10933RE: [GTh] A Note on the NLT
- Jun 16 1:56 PM
The problem, I think, is that there is a fine line between providing a real equivalent and a version that is based on significant eisegesis and it is much easier to cross this line in working for a dynamic equivalent, so there is a higher risk that you will ‘escape’ from mediocrity into awful rather than achieving awesomeness.
And on a vaguely-related lighter note: I was reading Nordsieck’s commentary on Thomas last night and was really struggling with one sentence which I thought I understood from the context but wasn’t able to justify from a literal translation, so thought I might try Google translate, which sometimes identifies idioms that I don’t know. It offered me: "Of course, this Gnostic knitting pattern is generally borrowed from a later period." When I found another dictionary that told me that “Strickmuster” can mean “formula” as well as “knitting pattern”, everything became clear, but I had a good laugh beforehand. J
The editors of the NLT consider their translation to be "thought for thought" rather than "word for word." There are no textual variants in NA27 affecting the phrase in question and so it looks like they thought that "god of this age" was too obscure for their readers and they substituted something they thought to be clearer. This is kind of linguistic judgment is typical of the more dynamic translations.
In my view, the formal (or word-for-word) translations tend to be consistently mediocre, while the dynamic translations alternate between awesome and awful.
Not being particularly knowledgeable of all the English versions of the
Bible, I first became aware of The New Living Translation (NLT)
yesterday via a facebook posting by Andre Gagne. Apparently
published by Tyndale House, NLT was first issued in 1996, a second
edition appearing in 2004, then a minor revision in 2007. What drew my
attention to it was the video clip that Andre posted of a far right-wing
Christian preacher referring to 2 Cor 4.4 in his denunciation of non-
believers. The wording shown, from some version of NLT, begins
"Satan, who is the god of this world ..."
Being interested in translation issues in general, I checked my interlinear,
finding the NIV translation therein to be closest to the Greek:
"The god of this age ..."
That's right. The name 'Satan' doesn't appear in this passage (though
it appears elsewhere in 2 Cor). Furthermore, the word is 'age' (aeon),
not 'world' (kosmos). Thinking that maybe the right-wing zealot had
misquoted NLT, I looked up an online version of NLT. Yep, 'Satan'
and 'world' were there, but something else too:
"Satan, the god of this evil world ..."
How did NLT come up with this translation? The description of
their translation on newlivingtranslation.com sounds reasonable,
but at one point they say that, although they used NA and UBS,
"... the translators sometimes ... followed variant readings found
in other ancient witnesses." I don't know whether this was such a
case, or whether they changed the wording because they thought
that this is what Paul really meant (though the idea that the world
is/was evil is a distinctly un-Jewish idea.) In any case, it should
be apparent that I don't think much of this translation.
But just in case the reader should want some tie-in to Thomas,
there's this: the first sentence of 2 Cor 4.4 is more fully (NIV):
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers ..."
'Unbeliever' is 'apistos', the same word that the Gospel of John
used only in connection with the Apostle Thomas. So there.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Theology, Uppsala
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