Friday, 18 January 2013

NLT: a very good translation

I have a habit of railing on about bible translations, or talking about hell, criticizing the KJV etc.

Well, I have found a wonderful translation, one I have decided to spend a month with. I am quite sure that somewhere on this blog I have criticized it, called it a paraphrase or something or other. But I often say things without consideration, and thank God! I finally got around to considering the NLT.

The story behind it is simple, I struggle when reading the bible, and its not because the subject matter is hard! The reason I struggle is because many translators follow Tyndale's word for word style of translation, which was great for Tyndale, but is not so good in a 21st century translation. They still use his work as a base, but often keep the same sentence structures. But they pay no consideration to how it is written. If I want to read Tyndale, I can read his facsimile, or the KJV. I don't want to have to wade through numerous revisions (Tyndale> Matthew> KJV> ERV> RSV> NRSV> ESV) of a 16th century translation, in order to get to the word of God.

What makes it worse, is how the publishing companies - and consumers, and translators - will often insist on formal translation- often religiously - and will criticize dynamic translators for being "too loose" with the word of God. The issue here though, is that by following Tyndale, they can't ever succeed him, his translation is the best translation there is, and every revision which follows from him has weakened and in many ways corrupted what he wrote. What translators need to do (in my opinion) is listen, and understand - that what worked then, doesn't necessarily work now. If you must produce a Tyndale style work, then for goodness sake add the thee's, thous and eths. Stop trying to force a 16th century style into a 21st century mold. It produces bland, incomprehensible sentences! If you are going to produce a 21st century translation, then do it! Stop producing weak hybrids which obscure, rather than reveal God's word.

Anyway, here we have a translation which you can read! I won't compare it to Tyndale, because it isn't Tyndale (although I am sure his legacy is here somewhere ;) The NLT is a dynamic TRANSLATION, which means wherever necessary, the translator will take the liberty of amending sentence structure, and trying to bring forth the intended meaning whilst not being beholden to the greek itself. Whereas the ESV or another translation is more likely to reproduce the greek word for word, the NLT will not do so (all the time).

Its all about getting the meaning across.

Frankly, I prefer this style, its still the bible, and it still says what the ESV or KJV or NASB says, it just says it in a more understandable way. It's gone through a few revisions to get where it is today, and its frankly better (and more literal) than it ever has been before. Its at its best today. I do of course have a few points where I think it needs revising (when do I ever stop criticizing?) But these are really minor points (John 3:16 - "this way" instead of "so much" for instance.) The greek tends to allow these points anyway, so its not going wayyyy out there, like The Message always does.

I can understand a 1526 translation written in gothic font, in a truly archaic form of English - but its hard work - worthwhile work - but why do that when I can pick up the NLT and just read, understand and enjoy. Here I will give you an example of the beauty of the NLT:

 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?

You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.  
Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.

Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.

I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.  
 So I urge you to imitate me.   [1 Corinthians 4:6-16]

The way it is formatted; short sentences, a lesser vocabulary, allows it to read as though it was actually written in 2007 (when this was revised), rather than 60AD (roundabout). This is how Tyndale's NT was written, and its how our translations should be written. [Theres a good reason why almost every single translation after Tyndale used Tyndale's work as a base].

It has a sort of poetry of its own, its truly wonderful. I apologise that this review is probably so poorly written. Its late at night and I just wanted to lay some thoughts down before bed. Anyway I commend the NLT to you as a translation you may have overlooked and should probably give some thought to getting. I for one am tired of the bible wars, and am getting out of it, there is no 'best translation', and I am tired of rich publishing companies telling me theirs is best, just so they can get some cash out of me.

God bless
Chris.

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