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Monday, September 29, 2008

NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, and “Hanged On The Gallows” (Esther 2:23)

Friday, September 26, 2008

how to pray in contemporary English

Every Sunday in our church we recite the Lord's Prayer using words which no one in the church speaks or writes except during that prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
I often wish we would use contemporary and widely known words and syntax for the prayer. For a number of months I've thought I would like to try to render the prayer in contemporary English. I hope that my version might be close enough to how you speak and write English, so that the prayer might be meaningful to you, as well. The recent blog posts on the Lord's Prayer were serendipitous (not a very widely known contemporary word!). I have finished my assigned work for this week, so I have some time to pray with you on this blog.

Once when Jesus was speaking to his followers, he gave them this prayer that they could use as an example of a good way to pray:

Our heavenly father (1),
help us honor you (2).
Come be our king, (3)
so that everyone will do what you want here on earth
will obey you
just as you are obeyed they do in heaven.
Provide for us the food we need today. (4)
Please forgive what we have done wrong (5)
as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.
Help us not give in when we are tempted. (6)
and even protect us from the Evil One who tempts us.
You can do it (7) because you are the king, (8, 9)
and you are always powerful
and totally amazing awesome. (10)

Well, I don't expect any churches to adopt my suggestions as a substitute for the version of the Lord's Prayer they currently pray. But I do think there is value in our trying to re-express words and syntax which are outdated. Of course, some of you may feel that there is nothing outdated at all about the version of the prayer used in our church. We can agree to disagree on that. In any case, I hope that you and I can pray in even more meaningful ways. We need it. Our families need it. Our countries need it. It pleases God.

(1) This construction is more natural to me than "Our father in heaven" which means the same thing.

(2) This clause does not focus on God's name, as it seems in many translations. Rather, the original reference to God's name is a synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole. Honoring someone's name was an important and common Semitic expression for honoring that person who had that name. The English language not use this synecdoche, so it is misleading, a form of inaccuracy, to include "name" in this clause, unless we include enough other information so that it is clear that name refers to all of the person. But that extra information would be so weighty here that it would throw off the focus. I admit to feeling conflicted on this clause because of the strong church tradition of retaining literal "name" in the prayer. So I'm open to other ideas on this part of my translation, as well as all the other parts. Using "help" instead of "may" is my tilt toward what feels like greater naturalness in English. I would not normally say "May you be honored" or "May we honor you." I think that this clause is really part of the requests of the prayer. A wish (English "may") is a kind of mitigated request.

(3) The request for God's kingdom to come is actually a request for God to be our king. I'm retaining the word "king" to try to maintain the Lord's Prayer within the context of a kingly reign which was a wellknown concept in Bible times. I considered using the word "boss" or some other word more widely known to those of us who do not live under a monarch, but I think that these better known words might not really capture as many of the semantic components as does the word "king."

(4) "Bread" was considered a main food staple in Bible times. The original word is another example of synecdoche where bread represents the entire meal. If we retain the word "bread", the request is more narrowly focused than was the original text, and our prayer would, therefore, not be as accurate as it should be for good quality translation.

I don't know which is more natural, "provide for us" or "give us". I more commonly use the word "give" but I'm not sure it is quite adequate in the concept of asking God to take care of our nutritional needs.

(5) or, "Please forgive our sins". Matthew uses a word which could literally be translated as "debts" but can refer to sins, and I believe does, when Jesus taught his followers to pray. I suspect that many people today who say the words "debts" and "debtors" during the Lord's Prayer have a mental image of a financial loan at some level of their thinking. That causes "cognitive dissonance" since many probably also suspect financial loans are not what those words are really about. I don't think we should have cognitive dissonance in our Bible translations, unless that dissonance was intended by the original author.

(6) I've often been troubled by the literal wording asking God not to lead us into temptation, because I don't believe that God would ever lead anyone into temptation. It says in the book of James that God does not tempt people, so I don't think he would lead people toward temptation, either.

(7) This is my attempt to capture the meaning of the Greek hoti connecting the clauses here.

(8) As noted in a recent post on this blog, this part of the prayer is not found in all ancient Greek manuscripts. It has, however, been part of the prayer that Christ's Church has prayed for many centuries. There is nothing wrong with praying it.

(9) It is not standard English to tell someone "thine is the ..." or, using a contemporary pronoun, "yours is the ...". I don't think I would ever tell our son, "Yours is this car." I might say, "This car is yours," if I had enough money and were that generous. But I don't think we would use even that standard syntax for speaking of something abstract such as a kingship or power belonging to someone.

(10) This is my attempt to capture the concept that God is "glorious". I'm not happy with "totally awesome." It sounds too colloquial to me. But "glorious" is not widely used, except, I think, in a similarly colloquial way as in, "Wow, that concert was glorious!" I welcome suggestions for a more appropriate contemporary equivalent here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ESV Study Bible interview

Trevin Wax interviews Justin Taylor about how the ESV Study Bible was produced.

HT: James Grant

In the beginning was the Dao

I found a comment at ThinkChristian quite interesting relating to the recent difficulties of using the New Chinese Version of the Bible:

The gospel has grown in cities, not villages and as these families try to reach their villages (mostly Daoist) its awkward to read John 1:1 where it literally reads, "In the beginning was the Dao, and the Dao was with God and the Dao was God." Talk about culturally confusing!

Ranger also mentions the problem of lack of availability as being a factor in the slow acceptance of the new version. In Malawi a similar story is happening with regard to the Buku Loyera which was meant to replace the archaic Buku Lopatulika.

Read: Switching Chinese Bible Translations and check out Ranger’s comments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What does the Lord's Prayer mean?

As David has just pointed out, there is a post about an error in the Lord’s Prayer at New Epistles. I commented on that “error” there, but I think that the issue warrants a posting here.

The problem arises out of our understanding of
Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς (Matt. 6:9a)

“After this manner therefore pray ye:” (KJV)
“Therefore, you should pray like this:” (HSCB)
“This, then, is how you should pray:” (NIV)
“Pray like this:” (NLT)
The usual interpretation is a fairly literal one, as though Jesus had said:
“Pray these words:”
The Greek doesn’t say that. The meaning is more accurately:
“Make your prayers go like this:”
In other words, the Lord's Prayer is really a template of how to pray.

Repeat the words and it becomes meaningless ritual. Pray according to the template and you can be sincere and real.

Praying using Jesus’ words as a template gives us the following way to form our prayers:
1) Acknowledge who God is.
2) Pray for His work on earth.
3) Ask for what you need.
4) Ask for forgiveness.
5) Ask for a way to deal with temptation and opposition.
The order is crucial, and it’s the part we get wrong all the time.

How often do we open our prayers with requests to deal with our immediate situation, with pleas for forgiveness to deal with our feelings of sinfulness, with requests to rain down fire and brimstone on our enemies. (OK, that’s a little over the top, but you get the idea.)

When we do so, we easily lose track of just who God is.

If we started every prayer putting God’s majesty and His agenda first, we might just get a better perspective on life.

As for the “error”, the fact that we throw in a doxology, which has early roots, is moot if the Lord’s Prayer is a template. To wring our hands over whether it is an error or not is to succumb to the same kind of literalist thinking that leads us to ritualistically repeat Jesus’ words. The very kind of thinking which prevents us from learning how to form all our prayers the way Jesus commanded us.

The Lord's Prayer is in perpetual error

Read Kevin Sam's post and see if you agree: The Lord's Prayer is in perpetual error

Monday, September 22, 2008

new poll

I put a new poll in the margin of this blog today. Have fun with it.

Mecha Manga Bible

Yep, another Manga Bible.

Holy Heroes has the review: Mecha Manga Bible Heroes #1: David vs. Goliath

This Bible is a riot

“Tribals in Jharkhand are up in arms against a recent Kuduk translation of the Bible, which exhorts people to destroy trees and places where they worship. The Bible Society of India has apologised for the translation and has promised to withdraw copies from the market.The Kendriya Sarna Samittee (KSS), an organisation of tribals, has announced it will burn the copies translated into Kuduk - one of the local tribal languages - if they are not withdrawn.”

Source: Thaindian News HT: Jim West


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is somebody shutting the gate at Bible Gateway?

Rich Tatum seems to think so. He has a scoop on a possible shutdown for the most famous Bible portal on the web. Apparently the word leaked out via the Muskegon Chronicle. The what? That’s right, Muskegon. According to the ever helpful Wikipedia,  Muskegon is a town and county in Michigan.

Before you panic, I would say it’s extremely unlikely that will disappear. But if it changes hands who will have the say on how Bibles are shared? And what will be the impact of possible ad-revenue or subscription-based services?

If anyone is interested in financing a bid for Bible Gateway, please contact me. I’m willing to partner with wealthy donors to secure this valuable resource for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bible translation and importing N.T. meanings to O.T. passages

We have had a few blog posts in the past which discuss the issue of whether we should only translate the original human author's meaning intended for a Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) passage, or whether we should allow New Testament exegesis (typically messianic) of that quote to determine how we translate the O.T. passage. The issue has particular relevance for whether or not we capitalize names of individuals in the O.T. who are considered references to the Messiah (Christ) in the N.T. For instance, should the word "son" in Psalm 2:12 be capitalized, since it is quoted in the N.T. as a reference to Christ the Messiah, or not capitalized since the original author likely was referring to a non-messianic figure. The difference here can be seen in the contrast between the NIV, which tends to "christologize" the O.T.:
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way
and the NIV's revision, the TNIV:
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
Now, for some fun. You can take a short quiz to determine which of the main positions you take with regard to importing N.T. meanings to O.T. passages. This quiz has been showing up on several blogs. I'll link to the original on the Koinonia blog:

Feel free to share your quiz results here or on the Koinonia blog. I will share mine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

NLT Blog: Sentence Structure in the NLT

NLT Study Bible vs. ESV Study Bible- Introducing the Prophets

NLT Study Bible and Mark 11:13-14

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Which NLT are you reading?

NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, and “Heavenly Places” (Ephesians 1:3)

Brent at The Christian Monthly Standard has been blogging about English Bible versions. One of his posts today is NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, and “Heavenly Places” (Ephesians 1:3)

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 15, 2008

Missionary Struggles to Translate "Thee" and "Thou"

The latest from Tominthebox News Network: Missionary Struggles to Translate "Thee" and "Thou". Enjoy! ;-)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

when "in" is out

Every language is different from every other language. One of the principles of translation from one language to another is that the linguistic patterns (lexical, syntactic, pragmatic, etc.) used in the translation should be those of the target language, rather than the source language. If linguistic patterns of the source language are used, there is a very good chance that those who use the translation will not be able to understand it.

Formal equivalence can only accurately communicate the original message in translation if the language form used in the biblical language already exists in the target language. (The claim of the last sentence can be nuanced if we engineer new forms in the the target language which match forms in the biblical language texts and teach the meanings of the new forms to its speakers. But, to my mind, anyway, this defeats the purpose of translation, which is, again, to allow speakers of one language to understand a message first produced in another language.)

These facts are true whether the source language is Spanish, Navajo, Japanese, or one of the biblical languages. Translating the Bible does not give us the privilege of importing biblical language patterns to English if our aim is to accurately communicate the biblical language message to those who use the target language translation.

The longer I have been working as a Bible translator and Bible translation consultant, the more I have come to realize that many of the English Bible phrases I was raised on are not part of the English language. Many such problem phrases are prepositional phrases which begin with the preposition "in". I have written about this issue a number of times in the past, but I want to do so again, because this week I found that one English version does a good job of avoiding the non-English "in" phrases.

I grew up reading Romans 8:1 like this:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Notice the phrase "in Christ Jesus". Notice also that the verb which "controls" it is "are," a form of the verb "be".

If we listen to English speakers, or study what they have written (or if we simply want to remember what our English teachers taught us), we can discover that English speakers have a linguistic rule that allows for "in" to be used with an object that states a location, for example:
  1. John is in Madison.
  2. Mary lives in Dallas.
  3. The bees are making honey in their hive.
  4. We ate supper in the dining room.
  5. The surgeon's hands are in Ralph right now.
There are a few other grammatical uses of "in" where the object is not a location, as in:
  1. John and Mary are in love.
  2. Elmer is in trouble.
As far as I have been able to determine, observing "in" usage for many years, the only time English speakers use the preposition "in" with the name of a person is when that person is a location, as in my somewhat odd sentence #5, above. Fluent English speakers do not speak or write sentences with the "in" phrase found quoted in Romans 8:1 at the beginning of this post. That usage of "in" has been imported to English from the Greek source text, which has the Greek preposition en followed by the name Christ Jesus. Greek en does properly translate to English "in" in locative phrases. But the Greek of Romans 8:1 does not have a locative phrase. Christ Jesus is not a location where a person can be "in". Here we see that Greek and English differ in how what they allow as the object of a preposition, Greek en or English "in". Prepositional phrases in Greek and English with these prepositions are sometimes formal equivalents and sometimes they are not. In other words, the proper translation equivalent in English to a Greek phrase beginning with en sometimes is an English phrase beginning with "in" and sometimes it is not.

This week I noticed that the NLT translates Romans 8:1 as
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Now, for the moment setting aside the question of translation accuracy, is this sentence grammatical English? It seems so to me. The phrase "belong to Christ Jesus" is intended to translate the meaning of the Greek phrase beginning with en.

Now, does "those who belong to Christ Jesus" mean the same as the intended meaning of the non-English prepositional phrase "those who are in Christ Jesus"? My understanding, from reading theological explanations of the intended meaning of phrases like "BE in the Lord", "BE in Christ," "BE in Christ Jesus," and "BE in God," is that "those who belong to Christ Jesus" is a good translation equivalent to the original Greek phrases. Clearly (at least to me!), if we say that someone belongs to Christ Jesus, that communicates meaning to more English speakers than does saying that someone is "in Christ Jesus."

The NLT includes a footnote in a parallel passage, 1 Cor. 1:4, to help those who might question the accuracy of a translation which does not use "in" to translate the Greek phrase en + Christ Jesus:
now that you belong to Christ Jesus (literally in Christ Jesus): Paul frequently uses the phrase in Christ Jesus to refer to the saving relationship believers have with Christ (e.g., Rom 3:24; Gal 2:4; Eph 3:6).
Are there other English Bible versions which avoid using the non-English phrasing "in Christ Jesus"? Yes, there are a few but not many. Most English versions import the form of the Greek prepositional phrase to English and supplement it with teaching to explain its meaning. But teaching does not transform the phrase into a genuine English, unless so many speakers of the language are taught the meaning of the phrase and so many speakers decide that they will add "in" plus Christ or God to their list of grammatical prepositional phrases. When that happens, language change will have occurred and teaching will not be required to understand the "in" phrase of Rom. 8:1.

Here are some other versions which attempt to use genuine English forms as translation equivalents of the Greek prepositional phrase for Rom. 8:1:
There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. (TEV)
If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won't be punished. (CEV)

So those who are believers in Christ Jesus can no longer be condemned. (God's Word)

It follows that there is now no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus. (REB)
There is much more that could be added in a larger study of translation equivalence to the Greek phrase en + name for God or Christ, but this should be enough to introduce us to the issue and some genuine English solutions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Young Guns on Bible Translation

While this neck of the blogosphere has started to resemble tap-dancing night at the senior center, there are numerous bloggers out there who are cranking up the amps and staying up late blogging about Better Bibles. There are so many posts that I can’t keep track, but I should mention:

ElShaddai Edwards: He’s got a new web address: (it used to be .net) and is putting out a lot of fine posts like this one: What makes a Bible translation authoritative? which is an interaction with Kevin Sam (What are the most authoritative translations?)

TC Robinson: is a blogging maniac these days. He makes me look like a haiku poet. Here’s a good BT post: My First Blind Comparison: What Striking Similarities, I say!

Carolyn James is a new discovery thanks to the massive compendium of shared posts at Her post The Dictionary According to Jesus is full of gems. Key terms according to Jesus. Who would’ve thought?

Rick Mansfield: He probably shouldn’t be listed since a. He’s older than the hills and b. He’s been blogging for a coon’s age. But after a long hiatus he’s been blogging again like crazy. Here’s the hot one: Understanding Matthew 5:28 [updated]

Finally, we can all be glad that Mike Aubrey has taken up the baton again. Here’s a rumination on BT: A Few Thoughts on the Translation Debate. Now if we can just get Nathan Stitt to start blogging again…

Who are some other hot shots and rising stars out there that are blogging about Bible translation?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Which Bible Version is Superior? 2. Weaknesses of translation styles

I have just discovered the Cross-Cultural Impact in the 21st Century blog. There are several meaty articles discussing how to translate the Bible. One that discusses the pros and cons of different translations styles in English is Which Bible Version is Superior? 2. Weaknesses of translation styles.

I've been extremely busy lately, struggling with some of the quirks of Microsoft Word to get a publication to the printer. I'm sorry I haven't been able to post to BBB recently. But I still have a topic in mind to post on when I can find the time. Now I'm checking the translation of Colossians in a tribal language. This morning, as I checked, I came to the translation of Col. 2:19 and had a question about it, so I blogged about it in a short post to the Complementarian blog on the focus of Col. 2:19. Feel free to comment on that post there or here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Duct Tape Bible

Bryon writes a very entertaining article about a strange edition of the New Century Bible: The Duct Tape Bible - New Century Version

I remember in the mid-90’s hearing a lot of radio spots featuring the New Century Version. I always had a positive reaction to the readings. However, I’m not sure what happened to the NCV. Maybe it came unstuck.

HT: Found on Bible Behemoth.

A blind comparison

TC Robinson picks up on a suggestion of mine and makes a blind comparison between two translations of Hebrews 1:1-4.

See if you can guess which versions they are. And also, once you’ve figured out which versions they are does it change your opinions of the translations?

Read: My First Blind Comparison: What Striking Similarities, I say!

NLT Study Bible - Review 1

Sometimes experiments fizzle and sometimes they explode

Currently, I think the Bible Behemoth is somewhere in the middle. If you recall, I mentioned in The Next Big Thing that I was soliciting input on ways of collaborating on highlighting the best posts out there about the Bible. I tried to put the various ideas together into something called The Bible Behemoth. It is essentially a Google Reader page that shares other people’s shared feeds. Currently there are six contributors and I imagine that number will continue to grow. It is very interesting to see the posts some of my blog buddies are sharing. I’ve already discovered some new blogs that I want to follow.

To see the Bible Behemoth, visit:

I’m looking forward to more people signing up with an interest in Bible translation. You can see information on how to get involved here: How to use Shared items in Google Reader

Friday, September 05, 2008

It was only a matter of time…

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The next big thing

On my Lingamish blog I’ve tried to get people talking about what might be the “next big thing” for Bible blogs. The sheer number of people blogging about Bible related topics continues to snowball. Keeping track of that is far beyond what any one person can manage. So the question in my post is how can we keep track of all that wealth of information?

As readers of Better Bibles Blog, you are passionate about the Bible and I’d welcome your input.

Read it: The Next Big Thing in Bible Blogs

New Living Translation's continued success

Using Google to evaluate Bible translations

“Scripture Zealot. You might want to do a Google search on the word “haughty” and then click on news at the top. You will be surprised how often the word “haughty” is used in the news. Randy”

From a comment on this post: Don’t forget the ISV

Randy is recommending a really interesting way to check the usage of words in modern English.

  1. Search for a word on Google.
  2. Click on the News tab at the top.
  3. Browse the results for examples of how this word is being used by modern writers.

The results are indeed enlightening. From scanning the results I got these impressions:

  • Haughty is stylized rather than standard vocabulary.
  • There seemed to be more British usages than American.

Click on this link to see the News results for “haughty.”

You might ask whether this is a good word to have in a Bible translation. My answer would be: It depends! If it were being used in a poetic passage or one featuring highly stylized language it might be appropriate. If it were used in a straight descriptive sentence like 1 Timothy 6:17 it probably wouldn’t be appropriate.

One final concern about the word “haughty.” I believe that in British English “haughty” is pronounced the same as “hotty” which is a word to describe someone who is sexually appealing. So reading this out loud might be confusing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A post about Matthew 5:28

Update: This post has been renamed

Rick Mansfield: Understanding Matthew 5:28

I disagree with Rick's conclusions in his post but there are many interesting translation principles that come up. How do we define words? How do we apply hyperbolic pronouncements?

Rick spends a lot of time trying to figure out what kind of πρὸς we have here. That's an unfruitful quest in my opinion. Especially when we are trying to move from grammatical analysis to a major ethical application like he does here. And also, I think it's unfortunate to dismiss several major translations as "wrong" when they are doing no more than disagree with our own interpretation.

Well, check out Rick's post and decide for yourself who is right on this issue.

Monday, September 01, 2008

1 Cor. 1:21 in the NLT

One of the blogs that I enjoy the most is New Leaven by TC. He creates a welcoming atmosphere and there is always lots of chat.

I want to respond to a recent post of his on the NLT. He claims that the NLT has " dropped the ball," on this verse,
    Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.
I cannot agree with this, and I explain my reasons in a comment. Here is his post and my response,

    Here is the phrase in Greek. This is where you need to start.

    διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος
    dia tes morias tou kerygmatos

    1. It is well recognized that a genitive construction can be translated by an adjectival phrase in English. This is a normal equivalent. It is called the adjectival genitive.

    2. In many languages the possessive is not used where it would be in English. For example, in French one would never say [the equivalent of] “brush your teeth” but ” brush the teeth.” So adding a possessive pronoun is also usual when translating into English.

    I find the NLT to be accurate in its translation and well within the boundaries of the “literal.” I hope this helps. It is important to be fluent in many languages to understand and run with the variants presented in translation.

There may be other contextual or hermeneutic reasons for not choosing the translation which the NLT has prefered, but the NLT does use one possible translation of the Greek, which I claim is a literal, if not formal, equivalent.