Mediating translations: Isaiah 63:9

Isaiah 63:9

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
Through all that they suffered, he suffered too. The messenger sent from his very presence delivered them.
In all their suffering, He suffered, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. 


In all their troubles, it was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them.
in their every affliction.  It was not a messenger or an angel, but he himself who saved them.

Merry Christmas!
I’m looking at Isaiah 63:7-9 in preparation for this Sunday’s Christmas 1A message and found v.9 to be in much dispute.  The difference in interpretation is huge because the resulting differences in

In the NIV, CSB, NET (and ESV/RSV), the meaning offers a comforting message.  God declares his love for his people because it illustrates how when we are burdened, that God also bears a burden and sorrow along with us.  God feels the suffering of God’s people. However, in the NJB, NAB (and NRSV), the rendering does not show God suffering.

Another resulting consequence is that in the [NIV, ESV, CSB] the “angel of his presence” was there to save them, but in the [NJB, NAB] it is not a messenger or angel that saved them, but rather, his own presence.

Given this whole passage from vv.7-14 is actually about the crossing of the Red Sea, and that the “Angel of his Presence” alludes to the angel’s role at the time of the Red Sea crossing (see Exodus 14:19), I think NIV, CSB, NET offers the most intelligible rendering of Isaiah 63:9.

And not that it’s of any significance, but this interpretation also happens to go nicely with the theme of God’s ability to identify with humanity in the N.T. reading of Hebrews 2:10-18 (Year A, Christmas 1).  But for technical reasons, I’m compelled to go with the NIV, CSB, NET rendering on this one.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Mediating translation comparison #5: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Matthew 10:24, 28

So once again… the comparison series between mediating translations continues with Matthew, ch. 10.

Matt. 10:24—student vs disciple; servant vs slave

are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master.

A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.

is not superior to teacher, nor slave to master. It is enough for disciple to grow to be like teacher, and slave like master.

v.24: in TNIV’s gender-inclusive change from “his master” to “their master”, translators have changed the singular “student” to plural form. This alteration from the original is not the best. I prefer NJB rendering. From a gender-inclusive perspective, the NJB does a slick job of avoiding the use of “his” and “their” altogether. I prefer the NJB rendering because there is no change from singular to plural; moreover, it uses “slave” instead of “servant”. The NLT’s provides a fair rendering: “A student is not greater than the teacher. A servant is not greater than the master” but the NRSV provides an excellent rendering of the same verse too.

Furthermore, in today’s context, “disciple” has the connotation of discipleship and discipline, whereas, today’s use of “student” can carry the connotation of an immature high school or elementary school student. Does the average high school student strive to become like one’s teacher? I think not.

Matt. 10:28b—Gehenna vs hell

Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

v.28: The NAB provides an interesting translation of the word γεέννα (Gehenna, hell). I have wondered why our translations use the word “hell” instead of Gehenna. Young’s Literal Translation, World English Bible and Weymouth N.T. also use Gehenna. This likely comes from Ghi-Hinnom, or valley of Hinnom from Jeremiah 7:31 and 2 Chron. 28:3 was a place where people were sacrificed in a fire:

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. (Jer. 7:31, TNIV)

Gehenna, then, was a place where God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the New Jerusalem. Corpses, refuse and garbage were thrown in the Valley of Hinnom outside the city, where huge fires burned constantly. The imagery of Isaiah also adds to how we view hell:

And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isa. 66:24, NRSV)

If we render the word “Gehenna”, we risk not understanding that hell is an actual realm within our understanding of heaven and hell. Jesus described hell as a place of torment in Mark 9:45-48. If we use “hell”, we risk not understanding the origins of the word. I don’t have a preference. I think I’m torn between the use of both words.

Mediating translation comparison #4: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:11, 17-18

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the rest of Acts, ch.2

Acts 2:11

(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own languages the magnificent acts of God.”

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Jews and proselytes alike-Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

v.11a: The HCSB directly renders προσηλυτοι (prosēlutoi) as proselytes. The TNIV and NAB chose to render it as converts.” “Converts” is easier to understand than “proselytes.” It then tags on “to Judaism” to add clarity. Not everyone understands the meaning of the word “proselytes” because it is an insider’s term; moreover, it may also be a little outdated. I prefer the TNIV and NAB rendering of “converts to Judaism.

v.11b: μεγαλεος (megaleios) is defined as magnificent, excellent, splendid, wonderful, or mighty works. Where the Greek says: ta megaleia tou theou, the HCSB and NAB renders this as “acts of God.” The Greek includes the“magnificence of God and his works. Traditionally translations have rendered megaleios to include only the deeds, works or acts of God but not the magnificence of God himself. Current renderings like “wonders of God” (TNIV) or “marvels of God”(NJB), “might works” (ESV) is still missing the expression of God’s own magnificence. This shows the limits of the English language to include a multiplicity of meanings in a word. For megaleios, I would even suggest some alternate renderings of: “magnificence of God and God’s wonderful works,” or “greatness of God and God’s marvelous doings”. Perhaps someone others can suggest alternate renderings.

Acts 2:17

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

In the last days-the Lord declares-I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.

v.17: it is interesting the NAB would render this as “pour out as a portion.” The word for “portion” is not in the original Greek. This implies that God only pours out some of his Spirit, rather than all, upon human flesh. It also connotes the idea that God’s Spirit given to humanity is only part of the experience in God. Perhaps this rendering lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, in which a portion of God’s Spirit is present in the bread and wine. For this verse, I prefer the HCSB and NJB’s rendering because it implies that all of God’s Spirit is poured out upon human flesh in the last days at Pentecost.

v.17: the Greek also uses σρξ (sarx, flesh) but only the NAB renders sarx literally as flesh. However, for a mediating translation philosophy, I prefer to go with “humanity” (HCSB) because this connotes the inclusion of human flesh. This is more accurate but just as easy to understand as “people” (TNIV) and “everyone” (ISV).

Acts 2:18

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.

Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.

Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my Spirit.

v.18: In the original Greek, the literal rendering is “upon the male slaves of mine upon the female slaves of mine.” The word δολος (doulos) means bondslave. A bondslave is bound to one’s master or owner. A servant is different from a bondslave because one is not bound to serve one’s master. The word δικονος (diakonos) is the proper word for servant. The proper translation for doulos is rendered in the HCSB, NJB and ISV. 

Mediating translation comparison #3: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:3-4

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the Acts of the Apostles, ch.2, the passage that deals with the birth of the church, and is in the spirit of Pentecost Sunday. It is also an admired passage for pentecostals and charismatics. (Note, the season of Pentecost, May 11 – July 27, is a part of the liturgical calendar of many mainline church denominations, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox).

Acts 2:3

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

and there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.

v.3: διαμερζω (diamerizō) means: to distribute, divide up, separate. It means that something is split, or separated into parts, or divided out to each person from a common source. I do not think that what they saw was a physical formation of cloven flames of fire (KJV). “Flames of fire” (HCSB, ISV) seems to make little sense; but rather, “tongues of fire” makes better sense (as I will explain later).

The rendering of “tongues of fire” leads me to draw a hypothesis. If tongues also means language, I leads me to wonder how a language could be physically divided up. I’m beginning to suspect that what they saw was a distribution of the gift of languages to each person there. It would make better sense that it was the Holy Spirit’s charism of ecstatic utterance being distributed or divided out to each of the recipients. Therefore, what they heard on the Day of Pentecost might have sounded like “languages of fire”. This rendering would be a better description of ecstatic utterances of what we know to be “speaking in tongues.” The charism of language (or glossalia), might have sounded like “languages of fire” to the writer of Acts. If so, perhaps this was what the writer was trying to express when he heard ecstatic utterances or ecstatic proclamation being spoken in so many languages or tongues. An alternate translation I provide is:

They saw languages, as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them.”

Acts 2:4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.

v.4a: The HCSB, NJB and ISV’s use of “different languages” is the contemporary definition of tongues. It was the various languages that were spoken when the Spirit filled the believers in Jerusalem. Tongue is also an organ of speech but when used in the context of Acts 2, “language(s)” is much easier to understand.

v.4b: At the end of this verse, the original Greek has αποφθεγγεσθαι (apophthengomai , utterance), which can mean: to speak out, speak forth, pronounce, or even to utter one’s opinion. The TNIV does not translate apophthengomai, perhaps to reduce a seemingly redundant idea (however, I do not think it is redundant). The HCSB renders this: “as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.” The NJB rendering of to express themselves” assumes that Holy Spirits utterance is of ones opinion. The NRSV and NLT also renders it as an ability. I disagree with these renderings because glossalia is a charism or gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not a natural ability, or an utterance of one’s personal opinion, but rather, it is suppose to be the utterance of what the Holy Spirit proclaims, speaks or utters through the believer. The RSV/ESV uses “utterance”. I feel the NAB’s rendering of: “as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim may be more accurate. I prefer the NAB’s rendering of to proclaim” because glossalia is the Spirits charism of proclaiming or speaking Gods word.

Also see related posts on mediating translation comparison—TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB: The search begins || #1: Romans 4 || #2: John 20 || #3: Acts 2 || #4: Acts 2b || #5: Matt. 10 || A Conclusion

Mediating translation comparison #2: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – John 20:23-24,31

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the gospel of John, ch. 20. This time, I’ve included the New Jerusalem Bible in the table.

John 20:23

If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

v.23—This verse is somewhat of a mystery for many Christians, especially for Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church has understood this to mean that Jesus gave the apostles the authority to absolve one’s sins, and it is continued through apostolic succession. To support this view, the Catholic Church has also used parallel verses of Matt. 16:19 and 18:18: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” However, I do not think the context of these verses suggests the idea of forgiveness and absolution of sins.

In the Greek, κρατω ((krateō, retain) means to hold, to have power or rule over, to have and hold in one’s power, or to be master of.

  • the Greek says: ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται (an tinōn kratēte, kekratēntai).
  • a literal translation of this is: “of whomever you hold they have been held.”
  • TNIV says: “if do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”
  • HCSB says: “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained
  • The NAB and NJB are similar.

However, to intentionally retain the sins of someone, or to harbor unforgiveness, would seem contradictory to the principles of what Jesus’ taught about forgiveness.

“For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt.6:12-13, TNIV).

Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier has another interesting interpretation:

“Those whose sins you forgive, have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive, have not already been forgiven.”

The first verbs in the two clauses are aorist tense forms, while the second verbs are in the perfect tense. The perfect tense verbs imply an abiding state which commenced before the action of the aorists. In other words, the apostles (and others since that time) were only authorized to declare forgiveness consistent with what the Lord had already determined.”

Jackson’s interpretation would fit nicely in Protestant theology. I have another interpretation for John 20:23, which flows in the same line of thought as Matt.6:12-13.

If you forgive the sins of any, yours are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, yours are retained.”

John 20:24

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin“), was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

v.24—The definition of Δίδυμος (Didumos) is twin. The TNIV and NAB went with “Didymus,” but the HCSB, NJB, and the NRSV and ISV render this as “twin,” which is my preference. Some say that Didymus was Thomas’ last name, and even if it was his last name, I would still prefer “twin” since Didymus is not a household name.

John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

v.31—the TNIV has changed Χριστὸς (christos, anointed one) to Messiah from the NIV’s “Christ.” The NJB and NET bible uses “Christ.” Both are correct but “Christ,” which originates from the Greek, is so commonly used by Christians today that we have almost taken “Christ” to be Jesus’ last name without knowing its real meaning. Some who are biblically illiterate might even mistake it to be his last name. I prefer the use of “Messiah” because this carries with it a sense of an expected and anointed One who is to return.

Mediating translation comparison #1: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Romans 4

This series is devoted to comparing translations that fall into the intermediate range of word-for-word and thought-for-thought. The comparison between mediating translations will begin with Romans, ch. 4. I have unexpectedly found that I liked the flow of the International Standard Version (ISV) so I have included it in this chapter comparison as a fourth option. (An online version of the New American Bible (NAB) can be found online at The ISV can be downloaded at

Romans 4:1

What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter?

What then can we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?

What then can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh?

What, then, are we to say about Abraham, our human ancestor?

v.1: the TNIV renders κατα σαρκα (kata sarka, according to the flesh) as “of us Jews.” This is not a literal translations but it is suppose to add clarification that Paul is referring to the physical descendants of Abraham. Even though a Jew may not necessarily have to descend from a blood line of physical descendants in order to be Jewish (since one may also be an adopted Jew), the original Greek text is speaking primarily of direct physical descendants by blood. I would rather it be translated as such. [ edited & moved here: Regarding v.1, I feel the TNIV flows best but I prefer the HCSB’s rendering because it is more accurate. The NAB is also accurate but it sounds a very awkward. ]

v.1: the ISV( and RSV) disregarded the significance of the word ευρηκεναι (ehurēkenai), which means to find, obtain or discover. Both the NRSV and ESV also render this verse very well but translate ehurēkenai as “gained.” “What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?” (NRSV).

Romans 4:7-8

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

How happy
those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered!

How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin!

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.”

How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered!

How blessed is the person whose sins the Lord will never charge against him!

v.7-8: the HCSB takes a different approach. It provides a translation of: “How happy those” (HCSB) rather than “Blessed are those” (TNIV). It is still correct but it doesn’t follow the traditional and familiar rendering of “blessed.” “To be blessed” can have a broad meaning. For instance, to be happy is also to be blessed, but one who is blessed is not necessarily happy. One can be blessed but simultaneously feel unhappy and content. I think I prefer the traditional rendering of “Blessed are those.”

Romans 4:16

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants–not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all

For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us,

Therefore, the promise is based on faith, so that it may be a matter of grace and may be guaranteed for all of Abraham’s descendants—not only for those who were given the law, but also for those who share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

v.16: the TNIV renders κατα χαριν (kata karin/charis) as “by grace”. The HCSB: “according to grace;” the NAB: “a gift”, and NJB: “as a free gift”. Whether χάρις (charis) is translated as grace or as gift, it is still are correct. Protestants, however, are so used to the term grace that sometimes we forget what it really means. In the end, it may boil down to one’s theology because the protestant view sees justification by grace as being accounted as righteous, or imputed as righteous by those who believe. The believer takes a more active part in believing, thus, its rendering lends itself better to a protestant understanding of justification. The Roman Catholic view sees justification as one made righteous by an infusion of grace by God and doesn’t necessarily depend on the active faith of the believer, thus, “free gift” lends itself better to a Catholic understanding of justification. The ISV uses “a matter of grace” which connotes the idea of concerning or pertaining to grace. It’s still technically correct but I prefer the rendering of “by grace” (TNIV) or “according to grace” (HCSB).

The TNIV, as is the ISV, is more apt to add words that are non-existent in the original Greek to clarify who the pronoun is referring to. The first mention of “Abraham” was added here in v.16 in order to add clarity to the pronoun “his”. I prefer the HCSB’s rendering of this verse.

Romans 4:19

Without weakening in his faith
, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about 100 years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith.

He did not weaken in faith
when he considered his own body as (already) dead (for he was almost a hundred years old) and the dead womb of Sarah.

His faith did not weaken
when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children,

v.19: The HCSB’s placement of “without weakening in the faith” at the end of the sentence makes it sound awkward. The TNIV’s “Without weakening in his faith” also sounds awkward. Furthermore, “he faced the fact” is too colloquial, and maybe even, inaccurate. κατανοέω (katanoeō), which means to perceive, discern, understand or consider, sounds a long way off from “faced the fact” (TNIV). I don’t doubt that Abraham did face the fact that he was old but I think to understand or consider is more accurate. The NAB flows and sounds better than either the TNIV or HCSB even though it is most literal here in this verse. However, I feel that the ISV flows best here. However, ISV’s rendering of “Sarah’s inability to have children” doesn’t sit well with me because it did not translate Sarah’s “dead womb.”

I feel that the NRSV, a formal rendering, trumps them all in this verse. “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb” (NRSV).

Romans 4:25

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.

He was sentenced to death because of our sins and raised to life to justify us.

v.25: the TNIV, ISV, and NJB added “to death” and “to life” in order to add clarity. If one doesn’t read the whole passage or the rest of the bible to understand the context, one might not know that Jesus was delivered over to death and raised to life. Is this necessary? I don’t know. It’s debatable. In certain circumstances this may be useful, but in others, it is unnecessary.

Search for an mediating translation: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB

At the end of my last series “Search for a formal translation”, I mentioned that I will be blogging on translations that take an intermediate approach between formal equivalence and functional equivalence. I have decided that this new series will compare the TNIV, HCSB, and the NAB. Intermediate equivalence is not a technically correct term but I will use this term because it best describes my intent to compare translations that stand between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation philosophy.

I have also seriously considered using the International Standard Version (ISV) but this translation is not yet complete so I will hold off from using it for now (but I will refer to it from time to time). I have also considered the Revised English Bible (REB) but it still tends to lean toward a purely dynamic translation philosophy so I will not include this translation. Another factor in not using the REB is that it is not a popular translation in North America. It is more widely read in the U.K. I have never seen it sold on the bookshelves of any bible bookstore, or at least the ones I have been to. I wanted to do a comparison of bibles that are widely read in North America. Perhaps, it was for this reason that my third option defaulted to the NAB. Originally, I did not even intend to have a third option .

The Today’s New International Version (TNIV) has made improvements over its predecessor, the NIV. These improvements are changes based on biblical scholarship in other areas other than gender-inclusive ones. Even though the NIV still seems to greatly over-shadow the TNIV, I believe the TNIV will be better received by evangelicals in the near future. It will take some time for evangelicals to accept the TNIV’s gender-inclusive language and overcome the criticism it has faced for being gender-inclusive. This criticism is unfair but this should be expected because the NIV has such a huge readership of conservative evangelicals. It is always difficult to come out from under the shadows of a behemoth.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is more formal than the TNIV but still falls within the intermediate range of word-for-word and thought-for-thought. I have to admit that my personal preference is the TNIV but I’d have to say that the HCSB is also very reliable. It is a very good translation because its scholarship is very good. Like the NIV, HCSB translators started the translation from scratch. Any translation that starts from scratch deserves recognition for the hard work put into this huge task. The work is enormous and I applaud its translators because they deserve it.

One may wonder why I decided to include the New American Bible (NAB). The market size of the NAB is not large in comparison to the NIV. It is probably a little larger than the NRSV, but not by much. It is read by an overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics, perhaps even 90%, within North America. Interestingly enough, the New Jerusalem Bible is most popular with Catholics outside of North America.

I believe intermediate to functional equivalent translations will always be more popular than formal translations. The ordinary bible reader will prefer reading a translation they can understand with relative ease. Hopefully, after by the end of this series, one may be able to see the differences between the various intermediate translations.