Functional equivalence comparison #2: 1 Samuel 3:13 – What blasphemy?

The comparison between functional equivalent translations continues with the First Samuel 3:13.

NLT: I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.

GW: I told him that I would hand down a permanent judgment against his household because he knew about his sons’ sin—that they were cursing God—but he didn’t try to stop them.

NIrV: I told Eli I would punish his family forever. He knew his sons were sinning. He knew they were making fun of me. In spite of that, he failed to stop them.

Message: I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them.

GNT: I have already told him that I am going to punish his family forever because his sons have spoken evil things against me. Eli knew they were doing this, but he did not stop them.

NCV: I told Eli I would punish his family always, because he knew his sons were evil. They acted without honor, but he did not stop them.

CEV: He knew that his sons refused to respect me, and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever.

REB: You are to tell him that my judgement on his house will stand for ever because he knew of his sons’ blasphemies against God and did not restrain them.

In the original Hebrew, it is not very clear what “making themselves vile” really means. What were the sons of Eli doing to actually make themselves contemptible or vile? To make oneself vile is taken to be a blasphemy against God. But was it an act directed against God’s holy sacrifice (as the NCV implies), or were they doing something to themselves that made them vile? Amongst the functional equivalent (F.E.) translations, the NL T renders it as “blaspheming God”, which is the traditional rendering (also NRSV, ESV, TNIV). It is all by itself on this one because the other F.E. translations are very wide and far apart in their interpretation of the nature of this blasphemy.

The NCV’s use of “acted without honor” implies a physical action. Whereas, GW (“cursing God”), NIrV (“making fun of me”), and GNT (“spoken evil things against me”) implies speech. The renderings of CEV, Message, NLT and REB could go either way—action or speech. CEV’s (“refused to respect me”) uses an inactive adverb; whereas, NIRV’s (“making fun of me”) uses an active verb. However, this is very subjective because everyone may have their personal opinion as to what constitutes speech or action.

I prefer the rendering in The Message the best because it seems to most accurately describe blasphemy while covering both aspects of blasphemy in speech and action, and is easy to understand. Most people do not know what “blasphemy” means so I have to prefer a thumbs up for The Message. HCSB also has an excellent rendering: “his sons were defiling the sanctuary”. It’s extremely clear and understandable, but it’s in the mediating translation category.

Functional equivalent translations #1: 1 Samuel 3:7 Confusion about young Samuel

The comparison between functional equivalent translations begins with the First Samuel 3:7.

NCV: Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Lord had not spoken directly to him yet.

Message: This all happened before Samuel knew GOD for himself. It was before the revelation of GOD had been given to him personally.

CEV: The LORD had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice.

REB: Samuel had not yet come to know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not been disclosed to him.

NLT: Samuel did not yet know the LORD because he had never had a message from the LORD before.

NIrV: Samuel didn’t know the Lord yet. That’s because the Lord still hadn’t given him a message.

GNT: The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before.

God’s Word: Samuel had no experience with the LORD, because the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

I was studying 1 Samuel 3:7 and noticed something puzzling. I asked myself: Why did young Samuel not know the Lord? Did the writer of Samuel mean that Samuel did not know the LORD because:

a/ he was still young?
b/ he had not yet spent enough time to learn of the LORD?
c/ he had not yet heard from the LORD in a personal way?

The interpretations provide by these translations are indeed numerous with each one including a slightly different connotation. Personally, this brings more confusion rather than clarification. The interpretations for this verse can vary quite a lot (see translations below).

The NLT, NIrV, GNT, and GW translations add “because”, which makes Samuel’s knowledge of the LORD conditional upon a prior revelation from the LORD. The original Hebrew does not contain the word owdowth (“because”, “on account of|). This is very different from the rendering provided by NCV, The Message, REB, and CEV, which do not contain this conditional clause. The two ideas expressed are independent upon one another but may also be taken as conditional (depending on how you wish to read it).

GW’s rendering expresses the idea of Samuel’s “inexperience” with the LORD, whereas, other translations stick with the idea of “knowing the LORD.” GNT’s rendering expresses that even though Samuel had heard, he did not know who it was. The Message ‘s rendering expresses Samuel’s knowledge of the LORD in a more personal way: “for himself” and “personally.”

There are many places in the O.T. where the original Hebrew lacked “because” but have been added by translators to add clarification. However, in this instance, I would prefer not adding “because.”

Search for a functional equivalent translation

In the future, I will be blogging on functional equivalent translations (or dynamic translations). The plethora of functional translations seems to be a recent phenomena. It really seemed to have taken off in the last ten to fifteen years. I have decided to cover all the main functional equivalent translations in this comparison. This is a continuation from the formal equivalent translation and mediating translation comparisons.

I have included the six main functional equivalent translations:

  • New Living Translation (NLT) by Tyndale House (1996, 2004, 2007)
  • New Century Version (NCV) by Thomas Nelson (1987, 1988, 1991, 2005)
  • New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) by International Bible Society (1996, 1998)
  • God’s Word (GW) by God’s Word to the Nations, Baker (1995)
  • Contemporary English Version (CEV) by American Bible Society (1995)
  • Good News Translation (GNT) by American Bible Society (1966, 1976, 1992)
  • Revised English Bible (REB) by Oxford and Cambridge University Presses (1989)
  • The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress (1993, 2002)

This type of translation is the most readable. However, they tend to be the least literal but that’s the character of functional equivalent translations. Personally, and generally speaking, I don’t feel comfortable using it in a serious bible study; however, there are a few I would feel comfortable about using in a bible study. I will tell you what they are at the end of this series of comparisons between functional translations.

I learned that most of these translations began from a vision of a single person, which then, later expanded to include other people, or a larger committee. To my knowledge these were:

  • New Living Translation (Kenneth N. Taylor)
  • The Message (Eugene H. Peterson)
  • God’s Word (William F. Beck)
  • New Century Version (Ervin Bishop)
  • Good News Translation (Eugene Nida)
  • Contemporary English Version (Barclay Newman)
  • Revised English Bible (G.S. Hendrey)

God does like to use individuals to do the work of his kingdom. Thank God for these servants who wanted to bring the bible into the contemporary language of the people.

Note: Rich resources about the history of various bible translations can be found at:

Funny renderings in the NEB – REB translations

I know that there are some of you out there (like ElShaddai) who are REB-lovers. But as I was doing research on the REB and NEB, I learned of some weird and hilarious renderings that I can’t help sharing. I really don’t know where the NEB/REB translators got these from? Some of them really need a good explanation. Here’s some examples of my favorites.

Song of Solomon 1:7

“That I [the bride] may not be left picking lice as I sit among my companions.” (NEB/REB)

“for why should I be like one who wanders beside the flocks of your companions?” (RSV)

“for why should I be like one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions?” (NRSV)

“Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” (TNIV)

  • Who has time to stand around picking lice?

Josh 15:18

she broke wind” (NEB)

she dismounted.” (REB)

“she got off her donkey” (HCSB, TNIV, ESV)

  • Someone cut the cheese.

Ezek 21:7

all men’s knees run with urine” (NEB)

all knees will turn to water.” (REB)

“Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every knee be wet with urine.” (TNIV)

“Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water.” (NRSV)

“Every heart will melt, and every hand will become weak. Every spirit will be discouraged, and every knee will turn to water.” (HCSB)

“When it comes, their hearts will be filled with fear, their hands will hang limp, their courage will fail, and their knees will tremble.” (GNT)

“When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water.” (NLT)

  • I forgot to wear my daipers. In this verse, the REB reverted to a more conservative rendering but the TNIV reverted from the conservative rendering in the NIV to a similar one in the NEB.

Proverbs 19:29 [edited]

“There is a rod in pickle for the arrogant, and blows ready for the stupid man’s back.” (NEB) / “for the fool’s back” (REB)

The irreverent have to learn reverence the hard way; only a slap in the face brings fools to attention.” (Message)

Judgments are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.” (HCSB)

Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools. ” (TNIV)

  • I think a “rod in pickle” means a scolding in store or in waiting.

1 Cor 5:9

“…Have nothing to do with loose livers” (NEB)

“…Have nothing to do with those who are sexually immoral.” (REB)

“…not to associate with sexually immoral people” (NLT)

I’ve never heard of this term before.

Exodus 11:1

“he will send you packing, as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (NEB)

“…When he finally lets you go, he will drive you out forcibly as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (REB)

“When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely.” (NASB)

“indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.” (NRSV)

  • Here, the NEB sounds as paraphrasical as The Message