Bible Translation Matters


The July 2008 issue of The Banner, the monthly denominational magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, reports that the New Living Translation has been designated by Synod (the highest judicatory of a Reformed church) as one of the versions acceptable for use in the CRC, but with reservations:

The NLT was accepted “with reservations” because its tendency to paraphrase sometimes obscures the original text, according to the committee that reviewed the translation.

“The New Living Translation could be particularly appropriate for congregations with a majority of new believers [because of] its clear, contemporary style and avoidance of archaism and complex theological terminology,” the report stated. “When employed for Bible study, we would suggest that the NLT be used as a translation alongside one or more other recognized translations.”

The report of the evaluation committee may be read here. While it is a bit frustrating to see the term “paraphrase” still thrown around when it comes to the NLT, the committee does make a number of important criticisms of that translation that NLT readers would do well to keep in mind. I should note that the committee seems to have been working with the first edition of the NLT: out of the specific examples from Genesis offered by the committee, for instance, Genesis 37:26 was corrected in the NLTse. This, however, does not seem to affect the bulk of the texts to which the report refers. (And speaking of translational cricitisms of the NLT, Iyov offers some thoughts on the opening verses of Ezekiel here.) For his part, Keith Williams over at the NLT Blog takes at stab at addressing some of the concerns of those who, on the basis criticisms like those made by the CRC’s committee, suggest that “the NLT is great for daily reading, but it shouldn’t be used for serious Bible study.”


Over at Zondervan Academic’s new blog Koinonia, Craig Blomberg offers an interesting (albeit brief) perspective on the making of the four translations in which he has been involved: the NLT, the HCSB, the ESV, and more recently the TNIV. Incidentally, it occurs to me that in his book Greek for the Rest of Us Bill Mounce offers a goodly number of vignettes about the making of the ESV; it might be a worthwhile project to gather these up and see what we can learn about that translation in the process.


In a comment to Rick Mansfield’s review of the NLT Study Bible, David Ker suggests that “Tyndale could really make a splash by making their online version [of the NLTSB] freely available and searchable on an ongoing basis.” In fact, it seems that Tyndale agrees with the thrust of the Irreverend Mr Ker’s thinking. Marketing manager Laura Bartlett reports:

NLTSB Online Text Launch: In late August, we will be releasing the complete text and features of the NLTSB online. This text will be fully searchable, cross-references will be hyperlinked, and readers will have the ability to make both personal and public notes alongside the text. Anyone will be able to get a free 30-day trial of this site, and unlimited access to the text will be given to owners of NLT Study Bibles.”

And further:

Christianity Today Intl. Chooses NLT as Default Online Bible Text: By mid-September, anytime a visitor to (as well as their other websites) clicks on a Bible reference, they will be redirected to that reference on Visitors here will have access to the NLTSB text and notes, but not the personal features inlcuded for those who have registered on our site as owners of an NLTSB.”

Let the lingapotamus rejoice!


2 responses to “Bible Translation Matters

  1. It’s a very smart move (if I do say so myself) since it gives huge exposure to the translation, increases its relevance and provides tie-in opportunities for book sales. The key to the 2.0 economy is giving away everything you can. The true commodity of the 21st century is not money but influence.

    Thanks for alerting me to this.


  2. I can’t disagree the the committee if they were using an NLTfe. The NLTse is much better. As for the online resources I’ve been arguing for more a Tyndale wide type approach. They have a good commentary series based on the NLT, they have IMHO the best literal translation around they have tremendous thematic resources. That is a in and of themselves they own enough to create a mini version of logos and were they offer that online….


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