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Eugene W. Bunkowske, ed., God's Word. Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, 1995.
This version was produced by the "God's Word to the Nations Bible Society" in Cleveland, Ohio. Although the preface and the advertising for the version make no mention of the fact, all of those involved in the production of the version were members of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. It appears to be an attempt to create a version similar to the American Bible Society's Good News Bible (GNB) which would be acceptable to ministers in the Lutheran churches. The reading level of the translation is about the same as the GNB. The preface states that the theory followed by the God's Word translators is "closest natural equivalent translation," and it tries to draw a distinction between this method and the "function-equivalent" method (more commonly known as dynamic equivalence), in which there is a "loss of meaning and oversimplification." Nevertheless, the version exhibits all the usual characteristics of "dynamic equivalence," including loss of meaning and simplification. The method of the God's Word translation differs in no important respect from the method used in the GNB.
Eugene W. Bunkowske, the principal translator, was for many years employed as a supervisor of field translators with the United Bible Societies. The publisher's website (1) provides the following information concerning Dr. Bunkowske.
"... in April 1987 the board of directors had asked Dr. Eugene W. Bunkowske — a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary and noted missionary and translator — to become their translation consultant. (Dr. Bunkowske had served as translation consultant to the United Bible Societies from 1974-1982 as well as UBS translation coordinator for the entire African continent from 1980-82). Dr. Bunkowske agreed, contingent upon the project embracing the new translation principle he had insisted be adopted in 1987, Closest Natural Equivalence."
The preface states that "God's Word is intended to be read by those who are well-versed in Scripture as well as first-time Bible readers, Christians as well as non-Christians, adults as well as children." And so, as in the case of the GNB, an attempt is made to promote the use of the version by all kinds of readers. But it is obvious that the translation is designed more for the first-time readers and children. Theological terms familiar to most adult Christians are avoided (e.g. "church" is sometimes changed to "community of believers," "grace" becomes "good will" or "kindness," "justification" becomes "God's approval," "the Law" becomes "Moses' Teachings"). The grammar is simplified, especially in the Epistles. The style is informal. Sentences are broken up so as to make them shorter and less complicated. The following passage from the ninth chapter of Luke is typical of the version.
18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?' 19 And they answered, "John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen." 20 And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." 21 But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." 23 And he said to all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
18 One day when Jesus was praying alone, the disciples came to him. "Who do the crowds say I am?" he asked them. 19 "Some say that you are John the Baptist," they answered. "Others say that you are Elijah, while others say that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." 20 "What about you?" he asked them. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are God's Messiah." 21 Then Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. 22 He also told them, 'The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life.' 23 And he said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget himself, take up his cross every day, and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 Will a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but is himself lost or defeated? Of course not! 26 If a person is ashamed of me and of my teaching, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Kingdom of God."
God's Word (1995)
18 Once when Jesus was praying privately and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" 19 They answered, "Some say you are John the Baptizer, others Elijah, and still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back to life." 20 He asked them, "But who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, whom God has sent." 21 He ordered them not to tell this to anyone. 22 Jesus said that the Son of Man would have to suffer a lot. He would be rejected by the leaders, the chief priests, and the scribes. He would be killed, but on the third day he would come back to life. 23 He said to all of them, "Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses every day, and follow me. 24 Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will save them. 25 What good does it do for people to win the whole world but lose their lives by destroying them? 26 If people are ashamed of me and what I say, the Son of Man will be ashamed of those people when he comes in the glory that he shares with the Father and the holy angels. 27 "I can guarantee this truth: Some people who are standing here will not die until they see the kingdom of God."
A number of things in this passage indicate the typical weaknesses of the version.
Verses 21 and 22 show how the breaking up of sentences tends to obscure the logical relations between parts of the discourse. The RSV's literal rendering "But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying ..." clearly indicates that the words that follow are part of Jesus' warning to the disciples, giving the reason why he wanted the disciples to refrain from announcing that he was the Christ. He was not going to fulfill the popular expectations about the Messiah. But the logical connection is weakened when the sentence in verses 21-22 is broken in two. Readers of the Good News Bible and God's Word translations must make an inference about the connection between the sentences, whereas in the RSV the connection was explicit.
"Suffer a lot" in verse 22 is an example of the overly casual style of the version. It lacks the formality appropriate to the subject.
The expression "say no to the things they want" in verse 23 is also quite informal, and a rather weak translation of the Greek αρνησασθω εαυτον, lit. "repudiate himself." The verb αρνησασθω here is transitive, and the pronoun εαυτον is the direct object. The self-denial of which Christ speaks here involves the renunciation of all self-serving tendencies and attitudes, the giving up of ourselves, our very lives. Presumably the translators used "Say no to the things they want" because they felt that it would be easier to understand, but it lacks the force of the Greek. (2)
Verse 23 also illustrates the use of gender-neutral language in the God's Word version. The masculine singular forms of the Greek text are made into plural forms. It should be noted however that the version employs this gender-neutralizing technique with more restraint than many other recent versions. Plural forms are not always substituted to avoid the generic use of he, him and his. For example, the translation of Psalm 1:1-2 reads: "Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the LORD, and reflects on his teachings day and night." Here the word "person" replaces the more accurate "man," but in order to preserve the singular number, the pronoun "he" is retained.
There has been some confusion concerning the relationship of this version to an earlier one produced by the God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. The God's Word to the Nations New Testament published by that Society in 1988—subsequently renamed as the "New Evangelical Translation" (NET)—was a revision of the New Testament portion of William F. Beck's An American Translation (1976). That revision was done by Phillip B. Giessler, and it was further revised in 1992. When "God's Word" was published in 1995, some reviewers assumed that this was yet another revision of Giessler's revision of Beck, but a comparison of the versions shows that this is not the case. The "God's Word" translation is quite different from Giessler's, and it has no relationship to Beck's version.
19 We know that everything the Law says it says to those who are under the Law so that nobody can say anything and the whole world must let God judge it. 20 What anyone does to keep the Law will not make him righteous before God, because the Law shows us our sins. 21 But now God has shown us His righteousness; the Law and the prophets tell about it, but it is without the Law. 22 God's righteousness comes to all who believe, just by their believing in Jesus Christ. There is no difference. 23 All have sinned and are without God's glory. 24 They are justified freely by grace, through the ransom Christ Jesus paid to free them. 25 God publicly set Him up to be the Atonement Cover through faith by his blood, to show his righteousness even though He had patiently passed by the sins done in the past. 26 Now He wanted to show His righteousness, to be righteous Himself and make righteous anyone who believes in Jesus. 27 What then becomes of our pride? It is excluded. How? By the way of works? No, by the way of faith. 28 We are convinced that anyone is justified by faith without the works of the Law. 29 Or is God only the God of the Jews? Isn't He also the God of the non-Jews? Certainly also of the non-Jews. 30 There is only one God, and He will make the circumcised man righteous on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised by the same faith. 31 Do we then by faith cancel the Law? Never! We uphold the Law.
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may become silent and the whole world may stand guilty before God. 20 Therefore, not one person will be justified [declared righteous] before God by doing what the Law says, because the Law teaches us to recognize sin. 21 But now God has shown a righteousness that comes from Him—a righteousness apart from the Law—to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ comes from God to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and are without the praise that God gives. 24 They are justified [declared righteous] freely by His grace, through the ransom Christ Jesus paid. 25 God publicly displayed Him as the Atonement Cover through faith in his blood. God did this to show that He is just, even though in His patience He had left unpunished those sins which had been done in the past. 26 He wanted to show His justice at the present time, so that He might be righteous and the One who justifies [acquits] the person who believes in Jesus. 27 What then, becomes of our pride? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, rather it is excluded on the principle of faith! 28 For we conclude that a person is justified [declared righteous] by faith—apart from the works of the Law. 29 Or is God only the God of the Jews? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Certainly also of the Gentiles, 30 since it is one and the same God who will justify [acquit] the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith. 31 Do we, then, by faith cancel the Law? Never! Rather, we uphold the Law.
God's Word (1995)
19 We know that whatever is in Moses' Teachings applies to everyone under their influence, and no one can say a thing. The whole world is brought under the judgment of God. 20 Not one person can have God's approval by following Moses' Teachings. Moses' Teachings show what sin is. 21 Now, the way to receive God's approval has been made plain in a way other than Moses' Teachings. Moses' Teachings and the Prophets tell us this. 22 Everyone who believes has God's approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people. 23 Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God's glory. 24 They receive God's approval freely by an act of his kindness through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free from sin. 25 God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God's approval is given through faith in Christ's blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past. 26 He waited so that he could display his approval at the present time. This shows that he is a God of justice, a God who approves of people who believe in Jesus. 27 So, do we have anything to brag about? Bragging has been eliminated. On what basis was it eliminated? On the basis of our own efforts? No, indeed! Rather, it is eliminated on the basis of faith. 28 We conclude that a person has God's approval because of faith, not because of his own efforts. 29 Is God only the God of the Jews? Isn't he also the God of people who are not Jewish? Certainly, he is, 30 since it is the same God who approves circumcised people because of faith and uncircumcised people through this same faith. 31 Are we abolishing Moses' Teachings by this faith? That's unthinkable! Rather, we are supporting Moses' Teachings.
In fact, Giessler's revision of Beck was dropped when the God's Word to the Nations Bible Society underwent a change of leadership, and decided to start again with a fresh translation. Herman Otten, writing in Christian News, (3) describes what happened. He reports that his Christian News publishing company formerly held the rights to Beck's An American Translation, but that he transferred the rights to the God's Word to the Nations Bible Society to enable them to produce their revision. As part of the agreement, Otten was appointed "chairman of the doctrinal board which was to check the revisions of the new translation." Otten and his committee approved the NET New Testament of 1988, But the revision of 1995 was not submitted for their approval prior to its publication:
God's word to the Nations Bible Society produced an excellent revision of Beck's New Testament, known as NET. It contained many footnotes and helpful appendixes. Unfortunately, under new leadership this Bible Society put aside Beck's AAT and the NET and came up with a translation which was unacceptable to confessional Lutherans. Otten, Burgdorf and Bischoff were never shown the new translation, God's Word, until it was published. Once the Society was no longer receiving much support from the Schwann Foundation it began to fade. It gave up its rights to Beck's AAT and NET. (4)
What is Otten referring to when he says that the new version was "unacceptable to confessional Lutherans"?
An example may be seen in the passage from Romans quoted above. In 3:28 we notice that the word πιστει, which in most versions is translated "by faith" or "through faith," is rendered "because of faith." But the dative form here should be understood as a dative of means, not a dative of cause, and it so happens that with conservative Lutherans this is an important point of exegesis. Justification is not given because of someone's faith (as in the Catholic view, according to which genuine faith is in itself a meritorious work), but through the instrumentality of faith. (5)
Evidently the God's Word translators did not think it was too hard for the readers to understand faith as an instrument or channel through which justification is granted, because in 3:30 they translated δια της πιστεως with "through this same faith." But in the same verse they translated εκ πιστεως as "because of faith," as if the variation in prepositions indicated a difference in meaning. This is certainly not the reason for the variation in prepositions here. It is merely a rhetorical variation, of the kind habitually practiced by good writers, as in 4:11-12, 5:10, 1 Cor. 12:8, and 2 Cor. 3:11. Both δια and εκ should be understood in the same instrumental sense here. The commentators discuss this thoroughly. We can understand why a literal version would represent the variation in the prepositions here, despite the fact that they are not intended have different meanings, but it is hard to see why such a paraphrastic version as the God's Word translation would translate them differently—as if there were a difference in meaning.
The use of "Moses' Teachings" instead of "the Law" as a translation of ο νομος leads to some strange problems in the version. In Romans 3:21 we read, "Now, the way to receive God's approval has been made plain in a way other than Moses' Teachings." The problem here is that Paul has been using the term ο νομος as a way of referring to the legal element of the Pentateuch, the "Law of Moses," and his whole presentation of the gospel here is conditioned by his use of legal concepts and metaphors. He has not been referring to "Moses' Teachings" in general, which includes the story of Abraham and his faith, but to the Law of Moses. So when the broader term "Moses' Teachings" is used as a translation for ο νομος, his argument does not even make sense. We have to wonder how the contrast between law and gospel, which is very important to Paul's argument (and to Lutheran theology in particular), can be grasped by readers of this version when the word "Law" is completely absent from it.
Another cause for concern is the avoidance of the word grace in the version. The Greek word χαρις is represented by the English words "favor, kindness, good will," etc., which fail to convey the true sense in many places. The word χαρις means much more than "kindness," especially in the writings of Luke and Paul. It refers to a divine power that quickens, sanctifies, and upholds Christians in their new life, and confers gifts of ministry. It is a spiritual endowment from on high. (6) When Luke writes that "great grace was upon" the disciples in Acts 4:33, he is referring to the sanctifying and spiritually quickening power of God among them, not merely God's "abundant good will" toward them. When he writes that Stephen was a man "full of grace" (Acts 6:8) he means that Stephen was fully endowed with the spiritual gifts necessary for his courageous ministry, not merely one who stood in "God's favor." When Barnabas came to the new congregation in Antioch and "saw the grace of God" there (Acts 11:23), Luke means that Barnabas saw the manifestation of this divine power among them. The God's Word translation here is "he was pleased to see what God had done for them out of kindness." In Acts 18:27 Luke says that Apollos greatly helped the brethren in Achaia "who had believed through grace," that is, through the effectual working of God in their hearts; but the God's Word translation completely misses the meaning: "God's kindness enabled him to help the believers a great deal." Again, in 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul is referring to the divine power and gifts when he says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am. And his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." The God's Word translation fails to convey the sense: "But God's kindness made me what I am, and that kindness was not wasted on me. Instead, I worked harder than all the others. It was not I who did it, but God's kindness was with me." Paul is attributing all his usefulness to the endowment and power of God, not just his kindness, and he regards himself only as one through whom God has chosen to work. He cannot boast of anything. His good works are not his own, they are God's. Even his faith is a gift of God. This is an important point of theology.
There is a regretable loss of imagery in the version, with a corresponding loss of meaning and impact. One reviewer, the Rev. John M. Moe, discusses several examples of this problem in an article (7) published in the Lutheran journal Logia.
Often GW [The God's Word translation] seems to feel the need to change the imagery presented by the text. Luke 13:1 speaks about Γαλιλαίων ὧν τὸ αἷμα Πιλᾶτος ἔμιξεν μετὰ τῶν θυσιῶν αὐτῶν (“Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with that of their sacrifices”). This powerful imagery of slaughter is greatly diluted, if not lost, in GW’s “Galileans whom Pilate had executed while they were sacrificing animals.”
Matthew 22:44 quotes Psalm 110:1, which GW renders: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Take the highest position in heaven until I put your enemies under your control.’” Both images presented by the Greek text, Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου (“sit at my right”) and θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν σου (“I place your enemies under your feet”) are lost. Imagery, like symbolism, can convey a variety of meanings. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” goes the cliché. When images are replaced by what someone understands to be the meaning of the image, the reader is restricted to only that interpretation. This is not translation but commentary. As with all commentary it may be too narrow, misleading, or just plain wrong. In what sense is the reader to understand “highest?” Is it physical? Does it refer to honor, authority, power? Is it one or all of these? “Highest position in heaven” would be very confusing to anyone who was not already familiar with the “at my right” imagery of the text. In any case the reader will be misled because “at my right” is not the superlative position. It is not “higher” than the one at whose right the person is to sit. The loss of the second image is arguably less serious. “Put your enemies under your control” is simply flat, insipid. It lacks the exultant victorious power of the picture presented by the text. Notably, at Psalm 110:1 GW jettisons only the first image: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the highest position in heaven until I make your enemies your footstool.’”
Similar imagery gets different treatment in Luke’s account of the stoning of Stephen. Here, at Acts 7:55, ἑστῶτα ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ (“standing at God’s right”) has been interpreted “the position of authority that God gives.” This is Stephen’s vision. The visual imagery has been removed from the report of a vision! Luke tells what Stephen saw. But GW tells us not what he saw, but what somebody thinks the thing he saw meant. The power of the imagery is replaced with some abstract organizational idea. Again there is the possibility of misinterpretation. It is doubtful whether authority was the primary thing on Stephen’s mind at the moment of his execution. There are a number of possible interpretations of this vision, including that standing at the right was the position of Jesus the advocate defending Stephen before the throne of God, which would have been very meaningful to Stephen. But “in the position of authority that God gives” blocks that possibility from the perception of GW’s reader.
Visual imagery is critical in the question of responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ. Pilate literally washes his hands of any responsibility. In Matthew 27:25 the crowd takes responsibility using a vivid image: Τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ἡμῶν (“His blood upon us and our children”). GW again muffles the impact of the text by replacing the concrete image of a people covered in the blood of the innocent Christ with an abstract concept: “The responsibility for killing him will rest on us and our children.” Shakespeare knew the power of the blood imagery when he borrowed it for Lady MacBeth (“Out, damned spot!”). More sad than the loss of the power of the image is the loss of its divine irony. The image of a people covered in the blood of the innocent Christ is not only a powerful picture of the guilt of us all because of sin; it is a powerful picture of our only hope. “The blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
The loss of biblical imagery is one of the serious shortcomings of this translation, and the examples are legion. One more must suffice. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 we read of Paul’s well-known thorn in the flesh. Here we have an image that is, at least, two-dimensional. It is not merely visual but tactile imagery. Anyone who has had a sliver that he was unable to remove knows the kind of continual, painful irritation Paul is describing. The misery Paul describes as a thorn in the flesh would hardly be so well known were GW’s “a recurring problem” the only available translation of the Greek text. There are scarcely words to describe the insipidness of this rendering.
It seems that even though all of those involved in the production of the God's Word translation were Missouri Synod Lutherans who sought to produce a version acceptable to conservatives, they were either unaware of or disregarded some points of exegesis that are especially important to Lutherans. Judging from the sample passages dealt with here, it also seems they were not in the habit of consulting scholarly commentaries in general, and had little appreciation for the communicative function of Biblical imagery. These problems are typical of the "Dynamic Equivalence" versions generally. The claim made in the preface of the God's Word translation, that it "avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with function-equivalent translation," is untrue. But its shortcomings are not much greater than those of the Good News Bible and the Contemporary English Version. All of these versions may be found useful in ministry with young children, but they are not necessary or suitable for adults.
1. ‹http://www.godsword.org/cgi-bin/gwstore.cgi?cart_id=9940795_21571&page=history.htm›, accessed 8 August 2003.
2. For this observation I am indebted to the Rev. John Moe. See note 7 below.
3. "Time for the LCMS to Use the AAT," Christian News, vol. 40, no. 7 (Feb 18, 2002), page 5.
4. Ibid. Otten, who is no longer associated with Gods Word to the Nations Bible Society, published a new revised edition of Beck's An American Translation in 2001, edited by Dr. John Drickamer.
5. For a review of the God's Word version that focuses on this point, see A Review of the Revised 'God's Word' Bible by Rev. Jack Cascione at http://www.reclaimingwalther.org/articles/jmc00150.htm
6. As James D.G. Dunn puts it, "In Paul ... χαρις is never merely an attitude or disposition of God (God's character as gracious); consistently it denotes something much more dynamic—the wholly generous act of God. Like 'Spirit,' with which it overlaps in meaning (cf., e.g., [Rom] 6:14 and Gal 5:18), it denotes effective divine power in the experience of men" (Romans 1-8 [Dallas: Word Books, 1988], p. 17).
7. John M. Moe, "Review Essay: God’s Word: Today’s Bible Translation that Says What It Means," in Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology 4/4 (October 1995), pp. 61-66. The full text of Moe's article is available online at http://www.logia.org/pdf/ref95.pdf
GOD'S WORD is New
The twentieth century has produced more Bible translations than any other. This includes English as well as foreign language translations. GOD'S WORD, produced at the end of this century by God's Word to the Nations Bible Society, fills a need that has remained unmet by English Bibles: to communicate clearly to contemporary Americans without compromising the Bible's message. This new translation consciously combines scholarly fidelity with natural English.
Traditionally, the Scriptures have been translated into English by teams of Bible scholars serving part-time. This translation employed full-time Bible scholars and full-time English editorial reviewers. GOD'S WORD is the first English Bible in which English reviewers have been actively involved with scholars at every stage.
Because of the involvement of English reviewers, GOD'S WORD looks and reads like contemporary American literature. It uses natural grammar, follows standard punctuation and capitalization rules, and is printed in a single column. Because of the involvement of scholars, GOD'S WORD is an accurate, trustworthy translation.
GOD'S WORD is for Everyone
One of the goals of GOD'S WORD is to communicate the saving, life-changing Good News about Jesus. GOD'S WORD is intended to be read by those who are well-versed in Scripture as well as first-time Bible readers, Christians as well as non-Christians, adults as well as children.
GOD'S WORD is a Translation
Of course, the Word of God didn't originally come to us in the English language. Since many people have wanted to read the Scriptures in their own language, scholars have found it necessary to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Like many Bibles published before it, GOD'S WORD has been translated directly from those original languages. Unlike Bibles before it, however, the translation theory used to produce GOD'S WORD is different because the theory and practice of translation has advanced through the years.
The oldest theory of translation is form-equivalent translation (often inaccurately called literal translation). In this type of translation, the translator chooses one of a limited number of meanings assigned to each Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word. The translator fills in the words that belong in the sentence but follows the word arrangement and grammar that is characteristic of the original language. Such a translation is often viewed as accurate. However, it can result in awkward, misleading, incomprehensible, or even amusing sentences. For instance, a form-equivalent translation of 1 Samuel 9:2 could read: "From his shoulders upward Saul was taller than any of the people." In English this implies that Saul had a misshapen head and neck. translations using this theory have made the Bible more difficult to read and understand in English than it was in the original languages.
A newer theory of translation is function-equivalent translation (often inaccurately called paraphrasing). In this type of translation, the translator tries to make the English function the same way the original language functioned for the original readers. However, in trying to make the translation easy to read, the translator can omit concepts from the original text that don't seem to have corresponding modern English equivalents. Such a translation can produce a readable text, but that text can convey the wrong meaning or not enough meaning. Furthermore, function-equivalent translations attempt to make some books readable on levels at which they were not intended. For instance, Song of Songs was not written for children. Paul's letter to the Ephesians is very sophisticated and not intended for novices.
The theory followed by the Bible Society's translators is closest natural equivalent translation. The first consideration for the translators of GOD'S WORD was to find equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text. This procedure ensures that the translation is faithful to the meaning intended by the original writer. The next consideration was readability. The meaning is expressed in natural American English by using common English punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word choice. The third consideration was to choose the natural equivalent that most closely reflects the style of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text. This translation theory is designed to avoid the awkwardness and inaccuracy associated with form-equivalent translation, and it avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with function-equivalent translation.
Features of GOD'S WORD
The features that distinguish GOD'S WORD from other Bible translations are designed to aid readers. The most obvious of these is the open, single-column format. This invites readers into the page. The single column takes the Bible out of the reference book category and presents it as the literary work that God intended it to be.
In prose GOD'S WORD looks like other works of literature. It contains frequent paragraphing. Whenever a different speaker's words are quoted, a new paragraph begins. Lists, genealogies, and long prayers are formatted to help readers recognize the thought pattern of the text. The prose style of GOD'S WORD favors concise, clear sentences. While avoiding very long, complicated sentences, which characterize many English Bible translations, GOD'S WORD strives to vary the word arrangement in a natural way. Doing this brings the Scriptures to life.
Poetry in GOD'S WORD is instantly recognized by its format. The single-column format enables readers to recognize parallel thoughts in parallel lines of poetry. In a single-column, across-the-page layout, a variety of indentations are possible. The Bible Society's translators have used indentation to indicate the relationship of one line to others in the same context. This enables a person reading the Bible in English to appreciate the Bible's poetry in much the same way a person reading the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek would appreciate it.
In English, meaning is conveyed not only by words but also by punctuation. However, no punctuation existed in ancient Hebrew and Greek writing, and words were used where English grammar would prefer punctuation marks. GOD'S WORD strives to use standard English punctuation wherever possible. At times this means that a punctuation mark or paragraph break represents the meaning that could only be expressed in words in Hebrew or Greek.
Italics are also used as they would be in other printed English texts: for foreign words or to indicate that a word is used as a word. (GOD'S WORD never uses italics to indicate emphasis.)
Wherever possible, GOD'S WORD has supplied information in headings or half-brackets to identify the speaker in quoted material. To minimize the confusion produced by quotations within quotations, quotation marks are used sparingly. For instance, they are not used after formulaic statements such as "This is what the LORD says: . . . "
Contractions can fit comfortably into many English sentences. Certainly, "Don't you care that we're going to die" is less stiff than, "Do you not care that we are going to die?" GOD'S WORD achieves a warmer style by using contractions where appropriate. However, uncontracted words are used in contexts that require special emphasis.
GOD'S WORD capitalizes the first letter in proper nouns and sentences and all the letters in the word LORD when it represents Yahweh, the name of God in the Old Testament. Some religious literature chooses to capitalize pronouns that refer to the deity. As in the original languages, GOD'S WORD does not capitalize any pronouns (unless they begin sentences). In some cases scholars are uncertain whether pronouns in the original texts refer to God or someone else. In these cases the presence of capitalized pronouns would be misleading. However, when the Hebrew or Greek pronouns are not ambiguous, but an English pronoun would be, GOD'S WORD uses the appropriate proper noun in its place.
The Scriptures contain many passages that apply to all people. Therefore, GOD'S WORD strives to use gender-neutral language in these passages so that all readers will apply these passages to themselves. For example, traditionally, Psalm 1:1 has been translated, "Blessed is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked . . . ." As a result, many readers will understand this verse to mean that only adult males, not women or children, can receive a blessing. However, in GOD'S WORD the first Psalm begins "Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of the wicked . . . ." However, if a passage focuses upon an individual, GOD'S WORD does not use plural nouns and pronouns to avoid the gender-specific pronouns he, him, and his. In these cases the translators considered the text's focus upon an individual more important than an artificial use of plural pronouns. In addition, gender-specific language is preserved in passages that apply specifically to men or specifically to women.
Many Bible translations contain theological terms that have little, if any, meaning for most nontheologically-trained readers. GOD'S WORD avoids using these terms and substitutes words that carry the same meaning in common English. In some cases traditional theological words are contained in footnotes the first time they occur in a chapter. Examples of these theological terms include covenant, grace, justify, repent, and righteousness.
While all these features make GOD'S WORD a uniquely readable and understandable Bible, the ultimate goal of the Bible Society has been to bring the readers of GOD'S WORD into a new or closer relationship with Jesus Christ. The translation team and support staff of the Bible Society pray that your reading of GOD'S WORD makes the words of Christ—as revealed through his prophets and his apostles—come to life for you.
For more details on the translation process and the unique features that enable GOD'S WORD to accurately and clearly communicate God's saving, life-changing, message contact—
God's Word to the Nations Bible Society
22050 Mastick Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44126
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