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Translations are both a gift and a problem for the body of Christ.

As members of that body, we are called to think and live biblically. Especially since the Reformation called the church to biblical renewal, we have been afforded many Bible translations that have shaped the language, thought, and life of the West.

More recently, a wealth of new translations has enabled millions to read the Bible in language that is not forbiddingly difficult or foreign to them. All this was and remains a great gift to the church. I myself am honored to have made a small contribution to the New Living Translation (NLT).

But translation is also a problem. Every translation imperfectly represents the original, because languages and cultures differ in ways that translation by itself cannot overcome. Translations interpose a fallible human interpretation between us and the infallible Word. These basic problems affect all translations. But the increase in Bible translations during the last 60 years has created new problems for the church.

Newer translationsâ"the NLT, New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Revised English Bible (REB; a revision of the New English Bible), and Today's English Version (TEV, also called The Good News Bible), among othersâ"are all influenced by a theory called dynamic or "functional equivalence" (FE) translation. Such translations serve their intended purposes and audiences well. More important, they have led many to Christ. But I and a growing number of linguist-translators believe FE theory is inadequate as the only model for translation. (Translations themselves are often better and sometimes worse than their theories.) Linguists argue that the church needs not one but several ...

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In the Magazine

October 22, 2001

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