Meme: my translation of Colossians 3:1-3

TC Robinson has tagged me with a meme to translate Colossians 3:1-3. I finally got to it. The rules are:

1. Be contemporary
2. Be idiomatic and free as possible.
3. Parsing is optional.

Here’s the Greek text:

Ε ον συνηγρθητε τ Χριστ, τ νω ζητετε, ο Χριστς στιν ν δεξι το θεο καθμενος· τ νω φρονετε, μ τ π τς γς. 3 πεθνετε γρ κα ζω μν κκρυπται σν τ Χριστ ν τ θε.

TC presented a challenging text to translate. I tried to keep it short, so here it is.

“So if you have been resurrected together with Christ, seek after the things above, where Christ is seated in power at God’s right side. Be concerned about things above, not about earthly things, for you have died, and now your new life, which is unseen, is with Christ in God.”

Romans 6:17 – TNIV vs HCSB vs ESV vs NRSV

Here’s a comparison of Romans 6:17 between four major translations. I was studying this for my sermon preparation and found this interesting difference.

Romans 6:17

TNIV:
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

HCSB:
But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,

ESV:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

NRSV:
But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

v. 17: the rendering in the HCSB and NRSV seems to most accurately render the definition of παρεδοθητε (paredothēte, entrusted). The word paredothēte conveys the idea that this teaching has been entrusted to the receiver, or given over or delivered to someone else’s hands. Both HCSB and NRSV rendering of “entrusted” accurately expresses this idea that something is handed over or delivered to another’s hands. The idea expressed in the ESV is still accurate but might be misinterpreted as to whom, and from whom, this pattern of teaching has been committed to. TNIV’s rendering of “claimed your allegiance” can also be misinterpreted to mean that the receiver of this teaching is the one who has actively committed oneself over to Paul’s teaching. This may be true but it is not what the text is necessarily saying. I prefer the NIV’s rendering of “entrusted.”

Also, ESV’s rendering of “standard of teaching” is a little different from the others. The Greek word τυπον (tupon, pattern or model) expresses the idea of the use of an example or a model that has a mark or impression and can be used as an exemplar. I prefer HCSB and TNIV’s use of “pattern”, and NRSV’s use of “form” is also good.

The HCSB: with strong baptist influence

Broadman & Holman (B&H) would like to market the Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB) as an interdenominational translation. However, I think it is also accurate to identify the majority of its translation team as having some baptist influence of some sorts. If we want to call it an evangelical translation, that would be fair because baptists are very evangelical in nature. Even if the translators are not officially members of a baptist church, many are, or have been, involved with some circles of baptist influence—either through seminary or some other organization. Upon a closer look at the HCSB translation team, many are indeed from, or came from, institutions with some Baptist influence. For marketing purposes, it is understandable that Holman would like to distinguish its translation as an evangelical translation. The Broadman & Holman website states the HCSB’s translation team is an: “international, interdenominational team of 100 scholars, editors, stylists, and proofreaders”.

What other translations in the past have had a heavy denominational influence? The Authorized Version? Would it be fair to say that the translators of the King James Version had mostly an Anglican influence? And likewise, the NJB and NAB, a Roman Catholic influence? These are undeniable facts.

Today, who else more strongly identifies with the KJV as “their own translation” than evangelicals, pentecostals and baptists? So then, why should LifeWay and B&H shy away from the true ethos of its translation team? If the ethos of the translation team is mainly baptists, then why not be proud of it? Even if it is not as varied in denominational influence as the TNIV or ESV, that is okay. Throughout history, baptists have made a major and lasting impact upon the overall evangelical landscape so why not stake its claim as an original baptist translation? Perhaps one day in the future, the HCSB will become almost as popular as the KJV. If this happens, baptists can proudly claim its involvement and influence in the making of the Holman CSB.

What is your first favorite bible translation?

My biblio-blogger friend, Gary Zimmerli, just blogged about his journey through his search for a modern translation (HCSB, NASB, NRSV, T/NIV, ESV). He has now just returned full circle back to the NKJV as his main translation. I pose a question to everyone below.

Gary said:

“So I went and found my old, beat-up NKJV, and started reading. And it was like I had come home! I could hardly put it down! My mind relaxed, and I could understand it all! It was the Word as I remembered it! It was the Word as I had learned it and as I had heard it preached so many times for so many years! I couldn’t believe I was reading the NKJV and enjoying it! Even the rhythms are there, just like in the old KJV. So now I’m looking at replacing that beat-up old NKJV Bible. And while it’s not the NRSV, what it is, is immediately recognizable and acceptable to nearly all circles of Christians. It can be my Bible! I can carry it, and teach from it, and everybody will know it is the Word of God. I don’t have to recommend it to people; it will just be what I carry and use. I feel like I have come home.” [ read entire post here ]

My response to his post was:

“…it was also my translation while growing up in the Christian faith. My bible wasn’t the NIV or NASB like it is with many others. The NKJV has a ring to it that I’m so familiar with. Maybe that’s why when I pick it up, it sounds like how I think a bible should sound like. I think you have to be comfortable with the bible and have confidence in it that it is speaking the word of God into the ears of the listeners and readers.”

Even though I first read the GNT as a kid, at about age 19, I left it for the NKJV and stuck with it for many of my young adult years but have switched to various modern translations. I haven’t switched back to the NKJV, and do not foresee myself doing so.

This caused me wonder about why we find our first bible translation so comforting? Does it make us feel right at home like in our own bedroom in the house where we grew up, and where we know every nook and cranny?

I’m interested in hearing what was your first main bible translation? And how do you feel about it now?

Search for a mediating translation: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – a conclusion

This series was meant to search out a favorite mediating translation and was not for the purpose of coming to a conclusion to a “best translation”. A “favorite translation” can be very subjective because one person’s criteria as to why one is their favorite translation might be different than another person’s criteria. However, I can conclude that I think both the TNIV and HCSB are very trustworthy translations.

In terms of literalness, the TNIV is slightly more literal than the NAB. The HCSB is most literal of the three translations, but in some places, it can also be more dynamic than the TNIV. For those who prefer more literal renderings from the original language, the HCSB might be the way to go. However, being literal does not mean that it is less readable. Both the TNIV and HCSB do an equally good job in readability, but in the area of comprehension, the HCSB is sometimes better than the TNIV. I will say more about this later. Furthermore, the less wordy HCSB seems to say the same thing in fewer words than the TNIV or NAB.

The TNIV is also definitely the most gender-inclusive translation. Some may equate gender-inclusivity with gender-accuracy; however, the term “gender-accurate” might be seen as presumptuous because it implies that it is more gender accurate. The TNIV has chosen to use this term in its marketing. HCSB is not nearly as gender-inclusive as the TNIV. Gender-inclusive pronouns are used sparingly, as in the ESV, which makes it rather inconsistent; and the NAB is somewhere in between the TNIV and HCSB. Here are the conclusions to each of the three mediating translations.

TNIV:

The TNIV is probably only slightly more colloquial than the HCSB. Colloquialisms are not necessarily a bad thing because it helps the reader of the English language more quickly and easily understand what the writer is trying to express. However, the downside of colloquialisms is that it can become outdated when it’s no longer in popular usage. This forces the translation to continually update its linguistic style. Therefore, I would prefer as little colloquialisms as possible.

It is one of my favorite translations. I regularly use the TNIV in my personal study. The TNIV is the first mediating translation I grab off the shelf when I do exegesis of the text at hand. The biblical scholarship behind the TNIV is excellent. Due to its changes from updated biblical scholarship, it is now more accurate than the NIV. Many passages unrelated to gender-inclusive changes bring greater accuracy. As a result, I preach and teach from the TNIV as much as, or if not more than, any other translation today. In some places in the O.T., the TNIV still has some inverted negatives. The TNIV’s use of “anyone” causes me to feel more impersonal than “one who” or “whoever.” I hope this can change in future revisions. I believe the TNIV’s move toward greater gender-inclusivity is one of the main factors that will enable the scriptures to speak to today’s generation more directly. Since the NIV is still the translation of choice for most evangelicals, the TNIV has a huge potential for growth within evangelical circles. When more evangelicals begin to recognize and accept gender-inclusiveness as being gender-accurate, evangelicals will begin to shift over to the TNIV in droves. However, it is sad to say that this may not happen right away. It may take a few more years so patience will pay off. I guess this is where TNIV will need defenders of gender-inclusivity to help increase knowledge and understanding of the writers’ original intent.

HCSB:

The HCSB has done an amazing job in making it less wordy. It expresses the idea effectively and efficiently while using fewer words. In many places, it is just as literal as the NASB or ESV. At the same time, in some passages it is as dynamic, if not more dynamic, than the TNIV. This simultaneous use of both word-for-word (formal equivalence) and thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalence) makes it somewhere in between a literal translation and a dynamic (functional) translation. This is what they call optimal equivalence. In my opinion, I think the translators of the HCSB have taken the best approach or philosophy when it comes to bible translation. It stays with the word-for-word approach when the meaning is already clear and understandable; but when the literal approach does not work, it will optimize the meaning by using the thought-for-thought approach. As a result, the HCSB is consistently easy to read and understand—even more so than the TNIV. It has done such a good job that I might even venture to say that it renders a functional or dynamic translation unnecessary.

The biblical scholarship behind the HCSB is very up-to-date. It uses some unique ways of rendering certain passages and terms that I have not seen in other translations. One that stands out in my mind is the rendering of “temple complex” instead of “temple”. The HCSB is not as colloquial as the TNIV but it does have a few colloquial terms (e.g., slacker instead of TNIV’s sluggard). I also like the HCSB’s use of bold print in the New Testament where it quotes Old Testament passages. This helps me to understand the N.T. text in its proper context. I also prefer its contemporary use of digits, weights and measures (e.g., 9,000 instead of nine thousand; feet instead of cubits; gallons instead of baths, etc.). I also like its use of square brackets to denote words not in the original Greek. This adds an element of transparency and clarity for the reader. Even though these extra tools in the HCSB are unnecessary niceties, they are, nevertheless, helpful to the reader. There are some renderings in the HCSB that may also be more accurate than the TNIV; however, vice versa is also true because there are places where either one of the two translations may have the better rendering.

Since it is being continually revised each year, it can only get better. I predict that the HCSB will eventually make inroads to establish itself as one of two premier mediating translations in the evangelical world. I also use the HCSB in my preaching. I have confidence that it accurately speaks the word of God into the lives of its listeners and readers.

NAB:

Roman Catholics who read the NAB will be much more familiar with it than me. The NAB is a translation that I was not very familiar with when I started this series. It was a third option that I wanted to throw in to make the comparison more interesting. After doing this series, I still have to say that I am still not as familiar with it as I would like to be. The NAB is also an accurate translation but not as accurate as the TNIV or HCSB. I cannot make any conclusive statements about its Old Testament because both Old and New Testaments seem to have two different approaches to translation philosophy. The first edition of the NAB was later revised and was known as the Revised NAB, and then later it was amended again so it was known as the Amended Revised NAB. The latest revision of the NAB’s N.T. is now more gender-inclusive. It is slightly less literal than the TNIV; but in terms of gender-inclusivity, it stands in between the TNIV and HCSB. The NAB’s unique renderings also bring a fresh perspective to viewing certain passages. It lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology. I guess this is why it is used by Roman Catholics, particularly Roman Catholics in the United States. In the U.S., some parishes prefer the use of the RSV over the NAB in their lectionary readings due to occasionally awkward and inaccurate renderings.

The next series will likely be on dynamic or functional translations. It will likely come in the Fall of 2008.

A conclusion and summer time blogging

After blogging about mediating translations, I have forgotten to tie up loose ends by posting a conclusion about my thoughts on each of the mediating translations. I am reminded that I should add a conclusion to the series, which will be the next post.

The next series, which will likely be on dynamic or functional translations, will likely take place in the Fall of 2008. Summer time is when I slow down to take more time for rest, relaxation and vacation. The two series on bible translations—one on formal translations, and the most recent one on mediating translations—required a lot of time. I will leave it for the Fall when I will return to spend more time blogging about in-depth scriptural issues. In the mean time, I think I will do more reading of others’ blogs than writing of my own because I foresee that I will have less time.

Bible-reading plan from the daily lectionary

I wish to improve my daily devotional life and feel a need to reflect more deeply on a daily study of scripture. Previously, I have done biblical analysis in my last two series on formal and mediating bible translations. This utilized the intellectual side of my mind; however, at this point, spiritual growth via meditations on scripture has been a personal priority of mine. Inevitably, this will be reflected in future posts on the New Epistles blog. Naturally, I will be doing less blogging during the summer months, which are generally slower months for blogging anyway. However, I will try to start blogging more on some of my devotional meditations on scripture.

I will try to begin using a daily lectionary in order to help me establish and regulate a discipline of daily scripture reading. This will also supplement scripture reading with daily devotions from the Upper Room. It seems to me that a little structure in my daily devotional life might be necessary. Chaos and unexpected events can too easily, and too often, pull me away from maintaining regular spiritual meditations each day.

I am still undecided on which lectionary to use. There are two. I might use traditional 2-year daily readings taken from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Apparently, there is also a new daily lectionary based on the 3-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) called the Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings (overview). This was established by the Consultation on Common Text (CCT) in 2005. The Canadian Bible Society also puts out a daily reading plan (non-lectionary) and it leads one through the entire bible in a year. However, this might be a bit too heavy for me given my busy schedule these days.

Does anyone have any recommendations for daily lectionary reading?

License plates with crosses in North Carolina

South Carolina will make available license plates with crosses (see it here). I think that’s a great idea because it gives people an expression of faith.

The infamous American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposes the idea because they say it’s a union between church and state. However, the ACLU, and the Governor, is confused with what they believe is a union between church and state. I think they should really get a history lesson on what union of church and state really was.

A separation of church and state is what we evangelical-protestant Christians fought for. If we did not have a separation of church and state, evangelicals and most protestant churches would not be allowed to exist. We would be oppressed by the rulers and by the official church. It is ironic that when evangelicals express our religious beliefs today, we get accused by groups like the ACLU of mixing church and state. So thank God for good Christian organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) who try to correct the ignorance and tragedies that are allowed to happen in our public arena.

A union between church and state is actually what we had when the Roman Catholic Church was still organically joined with the state. Today, there is no such thing. Individuals who are Christians, of any denomination, have every right to freely express their religious beliefs anytime and anywhere, including government, schools, and any public organization. This is true freedom of religion.

A theologian #1: Rev. John Shelby Spong

Recently, I started reading some of John Shelby Spong who is a liberal Episcopal priest and bishop. For conservatives, he is as liberal as they come. Besides being a supporter of radical feminism and racial equality, he also supports gay rights. A while ago, someone gave me one of his books to read. It is called: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: a Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (HarperCollins, 1991). I have not taken the time to read it until only recently.

Spong says he was taught the bible as a child from a fundamentalist perspective but has rejected it but he speaks as if he does not have, in the least, any sense of who evangelicals are and what we represent–and perhaps he really doesn’t. When I read his book, I got the feeling that he loves to broad-stroke literalists as backwards, ignorant, oppressive and fundamentalist, and also, as haters of women, racial and visible minorities, and gays and lesbians.

It would be safe to say that even most female and racial minorities who are evangelicals would feel he is condescending toward evangelicals. Sometimes, what he says comes across feeling like a slap in the face. If he could only express his views in a softer, gentler tone, he wouldn’t come across as so repulsive.

Spong does not care to differentiate between evangelicals and fundamentalists. He seems to identify both as the same–as literalists. His refusal to use the term “evangelical” makes him come across as disrespectful of those who hold a conservative evangelical theology. If anyone in liberal scholarship is not yet aware of this: Christians of the conservative stream do not like to be labelled “fundamentalists.”

I can actually agree with some of what he says concerning scripture (but not his theology); however, it is difficult to take the medicine he dishes out that comes along with it. So why do I find him a little harsh? Much of the new evangelical biblical scholarship is already dealing with some the issues that he brings up in his book. It is not the liberal positions on scripture or theology that annoys me. I have read enough literature from a liberal perspective to know that I can’t be easily annoyed by it. I read with interest the scholarly articles and books written from a liberal perspective. What annoys me is actually the negative and condescending attitude he takes when he is trying to prove his point about fundamentalists, whom he labels as, literalist. Here is a small taste of Spong’s style of rhetoric concerning evangelicals:

[ Mainline churches ] (emph. mine) would be embarrassed if they had to defend the patterns of segregation among southern fundamentalists, but many of them are quite convinced that their prejudice toward women, for example, is a justified part of God’s plan in creation. It is for them [i.e., fundamentalists](emph. mine) God-given and biblically based. It is no surprise, then, that the twentieth-century battle for the right of women in the church and for the casting off of the male-imposed definition of women has produced heated and emotional ecclesiastical conflict (Spong, p.5).

I think most conservative mainline Christians would also be embarrassed by this statement. It is very easy to spot his distaste of conservative evangelicals. What he says and how he says it can sound hurtful toward evangelicals. If it was dished out back to liberals in the same way, not even liberals would appreciate it. I also expect the same respectfulness from conservatives toward liberals.

What can we do to remedy this type of ignorance that exists in the minds of liberal Christians? Is there anything we can do to build bridges with liberals without the feeling that we are forfeiting our conservative-evangelical theology?

Also see similar posts:
A theologian #3: Rev. Carlton Pearson
A theologian #2: Rev. Francis Schaeffer