John 17:6-19 – Comparing dynamic translations: NLT vs CEB

CEBMost young people, including those with lower levels of reading comprehension prefer a bible translation they can read and understand.  There are more translations available today.  Earlier, I said I’d do a comparison of two dynamic-equivalent bible translations: the Common English Bible (CEB) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Here is the first post in this series on dynamic (or functional-equivalent) bible translations (which I’ll complete over a few months). First, dynamic translations are not meant to be literal and sound wooden; however, it also needs to flow well and remain true and accurate while not taking too many liberties to re-interpret the original text (biblical Greek).  Otherwise, you run the risk of interpreting according to one’s own theological bent or preference.  There isn’t any bible translation that is entire free from theological interpretation or bias; however, there may be translations that do a slightly better job. nlt-logoI’m picking these two translations to start because they seem to be two of the more popular dynamic-equivalent translations on the market right now.  My intention is not to trash any translation.  These are still both good translations and used by many Christians.

v. 6 – The NLT has inserted the word “always” into “always yours”; whereas, the CEB simply renders it “were yours”. The NLT added “always,” which may be considered a theological interpretation. This might be interpreted that we had always belonged to God.  Some Christians believe that we are made into his children after we come into his fold.  Whether or not human beings were “always” a possession of Jesus can be a theological or doctrinal position. In this case, I’d prefer leaving out “always”.

v. 7 – The NLT has reinterpreted the word “to give” (dedōkas) as a “gift,.” The Original Word: δίδωμι
does not carry the sense of a present or gift; it simply means “to give” and has the sense of “to put, to place, to give, to offer”. Didomi does not have the sense of gift or a present. The CEB is more preferable.

v. 11 NLT’s “I am departing from the world” seems to take some liberties in interpreting it in this future sense. I prefer CEB’s translation of “I’m no longer in the world”.
NLT: “you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name”
CEB: “watch over them in your name, the name you gave me,”
The CEB seems to make more sense because to me, the emphasis in this thought is not in the name given, but rather, in watching or protecting them. This one is subjective and might be a personal preference.

The NLT also seems to take liberties in re-interpreting “by the power of your name”. The original Greek does not even allude to any idea of “power in the name”. This is purely an insertion of the NLT translator. I think this may be inaccurate.

Both interpretations of CEB’s “watch over” and NLT’s “protect them” and “guarded them”. This re-interpretation of “keeping watch” or “keeping guard” might also be over-stretching the original word of “to keep” (tērēson). This sense of “to keep” can also have a simpler interpretation of where one “keeps” the commandments of the Lord, or even to “keep” them in a person’s possession or care. Later, however, the writer of John does use “to keep” (ephylaxa) which in this case, does have the sense of “to guard” or “to protect” in the next verse (v. 12). I have do have to say that the rendering of “to guard, or to protect“ in v. 11 is not entirely incorrect. But only because it can be justified by the intended meaning used in v. 12.

In v.17, the NLT also adds the word “teach” in “teach them your word”. This is an addition to the original text that is not there; this is an interpretative move. Perhaps our evangelical tendency is to think that in order to stay in the truth, it is one’s responsibility to learn and be taught from the word. This is an interpretation that comes from our humanistic approach learning and may have nothing to do with God’s sovereign power to keep us safe.  My question is then, “Is God powerless to keep us in His care?”  Then I would prefer to leave out the word “teach”, like what the CEB has correctly done.

Another interpretation of the NLT is in v. 19. The NLT seems to be reinterpreting Jesus’ use of “holy” in the sense that he necessarily made himself into a “holy sacrifice”. This idea of a sacrifice in v. 19 is not found in the original Greek and is an insertion and reinterpretation.  From Jesus’ point-of-view, being a “holy sacrifice” may not have been in his heart when he said this (although he ultimately did become a “sacrificial lamb”).

In this first round of dynamic-equivalent translations, the Common English Bible takes the win over the New Living Translation.

For our visual comparison, here is the biblical text below using the passage of John 17:6-19.

NLT – John 17:6-19 CEB – John 17:6-19
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.….10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[b] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[c]….17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.….10 Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them11 I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. 12 When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe.….17 Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.

Dynamic equivalent bible translations

I will be comparing several bible translations.  This hasn’t been done on New Epistles blog in a long time. It’s fun and I miss doing this.  In the past, I used to do this extensively on New Epistles.  This time, we’ll probably be comparing two of my favorite dynamic translations-—the Common English Bible and New Living Translation.

I was reading from the Common English Bible recently.  I like it so much because it’s so clear and easy to read.  It was consistently on the top ten in 2014 but recently since 2015, it seems to have fallen off the top ten (and top 15) in bible unit sales. Not sure what’s going on but personally I think it’s a great functional equivalent translation (dynamic) and deserves more readership.  Most bible readers don’t know the difference and rely on word-of-mouth, but even opinions through word-of-mouth are not the most accurate.  Other dynamic translations have also fallen off the map include New Century Version, God’s Word, and the Voice.  They’re even hardly seen on the bookshelves in Christian bookstores these days.  In April 2015, only the New Living Translation, the Message, NIrV, and Amplified have remained in the top ten on CBA’s ratings.

April 2015 (unit sales, CBA)

1  New International Ver.
2  New Living Translation
3  King James Version
4  New King James Version
5  English Standard Version
6  Reina Valera 1960
7  New American Standard
8  NIrV
9  The Message
10 Holman Christian Standard
11 New American Bible
12 Amplified Bible
13 New Revised Standard Bible
14 Nuevo International

New Living Translation on the rise

The New Living Translation is on the rise and was the second most popular translation in unit sales for August 2010. I am not surprised it has risen to such popularity.  The ESV is holding steady, and the NIV is still on top after the TNIV getting dumped.

CBA best sellers list for August 2010

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS – Based on Unit Sales

1  New International Version – various publishers
New Living Translation – Tyndale
3  King James Version – various publishers
4  New King James Version – various publishers
5  English Standard Version Crossway
6  Holman Christian Standard Bible – B&H Publishing Group
7  The Message Eugene Peterson – NavPress
8  Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish) – American Bible Society and licensees
9  New American Standard Bible update – various publishers
10  New International Readers Version – Zondervan

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS – Based on Dollar Sales

1  New International Version – various publishers
2  King James Version – various publishers
3  New Living Translation – Tyndale
4  New King James Version – various publishers
5  English Standard Version – Crossway
6  New American Standard Bible update – various publishers
7  The Message Eugene Peterson – NavPress
8  Holman Christian Standard Bible – B&H Publishing Group
9  New American Standard – various publishers
10  Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish) – American Bible Society and licensees

Holy Bible: Mosaic and the blog tour winner today

Congratulations to Mr. Juan Martinez who is the winner of the Holy Bible: Mosaic contest on New Epistles .  I will be mailing out to you a certificate for a copy of the Holy Bible: Mosaic redeemable at your local Christian bookstore, compliments of Tyndale Publishing House.   Mr. Juan Martinez asked a great question: “When I have read previous books with historic Christian artwork, I have been puzzled to find inappropriate artwork such as demonic beings or undressed angels and ugly pictures of Jesus. Is this found frequently inside the Mosaic?”  Well Juan, I checked and didn’t see any demonic pictures of Jesus–nothing even close to being inappropriate, in my opinion. They are mostly very beautiful and colorful.

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I also have several other questions  regarding the Holy Bible: Mosaic that I hope can be answered by someone from Tyndale or one of the contributors.  My originally assigned guest on this blog tour was not able to answer my questions because they were more of an insider’s editorial type of question.  So I’ll leave this up to someone from Tyndale.

Question #1: The Holy Bible: Mosaic includes a one-year lectionary of readings that follow this church-year.  Throughout history, there have been one-year lectionaries developed by Catholics, including adaptations by Anglicans and Lutherans (i.e., Revised Common Lectionary).  Was this lectionary one of the historic one-year lectionaries, or if it this lectionary of readings was designed by Creedo Communications, who are the developers of this bible?

Question #2:  I find some of these themes very good—some more challenging than others (e.g., mastering virtues; God in community; global church community; fasting; wealth; possessions; authenticity; blame; service; diversity; righteous judgment).  How were these themes chosen?  By the editors or by the contributor?

Question #3:  It was mentioned that the contributors were from a diverse background.  This is another reason why it is called the Holy Bible: Mosaic.  How many countries and cultures are the contributors from?

Question #4:  The artwork is one of the best features of this bible.  It reminds me of some of those older bibles with artwork depicting biblical stories.  They range from ancient to modern-contemporary.  How did the artwork get picked for the Mosaic bible?

Exodus 22:8-9 “God” or “Judges”?

I think this will really bug some people as it bugs me.  It seems that Exodus 22:8-9 is clearly referring to judges but some translations like the NLT,  ESV, NRSV rendered elohim as “God“; but TNIV and CSB rendered elohim as “judges“.  Yes, technically, “God” is correct; but it seems clear to me that elohim (in the sense of a small “g” gods) which can be translated as judges, was what the writers/scribes intended.

Should we go with what we know as technically correct? Or should we go with what we know the writer/scribe/editor intended?

_________________________  Exodus 22:8-9 _________________________

NLT But if the thief is not caught, the neighbor must appear before God, who will determine if he stole the property. 9 “Suppose there is a dispute between two people who both claim to own a particular ox, donkey, sheep, article of clothing, or any lost property. Both parties must come before God, and the person whom God declares guilty must pay double compensation to the other.

ESV If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

TNIV But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.

CSB If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house must present himself to the judges to determine whether or not he has taken his neighbor’s property. 9 In any case of wrongdoing involving an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything else lost, and someone claims: That’s mine, the case between the two parties is to come before the judges. The one the judges condemn must repay double to his neighbor.

New Epistles Contest: Give away of Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT)

Someone has a chance to win a free copy of the Holy Bible: Mosaic here on New Epistles.  (I have posted my review of Holy Bible: Mosaic).  Here are the simple rules to my contest.

  1. Reply in the comments section of this post below and ask any question about any feature of this bible. I will determine the winner by deciding on the most interesting, quirky, or insightful question. Note: There is no such thing as a dumb question!  Your questions may be asked on my interview with a Mosaic contributor on November 3, 2009.
  2. Make sure you email me your email address and question so I can contact the winner.
  3. Link this contest to your blog (or if you don’t have a blog, try to tell someone else about this contest).

Deadline to enter is: November 2, 2009 @ 11:59PM.  I will announce the winner the next day on November 3, 2009 (which is the scheduled date of my interview with a contributor on this blog tour of 50 blogs, so you have lots of chances to win.

I will contact the winner by email to obtain the mailing information so I can send out the certificate for a free copy to the winner (officially authorized by Tyndale and redeemable at any Christian bookstore where the Holy Bible: Mosaic is sold).

Review of Holy Bible: Mosaic (NLT) by Tyndale

Laura Bartlett from  Tyndale asked me to participate in the 10-week Holy Bible: Mosaic Blog Tour participated by 50 blogs. Be sure to enter the New Epistles Contest here to win a free copy of this brand new bible.  I will be sending out to the winner an authorized certificate for a free copy redeemable at any Christian bookstore.
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Holy Bible: Mosaic
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers and Creedo Communications.
ISBN: 9781414322032 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781414322056 (Leather-like in antique brown with cross)

Holy Bible: Mosaic is based on the 2007 edition of the New Living Translation (NLT).  The NLT is amongst one of my favourite gender-inclusive translations.  It is very easy to read and understand, and yet, accurate.  The New Living Translation has already become a standard translation for today.  I predict the NLT will become one of the top modern translations of the 21st century—becoming what the NIV was for the 20th century.

The artwork in Mosaic is another big part of this bible.   I have found the artwork very stimulating to my visual senses.  It is very colorful and exudes with beauty making this one of my favourite aspects of the Mosaic.  The artwork includes both ancient and contemporary, ranging from Asian, African, European, North and South American.  The layout in this front section makes it easy on the eyes.  There is a lot of empty space, ancient crosses, and color to highlight the varying font types. This is very well done, for which I hail my felicitations and adulation.  It’s a beautiful layout that is aesthetically pleasing to one’s sense of sight.

When I first examined the bible from a top-down perspective, one of the first things that stood out for me was its diversity in art, contributors, and meditative readings.  If there’s one word that describes this bible is: “diversity.”  The lectionary’s readings are also diverse.  Regarding this lectionary, the readings are related to a theme.  For Pentecost, Week 23, the readings focus on a theme, which happens to be on diversity: Ruth 1:1-22; Psalm 145; Philippians 1:27-2:11; Matthew 12:46-50.  It includes a one-year lectionary of readings (52 weeks) of which I am curious to know if it was originally developed for the Mosaic.

The contributions that give this bible its distinctive flavour are all located in the front of the bible.  Scripture itself is located in the second half of the bible.   Some of the contributions are original and are written by Christians throughout the world from different cultural and theological makeup.  I have found that some of them can also be challenging because of these differences in culture and theology.  Diversity can bring a new and refreshing perspective.  Here is one such contribution from the diversity theme that reflects a view of my own human nature:

In 1 Corinthians, Paul suggests that it is human nature to gravitate toward people who are like us.  Sometimes we maintain this habit by preferring to be with others who mirror us culturally, racially, economically, etc.  In this way, I have found, I can reduce the likelihood of conflict and find others more willing to validate my opinions.  I protect and reinforce my own identity through an easier, more comfortable option.  But God is calling me to so much more.  Jesus destroyed the barriers that keep me from engaging others (Chinn, p. 299).

What also makes the Mosaic interesting is that there are also historical readings and poetic reflections from theologians and luminaries from the historic ancient, medieval and post-reformation church.  They vary in theological traditions, including well-known figures like Albertus Magnus, Thomas à Kempis, John Calvin, Teresa of Ávila, Julian of Norwich.  Authors of readings from the ancient church include: John Cassian, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, Basil the Great. Even the Didache and St. Augustine’s Invocation are a few of the ancient meditations scattered throughout the 52 weeks of readings.  There are also some of our more contemporary theologians: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, John Wesley, Alexander MacLaren, Witness Lee, Watchman Nee, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Hodge, Horatius Bonar, and more.

The Mosaic contributors include some of today’s most contemporaries whom I have never heard of, e.g., David Sanford and Rex Koivisto of Multnomah University; Pastor Bill Senyard of New Life Church.  This makes the contributions very diverse—ranging from people who are unknown, and even, completely unknown, including editors and contributors for Creedo Communications who developed this bible for Tyndale.

Regarding the text of holy scripture itself, there is a center-column reference feature.  Personally, I find this to be a useful feature because I research related passages of texts.  The font of scripture is just large enough to be read comfortably in good light, but personally, I do wish the font size were a tad bit larger.  I like the font size that’s in the NLT’s basic hardcover edition.  However, this is only a minor concern for me.

Well, Tyndale, I say “Fine work” on this bible.  The Holy Bible: Mosaic is amongst one of the most unique bibles I have seen of late.  There are combined elements of simplicity, beauty, and diversity.  This is why this has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing bibles my hands and heart have embraced in the past several years.

Other Holy Bible: Mosaic material is also available from Amazon:

  • Devotions for Advent: 9781414335780
  • Devotions for Lent: 9781414335810 (Available January 2010)