More on God’s Word Translation

I feel like writing more about God’s Word translation. There has been a little frustration on my part, but it’s still my translation of choice. As a warning, this is another rambling post. Part of this is an explanation, or maybe even a defense, of why I still prefer this translation. Previous posts:

The frustration is mainly because of the fact that it doesn’t use about five theological terms, like righteous, grace, justify, sanctify, and repent, not to mention propitiation. I have to let the latter go, because 99% of Christians (and I don’t think I’m exaggerating) don’t know what that means. I think it’s the most rich and amazing term there is.

What brought on this post is I read Romans again a few weeks ago and really missed those theological terms. It was glaring. The advantage is it can translate the different meanings of grace, like good will for a greeting, or God’s favor, and two others. On the other hand, there is the great doctrine of “salvation by grace alone”, and it doesn’t even use the word grace. ! Same with those other terms.

I think it’s a good translation for someone like me who has a decent grasp of all of those terms, which I embarrassingly didn’t have until a few years ago, and knows where they lie in the Bible, but likes to read proper but contemporary English. Not informal English like on the sitcoms on TV “networks FOX and ABC”, but you know, like real good English and whatnot. (joke) It’s also good for those who are new to the Bible whose head spins when they read not only a lot terms they have no idea about, but have to interpret the English itself, because so much of it is borrowed from 400 years ago, or ‘updated’ 60 years ago and basically left unchanged.

Even the NIV has strange word order sometimes:

lean not on your own understanding;
Proverbs 3:5b

I don’t know why they didn’t change that in the last update in 2010. Even the ESV has, “do not lean on your own understanding.” And that one has some really strange word orders, if you pretend you don’t know the Bible, which isn’t easy. Many seasoned Christians are so used to this language that it seems perfectly natural. I would call myself a seasoned Christian, but this strange language can be a distraction.

Here is a fantastic explanation of the gospel by Steve Lawson:

But just imagine being someone who has never been to church and never read the Bible. This is on the street, although maybe it’s at a Christian convention. I wouldn’t understand half of what he’s saying after launching into ESV speak. It’s great that he’s quoting the Bible. You can’t go wrong with that. But I think there is a way to explain it in plain language. (But I also don’t think this would put a big road block in front of the elect.) What does ‘might’ mean (as in Jesus might secure salvation)? Maybe, may (as the GW often uses), will, can? Does anyone say that anymore?

So I think it’s a strange situation, because someone who’s an advanced beginner or maybe intermediate Christian might (and I don’t mean that in the old archaic way) do better with a translation that has those terms and learns what they mean.

As John Hobbins eloquently commented on a previous post:

Since the church is a transgenerational community spanning cultures and ages, then it makes sense for scripture and liturgy to sound the same, as much as possible, from age to age and language to language.

I have always agreed with that in part. It bothers me that GW doesn’t use those terms in Romans, which is where it’s the most obvious. But at the same time, I like reading English in a translation that doesn’t try to mimic Greek grammar or borrow non-theological phrases that are long gone. I like to read the Bible in a true translation into my own language. If it could only use the theological terms so that we all speak the same theological language.

If only there was the perfect translation. But that would be different for everybody. For most Reformed folks, other than me, the ESV seems to be it. For those unfamiliar, about 99.99% of Reformed people like the ESV. “It reads so naturally” they say. I best cease, lest gnashing of teeth might be thrust upon the reading of this letter by my brothers, for they might pen comments of rebuke upon me for persecuting their beloved (pronounced bih-luhv-id) ancient writings (completed in 2001). All in fun. I’m thankful we have so many to choose from.


4 Responses to “More on God’s Word Translation”

  1. 1 John Baxter

    That video of Steve Lawson is one of my favorite Gospel presentations — completely off the cuff. BTW, that isn’t ESV speak. Lawson uses the NASB exclusively 😉

  2. 2 John Baxter

    One more thing — I’m not sure where you live, or where you are from but I don’t find “might” to be that odd or archaic (as in I might go to the store later, or I might take tomorrow off, or I might buy myself some new socks). I use it all the time, and so do most people I know. It might be a southern thing though 😀

  3. 3 John Baxter

    Sorry, I should have done a better job of putting my thoughts in order before I started commenting. I did want to add that aside from Steve Lawson (NASB), John MacArthur who is really “reformed’ish” uses the NASB, Steve Gaines uses the NASB, Denny Burk uses the NASB (the ’77 at that), Nathan Finn uses the HCSB these days (I think, although he was an NASB user for a long time), R.C. Sproul still quote the NKJV when I hear him (Although the Reformation Study Bible is now ESV, it was the “New Geneva Study Bible” in NKJV for many years, and I’m sure at his age he isn’t going to go re-memorizing scripture, so he still uses the NKJV as far as I can tell). Micah Fries, Ed Stetzer, and all of the Rainer’s use the HCSB (they have too, they work at Lifeway). Mark Dever used the NIV up until JUST recently switching the pew Bibles at CHBC to ESV (he used the ’84 NIV), D.A. Carson uses the NIV (’11), Doug Moo uses the NIV, Tim Keller uses the NIV…these are all reformed (and fairly high-profile reformed) pastors who don’t use the ESV. There are probably more I am forgetting right now. BTW, I use several translations, I use the NASB for study and either the HCSB or ESV for devotional reading. I really like the HCSB, but I get frustrated with it because of non-traditional readings sometimes (I don’t like the 23 Psalm in the HCSB, or the Lord’s prayer, or John 3:16…although it’s the more accurate way to render houtōs
    and it seems that GW is similar). I also don’t like the birth of Jesus story in Luke 2 in the HCSB (Dwelling place instead of Inn and feeding trough vs. manger). I guess I’m just a traditionalist at heart. I do love the HCSB in OT narratives and the Epistles especially. Also, have you read much from the Phillips New Testament? I love his work — I think it’s a shame he didn’t get to finish. Also, even though it’s a RCC translation mostly, check out the New Jerusalem Bible if you ever get a chance, and the NET — it’s online w/ ALL of the translators notes!

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    John, that first comment was great. Really. Very clever.

    Might–you’re using it in the modern day way. Might in most English translations means may or will or can. That’s what’s confusing. The definition of the word has changed. Translations with modern English don’t use it that way. Unless you were joking on that too. Then never miiiind.

    I was exaggerating with my comment about how many Reformed people use the ESV. I like the NASB as far as the more literal type translations go. I almost switched to the HCSB at one time, which I think I mentioned in another post. I don’t understand the use of the NKJV, but not a big deal. I don’t like the Phillips–too many words. I have liked what I’ve seen of the NJB. There are just too many to include that in my arsenal, and Bibleworks doesn’t have it, but they do have GW. And I often look at the NET. Very interesting renderings now and then. Different but “accurate”, whatever that means. Not out of bounds. I love their version of Jeremiah 10:23.

    LORD, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them. Jer 10:23 NET

    It reminds me of a response to Oprah for some reason.

    Thanks for commenting.

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