Original Research: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Towards redeeming ‘loyalty’ in functionalist Bible translation using the Hebrew ḥesed concept

Tobias J. Houston
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a7983 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.7983 | © 2023 Tobias J. Houston | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2022 | Published: 23 January 2023

About the author(s)

Tobias J. Houston, Department of Hebrew, Faculty of The Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein; and Baptist Mission Australia, Melbourne, South Africa


Within translation studies, functionalist translations and even more specifically, translations guided by Skopos theory are very much purposeful activities. Skopos theory applied to Bible translation, however, is sometimes met with resistance by practitioners who believe that Skopos theory betrays too much of the source text. This article began by outlining Skopos theory and the additional notion of loyalty as introduced by Christiane Nord. Even with loyalty applied to the theory, many Bible translation practitioners continue to fear it. After the initial presentation of Skopos theory plus loyalty, the Hebrew lexeme חֶסֶד (ḥesed) was introduced in this article and discussed in relation to its biblical use. The discussion of ḥesed was then widened to functionalist Bible translation to redeem the loyalty notion as applied to Bible translation. This article claimed that ḥesed as loyalty further helps to protect both the source text and target audiences from radical or unacceptable translations.

Contribution: Bible translation is a purposeful activity. This article attempted to allay the fears that some Bible translation practitioners have about the possibility of radical translations undertaken using Skopos theory. Loyalty as understood through the lens of the Hebrew חֶסֶד (ḥesed) was utilised afresh to allay these fears.


Bible translation; Skopos theory; Skopostheorie; translation model; loyalty; Translation Studies; ḥesed; functionalist translation; ethical translation; Christiane Nord

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