Clarity and accuracy in translation are helpful

Over the years I have done a very bad thing in the eyes of scholars. I have drifted more toward translations that work to make the text more readable. For ESV, NASB, NRSV, and RSV lovers… I am a heretic. For KJV only people, I’ve been apostate for years.

I still use “word for word” translations, but for preaching and group study, I look more toward less formal and more readable. I still want “accurate.” But in translation, that is simply a moving target. I just don’t want someone who is fairly new in the faith to try to have to “translate” an English word or phrase!

In my Lenten reading this morning, there is this verse in Gen. 42:

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” (ESV)

The “nakedness of the land?” What? They came to hit the strip clubs?

One great function of BibleGateway is the parallel translation feature. I put three translation options HERE.

The beauty of several translations is realizing we can have accuracy AND clarity. It’s not always “word for word,” but it WILL communicate the truth of the passage.

One Thing I Ask

I have asked one thing from the Lord—
it’s all I seek—
to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
seeing the Lord’s beauty
and constantly adoring his temple. (Psalm 27:4, CEB)

Being away on prayer retreat, this is one thing I need to keep in front of me. I need to ask just one thing.

I may have my laundry list for God, but there is only one thing worth asking, worth dwelling on, during a prayer retreat. I need to know him. I need to seek his face. I need to know him.

The Beautiful Obligation

16 If I preach the gospel, I have no reason to brag, since I’m obligated to do it. I’m in trouble if I don’t preach the gospel.(1 Cor. 9:16, CEB)

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16, NIV)

16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16, ESV)

The supposed freedom we may think we have in the gospel is indeed freedom, but it is a freedom binding us to a new “obligation.” The gospel of Jesus Christ turns all our definitions upside down.

Any sense of “obligation” we have in our lives today we tend to run from like it was the plague.

Any sense of “freedom” we think we may have, we sometimes viciously fight for that sense of “freedom,” only to find it has a steep price after all.

But in the Kingdom, the freedom of Christ has a sense of duty. It is a sense of call. It is the duty of proclamation. And it is not just proclamation in some way that WE feel “comfortable” with. It is the proclamation of the gospel in such a way that we work hard to make sure the gospel is communicated clearly to our audience.

For Paul, it meant that even with tremendous “freedoms” he felt no qualms about being “all things to all people so as to win some.” He wanted Jews to understand without too many barriers. He wanted Gentiles to understand without too many barriers.

That’s just hard work. Why? He was compelled. He had an obligation. Yet, it was a beautiful obligation. It was a longing for all to understand the freedom he found in Christ.

As Christians we give up “freedoms” and “privileges” at times because we want to be able to communicate as clearly as possible the beautiful message of freedom in Christ. It is not “losing” in the Kingdom. It may seem like “losing” to everyone around us, but it is not losing at all. When other find freedom in Christ, gain happens. We all win.

Comparison of CEB on James 2:1

Here is James 2:1 in the CEB:

1 My brothers and sisters, when you show favoritism you deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been resurrected in glory.

The NIV:

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

The ESV:

1 My brothers,[a] show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

The CEB’s addition of the phrase “you deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ” sounds “right” in the context of the passage. However, is it CORRECT?

Any thoughts on this one?

Where is God’s Chest?

3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the LORD’s temple, where God’s chest was. (1 Sam. 3:3, CEB)

It just begs a lot of questions… and images my mind shouldn’t conjure up when it comes to God.

I know “ark” may be archaic, but it HAS to be better than “chest.”


Farewell and Hello

I used to set goals for each year. I got away from it because somehow in setting goals it also implied a deadline.

Now, I am trying to realize that I need to take time to re-evaluate my goals from time to time. Forget the timeline in many cases.

For instance, I need to set a target weight for my health and stay at it. I don’t need to say, “I need to lose 20 pounds.” (Once I’ve lost the 20 pounds, back I go!)

This coming year I’ve set goals to keep my mind and spirit sharp. I’ve also made it my goal to develop some writing that I feel is necessary for ministry and for the church. Along with that I hope to develop another blog for pastors. But in those goals I need to have them mind, work at them, but forget the timelines. If they are not in full swing by this time next year, I need to re-evaluate and see if I need to keep at it. I don’t need to feel like a failure.

We say farewell to 2011 and hello to the last year of the planet (for the Mayans, anyway). There is really one supreme goal I carry with me, which I pray for all of us:

12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. 15 So, all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way and if anyone thinks differently, God will reveal it to him or her. 16 Only let’s live in a way that is consistent with whatever level we have reached. (Phil. 3:12-16, CEB)

Many blessings in this new year!

Repent — Comparing NIV and CEB

It’s an old fashioned word. It’s a biblical word. It’s a word that fits an “old time” Pentecostal preaching method. I like the word! I get visions of Billy Sunday with his flaring high kick and his finger ready to come down as he glares into someone’s soul and cries out, “REPENT!”

And I like the way the Common English Bible is handling the phrase. Again, they are working to make words more accessible. It is also a great example of where it may take a few more English words to “explain” what is being said. That is the work of translation. You want accuracy, and there are times when to accurately communicate one word from another language it may take several words in your own language.

In the letter to Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) the word “repent” comes up.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (NIV)

Then, the CEB:

19 I correct and discipline those whom I love. So be earnest and change your hearts and lives.

While “repent” is one word, and very clean, it may not be something that is easily read and understood. I know I grew up hearing whole sermons on what “repent” actually meant. And if it takes a sermon to explain a word, it’s possible that just putting the “right” word in a spot may not be the best way to communicate what is being said.

Most of the time when I would ask what “repent” meant, I would get the answer, “It means to change your heart and life.”

More and more, I am liking how the CEB is handling this difficult work. (Though, I am still not a fan of “Human One.”) 😉


The text I will reflect on the most for the 9/11 service will be 1 Cor. 1:18 – 2:5. There is a message on my heart regarding how we need truly live in light of 9/11 and with a view to the days ahead of us.

Which brings me to 1:21 and interesting takes on translation.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (NIV)

In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.(CEB)

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.(ESV)

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.(NLT)

Great translations, and a couple of different views as to that last part of the sentence.

Is it the foolish of what we preach (the cross) or the foolishness of the vehicle (the preaching) that is the point?


Links to Thoughts on 9/11 and Translations

Some thoughts from key leaders HERE about how Christian and Muslim relations are doing ten years after 9/11.

Some thoughts HERE on the need for good translations, even ones we may not personally like. For me, personally, I am still working to become more comfortable with the Common English Bible. The NIV 2011 is by far more “comfortable” for me. Both have a place in my reading, my teaching, and my ministry.

No translation is perfect. Working through the texts certainly is a JOY in Bible reading! When I don’t look for the differences in translation for the purposes of criticism, but rather for the purposes of clarity, I find greater joy in reading.