Thursday, August 27, 2009

The [expanded] Bible

The [expanded] Bible is a new translation from Thomas Nelson. The base text is a modified version of the New Century Version (NCV). Within the base text there are numerous words and phrases enclosed in brackets. The bracketed sections are designed to give different nuances of the Greek word, provide alternate translations, give a literal translation of the text, give a traditional translation of the text, or offer commentary. The dust jacket claims that with these aids among other things we can "See all the dimensions and meaning in the original languages." This claim is really an impossibility but I was interested to see how effective this translation was in giving the reader a little glimpse into the Greek New Testament. Overall, I thought it was more responsible than the Amplified Bible but still not very helpful.

Here is one of the better selections:

Ephesians 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy [sanctify her], cleansing her in the washing of water by the word [Cthe "washing" may refer to (1) baptism; (2) spiritual cleansing (Titus 3:5); or (3) an analogy drawn from the Jewish prenuptial bath (Ezek. 16:8-14); the "word" may be (1) the Gospel; (2) a baptismal formula, or (3) the confession of one baptized].

The above example offers the major ways in which this passage has been interpreted and simply presents them. It's an excellent aid to understanding how different people might read the text without an unusual and distracting number of bracketed words that don't seem to tell us much of anything. Unfortunately this practice is not applied consistently. John 3:5 does not present baptism as a possible understanding of the text nor do the comments on many of the other texts traditionally interpreted as referring to baptism.

In Matthew 28:19-20, the participles "baptizing" and "teaching" are translated as imperatives--"Baptize" and "Teach." The reader would have no way of knowing that "baptizing" and "teaching" are not individual commands but describe the way in which the church is to "Make disciples."

Ephesians 2:8 reads "I mean that [or For; Because] you have been saved by grace through believing [faith]. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God." The NKJV translates the same verse "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." The church fathers all understood "that" as referring to "faith." Most modern commentators explain "that" as referring to the entire phrase "by grace you have been saved through faith." The [expanded] Bible seems to take "that" as referring to "saved" and does not give any other options.

Much of the text is littered with expansions and supposed nuances that don't really teach us much of anything. Also, the NCV is a thought for thought translation and so it often leaves Greek words such as "then" or "for" untranslated. The [expanded] Bible reintroduces these words back into the text by means of brackets. This seems very confusing to the reader who may think that "for" is some sort of expansion of the previous word rather than a word that was just left untranslated by the base text. It would seem better just to reintroduce these words as part of the base translation. The elimination of these words was designed to aid readability but including them within brackets seems to make it far less readable than simply including them within the main text. Thomas Nelson also owns the rights to the NKJV and I think that translation would have been a much better option for a project like this.

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