Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Personal Responsibility

This comment was left on my post “Translation vs. Paraphrase

Hannah, you may want to check your information.The Living Bible was indeed a paraphrase. NLT is not a paraphrase. It is a translation in the thought-for-thought discipline. If you are looking for a word-for-word approach, NASB and KJV are the most staunch in their approach to a word-for-word translation. NRSV is word-for-word but less staunch in a literal word-for-word where it hinders understanding. NIV is a thought-for-thought translation as is NLT, and The Living Bible and The Message are paraphrases. I appreciate your concern about making sure you're using an accurate translation (and I have some issues with NIV andNLT in this arena because a thought-for-thought inherently involves interpretation), but NLT is NOTin the same category as The Message or The Living Bible.

G-Man, you are right. The NLT is NOT categorized as a paraphrased Bible, but the question is… should it be ??? A translation is translated from it’s original language. A paraphrase is a thought for thought translation, or a restatement of the author’s thoughts, such as the Living Bible was…..BUT my experience, is the experience with others who have commented on this post, ( and seemingly, your experience as well?) is that the NLT reads more like its original predecessor.

Check this out from Bible Researcher

The New Living Translation is an extensive revision of Ken Taylor's Living Bible (published by Tyndale House in 1971). It was designed to improve the accuracy of Taylor's paraphrase. The origin of the version is described in a press release from Hannibal-LaGrange College, where one of the version's "reviewers," Robert Bergen, serves on the faculty:

In 1989, ninety evangelical scholars from various theological backgrounds and denominations were commissioned to revise the Living Bible. According to Bergen, the project began with the purpose of merely correcting parts of the Living Bible. However, as the 100 scholars began to work, the decision was made to complete an entirely new translation. Taylor, the original author of the Living Bible, approved this decision, and plans were made for Tyndale Publishing House to print the New Living Translation. The purpose of the New Living Translation (NLT) was to make a translation that is accurate with the original languages, yet lively and dynamic. Bergen and the other translators worked independently to correct the Living Bible or produce new translations, then worked together to produce a joint translation. Every book of the New Living Translation was reviewed by three or four people, then rated in the areas of accuracy and clarity. The scholars would debate their opinions, informally vote on the best wording, and the editorial board would decide the final translation. Each work of translation went through the channels of critique by the individual, a book committee, a general reviewer committee, and back to the individual. In 1994, the translators gathered again to make the revisions determined by the reviewers. Because of the extensive efforts of world-class Bible scholars, theNew Living Translation is the most expensive translation project in the history of Bible translation.

Another of the reviewers, Craig Blomberg, has described the procedure very differently:

With the New Living Translation, the Bible was divided into sixths, with a scholar appointed general editor over each large chunk. Then individuals books of the Bible (or small collections of books) were parceled out to three experts (I worked on Matthew), who compiled long lists of suggestions for revising Ken Taylor’s original Living Bible Paraphrased. We ranked these in terms of priority, sent them to the general editor over our part of the Bible, who synthesized a selection of them, interacted with a Tyndale House stylist, and sent a draft back to us for us to repeat the process. Eventually the full translation emerged. (1)

This leaves us with the impression that the "reviewers" did not meet to discuss the revision and vote on changes, as the press release quoted above says, but merely sent suggestions to the editors. The press release also says that the NLT is an "entirely new translation," but an examination of the version shows that it inherits many renderings of the Living Bible which would probably not have been used by the NLT reviewers if they started from scratch. This can be seen plainly enough in any given chapter. For example, we randomly choose the first chapter of Job, and find that in verses 8-11 about two thirds of it (printed in red here) is inherited from the Living Bible:

Literal translation

8 And Jehovah said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?"
9 Then Satan answered Jehovah and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."

Living Bible

8 Then the Lord asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth—a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil."
9 "Why shouldn't he, when you pay him so well?" Satan scoffed. 10 "You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does—look how rich he is! No wonder he 'worships' you! 11 But just take away his wealth, and you'll see him curse you to your face."

New Living Translation
8 Then the LORD asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil."
9 Satan replied to the LORD, "Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! 10 You have always protected him and his home and his property from harm. You have made him prosperous in everything he does. Look how rich he is! 11 But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!"

Obviously this is not a new translation, but a revision of the Living Bible. But why should it be denied? In a "Brief History of the New Living Translation," Mark Taylor (president of Tyndale House) explains that one of the problems he encountered as publisher of the Living Bible is that "despite its popularity ... it never received wide acclaim by pastors and scholars. Too often it was dismissed as being 'just a paraphrase.'" (2) So apparently the claim that the New Living Translation is a "new translation" is designed to prevent the version from being viewed as a "revised paraphrase." The revision has instead been presented to the public as a new "dynamic equivalence" version.

I appreciate the correction, but it is evident to me and those who found it’s contents questionable that is is indeed a revised version of the Living Bible. We live in times where truth has been distorted. We live in times where people easily swallow regurgitated knowledge simply because of its label. If we consider ourselves children by His standard we know inherently all men should be treated as liars until proven otherwise, for we understand that such is the “nature of the beast” to manipulate and deceive. We all have a personal responsibility given to us by the Heavenly Father, by the courtesy of His Son to carefully, prayerfully consider ALL information claimed by the mouths of men. We have a personal responsibility to learn at the feet of the FATHER, by the blood of Christ, empowered by the SPIRIT of holiness.

God Bless…



  1. Hi Hannah,

    I think you might be confusing definitions here

    A translation is a work that is transferred from one language to another while a paraphrase is a re-working from within one language. For example the English 'I love you' cane be translated 'Je t'aime' in French, or paraphrased as 'it's you I love' in English.

    There is a spectrum in translation ranging from formal equivalence to dynamic equivalence. Otherwise stated a word-for-word or thought for thought translation. What most people don't realize though (because they haven't studied translation) is that there is no such thing as a literal word-for-word translation, or very seldom in any case - that's not how language works.

    For example the Greek phrase beginning Matthew chapter 4 "Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου..." if forced into a word for word translation would read roughly "Then the Jesus lead into the wilderness of the spirit tempter of the Devil"

    In this verse you can still sort of make out what is going on, but as you came to more difficult verses, you would see how the meaning would be totally obscured. Sometimes 5 English words are needed to convey what one Greek means, and sometimes 1 English word is needed to say what takes 5 Greek.

    But you hit it right when you say that multiple translations are needed for study. Finding where they differ and then looking into the Greek as to why they differ (because they differ for a reason - one of them is NOT trying to change or obscure the Bible, they are translating what seems to their understanding to be the wording that best represents authorial intent - and they do a much better job than you or I would, so thank God for them for providing us with a written gospel we can understand!)

    The Message for example is often criticized for being a paraphrase while technically being a translation (because Peterson worked from the original languages) albeit a very idiomatic translation. It has its strengths and weaknesses as many translations do. One strength is that it really does offer a fresh perspective on verses we think we've heard a thousand times. One weakness may be that it was translated primarily by one person instead of a team.

    Traditional translations have weaknesses too though. Unfortunately these people that work very hard on providing God's word for the everyday person has to make a living, as they well deserve, which means they need a publisher or finance-er, which means you need to sell bibles. This often means that translating teams will often get pigeon-holed into a translation they may not necessarily think is best or most clear. But because they may need the Bible translation they produce to be marketable to a conservative and highly traditional Christian community, they must use more familiar language, especially in well known passages. Imagine changing the wording of ten commandments, beatitudes, or John 3.16? traditionalist watchdogs have field days with verses like these. Next thing you know your translation is blacklisted (even though it may be very true to the original language) and you as a business is out the cost of production.

  2. Because Peterson was out to create something completely fresh, he did not have to worry about things like that, and we as readers in the English can get a perspective entirely knew (not just cosmetically new as many translations can be). This talk of entirely new may cause you to take caution, and that is a good thing - we, or Peterson for that matter, are not out to change the truth of Christ - that would be what we don't want. But I see writers out there attacking the Message or other translations by saying "see, this translation says 'this', and the new one says 'that'!" It's changing the word of God! But what they don't seem to remember is that someone somewhere made a choice to use the word 'this' in the first place. There is a Greek word behind these English words and if you are the type of person that wants a very literal interpretation, my best advice to that person I'm afraid would be to learn Greek/Hebrew, or at least the skills to use the various word study tools out there. If you're the type of person that is ok with leaving it to the professionals, then research a good variety of formal and dynamic equivalents, and yes maybe even some paraphrases, and study all of them while humbly asking the Holy Spirit to be your guide, as I know that God is surely speaking to us via the reading of Scripture.

    In case you care about credentials or that I'm not just making this up as I go along, I am a seminary student and pastor. Hope it helps in some way, and God bless!

  3. Hi Ryan!

    Thanks for stopping past and sharing. As you can tell, it's been a while since I've last updated this blog.

    I thank you for sharing your thoughts on the matter.

    Quite honestly, I tire of the petty debate of translations. When one group defends a particular translation that they are loyal to, against another group. Where's the loyalty to God's unimaginable and unlimited power?

    The bottom line is clear to me. The LORD God, of Abraham Isaac and Jacob remains the TRUE authority of TRUTH, WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING.

    I've shared my testimony of why I switched to the NLT to the KJV. It was nothing short of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Suffice it to say, it was this authority that lead me to the KJV which presented more edification than the NLT...not the credentials of a translator, or motives of a overzealous well-doer.

    I speak personally.

    My overall message, which has gotten lost by the defenses translations, was simply this...

    One must look ALWAYS to the Author of Wisdom for guidance and understanding. If your mind and heart is willingly open to Him, He can lead in amazing ways. Ways that often confound the understanding of men who repeatedly try to put God in a box. God cannot be limited by a translation, therefore defending one translation over another, is to miss the mark by a mile.

    His ways, are higher than ours, His thoughts than our thoughts.

    I bid you peace. May you grow in truth and spread the TRUTH of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a seminary student and Pastor under the knowledge the true Church is spiritual and it's members only known to Him who has them written the Lamb's book.


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