Examining God’s Word – Romans 5.1-11

This week, we are examining God’s Word Translation in regards to the a literal and a thought for thought translation. I am using the NASB which is highly literal and the NLT which is my preferred choice, and somewhere between thought for thought and literal. I will take different chapters or passages, prooftexting, and put then against recognized versions. I ask my readers to participate, showing me what they like or don’t like.

God’s Word to the Nations

New American Standard

New Living Translation

1 Now that we have God’s approval by faith, we have peace with God because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done.1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
2 Through Christ we can approach God and stand in his favor. So we brag because of our confidence that we will receive glory from God.2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
3 But that’s not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance,3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
4 endurance creates character, and character creates confidence.4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
5 We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
6 Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people.6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
7 Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person.7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
8 Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
9 Since Christ’s blood has now given us God’s approval, we are even more certain that Christ will save us from God’s anger.9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
10 If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us.10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
11 In addition, our Lord Jesus Christ lets us continue to brag about God. After all, it is through Christ that we now have this restored relationship with God.11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Here is a copy of Romans from GW in PDF.

I am going to reserve my full comments for the review sometime next week.

v. 2, 3 & 11, ‘brag’ is too loose. While the Greek is καυχώμεθα, meaning to boast, I am unsure as to the equality of Paul’s boasting to the idea of bragging.

v. 7, I believe the NLT has the idea expressed correctly.

v. 8, GW is clear and concise

v. 9, ‘approval’ seems to be loose

v. 11b, GW is dynamic, opposed to the literal NASB, but I believe it accurately describes the result of justification.

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115 Replies to “Examining God’s Word – Romans 5.1-11”

  1. Two of the three translations abandon the word “justification.” It is a theological word, a highly specific depiction of God’s forensic decree that one’s righteousness is imputed to a sinner through Jesus’ finshed work on the cross. “Justification” is the only word that also brings with it the connotation that this is something external to any works of man, what many theologians call an “alien righteousness.”

    1. I can understand that point of view, Sam, but I would counter that it is also a word alien to the text, as all English words are. I like the NLT’s ‘made right,’ again, depending upon the audience.

      Do you think GWN creates a works mentality?

      1. I don’t follow what you’re saying about the translation process. Of course an English translation is, by definition, English. It’s not Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. The point is not the act of translating but of accuracy in translation — and accuracy is crucial in soteriology. To remove “justification” from an English translation robs the reader of the glorious truth that God judically decrees a sinner saved under the blood of Jesus, a truth that may lead to conversion and certainly leads to the bedrock assurance of salvation. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

        It’s now easy to dilute the deep meaning of justification because the doctrine of justification has been under assault more today than any other time than the Counter Reformation. The controversies surrounding the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision are just two examples of the assault on justification.

        Blood has been shed over precision in translation. Our old friend Tyndale is a good example:

        “Thomas More’s criticism of Tyndale boils down mainly to the way Tyndale translated five words. He translated presbuteros as elder instead of priest. He translated ekklesia as congregation instead of church. He translated metanoeo as repent instead of do penance. He translated exomologeo as acknowledge or admit instead of confess. And he translated agape as love rather than charity.

        Daniell [Tyndale’s biographer] comments, ‘He cannot possibly have been unaware that those words in particular undercut the entire sacramental structure of the thousand year church throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa. It was the Greek New Testament that was doing the undercutting.’ And with the doctrinal undermining of these ecclesiastical pillars of priesthood and penance and confession, the pervasive power and control of the church collapsed. England would not be a Catholic nation. The reformed faith would flourish there in due time.” — John Piper

        By the way, Tyndale invented the word “propitiation” because there wasn’t an English word to adequately define “hilasmos.” “Appease” is an altogether inadequate synonym. The notion that it takes blood — the blood of God the Son — to satisfy the wrath that we so rightly deserve from God the Father. In biblical typology, it’s a picture of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement sprinkling blood on the Mercy Seat, a picture made perfect by the Great High Priest who sprinkled His own blood there. My point, of course, is that “appease” is wimpy compared to the weighty subject of our sin before a holy God. Tyndale knew this and he honored God’s Word by creating a word worthy of the concept communicated.


        1. Sam, the point of this discussion is solely to test the reaction to the GWN – not to share my own viewpoints on justification, translation issues.

          With that being said,

          If that particular word is valid only in one language, in one branch of Christian, barely 500 years old, then is it a matter to be used to dismiss the translation efforts? (Please remember, I do not like ‘approval’, finding ‘made right’ or ‘set aright’ better.) Further, how wrapped in theological language should a translation be?

          And as a side note, the GWN actually was a Lutheran translation. Odd, that the Lutheran’s would produce something without the word justification.

          1. One other point to consider. The GWN is not meant to be literal, and directed towards a less theological crowd, I believe.

          2. I was reacting to all three translations you displayed in your grid. Two fell short in terms of a crucial soteriological term.

            It’s a stretch to infer that I’m saying “that particular word is valid only in one language.” How did you make that leap in logic? Moreover, I wasn’t discussing the Reformation ( I assume that’s the ‘one branch’ you are referring to). My point was precision of translating from the original language to ANY other language. Surely you’re not saying that justification was “invented” by Martin Luther.

            Buried in your comments may be a false dichotomy that there should be a translation for the “unwashed” and one for “theologians.” I couldn’t disagree more, if that is what you’re saying. All I’m saying is that one should ask a translation team to approach the original Scripture with awe and humility in their task to bring the Bible into the vernacular of whatever people group you’re targeting. But insist on precision and accuracy. There’s no need for a bifurcated approach to translation.

            Is there something sinister about “theological language”? Remember, theology is theos + logos, i.e., the study of God. The best way to get to know God is to delight in how He reveals Himself in His Word. Both the common man and the world-class theologian should rejoice in access to an accurately translated version of God’s Word as a means of grace.

            “How wrapped in theological language should a translation be?” Wrong question. Instead, consider how accurately (albeit imperfect) a translating team can transmit the meaning of the original, inspired authors in any passage of Scripture. If someone is challenged to stretch his/her mind to ponder a particular passage, I think God will honor sincere meditation on His Word.

            I find it odd that nobody quibbles about attempts to accurately translate other ancient documents and I’m certainly not aware of any translation approach where simplicity trumps precision. There’s no “Illiad for Dummies” or “Josephus’ Jewish History Coloring Book.”

            The good news is that there are many good choices for English speaking Bible readers today. The bad news is that there are many bad choices, too.

          3. “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
            Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

            — Eric Burden of the Animals, circa 1968

            I know you’re sincerely examining the GWN. My intent is simply to try and point out why some terms are crucial for fully understanding God’s plan of salvation.

          4. Yeah, but Sam, it seemed rather personal.

            As I stated earlier. This is a review, and part of that, especially considering that it is a new translation style, I wanted to gauge the reactions to the changes. I reckon that on this subject, I get a reaction.

            My opinion on this is mine, and while I might incorporate it later, my goal is to throw out the questions which I hear, which I might ask, which I have seen asked.

          5. I hope my mouth hasn’t overloaded another part of my anatomy (that I’m sitting on). My intent was certainly not a personal attack. I enjoy your socratic questioning. I was hoping my tone would be lively, not critical. But apparently I missed the mark and I apologize.

            I never got past Romas 5: 1. As I’m sure you can tell, I consider justification to be an amazing, undeserved gift that should glorify God in His acts of grace to His people. To water down justification diminishes the whole glorious way He calls His people to Himself.

            You are a perfect gentleman on this blog. Again, no ill will intended.


          6. No worries, Sam. I definitely don’t want to you misunderstand me, that’s for sure.

            I will be attempting hit various parts of the Bible, and I figured that Romans 5 was perhaps the most controversial. For me, ‘approval’ is a term which denotes merit to be saved. I don’t like it, and feel that it would take more time to explain it, while preaching, teaching, etc…, than would be necessary.

          7. I agree with Sam here, also here is an older translation by no conservative American, Edgar J. Goodspeed:

            “So as we have been made upright by faith, let us live in peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1, The New Testament, An American Translation, by EJG, 1923)
            In other translations in Romans Goodspeed shows that this reality of being “made upright” is a action by God to our “credit” through faith. It is surely forensic and judicial in Romans.
            Fr. R.

          8. Fr. Robert, I have Goodspeed’s translation. He misses on some points, as I am sure, and makes it on others.

          9. Joel,
            Like Sam, the Greek dikaiosune = righteousness, or dikatoo, to justify, is to set forth as righteous. These in Romans, dikaiosune, dikaioma, dikaiosis are best translated as “justification”. Why change it? Especially with our reformational and reformed theology.
            Fr. R.

          10. Joel,
            But everyone not R. Catholic or E. Orthodox, should see the theology of the Reformation (even they really). See even Luther’s German NT Translation! The real issue here is whether we are classic protestant or not? I am sure all of the Reformers would not say, their position was just an alternative choice. “Justication By Faith Alone”! Ya see this stuff leads to somewhere…doctrine, sound or not?
            Fr. R.

          11. That’s a pretty wide swath of ‘everyone’ Fr. Robert. And even those who emerged due to the Reformation might not agree with each other over everything.

            As far as salvation without works, yes, indeed. It is biblical, and sound, and honors the cross of Christ. I have to agree with Sam on the NPP and what it does to this doctrine – but I didn’t want to get into that here.

            Maybe on Reformation Day!

          12. WE just must be very careful here is my point! Men have died over these issues, as our brother Rod has spoken, etc. And it really does all flow together!
            Fr. R.

          13. The degree to which a number of readers responded to Joel’s innocent request for a review of one particular translation started the wheels turning in my brain last night (a dangerous proposition). I had to ask myself what was the “filter” I use to evaluate a Bible translation. At the risk of sounding postmodern, I have to assert that we all bring our own denominations, traditions, and personal experience to the table when evaluating a translation. That’s certainly the case with me.

            I had to ask myself, why are what some have called “theological terms” so important to me? Why do I want words like justification, sanctification, propitiation, atonement, etc., to remain in English translations while others want to try and convey meaning at a more rudimentary level?

            To answer my own question, I think my view of the Bible is shaped by the covenant community to which I belong. My church is a strong, healthy church that not only encourages but demands that each member be immersed in deep teaching on many levels. Consequently, when the average church member runs across a word like “justification,” the breadth and depth and richness of the term leaps up in the mind and that member is able to savor just what Christ accomplished on the cross at the apogee of redemptive history.

            But I think I understand why others are arguing for a translation that has been reduced to a basic style in the most modern vernacular. In America in particular, religion has become either a spectator sport or a lone ranger endeavor. For the saint who belongs to a weak church or no church at all, maybe a clean, simple style is better. One can hope a person will begin to hunger for the deeper truths of the Bible and “graduate” to one that is a better reflection of the original languages.

            But in the final analysis, I think a fully informed Christian who is an active part of a local body of believers will greatly benefit from reading the great truths in Scripture in all their depth and richness. Richard Baxter poured out his life pastoring and instructing the people of the village of Kidderminster and the little town was ultimately transformed to where it was said that a person could set a bag of gold coins on the street and it would be left alone. (Read Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor” for a full understanding of how he nourished and grew his congregaton. By the way, “reformed” in the title had nothing to do with Calvinism. Baxter was not a Calvinist. “Reformed” meant “biblical.”)

            So I guess I’m advocating the combination of a good, “essentially literal” translation coupled with a strong covenant community where all members are growing and learning. Here’s an instructive blog about this subject:


            Also, my pastor has established an international ministry to move “flat lined” churches back into dynamic ones. Digging deep into the Word is a central tenet of his ministry. You can learn about this ministry here:


            He has also written a couple of books on the subject:



            So I’ve moved from soteriology to ecclesiology, all in the name of Bible translations. I hope this makes sense.


          14. But Luther didn’t use the word “justification” either. He used the word gerecht in his translation. And that is not a theological word, but a word that he took out of everyday German life. Thus the GWT is very much in keeping with the Lutheran spirit.

          15. Luther’s 1545 version:
            “Nun wir denn sind gerecht worden durch den Glauben, so haben wir Frieden mit Gott durch unsern HERRN Jesum Christum,”

            From Cassell’s German-English/English-German Dictionary:

            adj. 1. just, fair, equitable, impartial, righteous, legitimate, lawful, justified, well-deserved; ihm – werden, do justice to him; einer S. – werden, do justice to a th., take a tho into account; meet, satisfy (a demand); come or live up to, meet (expectations); cope with or master (difficulty); 2. fit, right, suitable; skilled

            My point is that when we use a word like justification in a translation, it is nothing more than a theological placeholder—a label—for a greater set or sets of meaning. In fact, its use makes us lazy because rather than trying to use language that actually describes its meaning (as Luther did in his translation), we use the label justified which either requires previous understanding or the need to run to a theological dictionary.

            Neither Luther (nor Paul) intended this.

          16. The words “nothing more” are very interesting? As an English speaker, reader and writer, not to mention that historical reality of the Reformation and the Reformed, I will go with “justify”, “justifier” (God)… and “justification”. If we look closely only here is our “righteousness”!
            Fr. R.

          17. R. Mansfield,

            What is it about “justification” that makes it such a lightning rod for criticism? As it has been used since Tyndale’s day, the meaning has grown rather than diminished. Since I don’t know German, I can’t comment on “gerecht” other than to speculate that it probably has also gained layers of connotative richness over the centuries since Luther penned it. My point remains the same, regardless of the language used.

            Your comment about the use of “justification” making one lazy baffles me. Are you really saying that mushy “thought-for-thought” can do the original language more justice than an attempt to come as close as one can for an essentially literal translation?

            D. A. Carson, who earned his undergraduate degree in mathmatics before becoming a world-class theologian, deals with words and meaning by using an illustration from math. He talks about the process of a person gaining cumulative understanding of a word as he visits and re-visits the word in Scripture. It’s like an asymptotic curve, where two lines approach one another towards infinity, yet never quite intersect. Carson’s illustration reveals a great epistemological truth, that over time a person can gain gradual yet significant understanding of a word or concept, in spite of never having an exhausitive understanding.

            If you’re simply arguing for clarity and use of the common vernacular, I sympathize. However, I’m always wary of there being an attack on the theology behind the word. But I’m sure that’s not the case here.


          18. In my opinion, the ESV translation shines here in the English. It is not going to mess with our English theological words and meanings! It is here, that the AV, or the KJV will still be read and used, words like Atonement, which can be translated Reconciliation. But the word “Atonement” is still a force and power of its own…the Atonement of Christ! Archaic? I think not.
            Fr. R.

          19. It is only understandable, however, to those who know what it means.

            This is why I like the NLT on the translation of justification, as apposed to the GWN, because it explains the concept, which I understand it to be completely judicial.

            Further, I don’t think the word is a lightning rod, so much as the insistence that the word itself must not be abandoned no matter what. The concept is what is important, not the English word which has been historically used to translated it. Further, we all know the level of biblical illiteracy in the country. It’s not just in areas of the bible, but in all areas. My concern, if I was a bible translator, would be to bring the Scriptures to a level of the culture, regardless if it is American or not, but not to make it too vulgar so as to dilute the meaning of the concept.

          20. Well, first and foremost, I’m not attacking the theology. Second, the reality is that there is more than one translation method. And I’m not suggesting that one is necessarily better than another. What I am is an advocate for is good clear communication.

            The last time I preached, I used the NLT. It has the most natural kind of conversational English I’ve found in any translation. And this puts it in the spirit of the New Testament which was translated in Koine (common) Greek.

            When I teach from the Bible–that is an interactive setting in which passages are discussed–I tend to use a median translation, one that combines the best of both formal and dynamic methods. In the last three years, I have taught primarily from the HCSB, TNIV, and NET Bible (all three median translations) and a few times from the NLT—clearly a dynamic version.

            When I study a passage in preparation for teaching or occasional preaching, I prefer to start at the beginning with the original languages and create my own translation. I don’t always have time to do this, but it is my most preferred starting point. As I move from translation to study, I bring in other versions, specifically, the NASB for the formal position as well as the others mentioned above.

            While a formal translation like the NASB can be helpful in study, I would simply never use it for public proclamation–nor would I use the ESV because neither of these represent the spirit of the Koine.

            The above gives you an idea of where I am on these kinds of issues.

            Back to the issue at hand, I have no evidence that any particular English word in our translations is inspired by God. So while it is historically interesting that Tyndale used the word justified in Rom 5:1, that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best choice and certainly not the final word in the translation of δικαιόω.

            When I say that Luther used more every day language in his translation, it’s well known that he did. Our early English translators, including Tyndale, often opted to go a different route by Anglicizing Latin words out of the Vulgate. Note Romans 5:1 in the Vulgate:

            iustificati igitur ex fide pacem habeamus ad Deum per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum”

            Now look at Tyndale:

            “Because therfore that we are iustified by fayth we are at peace with god thorow oure Lorde Iesue Christ”

            And for what it’s worth, this did not begin with Tyndale. The translator(s) of the Wycliffe NT, working directly from the Vulgate were the first to do it. Tyndale just followed precedent. We perhaps would have been better off if he had opted to find common English (as opposed to Anglicized Latin words) for his translation.

            Let me offer a more explicit example of this problem. Another Latinization is found in more traditional translations that used propitiation for ἱλαστήριος (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Now please don’t say I’m denying the propitiation of Christ! I’m not. But what you have to realize is that the average reader of the Bible–even the average regular church attending reader–doesn’t have a clue what that word means.

            When Paul used that word (ἱλαστήριος, not propitiation) with the NT church as an image of what Christ did for us on the cross, he was using common language–not theological jargon. For the Gentile person, this was a word familiar from pagan sacrificial ceremonies. For the Jewish person familiar with the Septuagint, the word had ties to the mercy seat and related atonement.

            Now, I would submit to you that some explanation to modern readers will be required no matter what. But what’s clearer to the modern reader? To use propitiation or to use sacrifice of atonement as in the NIV & TNIV? I would suggest the latter is much more clear. [Side note: Incidentally, the GWT rendering of throne of mercy in Rom 3:25 much more accurately represents Paul’s use of the LXX concept for ἱλαστήριος, but I’m not certain that is as understandable as the NIV/TNIV.]

            And that’s the rub. I want to use translations in public proclamation that reflect good communication. That’s not a denial of theology–which requires teaching at some basic level. Rather, it’s in keeping with the way the Bible was originally written. We must remember that the Bible was written in Koine, the Greek of the common person, not the classical Greek of Homer and the Academy.

            By the way, Sam, if you really wants to know what Carson thinks on these issues, check out his chapter in the book The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World. What you’ll find is that Carson essentially disagrees with your position. Don Carson has long been an advocate of the NIV, and also strongly endorsed the TNIV when it was released.

          21. This all sounds good? But when we (pastors/preachers) preach, when we fire that “arrow” of God’s Word, we must let it fly on its own! Yes, use the original text (Hebrew & Greek), word studies, “dynamic equivalence” translation, “cognitive equivalence” (the literal approach) in translation. But we must always preach for the soul, heart and mind of the Christian, and of the Sinner! I have learned over my many years of preaching that one “must” fire that arrow, God’s Word, clear clean and with God’s intent…in truth and for the Spirit of God! Here we could talk about the kerygma, the didaskein or instruction, and even the “sublimated eschatology”, but “In Christ” it is all bound up with a corporate memory of real historical events. History has been taken up into the supra-historical, but without ceasing to be history. Thus preaching, Apostolic Preaching if you will, is always sacramental!
            Fr. R.

          22. Brother R.M.,

            Hear, hear for clarity in communication! I agree wholeheartedly.

            But please allow me to clarify a few issues you raised about my previous post. How in the world did you infer that I’m claiming that any particular English word is inspired by God? I certainly would never take that position. The autographia, yes, fully inspired. Any translation, no. And, yes, I’m aware that there are a myriad of approaches to translation.

            I respectfully submit that you have possibly confused Wycliffe and Tyndale. Yes, Wycliffe translated directly from the Vulgate, but Tyndale, a linguistic genius, worked directly from the original languages. See David Daniell’s excellent biography of Tyndale for further clarification on his approach to translation. Tyndale was dedicated to the same thing you advocate, a Bible in vernacular English. When a Catholic scholar suggested we’d be better off without God’s law than the Pope’s, Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. . . . If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”

            Not only am I an avid reader of many of D. A. Carson’s works, I also listen to every mp3 lecture I can get hold of. But since Carson is so prolific, I certainly don’t claim to have read every work. I’m fully aware of his contributions to the NIV and his interesting position on the TNIV. A great man of God, brother Don. My reference to Carson’s approach to language came from another book than the one you mentioned. My reference was from “Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church.”

            I’ve enjoyed your contributions to this discussion.

          23. Sam, thanks for your part in the discussion as well.

            I wasn’t specifically accusing you of considering the English words of translations as inerrant. My only address specifically to you came at the end of my last comment in regard to Carson.

            However, I was still trying to make a point that it’s the original writings in the original languages that are the true inerrant words. Since there seemed to be so much strong defense of a word like justification (again, I’m speaking of the word, not the concept underlying the word), I was simply trying to point out that the particular English words are not what is sacred. But often we defend a particular word choice as if it is the only and most accurate choice. This is simply not always the case.

            Also, I did not confuse Tyndale and Wycliffe. Actually, of course—as I’m sure you well know—Wycliffe himself did not actually translate the version named after him, but rather his followers did. Yes, Wycliffe translated from the Vulgate, and Tyndale (primarily) from the Greek and Hebrew. But he did not do so in a vacuum. I would assume he was aware of the Wycliffe version, and I know for certain he had access to the Vulgate.

            In the introduction to the Tyndale NT edited by David Daniell, we read:

            “Like any good translator, he took additional help where he could find it: from Luther’s 1522 translation into German, occasionally from the Vulgate.” (p. xvii).

            This goes back to my point that English translations have a history of occasionally borrowing from the Latin (such as in justification, propitiation, etc.) or simply transliterating from the Greek (baptize) instead of translating an original language word into a common English word or phrase.

            Tyndale did this with justified just as had been done by the translator of the Wycliffe Bible before him. Whether Tyndale had the Wycliffe version before him as he translated Romans 5, I do not know. But they both had access to the Vulgate, and Tyndale used it when necessary, not as his main basis, but as a necessary occasional reference.

          24. Sam,

            Just as a point of levity, Tyndale’s Latinization has produced a few funny carryovers. In the Fundamentalists congregations who are still KING JAMES ONLY OR ELSE, it is taught that we are a peculiar people. This comes from a variety of verses, but usually 1st Peter 2.9. While the Latin is wholly different, Tyndale did borrow from the Latin peculium found in other places,

            KJG Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

            VUL Exodus 19:5 si ergo audieritis vocem meam et custodieritis pactum meum eritis mihi in peculium de cunctis populis mea est enim omnis terra

            Now, the funny thing is, is that we were taught that this was doctrine for us to be odd, peculiar – that if the world considered us such (as a gopher from outer space as one former pastor put it) then we were doing our job.

            Thanks, St. Tyndale, for the chides I receive in middle school!

            On the other hand, once I took the word away from that theology often applied to, and studied it, I realized the preciousness of it.

          25. For all the various points of view on Bible translation that have been bounced around this blog, the literary aspect of translation has hardly been mentioned. Until a decade or two ago, there was sufficient Bible literacy that the English speaking public had a collective memory of the corporate reading of Scripture, both in churches, schools, and other assemblies. Of course, most of the collective memory is that of the KJV, which for all of its archaic language, retained a high degree of the literary strength of the original languages.

            So I broke open my copy of Leland Ryken’s “The Word of God in English” and revisited his excellent points about the importance of retaining literary excellence in the translation process:


            I’ll share a few of Ryken’s thoughts about the translation enterprise:

            — It should be accurate.

            — It should be faithful to the original words.

            — It should display effective diction, conveying the right connotations and avoiding the wrong ones.

            — It should strive for vividness of expression.

            — It should strive to preserve multiple meanings. If a passage in the original language contains ambiguity, retain the ambiguity. If there are tensions in the text (e.g., God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility), retain the tensions.

            — It should strive to retain the full exegetical potential of the original text.

            — It should expect the best from its readers.

            — There should be complete transparency in terms of how the translation portrays the original world of the era in which it was written. In other words, no chronocentrism.

            — The translators should display a respect for the potential of poetry.

            — It should retain an excellence in rhythm.

            — It should evoke a sense of dignity and beauty.

            I know I’m plowing up a blue-belly moccasin by posting this, but I greatly admire Ryken’s approach to translation.



          26. I’ve read a good bit of Ryken, too. Look, my undergraduate degree was in English, so I can relate to a lot of what he says. And I don’t know of any Bible translator who would disagree with most of that in spirit. Further, my problem with Ryken’s stand on these issues is that you notice he never says that the translation should communicate clearly. In fact, he says pretty much the opposite in that “It should expect the best from its readers” — in other words, you come to us; we’re not coming to you. Note also Ryken is not a biblical scholar or translator. He teaches English. I do not know if he even knows the original languages.

            But is what Ryken describes the way the Bible was written? Yes, the Bible expects a lot from its readers in terms of the life-altering call of Jesus Christ. But did the New Testament, written in Koine (common) Greek, expect its original audience to meet high literary standards? No, I don’t think so. In fact, most of the original audience couldn’t even read. It had to be read to them.

            That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate literary excellence. One of my favorite translations is the Revised English Bible which most agree has the best literary character of any modern translation. And in fact, I really would like to see the literary quality improved in many of our translations—but not at the expense of clarity.

            Mark’s gospel has horrible grammar (by both the literary terms of his day and ours) which is usually smoothed out by modern translations. But it had a vividness and an incredible spirit of enthusiasm. Mark would flunk Ryken’s literary tests, but he passes when it comes to bearing witness of Jesus of Nazareth.

          27. R.M.,

            I wouldn’t worry about Ryken’s credentials. His role on the ESV project was collaborative with the entire translation team. Moreover, I think he often confers with his son, Philip, an esteemed Bible scholar (I recommend his commentary on Luke) and senior pastor at the historic 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia as well as being a trustee of Westminster Theological Seminary. So I think the senior Ryken has plenty of “credentialed” scholars as well as a scholarf son to review his contributions to the translation.

            My entry about expecting a lot from the readers was really too short to convey Ryken’s full point. Ever since the First Century, in most places where the church has demonstrated a high view of Scripture, educational institutions have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Why? Because we are a people of the Book. And as we strive to encounter God through His Word, particularly as we struggle with the tough passages, we expand our love of God AND our love of learning.

            Please note I’m not singling out any particular era, any particular language, or any specific translation. I’m merely suggesting that a high view of Scripture leads to higher levels of understanding, especially among the laity. You don’t think the First Century church had to chew on difficult passages, even in Koine? I think Peter might disagree with you:

            2 Peter 3: 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

            Now I’m just a dumb layman, but isn’t Peter exhorting his readers to read Paul carefully, in spite of the difficulty of some of the things Paul writes about? Isn’t he saying, “Chew on Paul’s letters until you understand them”?

            Do you really think a translation that uses the lowest-common-denominator reading level does justice to the original languages? When a “dynamic equivalence” translator comes across a passage with multiple meanings, doesn’t he just pick out his favorite and toss the rest?

            And for the record, I’m not making a sales pitch for the ESV. I’m trying to generalize about translation principles.


          28. “Chew on Paul’s letters until you understand them”?

            Sam, I think you are using DE 🙂

            In all seriousness, Sam, I think that you are associating all DE’s as one. Some might choose the lowest-common-denominator but many of the DE’s that I have read does not. The goal of the DE is to portray the concept and to bring the base language to light.

            We must remember just who the bible readers where in those days – and they weren’t everyone. With a very high illiteracy rate in the ancient world, the lack of the printing press, and even a solid canon, most believers didn’t rely on the Scriptures. They were held together by the ministry who wrote long, flowing letters about what they meant.

          29. Sam, I admire these qualities too, but I believe that we can a lot of these qualities in the NLT. Further, what makes these suggestions by Ryken, albeit good ones, the only ones?

            Here’s one – are the original words what is required or the original concepts?

            Or, why should it expect the best from its readers when the bible is meant to give the best, or cause the best?

            While Poetry is important to some, it hinders others.

            For me, depending upon the person or group, a different translation style is needed. Ryken seems focused on one group

          30. Joel,

            Huh? When did I say Ryken’s suggestions were the only ones? I think it safe to assume that there are a a myriad of translation principles out there. That’s an odd assertion on your part.

            Original words vs. original concepts? False dichotomy. Use the original words unless it tortures the syntax of the receptor language. If it does, use concepts.

            I can’t imagine any instance when using the basic building blocks of poetry to reflect original poetic passages can do anything but add to the clarity of a passage. “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” versus “God takes care of us dudes.”

            By the way, if I ever need to borrow any money, I’m coming to see you. You have to be rolling in it with all the royalties you get from the NLT. 😉


          31. Sam, sorry that my my statements were not complete. I am having ‘sleep’ issues, as you might expect with the new baby. If I start speaking about Aliens and the Vulcan Translation, hack my account and stop me. 🙂

            I mean, should we assume that they are the only ones.

            I don’t think it’s a false dichotomy. Words carry meaning, within context and culture. Sometimes words need more than a literal translation.

            Oh haha about the NLT 😆

            The KJV didn’t exactly have the best handle on poetry either. I think we should focus, or rather, allow for a focus on different principles and styles. Highlighting the poetry in the Hebrew writings is great, but sometimes, it is difficult to carry over the parallelism. Further, I believe that there are instances in the OT which a straight literal translation does more of an injustice to the text than a DE.

            Please continue the conversation, as I might be out of pocket for a bit.

            Oh, and I posted something on ‘approval’ in the GWN, yesterday, and Psalm 98 today. I don’t want to give away my post for tomorrow, but Sam, you were the genesis of the thought.

  2. Joel: I don’t think they are anything alike. “God’s approval” sounds, in my ear anyway, like one has been doing works and finally has done enough to merit God’s approval, as if God were to say “Ok, that’s good, you now have my approval.” The NASB’s “having been justified” seems to be more reflective grammatically of the passive dikaothentes.

  3. A lively discussion going on here, Joel!

    Regarding GW, I’m with the rest of you and don’t like either ‘approval’ or ‘brag.’ The first is far too watered down and the latter has the wrong connotation given current usage.

    That said…I can’t say that I’m a fan of using ‘justification’ in lieu of approval here either. While I’d argue that we should indeed retain theological terms (justification, sanctification, propitiation, etc.) in our theological discussions, teaching, academia, and other areas, to uncritically decide to keep them in a translation without footnotes, explanations, etc. of what they mean/imply can breed confusion–we who are ministers and students by vocation tend to forget this in our familiarity with the language of theology.

    For example, Sam wrote, ” ‘Justification’ is the only word that also brings with it the connotation that this is something external to any works of man, what many theologians call an ‘alien righteousness.’ ” The only word? Really? Sorry, I think you’re overstating your case. In fact, at my ‘day job’ (I’m bivocational) we use ‘justification’ all the time but never even remotely like it is used in the bible. In the vernacular of folks on the street, justification means ‘rationale’ or even ‘excuse.’ It is typically something I do to show my own reason for an action/decision–definitely not a work external to me done by another. How about something like ‘acquittal’ or ‘pardoned’? Those are both legal terms whose current usage captures Sam’s definition of justification without either diluting it or requiring further explanation for most people.

    The goal of translation, IMO, should be to convey God’s inspired words of Scripture into the everyday language of folks in the marketplace…just like Koine Greek was the common language of the day. We are indebted to the pioneering work of Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale and others but to hang on to their exact words in our current translations when they no longer have the same meaning in popular usage isn’t a great translation philosophy.

    Enough for now. Books have been written on the subject of our discussion.

    Blessings to you all, brothers!

    1. The translation of the original Greek Text is to be faithful to God’s Word, Koine or not! Myself, I like the term, “cognitive equivalence”. For me at least, its always going to be the literal translation approach. My wee two cents.
      Fr. R.

      1. I don’t think we have a disagreement. My veiled point regarding Koine was a swipe at those who argue for the necessity of retaining not-well-understood, churchy ‘jargon’ (for lack of a better word) outright. That scripture was inspired in common language goes against that idea.

          1. I think a lot of times, we have to understand the roll of the bible. For my interest, I like a bible which is good for the novice on one level, the student on another, and the theologian on yet another. The ideal situation is that a moment of witness could occur with a learned Christian, but that is not always the case. Which is why dynamic translations are quite useful.

            For the serious student, I would suggest something more literal, if not the original languages.

      2. Faithful, however, is a matter of perspective. Sam has one, which you share, and T.C. has another. It’s a good thing we do have a variety of translations. My fear, however, is that a translation meant to preserve theology (don’t take this the wrong way) can be seen in a negative light.

        Further, I think everyone has to realize that not everyone is Reformed. People dying to preserve, or fight against, the doctrine, does not shield that doctrine from further questioning, or from a better translation.

        My personal opinions on the doctrines notwithstanding, I must argue that any translation purposing done to shield or promote something is not an honest translation, is it?

          1. How? Study Bibles have their place, and things have their places in Study Bibles. I am talking talking solely about translations.

          2. There are now few “righteous” Study Bibles today! But I must say that the New ESV Study Bible, is one! I am looking forward to the New ESV Lutheran Study Bible by the way. I have just about every Study Bible known to man! lol At least as I consider a Study Bible.
            Fr. R.

  4. Nearly all of the letters of Paul have been found to be forgeries. Therefore, what is the point of promoting “god’s word” when Paul never existed, and these letters were written by a forger? There is not one single original (key word) letter from Paul in existence dating from the first or second century. Not one. Sorry, copies won’t do and are not accepted in either science or a court of law. Yet, the Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, etc. have left us millions of documents, wall scribblings, pot shards, statues, etc. all proving that they existed.

    Funny how Christians will stake their morals and ethics on forgeries….all copied from earlier religions.

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