“Paraphrase” has been both misused and greatly criticized in recent times. Dictionaries define “paraphrase” as a rewording for the purpose of clarification. A paraphrase, then, is assumed to be in the same language as the source it is restating, and to reflect the same content, if not the same form, as that original source.

Two translations made from the same source may differ, but the results are not paraphrases of each other. Rather they are simply separate, and possibly divergent, translations from the same source.

From the considerations presented earlier in this article, it is easy to understand how translations may differ in legitimate ways. They can be equally valid expressions of what the translators understood about the author’s intentions.

A paraphrase, however, is properly so called only when it expresses, in different words, the content of something already in the language. If the meaning of the paraphrase is not the same as the meaning of the document being paraphrased, then it is not a paraphrase at all! It is thus erroneous to apply the word “paraphrase” to a translation for the purpose of implying that it has changed the meaning of the original.

Another problem with such misuse of the word “paraphrase” is that it encourages the question: “How does translation A compare or contrast with translation B?” The proper question is rather: “How successfully does either translation A or translation B express the content and the intent of the source document in the receptor language?” This is the vital concern, not how one translation differs from another.

This is an excerpt from The Origin of the Bible by F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, Philip Comfort, and Carl F. H. Henry. To read more, you can purchase this book from many Christian bookstores and online retailers, including Tyndale.com: https://www.tyndale.com/p/the-origin-of-the-bible/9781414379326

Elliot, R. L., et al. The Origin of the Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.