40. Eugene Nida
Professor Eugene Nida (11 November 1914 – 25 August 2011)
In honor of the late Prof. Nida, I publish a tribute by Prof. Hennie Stander, University of Pretoria.
We might not all know his name, but most believers are aware of his influence if you have a modern translation in your house.
For more than fifty years he led the team of translators of the United Bible Societies.
He developed a new method for the translation of the Bible, known as Dynamic Equivalence. According to this method meaning is translated rather than the words. Instead a word for word translation, thought for thought is translated.
His method impacted on several translations including the Good News Bible, Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, as well as the New International Version and the Message.
This method urges translators to also consider the cultural context. One example is found in Matthew 25:31-46; the parable of the sheep and the goats. Here the sheep represent those doing the will of God while the goats represent the disobedient. Nida points out that in many African countries sheep are seen as bad animals.
He had travelled a lot. By 1952 he had already visited more than 30 countries and helped with the translation of the Bible in more than 80 languages, especially training teams of translators.
He also made a great contribution in the field of lexicography, the study of lexicons. With Prof. Louw of the University of Pretoria he compiled a Greek-Eng Lexicon, used by theologians all over the world.
They developed a method for the making of lexicons. Instead of alphabetically, words are arranged according to their semantic fields. In a traditional lexicon the different meanings of a word is given, while in this new lexicon the different words with corresponding meaning are grouped together. Example: musical instruments are grouped together. A harp, trumpet and flute are grouped together, explaining their similarities and differences.
This contribution is not only utilized in Greek, but has expanded widely.
He also believed that translators should have access to a good source text. He was responsible for the first edition of the Greek New Testament of the United Bible Society.
He published many books, inter alia:
1964: Toward a Science of Translating
1969: Theory and Practice of Translation.
Eugene Nida as human:
He was a devout believer.
At young age he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at an altar call in his home church.
He had a brilliant personality and presented lively lectures.
Nida was a very humble man.
Together with my wife Lottie I had the privilege to visit him in Greenwich, near New York. In his beautiful house that he built himself, are many of his own wood carvings. He cares for the beautiful garden himself.
He had been married to Althea Nida, for more than fifty years until her death in 1993. Four years later he married the well known translator Elena Fernandez-Miranda. Until his death they lived in Brussels, Belgium.
In 1978 the Christian Herald honored him as the person who contributed more than anybody else to enable people all over the world to read the Bible in their home language.
I conclude with the words of his wife immediately after his death: “My adored husband has passed away 10 minutes ago. Thank you for your prayers. He was a saint. The Lord is with him.”
Eugene Nida served God, and left behind a valuable legacy.”
Personally I had the greatest reverence for this child of God and for the important contribution he made towards the translating of the Bible all over the world.
I thank Prof. Stander for permission to publish this tribute.