove to be creative and dynamic Bible translations (e.g. Volxbibel etc.), revisions are far more modest and try to keep up with the initial translation tradition (e.g. Luther Bible, Einheitsübersetzung). Last we find in the missiological context of first Bible translations a tendency that holds on to the traditional, the philological-concordant translation method. Again new Bible translations are more open to the fruits of missiology as shown by online Bibles and those that follow political correctness.

The definition of a translation style moves between literal and communicative theories. It is interesting that native translators for first Bible translations usually translate in a philological-concordant manner to guarantee accuracy. This means that they follow the literal and concordant-philological translation approach. The tendency is to counter each term from the base text with an equivalent in their target language. Only a training on communicative and translational opportunities allows for a communicative approach. Interestingly, this is not demonstrated the case with consecutive interpreting. The reasons are probably on a religious level.

First Bible translations arise in a space in which there is still no written form or tradition of biblical terms. Therefore, those are abstracted from the cultural and linguistic environment. In other words, an effect of the first Bible translation is to generate “key terms” or better “biblical key concepts” (Harmelink 2012:32) for the first time.21Harmelink, Bryan 2012. Lexical Pragmatics and Hermeneutical Issues in the Translation of Key Terms. Journal of Translation (JOT) 8/1, 25-35. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Also online: URL: [PDF] [accessed 2020-06-29]. One example is the term Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Iësous Christos “Jesus Christ”, where ὁ χριστός ho christos “the Christ” (e.g. Acts 9:34) was introduced directly from Greek. Nowadays, this obscures the meaning of the anointing and oiling, as it corresponds to the Greek Μεσσίας «Messiah», Hebrew משִׁיחַ mašiaḥ «Messiah» (e.g. the anointing of King David 1Sam 16:13; also FN 46). In this context, closely related languages should be used or taken into account, since possible Bible translations have already accomplished this service or will still do so based on the newly emerging ones. “Biblical key concepts” are specific linguistic metaphors that cover the religious environment of the biblical world. They are central to local theologies. This includes, for example, terms such as “sin” (see FN 49), “salvation”, “reconciliation”, “law” and their semantic word fields. This also includes the names of God and proper names. The tradition of a revision of the Bible is based on the philological adherence to such terminology. The associated teaching on “metaphors” describes the special position of central theological concepts in one language. Metaphors are divided into their use in everyday life (Lakoff and Johnson 2003), as universal metaphors are in semantics (Goddard 1994) and the hermeneutical effects of metaphors (Ricoeur 1974).22Lakoff, Georg & Johnson, Mark [1980] 2003. Metaphors We Live By. 2nd. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. So online: URL: [accessed 2020-06-10]. Goddard, Cliff 1994. Semantic Theory and Semantic Universals, in Goddard, Cliff & Wierzbicka, Anna (eds.): Semantic and Lexical Universals: Theory and Empirical Findings, 8-29. Amsterdam: John Benjamin. Ricoeur, Paul 1974. Stellung und Funktion der Metapher in der biblischen Sprache, in Ricoeur, Paul & Jüngel, Ernst (Hg.): Metapher. Zur Hermeneutik religiöser Sprache, 24-45. Sonder­heft Evangelische Theologie. München: Kaiser. All of these approaches indicate that special attention is paid to them when translating. At the same time, they solidify due to a “traditional awareness” of salvation truths that are often indissoluble. In addition to terminology, grammatical constructs can also solidify here, e.g. “in Christ” instead of “connected to Christ”, “near Jesus” or “in agreement with Christ” (e.g. Rom 8:1).

In First Bible translations the translation team includes theological, anthropological and linguistic consultants, project managers and native-speaking translators. In the case of a local church, the weight shifts in favor of native theological, anthropological and linguistic advisors. Most of the funding and project management comes from outside.

The particularly rapid digital development in first Bible translations has not yet taken root in new or revision Bible translations. In the digital age, computer programs such as ParaText (UBS), FleX (SIL), ScriptureAppBuilder (SIL) and many others support communication for team translation even across time zones and distances. They facilitate the development of the basic biblical text and the translation based on the simultaneous display of many parallel texts and exegetical tools and the simultaneous automatic comparison of text changes.23ParaText allows simultaneous viewing of the base text, viewing two reference translations and creating your own translation in a pre-formatted blank field (counting, chapter heading and footnote formatting) and on a larger screen. The translated text is automatically sent to a preselected group that can work on the same text at the same time. Fieldworks (FleX) is a linguistic program that allows self-built dictionaries. It can be coupled with Paratext and can automatically match word content with the biblical text from Paratext and thus show inconsistencies or deviations. Ethnographic-anthropological observations on a keyword can also be called up and taken into account in the translation process. The publication of test texts on social media and in native-language forums offers the possibility of interactive discussion and testing and checking for intelligibility. The distribution of native-language Bible translations as a product via apps, on websites of native-language organizations and on social media is more promising and prestigious than in the mostly critically eyed Christian bookstores in many states that understand Christian faith as a western political product or propaganda.

4. Revision Bible translations – Framework Conditions

Exegetical experts who translate in their own mother tongue context carry out revision and new Bible translations. Longstanding Christian traditions have generated exegetical tools and expertise in the field of the base Biblical text and its interpretation. The theologically trained translators are well versed and usually decide, in several runs, according to the majority principle, which suggestions they want to take. In these projects, the exegetical-theological ability is rated much higher than the ability to translate. Revision Bible translations have a high degree of planning security because the actors and the project are integrated into fixed structures.

In the case of revisions, attention is paid to a certain tradition, which should be recognizable throughout. So it is often spoken of “review”, “revision” or “new edition” to indicate the continuation of a tradition.24On the Luther Bible 2017: Bibelreport IV 2010. Durchsicht der Lutherbibel, 14. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Revisions are continuing a certain linguistic and stylistic translation tradition. The history of the reception of the German Bible translations shows this particularly clearly in the Luther translation and the Elberfeld Bible. In the Latin area, the centuries-old Vulgate tradition stands out. Given the preservation of tradition, only text-critical knowledge is carefully incorporated and moderate adjustments of language and style made.25Werlitz describes the revision process as follows in the appendix to the 2016 standard translation: “The revision should therefore be carried out moderately and the text inventory with its long-established basic tone should be preserved as far as possible” (2016: 1448). Werlitz, Jürgen 2016. I. Die Einheitsübersetzung der Heiligen Schrift und ihre Revision: Ein einführender Überblick. Die Bibel – Einheitsübersetzung der Heiligen Schrift 2016, 1447-1452. Gesamtausgabe. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Likewise, the revision of the Luther Bible 2017: “Those parts that are incomprehensible or misunderstood today were changed very carefully” (Bedford-Strohm 2017: Foreword). Bedford-Strohm, Heinrich 2017. Vorwort. Die Bibel nach Martin Luthers Übersetzung. Lutherbibel Revidiert 2017 mit Apokryphen. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

A revision Bible translation rests both on an exegetical analysis of the base text and on a story of interpretation that led to theological reference works such as exegetical aids, comments and translation aids.

Due to their reception history, revisions are subject to a hermeneutic circle. They influence theology, hermeneutics and the tools derived from them, but are based on them at the same time. This results in a linguistic continuum that can hardly overcome the self-imposed hurdles. This is also evident in the area of a semantic-philological choice of words and commentary. This problem has been noticed for some time. Beginning with James Barr’s Bible Exegesis and Modern Semantics (1965), the line continues through Moisés Silva and his Biblical words and their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics ([1983] 1994). Peter Cotterell & Max Turnertake up their critical observations Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation (1989) and more recently John Lee in his A History of New Testament Lexicography (2003).26Barr, James 1961. The Semantics of Biblical Language. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [Dt.: Barr, James 1965. Bibelexegese und moderne Semantik: Theologische und linguistische Methode in der Bibelwissenschaft. München: Chr. Kaiser.]. Silva, Moisés [1983] 1994. Biblical words and their meaning. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Cotterell, Peter & Turner, Max 1989. Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experience. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press. Lee, John Al 2003. A History of New Testament Lexicography. Studies in Biblical Greek 8. New York: Peter Lang. They point out that the interaction of Bible translations, lexicons and comments are subject to a circular conclusion. Once defined terms are stylized into sacred content and appear repeatedly, this also applies to grammatical and idiomatic content.27The example of the term σριστός Christos has already been mentioned (see FN 32). Böhm gives an example of the change from “Jewish” to “Judaic”. Böhm, Martina, Ursula 2016. Warum sich Josef nun (besser) in das judäische Land aufmacht und die Prophetin Hanna (leider) um 21 Jahre jünger geworden ist: Chancen und Probleme der Revision der Lutherbibel, an Beispielen aus dem Lukasevangelium gezeigt. Evangelische Theologie: Die Revision der Lutherbibel für das Jahr 2017, 76/4, 281-293. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus. With each revision, the question that is asked repeatedly is to what extent one can or would like to break away from the source text. In the current tendency to stick to tried and tested structures (source text), the afore mentioned circular reasoning is hardly countered. Usually only text-critical changes are included, but they only affect the content and not the form. Jesus is no longer led “by the devil” into the desert, but is suddenly “in the desert”. The prophetess Hanna «was a widow of eighty-four years» while in Luther 1545 «« Vnd was only a widow / four and eighty-eighty years », that is 84 years a widow and thus 105 years of life when meeting the parents of Jesus (Böhm 2016:282-285).28Luke 4: 1: «But Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, came back from the Jordan. And he was led around in the desert by the spirit (2) for forty days and tried by the devil … ». Another example from Lk 2:36. Here there is a difference in the age of the prophetess Hanna by 21 years. Regarding the prophetess Hanna, the 1545 Luther text says: “After her virginity, she had lived with her husband for seven years”, while in 1984 it was translated: “… she had lived with her husband for seven years after she married.” (Böhm 2016:248).

Revisions require linguistic expertise from native speakers, but are themselves subject to the hermeneutic circle and the Skopos (translation mandate) of the project, as the longstanding tradition prevents linguistic-cultural innovations.29«Overall, it can be said that the outdated words, which are either no longer understood or have changed their meaning, have a significant part in the sound of the Luther Bible. So it seems to be secondary whether the recipient has any chance of understanding the meaning at all – think of the ‹holdselig› »that has been cited again and again (Kocher 2016: 263). Those advise the native-speaking exegetes in the choice of words and syntactic content. Such experts are poets, writers or Germanists (linguists). The translation team is consequently made up of theological and linguistic experts.

The hurdles for revision translations are high because many participants have to be involved. In addition, financial and prestige-oriented reasons also play a role, so that publishers and auditors have an interest in having a product on offer as a long-term project and thereby making a name for themselves. The hurdles mentioned are so high because the revision committee is bound by decisions to develop, advice, examine and publish. This preparatory work is time-consuming, but the revision processes even more.30In detail Kähler 2016 (see FN 9), Kocher 2016 (see FN 15), Böhm 2016 (see FN 38).

The digitization of Bible translations and their tools also supports the work of the auditors, since the same text can be worked on at the same time and this can be populated with comments and formatting. The test runs can now take place on social media and quickly point out problems. Online Bibles such as the Volxbibel and the BasisBibel benefit from the constant revision process of a digital community that deals with the Bible text in a timely manner.

5. New Bible Translations – Framework Conditions

New Bible translations arise in contexts in which there are already mother tongue Bible translations. In these projects, the exegetical-theological ability is valued as more important than the ability to translate, because the exegesis of the base text is accompanied by the theological-exegetical examination of the same-language reference Bibles. New Bible translations stand out from the existing Bible translations due to a substantive or formal reorientation of a uniform translation. Four constituents generate new Bible translations.

a) Focus on a specific target audience (social segments; religious differentiation; e.g. Volxbibel 16-year-old; Roman Catholic readership),

b)  Application of a theoretical model of translation not yet used (e.g. Insel-Translation by Berger & Nord 1999 – functional approach; Turkish Kutsal Kitab see above 2001 – dynamic equivalence),

c)  Application of an already known translation theory (e.g. Good News Bible 1980 – dynamic equivalence)31Gute Nachricht Bibel(GNB) [1997] 2000. Im Auftrag und in Verantwortung der evangelischen Bibelgesellschaften und katholischen Bibelwerke in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Revidierte Fassung 1997, aus Anlass der neuen Rechtschreibung durchgesehen. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.,

d) Use of a different or new translation style (e.g. das buch32das buch – Standardausgabe: Das Neue Testament 2009. Werner, Roland. Witten: SCM Brockhaus.) or media format (e.g. online Bibles such as the Volxbibel or the Basis Bibel33BasisB: Grund genug zu leben – Die Bibel interaktiv 2017. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibel­ge­sell­schaft. Und Online: URL:­bibel­text [Stand 2017-04-06].).

Despite a realignment, there is a linguistic, exegetical and formal orientation towards the existing theological tradition. This has been initiated by an existing Bible translation or Bible translations for this language area. For example, Martin Luther and the theologians translating with him. The relevant German translations34More than 40 still used German translations are known. At least the Koberger Bible, the Zainer Bible and that of Hans Otmar were available to Luther and his translation team. Nevertheless, “the assumption that Luther used a late medieval Bible translation was refuted by research” (in Hövelmann 1989: 22). The Cologne Bible from 1480 was also known and known to theologians (Worth 1992: 42, 44). Worth, Roland H. jr. 1992. Bible Translations: A History through Source Documents. London: McFarland. of their time influenced the translation linguistically as well as by the exegetical aids known at the time (Haacker 2015:12; see FN 3). The fourfold sense of the script determined this late medieval epoch, from which a theoretical, a practical or a speculative Biblicism resulted. The Bible was considered the binding element of Church in its entire letters for all times (Hövelmann 1989:22-23). Added to this was Luther’s Christological approach, which was also reflected in the language. This is evident on many levels, especially on linguistic characteristics.35The terms «Savior» and «Tabernacle» have already been discussed above. This discussion includes the introduction of the Greek capital letter Χριστός Xristos «Christus» (e.g. Mt 1:16; see FN 32). From the Hebrew term משִׁיחַ meṣiaḥ “Messiah”, he developed through Greek Μεσσίας Messiah to the proper name in German. ψευδόχριστος pseudoxristos «false Christs» in Mt 24:24 and Mk 13:22. Here the term “false savior” would be more meaningful. Nevertheless, a footnote should indicate the antipode to Christ. Also other grammatical constructions are foundational to the «Luther tradition», like the well-known «und es begab sich aber» “(and) it happened (but)” (e.g. Genesis 4:3; 94x in LUT84), the νεανίσκος neaniskos «Jüngling» “young man” ( Genesis 4:23, Mark 16:5, etc .; 14x in LUT84; Thayer 3585) or the ζωὴ αἰώνιος zōë aiōnios «ewiges Leben» “eternal life” (e.g. Mt 19:29, Rom 6:23; 31x; Thayer 2365 and 172) . Insofar as later encyclopaedias and commentaries were inspired and guided by this tradition in the choice of words and interpretation, a hermeneutic circle has closed that has had an influence above all in the traditional churches.36Pasors (1622) Etyma nominum propriorum itemque analysis Hebraeorum, Syriacorum et Latinorum vocabulorum quae in novo testamento uspiam occurruntStand standPassow (1823) Dictionary of the Greek language Godfather. This in turn influenced Pape (1842), Schöttgen-Krebs-Spohn (1717 and 1790) and Wilke-Grimm1 (1868), Schleusner (1829) and Cremer (1867), Preuschen (1910) and Preuschen & Bauer (1923) and later Bauer3 (1937; Lee 2003: 8-11). Cremer became the template for Kittel (ThWNT1933-1979) and other biblical dictionaries (e.g. Bauer6 1988). Here are just the beginnings: Pasor, Georg [1622] 1686. Etyma nominum propriorum itemque analysis Hebraeorum, Syriacorum et Latinorum vocabulorum quae in novo testamento uspiam occurrunt. Orig. Herborn 1622. Further ed. Goslar, 1639; London, 1644. Leipzig: Sumptibus Joh. Friedrich Gleditsch. Passow, Franz [1823] 1993. Handwörterbuch der griechischen Sprache. 4 Bände. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Cremer, Hermann [1867] 1915. Biblisch-theologisches Wörterbuch der neutestamentlichen Gräcität. Gotha: F. A. Perthes. (10. Aufl., bearb. v. Kögel, Johannes. Gotha 1911-1915). [Engl.: Passow, Franz [1823] 1993. Dictionary of the Greek language. 4 volumes. Darmstadt: Scientific Book Society. Cremer, Hermann [1867] 1915. Biblical-theological dictionary of New Testament grace. Gotha: FA Perthes. (10th ed., Edited by Kögel, Johannes. Gotha 1911-1915)]. The biblical key concepts already mentioned have not been resolved linguistically to this day, although they have become incomprehensible or misleading. Here tradition is more important than intelligibility. Some new Bible translations want to break down these linguistic-cultural hurdles (e.g. Volxbibel, Bible in just language, New Geneva translation).

In the course of Christianization, a culture internalizes biblical content. This happens both through language and through religious and everyday customs. The public ecclesiastical life plays a role here as well as the individual faith of the individual.37This development is the reason why, due to the proclamation and the expansion of church structures, the German pantheon of gods slowly took a back seat. Such is observed wherever the biblical message takes root. Cultural practices are aligned with the biblical norm, which has a linguistic effect. An example is the formula “Grüß Gott”, a short form of “I greet you [in the name of] God” in the southern German dialects or countless proverbs. Obviously, we also find a derivation of Biblical greetings in the phrase. Over time, the contents become independent and lose all or part of their biblical-spiritual substance. Then a linguistic-conceptual renewal is necessary, which should also be reflected in the Bible translation.38One example is the development and interpretation of the term ἁμαρτία „failure” to hamartia «sin, guilt, transgression» (Thayer 277). In the ecclesiastical context, such a concept describes the “failure to achieve a life without reference to God”, while in everyday life this resulted in unreasonable actions (“I eat too much” – I sin against myself) or violations of moral norms (“she is bullying constantly”) (see German Duden entry “Sünde” sin).

New Bible translations have consciously or unconsciously turned away from such traditions. New language-theoretical or translational knowledge, religious demarcations or stylistic peculiarities motivate Bible translators to write their own Bible translation. The following rarely mentioned self-critical points should also be considered: a) the urge for self-expression, b) the enrichment of reading variations for religious groups and c) financial aspects. Religious works, individuals or groups are under high pressure of expectations. In some cases, self-portrayal (a) is stimulated in such a way that a new Bible translation is understood the only way out. In the case of organizations and institutions dealing with Bible translations or the distribution of Biblical products (publishers, societies, Christian works), this can lead them to starting projects themselves, encouraging or commissioning others to do so.

In the digital age, it is primarily target group-oriented Bible translations that aim at a certain smaller group of people (modern language, youth language, professional groups, and local groups). The idea of ​​contributing a linguistically stylistic translation of the Bible to the existing market (b) is not fundamentally new, but has recently taken on new forms due to the simplification of exegetical development, printing options and publication. Creation cycles of a few years for a New Testament are possible.

Financial aspects (c) go hand in hand with the self-presentation of the Bible translators, but they can also be a motivation in themselves. After all, Bible translations allow you to conquer a secure commercial market. Furthermore, a Bible translation enables a market to be tapped for a longer period. Similar to a comment or lexicon that has to be revised and reissued, a long-term project is formed that can be interesting for commercial institutions like editing houses.

Depending on the context of a project, new Bible translations fluctuate between high or low planning security. There are hardly any risks in contexts in which the required actors are integrated into fixed structures and the project is funded, but where the financing, the political situation or the tasks of the project are uncertain.

In the digital age, online Bibles offer an ideal platform to collectively design the creation process, test translation proposals and discuss the text. The project Open Bible39Offene Bibel. Online Bibel. 3 Bibeln in einem Projekt. Studienversion, Leichte Sprache, Lesefassung. Frankfurt: Offene Bibel e.V. Online: URL: [Stand 2020-08-30]. [Engl.: Open Bible. Online Bible. 3 Bibles in one project. Study Version. Easy Language. Reading variety. Frankfurt: Open Bible e. V.]. goes so far as to create several types of Bible translations at the same time in order to appeal to a wide range of users (study Bible, Bible in simple language and an utility Bible).

The reasons given here are not intended to reduce the value of a Bible translation, they only show the range of options for new Bible translations.

6. A Comparison – Overview

The comparison of all three types of Bible translation projects shows the following environmental variables:

1)   Socio-cultural background of a Bible translation project. Who’s the audience? A broad social class or micro-cultures (subculture), target group orientation, Christian or non-Christian context.

2)   Linguistic-cultural component. Which social and linguistic influences are taken into account, meet each other or which linguistic-cultural demands do people make in translation?

3)   Economic factors that create interests. Who finances the project and how does this influence the project workflow? Is it a long-term project with profit sharing by an organization (e.g. local Bible Society)?

4)   Skopos, project plan and process flows. Is theological-exegetical knowledge preferable to translation skills? Are specific translation theories applied? These points must be determined in advance in all translation projects. They bind the participants together and serve to advise and solve problems. In case of high fluctuation in the project, they are important to the integration of new participants.

If you go through these points, Bible translations as revisions are positioned on the socio-religious micro level by looking through existing ones, changing them (shortening, adding, reformulating) and adapting them stylistically to language changes. The base text is already anchored in an environment, where it fulfills the religious expectations of believers. Theological-exegetical knowledge is superior to the ability to translate in the mother tongue.

First Bible translations move on the socio-religious macro level, since they have to conceive new and create new environmental variables in order to anchor the translation in an existing context.

New Bible translations operate both on the religious-social micro and on the macro level. They attract an audience that moves out of a religious environment and turns to new forms of well-known content. However, new Bible translations operate in a religiously influenced environment that the genre Bible translation is familiar.

In all three types, the Bible text can be changed (conditionally). Change, adaptation to linguistic-cultural innovations and thus transfer is rated positively. Texts are not so stable in themselves that they communicate undamaged over long periods. The processes of all three types are easier to design in the digital age. Social media simplify production, distribution and ongoing communication and special computer programs, can take place online promptly, and localized.

7. Conclusion and Outlook

In this article, I have outlined the broad features and the standards by which first, new, and Bible translations as revisions should be defined. Not everything was discussed by far, but the obvious basic features, similarities and differences were worked out.

The most striking thing was that new Bible translations are in contrast with the other two types and therefore occupy an intermediate position. However, they are more based on Bible translations as revisions because they take place in an environment that understands the genre “Bible translation”. New Bible translations stimulate revisions and first Bible translations because they offer the theologically experienced experts new missiological, theological, sociological, translational, anthropological and linguistic approaches.

First Bible translations take place in contexts for which the genre Bible translation was previously unknown or which reject Christian interventions. The project is about an emerging or already existing but small Christian community (minority), for whom the mother tongue translation of biblical content in oral or written form is important. The extinction and preservation (preservation or revitalization) of the mother tongue, the establishment and expansion of organizational structures (management structure, evangelization centers), the limitation to local social groups (different religion, different Christian understanding) or the participation in the global body of Christ can be motivational. The ability to transfer foreign content into one’s own context outweighs the slowly developing knowledge of theological-exegetical analysis. In consequence, local theologies are emerging. First Bible translations stimulate with their missiological approach Bible translations as revisions and new Bible translations, because they are guided by the communicative orientation in socio-religious terms.

An existing Christian community and its theology, on the other hand, form Bible translations as revisions. They change the external form of a tried and tested translation of the Bible, but leave the history of the reception or the tradition of the style. Knowledge of textual criticism and moderate stylistic adjustments to linguistic-cultural changes form the outermost interventions accepted by the corpus of the faithful. Theological-exegetical knowledge has top priority. Bible translations as revisions stimulate new Bible translations and first Bible translations by entering the latest scientific knowledge into a translation, which can serve as a reference for translators who are native speakers.

What all three types have in common is that they benefit from the digital age. Processes are accelerated, decentralized and can take place independent of time and space. Digitalization enables several translators to work on one text at the same time.

The three types differ fundamentally in the composition of the parties involved. Native-language translators form the core of first Bible translation. Around them consultants and project managers are grouping as an ideal that is often not put in reality. In Bible translations as revisions and new Bible translations native-speaking theological experts are involved. The objectives of the types also differ. First translations emphasize the mother tongue and bring new, previously unknown concepts into a linguistic-cultural context. Bible translations as revisions, on the other hand, build on and continue an existing translational tradition, whereby formal changes, such as adaptation to colloquial language, acquisition of text-critical knowledge, but no content-related ones are possible. New translations of the Bible break through these traditions, but are at the same time delivered to them to a certain extent, since they operate in the same linguistic-cultural range.

In the area of ​​the creative development of translation theories, there is a mutual interaction of all three types. All Bible translations are about balancing “intelligibility” and “fidelity to text” against each other, the experiences made are interesting for everyone involved, regardless of whether they are exegetical, interpersonal or linguistic. It is particularly important for Bible translations as revisions that mother tongue projects attach importance to “intelligibility” in their mostly non-Christian environment. Those groups of a population that are not addressed in Bible translations as revisions only play a minor role in translational considerations. Conversely, from the history of Bible translations as revisions, first Bible translations learn to recognize the product as the origin of a translational tradition that only unfolds in the course of its development. In conclusion, it can be said that there is no “right” Bible translation. Instead, a Bible translation is not right from its start, but “Bible translation is a professional performance” and other translations of the Bible are developing over the formation of clerical structures.

One area that the three types have to balance is the emphasis on translational skills as opposed to theological-exegetical considerations. This area is particularly important to the introduction of existing theologies in the case of revisions and new Bible translations as well as the development of theologies in case of first Bible translations. Both should flow into the translation in a balanced way, with accurate translations serving the communicative goal the most. Especially in contexts in which Bible translations already exist, new translations are usually only criticized for their (inadequate) theological-exegetical analysis, which in turn often emphasizes the translational area in the sense of a target group-oriented communicative Skopos.40The theological report on the Bible in just language argues only on the theological-exegetical level and the effects on local (Western Reformation) theology. The enrichments at the information level, e.g. that God’s sexlessness is perceived as disturbing (Wilckens 2007: 135-136). Wilckens, Ulrich 2007. Theologisches Gutachten zur “Bibel in gerechter Sprache”. Theologische beiträge. 03/38, 135-151. Haan: Brockhaus. [Engl.: Theological report on the “Bible in just language”. Theological articles.].




Interfaces and differences – a comparison

First Bible Translation


a) Audience: focus on a specific target audience – target group-oriented approach. Interested in native speakers who are open to inter-religious experience.

b) Project management (management, financing and advice) comes from outside, native-speaking translators are from the ethnic group.

c) Environmental variables: Bible translation as a Christian venture is viewed critically or rejected.

d) Language level: Depending on the target audience, but mostly everyday language of the middle class.

e) Digitization: Numerous Bible translation programs for exegetical editing, translation and distribution.

– Danger of paternalism and neo-colonialism as management and expertise come from outside.

– Expectations from outsiders are high (donors, translation consultants, etc.).

– Agreement about the process flows needed, in particular the translation by native translators, consultant functions and publication processes (written, digital, online).

– Ability to transfer foreign content into one’s own context predominates.

– Low security on planning: project plan precisely defined, but the actors can change quickly.

– Audience is inexperienced and therefore sometimes un- or supercritical.

– The focus is on a source text that communicates the biblical message in an understandable form to the mother-tongue church / social community.

Bible Translation

as Revision



a) Audience: Christian audience. Genre Bible translation is well known.

b) Skopos: review, revision of an existing text. Continuation of a history of tradition.

c) Language level: Upscaling to everyday language.

d) Digitization: Programs that enable simultaneous work and document the ongoing translation process are important.

– High level of planning security thanks to a sophisticated project plan, all actors know their roles.

– Expectation pressure from all sides is high.

– Theological-exegetical knowledge has the highest priority.

– Audience has high expectations.

– The focus is on a text that covers scientific issues and continues a church tradition.

New Bible translation



a) Audience: Christian audience. Genre Bible translation is well known.

b) Skopos: focus on a specific target audience – target group-oriented approach (social segments; religious differentiation; e.g. Volxbibel 16-year-olds, Einheitsübersetzung – Roman Catholic readership),

c) Language level: Depending on the target group.

d) Application of a theoretical model of translation not yet used (e.g. island translation by Berger & Nord 1999 see above),

e) Application of a known translation theory (e.g. Good News Bible 1980 by dynamic equivalence),

f) Use of a different or new translation style (e.g. the book) or media format (e.g. online Bible such as the Open Bible, Volxbibel or the Basic Bible).

g) Digitization: Numerous Bible translation programs for exegetical editing, translation and distribution.


– Audience knows the genre of Bible translation (s), but usually does not expect much.

– Integration of scientific knowledge, but also new methods of translation flow into the translation.

– Initiator (s) mostly follow new approaches and are therefore freer to make their decisions.

– The product differs from existing Bible translations, which is viewed critically by the existing church.

– Interaction between theological-exegetical knowledge and ability to translate in the mother tongue.