A mom and dad came into my Bible bookstore looking to buy their son a Bible for Christmas. Their son was very specific: He wanted a study Bible of a very particular translation. The only problem is, his parents could not remember what translation he wanted.
The dad thought he wanted a New Living Translation. So I showed him an NLT Study Bible, and he immediately fell in love with it. “This has got to be the one! I might even get one for myself.”
But the boy’s mom wasn’t sure. So she sent her son a text: “Did you want an NLT Study Bible? We forget.”
In reply the son was swift and decisive: His youth leader told him to stay away from the NLT. It’s too loose. If he wants a translation that is closest to the original, he needs to buy a New American Standard Bible (NASB).
So that’s what he got, an NASB. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The NASB is a good translation. But here’s the problem. The youth leader – who is a person of influence in this young man’s life – has an opinion about the NASB and the NLT that the boy accepted without question. And that opinion came with a series of assumptions that are not necessarily correct.
What makes the NASB more accurate or closer to the original than the NLT?
What does he mean by “loose” when describing the NLT?
Does he mean that the NLT is more dynamic than the NASB?
What’s wrong with that?
Does he mean that because the NASB is more literal, it must be more accurate?
Why does “more literal” equal “more accurate”?
Our illiteracy problem
My pastor often says that the average churchgoer today has a general illiteracy of the Bible. I say that’s true, but in more ways than just the one he means.
Not only do we have a problem in our church culture when it goes to how individuals interpret the Bible (namely, that Sunday Christians are not taught the proper rules and methods of hermeneutics leading to every cockamamy interpretation under the sun), but we also have a major illiteracy problem when it comes to how we got the Bible itself.
And this is unfortunate because even a cursory understanding of how our leather bound, gold stamped, thumb indexed Bibles arrived in our hands would clear up a bunch of common misconceptions.
You would know, for example, that “literal” does not at all mean “accurate.” That’s not to say literal means inaccurate either. It’s just to say that how literal a translation is should not be the scale by which we measure how accurate it is (a truly literal Bible – for example – wouldn’t make any sense in English because Greek word order is all over the place).
You would also understand that a dynamic translation like the NLT does not at all mean that it is “loose” and jam-packed with interpretation any more than a literal Bible like the NASB. The fact is, every translation is packed with interpretation by the translators. In fact interpretation is simply a part of the process of translating whether we’re talking about the Bible, or translating a dinner menu from Spanish to English.
And that means, yes, even the NASB is chock-full of interpretation choices by it’s translators.
Learn and think for yourself
This is one of the reasons I have decided to write a book on this subject that is intentionally non-academic. My book is for the Sunday morning, churchgoing Christian. Something short, easy and digestible.
In it you will not hear me tell you what translation you should buy and what translation you should stay away from. There are people in your life who do that already.
What I want to do is give you a resource that will help you make up your own mind.
And not at all like books such as Kevin Deyoung’s “Why My Church Switched To The ESV” (which is more like backdoor propaganda with carefully selected passages to convince you that the ESV is the way to go).
But more like, “Your Next Bible: Everything You Need To Know.” This is a book for the young man I mentioned at the beginning of this post, to read and decide for himself which translation he wants to explore. And it’s for his youth leader, who may discover that his hardline position is not necessary. It’s a resource for pastors to give to their parishioners, and a book for employees at the local Christian bookstore to give to their curious customers who wonder why some Bibles do not put the words of Christ in red, or why some translations appear to be missing verses.
Join the Launch Team
I’m in the throes of writing the book now and I’m also putting together a launch team to help me get this thing off the ground. It’s a low commitment on your part with lots of reward. As a thank you for joining my launch team I’ll give you $260 worth of bonuses including lifetime access to my iGospel Academy membership site and access to my Self-Publishing course.
If you want to learn more or join my launch team, click the button below.