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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Who are you to condemn God's servants?

I have just read an interesting post on This Lamp about the New Living Translation. Here Rick Mansfield comments on why the NLT translates Romans 14:4 as it does.

    Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should. NLT

    Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. NASB
Here Rick goes through the process of understanding that the NLT cannot be labeled incorrect, even if it is more interpretation than he wants.

    As I continued my study, I eventually understood why the NLT translators presented their verse in this way. The Apostle Paul is making an analogy. In the context of casting judgment on each other over secondary issues, Paul is essentially asking the question, "Would any of you show criticism to another man's servant?" Of course not. It wouldn't be the place of someone to do that in the ancient world. When I taught the passage this morning, I tried to make a modern analogy to being frustrated with rowdy children in public places. Often we are tempted to say something perhaps as a reprimand to them or perhaps to their parents, but we often don't because they aren't our children. This is close to what Paul was saying to the Roman Christians. It wouldn't be fitting to criticize another person's servants because odds are they are fulfilling the will of their master. Paul is stressing that likewise, we belong to God. We are his servants, and it's neither appropriate of us to pass judgment on each other for this disputable issues.

    Now I just explained to you what the verse meant. I have interpreted it for you. The NLT translators describe their dynamic-equivalence method as "thought-for-thought."

    In the preface of the New Living Translation, they describe their method in this way: translate the thought of the original language requires that the text be interpreted accurately and then be rendered in understandable idiom. So the goal of any thought-for-thought translation is to be both reliable and eminently readable. Thus, as a thought-for-thought translation, the New Living Translation seeks to be both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.

    When the NLT translators rendered Romans 14:4 as "Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong..." they were taking the interpretive step for the reader and accurately rendering Paul's thought in the passage. The point is about judging God's servants. That may be a bit more than what I personally want my primary translation to do for me, But I can't label it incorrect.
Read the entire post here.


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