Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NCV...more thoughts about Bible translations

Did you know that the NCV, New Century Version, is really an update of the International Children's Bible (ICB)? I just learned this yesterday when I started reading the Mom's Bible (NCV). The introduction explained the translation process and philosophy behind the NCV.

This left me with a lot of questions...
1) Is there really a translation that is the best translation?
2) Are all paraphrases now being called translations?
3) Is it wise to read a paraphrase as the Bible you read most frequently? Does it matter?
4) Aren't they all the Word of God?
5) Why does any of this matter?

It is an interesting thing to me that the ICB has been renamed with a new name so that it can be marketed to adults. In my cynicism, I struggle with marketing. Is all of this being done by publishers with a pure heart desiring to spread the Word of God?

I started reading Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur last week and he talks in the first chapter and forward about the western ideas of church growth and evangelism. He takes a pretty strong and direct stand about what he feels.

I hesitate in taking a strong stand and answering some of the questions that I'm pondering myself. When I committed to writing reviews for Crossway, I committed to always honoring the Word of God and glorifying to God--never devisive or slandering or not beneficial to the edification of the body of Christ. So, I looked to others for answers or at the least the beginning of some answers for myself...

Here's what I have at this point...
1) Is there really a translation that is the best translation?

Best may not be the right word. Maybe accurate is a better word. I found this article from and interview with John MacArthur. His concern was that the translations are not accurate.
Here is a second link:
The second link states Desiring God's perspective (John Piper's ministry)

2) Are all paraphrases now being called translations?

More accurately, I suppose translations are all at least a little bit of a paraphrase. From what I've read, if a translation leans towards word for word translation, it is described as a "translation". When it leans towards "thought for thought" translation and attempts to make it culturally readable, it is considered a paraphrase.

I think what makes it confusing is that Bibles that were once marketed as "paraphrases" are now being marketed by publishers as "translations".

3) Is it wise to read a paraphrase as the Bible you read most frequently? Does it matter?

I think it does matter. But, that's a very personal opinion of mine. When you read a translation that is more of a paraphrase, more has been interpreted FOR the reader rather than BY the reader. I know that the scripture says this...

18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

It is God who opens our eyes. But, when we make a translation so readable, I get concerned that we aren't trusting God to open our eyes or the eyes of the people that we may give a Bible to.

Here is what the NCV says of the same verse from Ephesians 1:18

8 I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people.

The process of meditating--praying and thinking about what the verse says in the NIV draws us into the Word. I think when we don't have to think about what it says and ponder, we're more likely to rush through it. It's like eating peanut butter and jelly vs. a steak. You have to cut the steak bit by bit, so it takes longer to eat. But, the peanut butter and jelly you can just grab and start eating.

My feeling is that it's nice to read a paraphrase periodically so that you can see a different view, but that it's wiser to read a more literal translation--a readable close to "word for word" translation.

4) Aren't they all the Word of God?

Yes, I think they are. But, we all want things to be easier and not to have to work for them. If one's motive in reading a paraphrase is because it's "easier", I think that is something to think about and consider.

5) Why does any of this matter?

Why do we read the Bible? Because it is God's Word and it is the primary way, I think, that he speaks to us. It holds His instructions about how to live rightly. It is by reading His Word that we are encouraged and strengthened in our faith in the Lord.

But, why would it matter if you are reading a paraphrase or a translation? This is the thought that came to my mind. When you love something, you want the original. I grew up listening to the song "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. I still love the song. My father always told me it was the story of him and his dad, but though I never told him, I knew at the time that he was recreating the same story in his relationship with me though he didn't see it. Since Harry Chapin recorded the song, there's been a lot of artists who have rerecorded it and put their own spins on it--their own interpretations. Yet, I always like the original best.

I like reading the ESV. It is considered the closest and most readable Word for Word translation today. It feels like I get a chance to more closely hear the God's heart--not another man's interpretation of it. It is the closest I can get to the original--the Greek and the Hebrew--since I don't know Greek or Hebrew =) By choosing not to read a paraphrase, I feel like I'm not copping out. I'm not trying to interpret the Word for myself. I know and trust that it is God who opens my heart and helps me to hear rather than me helping myself.

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