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.

Translation comparisons of Matthew 5:17

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (NLTse)

Mat 5:17
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Most translations use “fulfill.” I like the help the NLT gives.

Liking the Common English Bible Bit by Bit

Teaching a New Testament class on some of the “general epistles” I keep several translations with me. I will use my Nook and the Olive Tree Bible Reader to compare, take notes, etc.

While the Common English Bible certainly has a lower reading level than more “literal” translations, what continues to impress me about the CEB is it is truly a translation. They have not aimed for common language alone. It is about clarity. They don’t stretch for common language by paraphrasing.

Some word choices in 2 Peter are intriguing me.

2 Peter 2:1-4 (CEB):

1 But false prophets also arose among the people. In the same way, false teachers will come among you. They will introduce destructive opinions and deny the master who bought them, bringing quick destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow them in their unrestrained immorality, and because of these false teachers the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will take advantage of you with lies. The judgment pronounced against them long ago hasn’t fallen idle, nor is their destruction sleeping.
4 God didn’t spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into the lowest level of the underworld and committed them to chains of darkness, keeping them there until the judgment.

Two places specifically are interesting when compared with a more “literal” translation like the ESV:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, butcast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

The first is the phrase “destructive heresies” in v. 1 (ESV). The phrase takes the meaning of Peter a bit too far. The CEB goes with “destructive opinions” (as does the NRSV). It’s a translator’s choice, but probably staying more in line with what Peter is getting at.

The second is “hell.” That word has more permanence attache to it in our own minds (unless you’re an annihilationist, of course). Even in that sense there is the thought of finality. The ESV footnotes it, but only to use the Greek word “Tartarus.” (Well, now, THAT is helpful!)

Tartarus was a place in Greek mythology, a subterranean abyss where disobedient gods and rebellious human beings were consigned. It is not a place of permanent judgment. Thus, the New Jerusalem Bible, and CEB, using “underworld” might be a better fit.

Again, just interesting notes that keep me intrigued with the CEB. Certainly there is disagreement on which words to use in translation, but it shows me it is truly a translation. They are not trying to “dumb down” Scripture. They are really trying to communicate clearly. 

The Standard of Measure

24 He said to them, “Listen carefully! God will evaluate you with the same standard you use to evaluate others. Indeed, you will receive even more. 25 Those who have will receive more, but as for those who don’t have, even what they don’t have will be taken away from them.” (Mark 4:24-25, CEB)

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (NIV)

24 And he said to them,“Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (ESV)

The Common English Bible supplies “to evaluate others” where the usage of “the measure you use” in the NIV and the ESV isn’t specified. The way the NIV and the ESV reads (as I have read it all my life) is more about the standard of measure I use in my life. Period. It’s not the standard of measure I use to judge others.

It’s about taking the gifts God has given and using them. If God gives a certain measure to me, and I use what is given for his Kingdom, then that trust keeps flowing. If I squander what I use… things get taken away. It’s like a truncated parable of the sower.

AND this passage follows the parable of the sower. I am not sure why the CEB adds in “to evaluate others.”

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.

Is He Indignant or Moved by Compassion?

I am a confessed translation junkie. As I read the Common English Bible and the NIV, I come across different ways certain phrases are turned.

Mark 1:41 is a good example. The leper comes to Christ and says, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”

The response is so interesting.


41 Incensed,[a] Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.”


41 Jesus was indignant.[a] He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”


41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” (And no textual note. Probably because they know they are right.) Winking smile

The text note of the NET Bible indicates most manuscripts use the Greek word for “moved with compassion.”

Yet, some other texts would use the word for “indignation.” Those texts don’t seem to carry the “numbers” as the other manuscripts.

So… why did the CEB and the NIV go with a “minority” view on this point?

From Sorcerer to Magic Arts to Drug Users

The end of Revelation is one of my favorite places to camp. I honestly love the entire Book of Revelation if I can read through it without the voices in my head. (You know: Tim LaHaye, Jack VanImpe, Hal Lindsey, etc.)

In Rev. 22:15 I noticed different ways translations have tackled the Greek word pharmakos over the years. Last night I was reading the passage out of the Common English Bible, which is why I noticed.

In the ESV, which followed the King James, the word is “sorcerer.”

In the NIV it is “those who practice magic arts.”

In the CEB it is “the drug users and spell-casters.”

It is obviously a difficult word to translate, so newer translations are using phrases rather than trying to wrap it up in one word.

I think of the line out of the movie Super 8 where the kid is saying, “Drugs are bad. Very, very bad!” (You would have to know the scene for it to be funny, I guess.)

At any rate, yet another interesting phrase brought to you by the Common English Bible.

James 2:1 in the CEB and the NRSV

I looked at James 2:1 in the Common English Bible and found it to be interesting because the phrase “deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ” was not in the NIV or ESV. Is the connotation there? If we are showing favoritism, are we denying the faithfulness of Christ?

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

The NRSV puts the verse into a question and comes closer to what the CEB did:

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 

What IS clear in this verse is a believer can not hold faith in Christ AND favoritism at the same time. It is much like Jesus saying, “You can’t serve two masters.”

When that is the underlying statement, the CEB does make sense… while putting in a phrase that isn’t really there…

I will admit this is a place where I struggle with the dynamic equivalence idea of translation. However, I can see the point in drawing something out to make the underlying statement more clear. That is still part of the translation process.


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?