Is a Mechanical Translation Possible?
By Jeff A. Benner
I have been told that a word for word translation is not possible as each word can have several meanings and the context will determine how each word is to be translated. I have found that this is not exactly true and it is possible to translate each word the same each time it occurs. However, the problem is that we need to understand the Hebrew vocabulary from an Hebraic perspective. To demonstrate this philosophy, let me use the English word branch as an example.
What is a branch? I suppose that most of us would think of the branch of a tree such as in the sentence below.
The bird landed on the branch.
Now examine the word branch. in the following sentence.
The bank said there is a branch on 1st Street.
Notice that the same word is used, but the context shows a different application for this word. The word branch can also be used a the branch of a river, a family line or a branch of science.
The literal meaning of the word branch is a division or section.
The Hebrew word for a branch is מטה (mateh, Strong's #4294) and is used in the following passages.
Exodus 4:17 - and you will take this branch [staff] in your hand
Exodus 31:2 - The son of Hur, from the branch [tribe] of Judah
Isaiah 9:3(4) - For you have broken the yoke of his burden, and the branch [yoke] of his shoulder
Now let's look at a Hebrew word where the connections may not be as obvious. Each of the following passages have the Hebrew word איל (ayil, Strong's #352) meaning, someone or something that is strong and large in stature, a "buck."
Exodus 15:15 - the bucks [chiefs] of Moab
Exodus 29:16 - and you will slaughter the buck [a male from the sheep or goats]
Ezekiel 40:16 - and their bucks [posts] within the gate
Isaiah 61:3 - they will be called bucks [trees] of righteousness, a planting of YHWH
As demonstrated, a "Mechanical," word for word, translation is possible, but it will require the reader to learn the vocabulary of that translation from an Hebraic perspective rather than from an English perspective.