Bible translation and stylists
... since those responsible for this new translation [NET Bible] are primarily exegetes, our perspective is often so entrenched in the first-century world that we are blind as to how the English reader would look at the text today. Exegetes tend to produce a wooden translation without realizing it.Of course, not all stylists will help produce the same kind of English. A translation team needs to include stylists who produce language of the audience for which that translation is targeted. The stylists who worked on the NLT seem to have been fairly sensitive to current English, although the NLT is less idiomatic than its successor, the Living Bible.
Dr. Leland Ryken is a longtime professor of English at Wheaton College. He has taught many Wheaton students about the literary features of the Bible. Dr. Ryken personally prefers Bibles to be more literal than can typically be produced using only natural, contemporary English language forms. He has written expressing his view that more "dynamic equivalent" Bibles such as the NIV and TEV do not adequately capture the literary features of the Biblical languages. Dr. Ryken was an appropriate stylist for the ESV translation team since that team specifically wished to use a kind of English ("essentially literal") which "stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium." The ESV maintains the Tyndale-KJV literary tradition with the language updated enough so that many of its users can access the translation more easily than they could the Tyndale or KJV translations.
English Bibles, whether by design or not, are targeted for certain audiences. We can tell from observation of the language of an English version whether it is targeted toward people who understand theological terms traditionally used in English Bibles, such as "sanctification, "redemption," "repent," "flesh," "propitiation," etc. We can tell from the language used whether a Bible can be understood by people who are not part of a faith community. We can tell whether or not a translation team believed that only current natural English language forms should be used in a translation to be used by English speakers today.
No single Bible fits all audiences today. Some versions such as the TEV (GNT), CEV, NCV, GW, and NLT are better suited for those who are not familiar with church language. Others, such as the ESV, NASB, and NKJV are better suited for those who wish to do detailed studies of biblical words. Others such as the NIV, TNIV, NEB, NRSV, NJB, and NET Bible are positioned somewhere in the middle, with potential usage by non-churched people as well as those who wish to use their Bibles for more detailed study.
Stylists with different literary preferences help a translation team produce translations which fit the audiences they most wish to reach.