Translating God's Word

    The Making of a Worthy Translation

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:45 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    Exactly why are we making other translations beyond the King James Version of 1611? The King James Version has been the primary translation of the Christian community for 400 years (1611-2011). There is no doubt that this Bible alone has affected the lives of hundreds of millions and has influenced the principles in Bible translation for the past four centuries.

    Before we delve into what makes for a good translation, let us pause to consider the translation policy of the KJV translation committee. We can hardly talk about the KJV without looking at the translator William Tyndale (1494-1536), the man who published the first printed New Testament from the original language of Greek. In the face of much persecution, William Tyndale of England followed with his English translation from Erasmus’ Greek New Testament text, completing this while in exile on the continent of Europe in 1525.

    Tyndale respected and treasured the Bible. However, in his days, the religious leaders insisted on keeping it in Latin, a language that had been dead for centuries. Therefore, with the purpose of making it available to his fellow citizens, Tyndale was determined to translate the Bible into English. While the idea of Bible translation being against the law may be unfamiliar to the modern mind, this was not the case in Tyndale’s day. He was educated at Oxford University and became an esteemed instructor at The Cambridge University. Because of his desire to bring the common man the Bible in English, he had to flee from his academic career, escaping the Continent. His life became one of a fugitive, but he managed to complete the New Testament and some of the Old Testament, before he was finally arrested, imprisoned for heresy, and strangled at the stake, with his body being burned afterwards.

    Tyndale’s work sparked a widespread translation project that produced a new revision every couple of years, or so it seemed. The Coverdale Bible of 1536, the Matthew’s Bible of 1537, the Great Bible of 1539, the Taverner’s Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560 (went through 140 editions), the Edmund Becke’s Bible of 1549, the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, and the Rheims-Douay Bible of 1610. The King James Version is a revision of all these translations, as they too were of their predecessor, the Tyndale translation. The KJV translation committee was ordered to use the Bishop’s Bible as their foundation text, and was not to alter it unless Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew, Cranmer or the Great Bible, and the Geneva agreed, and then they were to assume that reading. Thus, the King James Version is unquestionably 90 percent William Tyndale’s translation.

    There is no other translation, which possesses more literary beauty than the King James Version. However, there are several reasons as to why there was a need to revise the King James Version. The first point is its textual bases, which is from the period of 1611. The Greek text behind the KJV New Testament is what is known as the Textus Receptus, a corrupt Greek text produced by a scholar in the 16th century, Desiderius Erasmus. Concerning this text, Dr. Bruce Metzger wrote that it was “a handful of late and haphazardly collected minuscule manuscripts and in a dozen passages its reading is supported by no Greek witnesses.” (Metzger 2003, 106) While most of the corruptions are considered insignificant, others are significant (1 Tim 3:16; 1 John 5:7; John 7:53-8:11; Mark 16:9-20) However, we cannot lay the blame at the feet of the translation committee of the KJV, for they did not have the textual evidence that we possess today.

    The second reason is that it comes from the 17th century and contains many archaic words that either obscure the meaning or mislead its reader: “howbeit.” “thee,” “thy,” “thou,” “thine,” and “shambles.” An example of misleading can be found in the word “let,” which meant to “stop,” “hinder” or “restrain” in 1611, but today means “to allow” or “to permit.” Therefore, when the KJV says that Paul ‘let the great apostasy come into the church,’ it is completely misleading. In 1611 “let” meant that he ‘restrained or prevented the apostasy.’ (2 Thess 2:7) The KJV at Mark 6:20 inform us “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him.” Actually, the Greek behind “observed him” means that Herod “kept him safe.”

    The third reason is that the KJV contains translation errors. However, like the first reason, it is not the fault of the translators, as Hebrew and Greek were just resurfacing as subjects of serious study after the Dark Ages. The discovery of papyrus writings in Egypt, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries has helped us to better understand the common (Koine) Greek of the first century C.E. These discoveries have shown that everyday words were not understood as well as had been thought. The KJV at Matthew 5:22 informs the reader “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council . . .” The ESV renders it, “whoever insults his brother will be liable (a term of abuse) to the council . . .” Scholar Walter C. Kaiser has said, “the actual insult mentioned by Jesus is the word ‘Raca’ as it stands in the KJV. The precise meaning of ‘Raca’ is disputed; it is probably an Aramaic word meaning something like ‘imbecile’ but was plainly regarded as a deadly insult.”[1]

    The translators that have come after the King James Version can draw much direction in what makes a worthy translation by considering the principles of translation that were followed in the production of the world’s most influential Bible. The translators endeavored to discover the corresponding English word for the actual original language word of Hebrew and Greek.

    According to Alister McGrath, the translators felt obligated to . . .

    1)     Ensure that every word in the original was rendered by an English equivalent;

    2)    Make it clear when they added any words to make the sense clearer, or to lead to better English syntax. . . .

    3)    Follow the basic word order of the original wherever possible.[2]


    A Worthy Translation is an Accurate Translation

    If asked what the number one priority in translation is, most translators would argue that the biggest responsibility is accuracy. However, if this conversation were between a translator of a literal or verbal corresponding (word-for-word) mindset and one of the thought-for-thought (sense-for-sense, meaning-based) mindset, the next question would be, ‘what do you mean by accuracy?’ The thought-for-thought translator would most certainly say, ‘to render the Biblical meaning of the original language text as accurately as possible into English.’ The literal side would return with, ‘to render the words and style of the original language text into a corresponding English equivalent word or phrase as accurately as possible.’ The dynamic equivalent translator is attempting to re-express what they believe the original language text meant into English, removing the need of interpretive reading for the modern-day Bible student; the literal translator wants to re-express what the original language text says into a corresponding English equivalent, leaving it up to the reader, to determine the meaning for himself.[3]

    How does the Bible reader know what the Bible means if they do not know what it says? If the reader is given what a translator has determined the meaning as, and not what it says, how does the reader determine its meaning as being accurate? Are they not shortchanging the reader from the right of having access to the very words of God; but instead, feeding them a regurgitated interpretation of what another thinks it means?

    A word-for-word corresponding equivalent translator expects the reader to ascertain the meaning of the words that were used by studying and researching the text; with helps of course: word-study dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries, and the use of exegetical principles, as well as by the Christian person who is carrying out a Bible study with them. Many sense-for-sense translators actually believe that the reader is too ignorant and too lazy to ascertain the meaning by study and reaching within those helps, so they provide it for them. If the reader has the meaning already in front of him by way of the translator, he has no way of getting back to what the texts says, to determine if the meaning is, in fact, correct. All translators know that there is theological bias in all of us, and we will at times, bend things to have it our way. Looking at the worst-case situation first, some translators violate grammar and syntax to get a theologically important verse to read according to their doctrinal position, and we are to trust them to give us a translation already interpreted for us?

    1 John 2:5, 15; 3:17; 4:9; 5:3 (New American Standard Bible, ©1995)

    in him the love of God has truly been perfected

    If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him

    how does the love of God abide in him

    By this the love of God was manifested in us

    For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments

    1 John 2:5, 15; 3:17; 4:9; 5:3 (New International Version, ©2010)

    love for God is truly made complete

    If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them

    how can the love of God be in that person

    This is how God showed his love among us

    this is love for God: to keep his commands

    1 John 2:5, 15; 3:17; 4:9; 5:3 (New Living Translation, ©2004)

    . . . obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him

    when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father

    how can God’s love be in that person

    God showed how much he loved us

    Loving God means keeping his commandments


    “Love of God” and “love of the Father”—what did the apostle John mean when he penned those words? Was he referring to the love that God has for us, or to our love for God, or the love that comes from God and is expressed through us to others? B. F. Westcott understood this to mean “the love that God has made known,” while F. F. Bruce came to an opposite conclusion: as meaning “our love for God.”[4] The reader of John’s epistle would have had to determine what John meant by the words that he used. Today’s reader should be given the same opportunity and responsibility; he must determine what was meant by the corresponding English words in an essentially literal translation. The sense-for-sense dynamic equivalent translations have come to opposite conclusions, meaning that both cannot be right. Therefore, it is best that the reader be given what was said, and carry the responsibility of determining what was meant by what was said.

    Words and Meaning

    The Dynamic Equivalent translator believes that somehow meaning exists apart from words. When asked in an interview for Christianity Today Magazine, “What do you consider your most important contribution to Bible translation?” Eugene A. Nida responded: “To help people be willing to say what the text means—not what the words are, but what the text means.” The interviewer goes on to ask, “How did you develop your ideas about Bible translation 50 years ago?” Nida replied:

    When I was at the University of California, Los Angeles, our professors would never let us translate literally. They said, "We want to know the meaning. We don't want to know just the words." I found that a number of the Greek classics had been translated very meaningfully, much better than the Bible had been translated. I thought it a tragedy to have the Scriptures in a form that most people misinterpret. Why should the Bible be so much more poorly translated than secular texts? I studied linguistics, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and I decided that we've got to approach the Scripture as though it is the message and try to give its meaning, not just to repeat the words.[5]

    What Nida left out of this discussion is that the goal of every literal translator is to convey the meaning of the Biblical language into the English language. The difference is that they believe this is best accomplished by giving the reader what was said, while Nida and his followers believe that the translator has to go beyond what is said into the realms of translating what is meant by what was said, because “they [you the reader] don't understand the text,” so says Nida.

    Does the translation seek to render into English what was said in the original language as correspondingly as possible? Take note that an accurate translation is not one that is going beyond the English equivalent, in search of rendering the meaning of those words, but is one that seeks to render the words of the original language text into an English equivalent (corresponding) word or phrase as accurately as possible. A translation is certainly inaccurate if the English edition does not correspond to the original, as a mirror reflection, in any of the following ways:

    • if all of the original words are not accounted for by an English equivalent;
    • if the translation has added to or taken away from the original in any way (this does not negate the fact that words may need to be added to complete the sense in the English translation);
    • Finally, if the meaning that the reader could derive by the corresponding English words has been affected, changed, in any way by an interpretive method.[6]

    Roughly, six months after John started preaching, Jesus comes to him at the Jordan. Jesus asks John to baptize him. At once John is in opposition to such an idea: "I have need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"” Yet, despite John’s objection, Jesus insists: 

    Matt 3:15 (NU)[7]—having answered, but the Jesus said to him, “allow now thusly for fitting it is to us to fulfill all rightness” Then he allowed him.

    Matt 3:15 (LEB)[8]—But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it now, for in this way it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted him.

    Matt 3:15 (CEV)—Jesus answered, "For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do." Then John agreed.

    The reader of the Lexham English Bible, ESV, NASB, and RSV will be reading the very words of God as they correspond in English: “to fulfill all righteousness.” The reader of the Contemporary English Version will get the interpretation of God’s words as, “do all that God wants us to do,” which TEV renders as “do all that God requires.” The TEV’s interpretation is similar to a number of other dynamic equivalent translations (NEB, NLT, and NIRV). The literal translators give us the corresponding English words of what the Bible says, while the dynamic equivalent translators interpret those very words to mean “obedience”, as understood by these translation committees.

    What is meant by “permit it now”, by “for in this way”, by “it is right”, or by “for us to fulfill all righteousness”? It is up to each reader of the Bible, to determine what is meant by these words. It is not the job of the translator to interpret what was said, but to give the reader what was said, for interpretation. Just looking at one of the phrases, what is meant by “to fulfill all righteousness”? Is it referring to the doing of all that God asks or requires, in other words, obedience? Does it mean that John and Jesus were righteous individuals? Does it mean, by baptism that Jesus would be entering a path of a right relationship with his Father, a symbol of presenting himself to doing the will of his Father? Again, it is up to the reader to make the determination as to what was meant by the words that Jesus used. Sadly, the reader of the CEV, TEV and other dynamic equivalent translations do not have that choice, because a committee has made the choice for them.

    A Worthy Translation Must Be Clear

    The Dynamic Equivalent translators have given a high priority to the quality of being clear in their translation(s). In the process of expressing these worthy goals, they also infer that only the translation philosophy of dynamic equivalence can do this, and to be literal, is to be unclear. In addition, they further infer that the literal translation is willing to sacrifice being clear for the sake of “word worship.” These inferences could not be further from the truth. From the first printed translation of William Tyndale (1536), to the present, the goal of literal translations has been to be clear.

    KJV 1611: Make it clear when they added any words to make the sense clearer, or to lead to better English syntax. . . .

    NKJV: “. . . an English text that is both accurate and readable.”

    NASB: “. . . a clear and accurate rendering of divinely-revealed truth.”

    ESV: “. . . to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity.”

    The dynamic equivalent camp would make the argument that to be clear is to be immediately understandable. When they ask if the translation communicates the meaning that the author intended, they are focused on there being absolutely no barriers between the reader and the translation:

    • Idioms: a land that is “flowing with milk and honey” as opposed to “live in that rich and fertile land” of the TEV. Deuteronomy 6:3
    • Similes: “you are the light of the world;” this is a very effective figure of speech, so effective that the functional equivalent translators do generally not set it aside.
    • Metaphors: “he is like a tree planted by streams of water.” Psalm 1:3
    • Technical Terms: “mediator” of the NASB for “he” of the CEV. Galatians 3:19, NASB
    • Vocabulary Level: “their condemnation is just” of the ESV for “but God is fair and will judge them as well” of the CEV. Romans 3:8
    • Religious Vocabulary: “to give his life as a ransom for many" of the ESV for “will give his life to rescue many people” of the CEV. Matthew 20:28

    For the thought-for-thought translator, “being clear,” means that nothing in the words of their translation is to be difficult to understand. They hold to this concept, even in the face of the Apostle Peter’s words about the Apostle Paul’s letters: “there are some things in them that are hard to understand.” (2 Pet 3:16) Why did Peter find Paul’s letters hard to understand? The 27 books of the New Testament were written on different levels. However, one could argue for the most part, they are not literary, and they are not common as a whole, more in the middle. For instance, Paul wrote at times in a literary Koine,[9] as is true of Luke as well. Peter, Mark and John on the other hand, wrote on a much lower level. Regardless of this, idioms were still idioms, similes were still similes, metaphors were still metaphors, technical terms were still used, as well as higher levels of vocabulary, and religious terms.

    Being clear to the Dynamic Equivalent translator also means being transparent (able to see through). In other words, they are simplifying and removing on all levels, to allow today’s reader to see through time, and fully grasp what was meant [as per the translator’s interpretation], by the words of the original writer to the original reader, as though they were there. This is a fallacy in thinking, as we just learned from Peter, who did not readily understand Paul’s letters, even though he was an apostle of the Christian congregation at that time, let alone your lay congregation member of the first-century. Therefore, obviously, it is too much to assume that all the early readers of the Greek New Testament readily understood the text, just because they readily understood the Greek of the day.

    For the essentially literal translator, they too see being clear as being transparent (able to see through). However, they work to bring the text to the reader, not the reader to the text. They wish to make the original text transparent to today’s reader, by using words that correspond to the original. However, it is much more than bringing the original language words of Hebrew and Greek to the modern reader in a corresponding English word. The Bible is full of idioms like “flowing with milk and honey.” The simplest figure of speech is the simile (“you are the light of the world”). Though simple, it is very effective. The Bible is rich with metaphors, like “he is like a tree planted by streams of water.” The world of the Bible is filled with whole other cultures that span 4,000 years of time, covering a variety of residences, foods and meals, clothing, home life, marriage, health, education, cities and towns or a nomadic lifestyle, and ways of spending time.

    We will investigate some scriptural examples, with the purpose of seeing if any of the following three principles are violated:

    • If all of the original words are not accounted for by an English equivalent;
    • If the translation has added to or taken away from the original in any way;
    • Finally, if the meaning that the reader could derive by the corresponding English words has been affected, changed, in any way by an interpretive method.

    Literal Translation

    Dynamic Equivalent

    Corresponding English

    Interpretation of Words

    Psalm 34:5 (English Standard Version)

    5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

    Psalm 34:5 (Contemporary English Version)

    5 Keep your eyes on the LORD! You will shine like the sun and never blush with shame.

    Psalm 63:11 (English Standard Version)

    11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
       all who swear by him shall exult,
       for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

    Psalm 63:11 (Contemporary English Version)

    11 Because of you, our God, the king will celebrate with your faithful followers, but liars will be silent. 

    Ecclesiastes 9:8 (English Standard Version)

    8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

    Ecclesiastes 9:8 (New Living Translation)

    8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

    Romans 1:5 (English Standard Version)

    5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

    Romans 1:5 (New Century Version)

    5 Through Christ, God gave me the special work of an apostle, which was to lead people of all nations to believe and obey. I do this work for him.

    A Worthy Translation is Consistent

    Consistency is of the highest importance when it comes to finding a worthy translation. True the translation does not want to take this principle to the extreme, but is has been almost completely removed from the Dynamic Equivalent sense-for-sense translations, and should be considered more in your literal translations as well. 

    As has been well observed, “There must be consistency in the translation of technical words with a rather sharply fixed content of meaning, not allowing translation to blur the distinctions carried by different words in the original. In the New Testament, there is a distinction between ‘Hades’ and ‘Gehenna’. The former is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Sheol,’ the world of the dead; the latter is the final place of punishment for the wicked.”—Why So Many Bibles, American Bible Society.

    (Interlinear) United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition, 1993

    Matt 5:22: will be liable to the fore of Gehenna


    Matt 10:28: can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna


    Matt 11:23: will be brought down to Hades


    Matt 16:18: and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it


    How do the modern translations perform in reflecting the original language words of Gehenna and Hades? Do they use more than one English word to translate Hades? Do they translate both Gehenna and Hades as “hell”? Those that are consistent are the NIV, NASB, ASV and the HCSB translate both Gehenna (5:22; 10:28), as hell, and both Hades (11:23; 16:18), as Hades. Those that are inconsistent are the ESV, translating both Gehenna (5:22; 10:28), as hell, but rendering only 11:23 as Hades, with 16:18 being rendered as hell. The NLT goes even further by translating both Gehenna (5:22; 10:28), as hell, but rendering only 11:23 as ‘the place of the dead,’ with 16:18 being rendered as hell. Ironically, the NW translation, the Bible that scholarship condemns the most, did the best in this exercise. They translate both Gehenna (5:22; 10:28), as Gehenna, and both Hades (11:23; 16:18), as Hades.

    Another example of inconsistency can be found in the translation of doulos,[10] a purchased slave, diakonos,[11] a servant or minister. The Bible refers to Christians as slaves, as they were bought with the price of Jesus Christ’s blood; making them slaves of the heavenly Father and his Son, both being the master over these purchased slaves. A slave of Christ is not to be confused with hired servants, who may choose to quit when they please. The ESV, NASB, NIV, ASV, RSV, TEV CEV all shy away from using the word “slave” as a reference to Christians. However, who are we to set aside the choice of words by the inspired Bible writers, who chose “slave” over “servant.” Among the few that have not sidestepped this tough decision are the NLT and HSCB. (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:23) Either we choose a translation that reflects what was written, or a diluted version of what was written, or worse still, we chose an interpretation of what was written.

    Repeated Units

    Repeated units are one marker or signal that help the exegete (interpreter, you), to determine a books theme, by recognizing its boundaries and layers between the constituent parts of the whole.

    Matthew 7:28 (English Standard Version)

     28And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,

    Matthew 11:1 (English Standard Version)

     1When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

    Matthew 13:53 (English Standard Version)

     53And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,

    Matthew 19:1 (English Standard Version)

     1Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

    Matthew 26:1 (English Standard Version)

     1When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,

    Matthew 5:21-22 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    Matthew 5:27-28 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    Matthew 5:31-32 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    Matthew 5:33-34 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    Matthew 5:38-39 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    Matthew 5:43-44 (English Standard Version)

     21"You have heard that it was said to . . . 22But I say to you that . . .

    These markers are far more likely to be lost in the Dynamic Equivalent, sense-for-sense translations, and far less likely to be lost in your literal translations. If lost in translation, their usefulness in helping to determine a book’s theme is lost with them. Therefore, you can either use a consistent literal translation, or learn to read Hebrew and Greek.

    A Worthy Translation is Faithful

    What exactly do we mean by faithful, and faithful to what or whom? By faithful, we mean unwavering to the original, to the author himself. However, there are times when translation committees chose to be unfaithful to the original text. Obviously, theological bias should not affect its rendering.


    Romans 9:5 (Revised Standard Version)

    Romans 9:5 (New Living Translation)

    5 to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.

    5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

    Romans 9:5: The Revised Standard Version takes ho on [“the one who is”] as the opening of a separate, stand-alone sentence or clause that is independent of Christ, which is referring to God and pronouncing a blessing upon him for the provisions he made. Here and in Ps 67:19 in the LXX[12] the predicate eulogetos [blessed”] occurs after the subject Theos [“God”]. Textual scholar Bruce M. Metzger made the following point:

    On the other hand, in the opinion of others of the Committee, none of these considerations seemed to be decisive, particularly since nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever designate ho khristos [“the Christ”] as Theos [“God”]. In fact, on the basis of the general tenor of his theology it was considered tantamount to impossible that Paul would have expressed Christ’s greatness by calling him God blessed forever.[13]

    A detailed study of the construction in Romans 9:5 is found in The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and Other Critical Essays, by Ezra Abbot, Boston, 1888, pp. 332-438. On pp. 345, 346 and 432 he says:

    “But here ho on [“the one who is] is separated from ho khristos [“the Christ”] by to kata sarka [“according to the flesh”], which in reading must be followed by a pause,—a pause which is lengthened by the special emphasis given to the kata sarka [“according to the flesh”] by the to [“the”]; and the sentence which precedes is complete in itself grammatically, and requires nothing further logically; for it was only as to the flesh that Christ was from the Jews. On the other hand, as we have seen (p. 334), the enumeration of blessings which immediately precedes, crowned by the inestimable blessing of the advent of Christ, naturally suggests an ascription of praise and thanksgiving to God as the Being who rules over all; while a doxology is also suggested by the Amen [“Amen”] at the end of the sentence. From every point of view, therefore, the doxological construction seems easy and natural. . . . The naturalness of a pause after sarka [“flesh”] is further indicated by the fact that we find a point after this word in all our oldest MSS. that testify in the case,—namely, A, B, C, L, . . . I can now name, besides the uncials A, B, C, L, . . . at least twenty-six cursives which have a stop after sarka [“flesh”], the same in general which they have after aionas [“forever”] or Amen [“Amen”].”

    Therefore, Romans 9:5 in the Revised Standard Version is correct in its ascribing praise and thanksgiving to God.

    The problem is compounded by the fact that there is practically no punctuation in the ancient manuscripts and we must decide for ourselves whether it is better to put a comma or a full stop after “flesh”; the former ascribes deity to Christ, the latter makes for a doxology to the Father. The grammatical arguments almost all favor the first position, but most recent scholars accept the second on the grounds that Paul nowhere else says explicitly that Christ is God; he may come near it, but, they say, he always stops short of it.[14]


    Acts 20:28 (Revised Standard Version)

    Acts 20:28 (New Living Translation)

    28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

    28 So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.


    Acts 20:28:[15] The RSV reads that the church was purchased with “the blood of his [God’s] own Son.” On the other hand, the NLT reads that the church was purchased with “God’s . . . own blood.” Before we can begin determining which of these two renderings is correct, it should be noted that we have two textual problems within this verse. As we are a publication for the lay reader, we will cover the issues, but if any wishes a more technical answer, see A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.), by Bruce M. Metzger (1993), or the New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip W. Comfort (2008).

    Acts 20:28a has three different readings within the Greek New Testament manuscripts: variant (1) “the church of God”, variant (2) “the church of the Lord”, and variant (3) “the church of the Lord and God”. Variant 1 has the better manuscript support, and is the choice of the Textus Receptus of 1551, Westcott and Hort text of 1881, the text of Nestle-Aland and the Greek New Testament of the United Bible Society of 1993. The expression “the church of the Lord” is found nowhere in the New Testament. “the church of God” is found eleven times, all by the Apostle Paul, and Luke, the writer of Acts, was his traveling companion.

    The textual criticism principle of what reading led to the other will be discussed in two parts. There is no doubt that variant 3 is simply a conflation (combination of variant 1 and variant 2). If “the church of the Lord” is the original reading, it could be that a copyist familiar with Paul made the change to “the church of God”. On the other hand, if “the church of God” is the original reading, there is the slight chance that a copyist was influenced by the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), and changed it to “the church of the Lord”.

    However, our other principle of textual criticism, ‘the more difficult reading is to be preferred’ (more difficult to understand), seems to be most helpful. This principle is also related to ‘the reading that led to the other,’ as the copyist would have moved to an easier reading. The reason being is that it was the tendency of scribes to make difficult readings easier to understand. There is no doubt that “the church of God” is the more difficult reading. Why? The following clause, which will be dealt with shortly could have been taken as “which he purchased with his own blood”. This would almost certainly cause pause for any copyist, asking himself, ‘does God have blood?’ Thus, the original was “the church of God”, which was changed to “the church of the Lord”, because the idea of saying ‘God had blood’ would have been repugnant. All things being considered (internal and external evidence), the correct reading is “the church of God”.

    Acts 20:28b has two different readings within the Greek New Testament Manuscripts:

    (1)   [literally, the Greek reads “which he purchased with the blood of his own”] “which he [God] purchased with the blood of his own [Son]” or “which he [God] purchased with his own blood” and,

    (2)   [literally, the Greek reads “which he purchased with the own blood”] “which he purchased with his own blood”

    Variant one has the best manuscript evidence by far, and there is no question that it is the original reading. Therefore, we will not use space debating the two, but will spend our time determining how it should be understood. Textual scholar Bruce Metzger had this to say,

    This absolute use of ho idios [“his Own”] is found in Greek papyri as a term of endearment referring to near relatives. It is possible, therefore, that “his Own” (ho idios) was a title that early Christians gave to Jesus, comparable to “the Beloved”; compare Ro 8:32, where Paul refers to God “who did not spare tou idiou huiou [“his own Son”] in a context that clearly alludes to Gn 22:16, where the Septuagint has agapetou huiou [“beloved Son”].

    It may well be, as Lake and Cadbury point out, that after the special meaning of ho idios [“his Own”] (discussed in the previous comment) had dropped out of Christian usage, tou idiou [“of his own”] of this passage was misunderstood as a qualification of haimatos (“his own blood”). “This misunderstanding led to two changes in the text: tou haimatos tou idiou [“the blood of his own”] was changed to tou idiou haimatos [“his own blood”] (influenced by Heb. ix. 12?), which is neater but perverts the sense, and Theou [“God”] was changed to κυρίου [“Lord”] by the Western revisers, who doubtless shrank from the implied phrase ‘the blood of God.’”[16]

    In the end, we must draw the conclusion from all of the evidence; the Revised Standard Version has followed the evidence, with its rendering: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” On the other hand, it seems that the New Living Translation publisher or committee has allowed theological bias, once again, to blind them from the evidence, as their rendering makes clear: “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. Dr. Robert H. Stein said in a lecture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, ‘God does not need our help [in translation]. Simply render it as it should be, whether it supports your position or not.’

     Another translation that is no longer being used, but can illustrate a lack of faithfulness to the original is Moffatt’s New Translation of the Bible. Repeatedly he arranges chapters and verses in a way to suit himself in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures. Particularly in what he does with the book of Isaiah is open to censure, rearranging the chapters and verses to suit himself. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, going back, as it does, about a thousand years earlier than the accepted Masoretic text, leaves Dr. Moffatt without any justification whatever for such rearranging of Isaiah. This makes it difficult to find certain Bible texts.

    A Worthy Translation is Helpful

    It is perfectly acceptable to insert words into the translation to complete the sense in the English text. However, this should be done sparingly and very cautiously, as one could intentionally or unintentionally misinform the reader. An example of this is found in the Today’s English Version, attempting to make what they felt was implied, explicit. At 1 John 3:2 they have replaced “he” with “Christ.” However, this has misinformed their readers, as God is the one referred to here not Jesus Christ. The context of verse 1 and the first part of verse 2 make this clear.

    The Bible reader today has a plethora of English translations to choose from, and should search for the one that is beneficial to personal study, Bible research, as well as religious services. Numerous translations convey the very word of God (ESV, NASB, ASV, HCSB, and LEB) On the other hand, there are numerous translations that have become very popular because they are easy to read, sound very modern, and are immediately understandable. However, as we saw from the above examples, they also contain many errors by taking too many liberties in their translation principles. Accuracy, dependability, and being clear are best reflected in literal translations, as they are giving the reader what was said, not what one person or a committee feels the author meant by what was said. Any serious Bible student should be interested in getting the Word of God, as opposed to an interpretation of those words. If we want an interpretation, we should buy a commentary. In fact, this is exactly what the Dynamic Equivalent translations are, mini commentaries.

    We are not suggesting that our readers should not possess a Dynamic Equivalent Bible. What we recommend is that for a study of God’s Word, use two or three very good literal translations, and two or three very good dynamic equivalents as a sort of quick commentary on Scripture. As to the literal translations, we would recommend the English Standard Version, 2001 (ESV), The Updated New American Standard Bible, 1995 (UNASB), the American Standard Version, 1901 (ASV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2003 (HCSB), as well as the Lexham English Bible, 2010 (LEB). As to the dynamic equivalent, we recommend the New Living Translation, 2007 (NLT), the Good News Bible, 2001 (GNB), and the Contemporary English Version, 1995 (CEV). We would also recommend two translations that are between the dynamic equivalent and the literal translation: The New International Version, 2011 (NIV) and the New English Translation, 2010 (NET).

    [1] Kaiser, Walter C, Peter H Davids, and Frederick Fyvie , Brauch, Manfred T Bruce. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downer Groves, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1996. P. 359.

    [2] McGrath, Alister. In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. New York: Anchor, 2002, p. 250.

    [3] “The translator must re-express the meaning of the original message as exactly as possible in the language to which he is translating.” (Barnwell 1975, 23) “a translation that strives to translate the exact words of the original-language text in a translation, but not in such a rigid way as to violate the normal rules of language and syntax in the receptor language.” (Ryken 2002, 19)

    [4] B. F. Westcott, Epistles of St. John, 48-49; F. F. Bruce, The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, 51-2.

    [5] Nida, Eugene A. "Meaning-full Translations." Christianity Today, October 07, 2002: 46-49.

    [6] These three means of inaccuracy are qualified by the phrase, ‘as far as possible.’ Certainly, there will be exceptions to the rule. 

    [7] Nestle-Aland 27th edition and United Bible Societies 4th edition Greek Interlinear

    [8] W. Hall Harris, III, The Lexham English Bible (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010), Mt 3:15.

    [9] From about 300 B.C.E. to about 500 C.E. was the age of Koine, or common Greek, a mixture of differing Greek dialects of which Attic was the most influential.

    [10] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 260.

    [11] William D. Mounce, Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 632.

    [12] Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament)

    [13] Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 461-62.

    [14] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 349.

    [15] * J. H. Moulton in A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. 1 (Prolegomena), 1930 ed., p. 90, says: “Before leaving ἴδιος [idios] something should be said about the use of ὁ ἴδιος [ho idios] without a noun expressed. This occurs in Jn 111 131, Ac 423 2423. In the papyri we find the singular used thus as a term of endearment to near relations . . . . In Expos. VI. iii. 277 I ventured to cite this as a possible encouragement to those (including B. Weiss) who would translate Acts 2028 ‘the blood of one who was his own.’”

    [16] Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 427.

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    Why So Many New Translations?

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:43 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    The last 60-years have seen the release of one new English Bible translation after another. Here we go again, as if we need another translation! It has become quite the big business to keep putting out the latest, updated, new version, new translation. However, it goes even deeper than that, because we now have: church Bibles and ministry Bibles, family Bibles, study Bibles, topical Bibles, apologetic Bibles, audience geared Bibles, and so on. In addition, one can now determine where they want their Bible to be on the scale of just how literal it is.

    After making the point that there seems to be no end to the line of new English translations, it must be said that there will always be a need for new translations. ‘Why’ you may be asking? If we were to turn to the many translators in the field of Bible translation, they would offer at least three good reasons: (1) the manuscripts that have been discovered over the centuries are always being studied and better understood, and this increased knowledge may mean adjustments in the translation. (2) Our knowledge of the Bible languages just keeps improving over the years, and once again this can lead to more accurate translations. (3) Languages are living and growing and change over time, altering the meaning of words, in some case, to the opposite. In 1611, “let” in “I let John go to school” meant “stop” or “restrain.”

    Translating the Word of God is No Easy Task

    While it is true that technology may have made the task somewhat easier, it still takes years to bring a translation to the market. Some things that most may have not considered are (1) the method, process, tools, and sources that will be used to make the translation (2) who is the audience that the translation will be directed toward (the target audience); and (3) what type of translation is it to be: literal (ESV, NASB), dynamic equivalent (NLT, TEV), or something in between (NIV, HCSB)? Below we will take a brief look at each of these.

    What are the Sources behind the Translation?

    Many, who are aware that there are Hebrew and Greek manuscripts used in Bible translation, are not aware of their extent. As some may also know, there is not one single manuscript of the original Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek New Testament still in existence. Yet, there are thousands of copied manuscripts of the original language Old Testament and New Testament, and thousands of copies of it in other languages, as well as quotations from the early church Fathers. Are these what the modern translator will consider? Yes, they are a part of the tools within their tool chest, but some of the world’s leading scholars have already considered them extensively for 200-years. In this, they have created a critical text[1] for both testaments.

    Today’s translation committees have access to a number of critical texts. However, most modern English translations depend on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in the BHS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), and the Greek text as found in the WH NU Westcott and Hort of 1881 and the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament (27th ed., 1993), as well as the United Bible Societies (4th edition, 1993). The work is far faster today than 50 years ago, as the translator today has access to Bible software as well as internet access.

    Target Audience―Who is it?

    In the days of the Tyndale-King James Version, where one translation served the purpose of the many, this would seem to be a strange question. However, for any who have ventured in the bookstore to pick out a Bible, it is immediately clear. You have a church Bible, a family Bible, a Children’s Bible, a study Bible, an archaeological study Bible and many others. One might ask, ‘why can we not just have one Bible for everyone?’ 

    The Dynamic Equivalent translator would argue that the scholar must have a translation that is targeted to him (ASV, NASB); the teacher must have a translation (ESV), while his Bible student must have another (NIV), and the churchgoer yet another (NLT). In the house, the father may have a specific form of translation (NIV), while the wife another NIV Women’s Bible), and the teenager his own (NIV Teen Bible, TNIV), with the younger children still yet another (NIV Boy’s Bible, The Action Bible, My Little Bible). Then, there is also the African American Bibles. The questions are simple, are the Bibles to be adapted to the people needs, or are the people expected to adapt to the Bible?

    Even the Plowboy Should Have Bible

    William Tyndale (1494 – 1536), brought us our first printed English Bible. His translation philosophy would be followed for the next 420 years. His objective audience was all English speaking people. On one occasion, Tyndale, heard an educated man say that it would be better to be without God’s law than without the law of the Pope. Tyndale answered “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he does.” Tyndale’s translation of the Greek New Testament was easy enough for a plowboy to understand in his time. However, does this mean that he dumbed down the translation, so that the plowboy could easily understand the Bible?

    No, Tyndale did not make a translation to appease the needs of the plowboy; he expected the plowboy to buy out the time, to make the effort to be able to understand God’s Word. He made no adjustments; his translation was informal when that was the case with the original, and formal when that was the case as well. At times his translation ranges from complex to highly complex. Tyndale translated what the original text said, not what he determined it meant. Unlike: Ps 24:4 (ESV) He who has clean hands and a pure heart; Ps 24:4 (CEV) only those who do right for the right reasons; or Phil 4:1 (ESV) my joy and crown; Phil 4:7 (TEV) How happy you make me, and how proud I am of you. Tyndale did not give way to the less educated, even though that was the largest portion of the population at the time. He expected the less-educated to grow in their understanding of the English language.

    The Type of Translation

    What is the method of translating the critical texts of the Old and New Testament that the translation committee will follow as they produce their new Bible translation? Will the committee use other translations as their foundational text; if so, how closely will these be followed? Other translation committees may choose to make a completely new revision. If it were the former, an example would be the 1946-1952 Revised Standard Version (RSV), which is a revision of the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV). The RSV would have had the intentions of removing the archaic language and correcting any inaccuracies. Another example would be the 1990 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), a revision of the Revised Standard Version. Both the ASV and the RSV continued in the translation philosophy of William Tyndale, sometimes with the exact wording. Sadly, the NRSV has abandoned those principles, being a considerably less literal translation.

    If the committee is following the latter, and producing a new translation, completely from the original language texts; it would still consider other translations. However, it would give most of its attention to the BHK and BHS for the Old Testament[2] and the WH, UBS4, NA27 for the New Testament.[3] Other tools would be textual commentaries, Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, grammars, exegetical commentaries, translation handbooks, special investigations, and so on. Many translators that have had experience in the field of translation would certainly prefer to produce a new translation, as opposed to making a revision.

    Another choice that comes before those producing this new or revised translation is the option of a literal translation or a Dynamic Equivalent (or functional) translation. The literal translation has the aim to capture the accurate wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer, as far as possible. In other words, they want to reproduce what the Bible writer penned in both word and style. The Dynamic Equivalent method seeks to transmit interpretive opinions of the original text, focusing on the message. The literal translation is focused on the reproduction of the text and the Dynamic Equivalent translation is focused on the reader.

    If the Bible translation committee is commissioned to do a literal translation, they must then determine just how literal the translation will be, without sacrificing the sense of the original. Another concern is the consistency of the rendering of the words in the original. If the context permits, each time a Hebrew or Greek word appears, the same word should be given to it in the translation. Another aspect for the team is that they must try to capture the different styles of the New Testament writers. The 27 books of the New Testament consist of multiple writers that all have distinct ways of writing. For instance, the gospel writers Matthew, Mark and Luke, cover Jesus’ life and ministry, but differ in the words they choose to use and the arrangement of those words. Mark writes a fresh and natural Greek of high quality. He tends to keep it simple but certainly animated and exciting. Luke, on the other hand has the pen of a professional, using terms that show he is far more careful about small details. His being a physician is the reason for his extensive use of medical terms. He also appears to be very familiar with seafaring, as is evidenced by Acts 27-28. Matthew appears to be in between Mark and Luke when it comes to style.

    There is a complication to maintaining the style of a given author, as he may change his style. Being that the Apostle Paul has penned far more books than the other New Testament writers have, he is the most noted for this. A professor of classical languages, who is also a member of the Swedish Bible Committee, comments on this, “He has an enormous register: elevated prose poem as in 1 Corinthians 13, moving eloquence as in Romans 8:31-39, but also dry explanations. . . . His vocabulary is great (900 words that are specific only for him). He was a brilliant master of speech.”

    The NET Bible (New English Translation) has over 60,000 translator notes; while other translations have over 10,000 footnotes to help the reader better understand their Bible. The footnotes are used to further explain such areas as custom and culture, textual problems, translation issues, original language words, basic language meanings, valuable alternative renderings. Also, meaning of names of Bible books, persons and places, as well as geographical data. Money, weights, measures and calendar dates are converted into modern terms. Obviously, this would take extensive research, aside from the translation itself. Moreover, these are just a few of the problems that are faced when one contemplates a new translation. Some of the other basics that most may not consider are, the text on the pages, the organization of chapters and verses, the font, and so on.

    The Need for New Translations

    If the gospel is to be preached in all the earth, new translations are always going to be necessary, in many languages. Yet, as was demonstrated in the above, this is no easy task. The labor involved in such a task takes years, and by dozens of people, even with today’s technology. The need for new English translations is not really as paramount. The ones that we have are more than we could ever need, and only need to be revised and updated periodically.

    [1] Critical should not to be misconstrued in a negative sense in this instance. It involves comments and opinions that analyze are judging each word of the Old or New Testament as being original or not, in an extremely detailed way, which we do not have time to cover herein. For an introduction in textual studies, see the end of the article under Resources for Additional Research.

    [2] “BHK” refers to Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica and “BHS” refers to Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.

    [3] “WH” refers to The New Testament in the Original Greek. “UBS” refers to The Greek New Testament, by United Bible Societies. “NA” refers to the Nestle-Aland Greek Text.

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    Different Kinds of Bible Translations

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:37 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    Word-for-Word Translation Philosophy (essentially literal) translation seeks to render the original language words and style into a corresponding English word and style. Again, they seek to retain the original syntax and sentence structure, and the style of each writer as far as possible.  

    Thought-for-Thought Translation Philosophy (dynamic equivalent) seeks to render the biblical meaning of the original language text as accurately as possible into an English informal (conversational) equivalent.

     Of course, as any translation continuum chart will show, many translations fall throughout this spectrum. For example, the ASV and the NASB are far more literal than say the ESV, and the MSG and CEV are far closer to a paraphrase instead of a translation than say the NLT. In addition, you have the NIV trying to work right in the middle of these two philosophies. Moreover, if you are still following the picture, the HCSB attempts to fall between the NIV and the ESV. Both of these translation philosophies have their strengths and weaknesses if the translator goes to the extreme in either direction.


    WH / UBS4 / NA27


    KJV / ASV / NASB



    Three Quarters 



    NET / NIV

    Dynamic Equivalent

    NLT / TEV / CEV


    MSG / TLB

    The main strengths of the literal translation are that they are trying to preserve the original text, the ancient expressions, how the words are joined together and rendering the words consistently. All of this allows the reader to determine what the meaning is, and not have to depend on the translator to do his work for him. This also ties the Bible together as a whole, and the reader is better able see the Old Testament in the New Testament. The main strengths of the thought-for-thought translation are simply that they get the meaning immediately, as would have the original readers. As the original readers would not have had to struggle with grammar and syntax, or idiomatic expressions, so it is too, the modern reader of a thought-for-thought translation has all of these points of concern modernized for them in an easy to read translation. At first gland, this may appear the ideal approach.

    The statement that “all translation is interpretation,” is so abused by those that favor the thought-for-thought form of translation. Of course, one must interpret the Scriptures before they can even begin the process of translation. Interpretation is a verbal or written expression of a reader’s understanding of the writer’s meaning. However, what is never brought to the forefront is that there are different levels of interpretation. The scholar, who puts together an interlinear, or a lexicon are what we might call the barest of interpreters. These scholars are only concerned with the range of meaning that a word has in isolation. The literal or essential literal translator could be called essentialist of interpreters. We are now concerned with how these words are joined together in the style of the writer being translated [grammar, syntax, and idiom of both the original and the English], to convey the sense of what was written. The use of a word or phrase to convey the best attainable equivalence from one language to another will inevitably cut off, to some extent, other possibilities. John, in response to his wife’s question of “is it raining,” says, “just a dribble” or “just a trickle.” While these two verbs are synonymous, small details are lost or gained by the person’s choice of “dribble” or “trickle.” The Dynamic Equivalent or thought-for-thought translation could be called superfluous by interpreters. This translator goes beyond in hopes of expressing the original meaning in a natural way to the modern reader. What the unsuspecting reader is not aware of is that it is the translator’s complete interpretation that is conveyed. In other words, the reader is being removed from the need to interpret Scripture, because it is being done for him. The question that begs to be asked is “what if the translator is wrong?”

    “The [translator’s] first task was to understand correctly the meaning of the original. The next task was to express that meaning in a manner and a form easily understood by readers.” – GNB

    “…a thought for thought translation” – NLT.

    “…to reclothe the meaning of the original in the words and structure of American English” – SEB.

    “The first concern of the translators has been fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers” – NIV.

     As stated in the above quotes, the essentially literal translations feel the need to be faithful to what was written in word and structure. As you can see, this is not the concern of the thought for thought translator. His chief aim is to express his understanding of the meaning of the original into natural English. Sadly, most persons at the bookstore, browsing through the NLT, NIV, TNIV, TEV, CEV, SEB, NCV and MSG are unaware that these translators have gone beyond the pale of Bible translation and are really dabbling in commentary. They pick up the NLT and start to read a portion. There is this twofold sensation: (1) a feeling of familiarity and (2) a thrill that they can read and read and read without have to pause and consider what they are reading. What they are unaware of is that this is a subjective translation based on the translator’s interpretation of Scripture, which they now believe to be the very words of God because the cover reads New Living Translation Holy Bible.

    “After ascertaining as accurately as possible the meaning of the original, the translator's next task was to express that meaning in a manner and form easily understood by the readers” – GNB.

    “Metaphorical language is often difficult for contemporary readers to understand, so at times we have chosen to translate or illuminate the metaphor” – NLT.

    “Because for most readers today the phrase ‘the Lord of hosts’ and ‘God of hosts’ have little meaning, this version renders them ‘the Lord Almighty’ and God Almighty’” – NIV.

    “Ancient customs are often unfamiliar to modern readers” – NCV.

    “We have used the vocabulary and language structures . . . of a junior high student” – NLT.

    “The Contemporary English Version has been described as a ‘user-friendly’ and ‘mission-driven translation that can be read aloud without stumbling, heard without misunderstanding, and listened to with enjoyment and appreciation, because the language is contemporary and the style is lucid and lyrical.”

     Eugene Nida, the father of thought-for-thought translation, had this to say about essentially literal translators in Christianity Today: “This ‘word worship’ helps people to have confidence, but they don't understand the text. And as long as they worship words, instead of worshiping God as revealed in Jesus Christ, they feel safe.”[1] The real facts are that Nida and of his Dynamic Equivalent camp worship the modern reader instead of respecting the Author of the Bible and his Word choices. Bible scholar John MacArthur states: thought-for-thought translations “diminish the glory of divine revelation by being more concerned with the human reader than the divine author.” The thought-for-thought proponents have gone beyond translation by modifying words that they feel to be too difficult for the modern reader to comprehend; to taking the metaphorical language of say 2 Kings 2:7: “Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God . . .” (ESV), to ‘the personal attendant of the king said to Elisha. . .” (GNB). Rather than even modernize the idea of the ancient custom of kings or men of authority to lean on the hand or arm of a servant or one in an inferior position, they simply removed this thought from God’s word. They also assume ignorance on the part of the modern-day reader by taking statements that they believe would be misunderstood and expressing them so as to be easily understood. In addition, they have removed gender language they feel is offensive as we have already seen from our above evaluation of the TNIV.

    1 Timothy 6:17 English Standard Version (ESV)

     17As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

    1 Timothy 6:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

     17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

    1 Timothy 6:17 New Living Translation (NLT)

     17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.

    1 Timothy 6:17 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

    17Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life.

     Why do both the NLT and the CEV feel the need to add words that are not in the Greek text: “we need”? Is it because they feel the inexperienced reader will abuse the text? Is there some liberal progressive mindset that cannot allow a person to have more than what they need? Paul is simply stating that we can enjoy all of God’s creation, not just what we need.

    James 3:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)

     1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

    James 3:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

     1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

    James 3:1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

     1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment; 2 for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.

    James 3:1-2 The Message (MSG)

     1-2Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you'd have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.

    Okay, raise your hand if you want to trust the Bible after reading in The Message Bible that James and other teachers like the apostles get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths? I could go on and on with literally hundreds of examples of the changes that go into God’s word by means of these creative translators, who ‘get it wrong nearly every time they translate.’ The last comment was meant as comedic sarcasm, and may be a bit of an exaggeration.

    Translation Process

    • Horizon of Understanding: knowledge common to a person.
    • Presupposition pool: knowledge that is common to a group of persons based on their common understanding of a language and historical setting.
    • Ancient Presupposition pool: knowledge that is common to a group of persons in some ancient time and place according to their common understanding of the language and historical setting.
    • Modern Presupposition pool: knowledge that is common to a group of persons in some modern time and place according to their common understanding of the language and historical setting.

    Our example texts below are well chosen as they demonstrate the differences in translation principles. Keep in mind that the ESV is an essentially literal translation, and its translation team has penned numerous books and articles emphasizing the value of the essentially literal approach, yet at the same time, it tends to abandon that approach all too quickly, and runs to the idiomatic (Dynamic Equivalent) side of the fence. After we read the texts below, let us ask what a tutor is. Does our modern-day understanding of tutor correspond with what Paul meant? Did the Galatians have a different understanding of a tutor? Does "guardian" or "charge" solve the problem? Well, read the texts below. After reading the text, I want you to reflect on what each translation did for you? After the ASV and the NASB's use of "tutor", did you have the impression that the law was a teacher? And what happened to that impression after reading the ESV? What about after the NIV, did it cloud your mental grasp up even more? Then, look at the notes below that.

    Galatians 3:23-25 American Standard Version (ASV)

     23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor.

    Galatians 3:23-25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

     23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

    Galatians 3:23-25 English Standard Version (ESV)

     23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

    Galatians 3:23-25 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

     23 Before faith in Christ came, we were held prisoners by the law. We were locked up until faith was made known. 24 So the law was put in charge until Christ came. He came so that we might be made right with God by believing in Christ. 25 But now faith in Christ has come. So we are no longer under the control of the law.

    Literal: The literal translation will bring over from the Greek [paidagogos, tutor], the structure of the original text (SL) and the presupposition pool of the author and original readers. However, if understanding would be next to impossible, only then would the literal translation step over to the idiomatic translation.

    Idiomatic: The idiomatic, also known as Dynamic Equivalent, also known as thought-for-thought translation will take the structure of the original and the presupposition pool of the original author and reader ["tutor"] and will bring it over into the structure and presupposition pool of the modern reader "guardian."

    1: a tutor i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.[2]

    Note: Notice in the above that our literal rendering would be the ancient presupposition pool of "tutor" and the i.e. "a guardian or guide of boys." i.e. stands for "that is to say: ...." In other words our i.e. is our modern presupposition pool "guardian."

    However, does "guardian" help us anymore than did "tutor"? Yes, it would, but it is not the complete picture. In addition, a person reading "tutor" would tend to think in a modern way and come home with the idea that the "law" was a teacher in some way. This would be incomplete too. Like the childhood tutor of the first-century, the Mosaic Law was a guardian that protected the Israelites from their surrounding neighbors up unto Christ. Like the guardian of boys, the Law [tutor] also taught some lessons about life along the way, as well as disciplining the child. There is no doubt that upon the Exodus from Egypt, one would view the nation of Israel as nothing other than a child, in a world of raptorial nations and people.

    There is no doubt that the Bible is simple and easy to understand at times, but this is very rare, it is far more often than not: extremely complex, difficult and sophisticated. Having said that, it should be understood that God’s Word to man is not meant to be read through like a John Grisham novel. It is meant to be meditated on, pondered over, and absorbed quite slowly; using many tools and helps along the way. There is a reason for this, it being that the Bible is a sifter of hearts. It separates out those who really want to know and understand God’s Word (based on their evident demonstration of buying out the opportune time for study and research), from those who have no real motivation, no interest, just going through life.

    [1] Nida, Eugene: Meaning-full Translations. Christianity Today, October 7, 2002: 46-49.

    [2] Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996, S. G3807

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