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Monday, August 7, 2006

You Can't Beat The Classics

Lately I've been doing my Bible reading from a copy of The Evengelical Parallel New Testament that I borrowed from the library. The layout of the book is really pretty informative for someone who, like me, has read up a bit on the whole literal vs. dynamig translation method debate; the two translations on the far left, the NKJV and the ESV, are the most "literal" translations (close to word-for-word from the originals). The others (NIV and HCSB, TNIV and NCV, NLT and The Message) are arranged that way so that the most "dynamic" of the translations (actually both paraphrases) are on the far right, and the four in between are roughly arranged in sequence from most literal to most dynamic.

Anyway, today I ran across a "classic" example for literal translation advocates: 2 Corinthians 5:21. That link is to a page that displays the renderings from the first five translations in the book: NKJV, ESV, NIV, HCSV, TNIV. They all say something to the effect that Jesus was made "to be" sin, so that we could "become the righteousness of God." Interestingly, when I glanced over at the NCV version of the verse, I had no longer "become" the righteousness of God, but was simply "made righteous." Likewise with the NLT and The Message. Maybe to some people that's a minor, hair-splitting change, but Theologically it's a big difference whether Jesus took a mud-bath in our sin and then he said we were OK, or whether he became the sin and we became the righteousness. Actually, I guess you could say it's the difference in old covenant covering with animal blood vs. new covenant cleansing with Jesus' blood.

I notice that The Good News translation is even worse... in that one Jesus just shares our sin with us, and we get to share God's righteousness with Him. Like he gave us a piece of his Snickers. ARGH!

(Notice that in this case, two of the translations that are often considered dynamic-equivalent "offenders" - the NIV and TNIV - came out with the more literal version of the verse. Fear of what the TNIV update of the NIV would mistranslate was a big part of the reason why the ESV and HCSB were created in the first place!)

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