Review: God’s Word to the Nations

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I want to thank the fine folks at Baker Publishing for this review copy.

Price: Check Amazon
ISBN: 978-0-8010-1342-3
ISBN-10: 0-8010-1342-9
Dimensions: 5.375 x 8.25
Number of pages: 2,108
Carton Quantity: 12
Publication Date: Sep. 09
Formats: Imitation leather

After spending several weeks with this new (to me) translation, I have found that like all other bible translations, it has it’s faults; however, in many areas it shines. If you take the God’s Word translation (GWN) in its place, it more than accomplishes it goal.

The GWN started off as a one-man translation in 1963,

God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society (originally incorporated in September 1983 as Know the Truth Foundation, and later renamed Luther Bible Society) is formed to revise an earlier work by Dr. William F. Beck, The New Testament in the Language of Today, published in 1963. Following Dr. Beck’s death in 1966, the remainder of the Old Testament is completed by a small group of Lutheran scholars. The entire Bible is published in 1976 as An American Translation (AAT).

But has since grown to a committee process first published by Word in 1995 and now acquired by Baker.

Introduction:

Using a middle ground between ‘literal-as-possible’ and dynamic equivalence, the translators complete their task according to the philosophy of ‘Closest Natural Equivalence.’ It has three goals,

  1. Provide readers with a meaning in the target language (here, English) that is equivalent to that of the source language
  2. Express that meaning naturally, in a way that a native English speaker would read or write
  3. Express the meaning with a style that preserves many of the characteristics of the source text

In part, the translators want to refrain from ‘making the text simpler than the source text was.’ For them, the balance from CNE preserves the source text and modern syntax.

The base texts of the GWN are those which most bible translations use, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (OT) and the Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition (NT). Further, where the team has went with a different variant, they note it in the footnotes. Even in their footnotes, they seek clarity for the reader excluding abbreviations among other aspects.

A major part of the work of the translators is readability, in which they attempt to make it readable across the educational spectrum. For longer sentences ( Romans 1.1-7 is one sentence in the Greek) they have broken them down into small, easily digestible sentences, which should help the reader learn important concepts. An example of this can be found in Romans 5:17:

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (ESV) For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.(NIV) It is certain that death ruled because of one person’s failure. It’s even more certain that those who receive God’s overflowing kindness and the gift of his approval will rule in life because of one person, Jesus Christ.(GWN) For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.(NLT)

The GWN provides an easy flow, especially if read aloud.

Following Martin Luther’s cue, the masculine gender is no longer used for the entire human race if women are to be included in the thought of the writers. While this might not be to the liking of some, it has been done not just in Luther’s German, but in Tyndale’s English and in the KJV as well. They do note, however, that they have no ‘slavish loyalty to gender neutrality,’ which allows them to examine the verse to see if indeed neutrality is strongly merited or not.

Then he said to the council, “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you do with these men. (Act 5:35 GWN) Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. (Act 5:35 NRS)

For those who are use to seeing ‘brothers and sisters’ instead of purely ‘brothers’ you will notice little to no change (maybe even a tightening against neutrality).

Review:

Part of the goal of the GWN is to produce a viable bible translation for the target language, easily readable and up to date and while in many places they do just that, there will be problems in reception by many in the Reformed movement. However, those not Reformed, perhaps those who have a new perspective on Paul, will come to enjoy this bible.

One of the central problems with the GWN is the translation of ‘justified,’ which is a key term to many, as ‘approval.’ Further, they translate ‘grace’ as ‘kindness,’ ‘repentance’ as ‘must turn to God and change the way you think and act (Acts 2.38)’ but leave baptism alone instead of ‘immerse.’ While I generally have no problem with a ‘non-theological’ translation, I find problems with the choice for justified and grace, but in a moment of clarity, it is because of theology, and not the base language. In fact, χάρις does translate to favor/kindness and fits neatly into the 1st century mediator role of Jesus Christ which we find highlighted in Hebrews. While this might matter to some, it should not be a reason not to examine the GWN.

I have found that the GWN shines more succinctly in the Old Testament the most. While it is not as poetic as other modern translations, it provides a clear translation which is meant rather to be read easily than recited like poetry.

11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand.

14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2.11-17 ESV)

11 Judah has been unfaithful! A disgusting thing has been done in Israel and Jerusalem. Judah has dishonored the holy place that the LORD loves and has married a woman who worships a foreign god.

12 May the LORD exclude anyone who does this, whoever he may be. May he exclude them from Jacob’s tents and from bringing offerings to the LORD of Armies.

13 Here is another thing you do: You cover the LORD’s altar with tears. You moan and groan because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them from you.

14 But you ask, “Why aren’t our offerings accepted?” It is because the LORD is a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been unfaithful. Yet, she is your companion, the wife of your marriage vows.

15 Didn’t God make you one? Your flesh and spirit belong to him. And what does the same God look for but godly descendants? So be careful not to be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel. “I hate the person who covers himself with violence,” says the LORD of Armies. “Be careful not to be unfaithful.”

17 You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2.11-17 GWN)

Readability, of course, is a matter of opinion, for the most part; however, the GWN is bound to bring about more understanding (for example, see v16 above) than the ESV which attempts a very literal translation in this passage.

The bible is more than reasonably priced, and comes in imitation leather with giant print. It seems very sturdily made and should last for years of use. It is single-column, with the footnotes at the bottom. Further, the God’s Word to the Nations bible is printed in a concise font, making it easily readable for a wide variety of eyes. The giant print version is arranged in such a way as to not break portions and passages up of scripture into stop and start sessions.

Conclusion:

From the outset I have said that this bible might not be accepted by everyone because of certain translation choices; however, for the goal of the Translation Committee, which includes a variety of people (some of them well-known theological conservatives), it succeeds. It provides a translation generally free of theology, but appeals to the base text for its answer.

If you want a wholly non-theological translation which focuses on uniting the original languages with modern English with more attention to literalism than such translations as the NLT, then this is the bible you should choose.

Post By Joel Watts (10,046 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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