Philippians 1:12-13

(September 8, 2017) 7:48 AM I would not have you ignorant, brethren, about the discussion taking place at the Nerdy Language Majors(NLM) Facebook page about English Bible translations. The New Living Translation (NLT) seems to be squarely in the bulls-eye. Well, shall we take a brief look at a sample from the NLT Interlinear? The passage is Phil. 1:12-13.

1) Note, first of all, the use of “dear brothers and sisters” to render the single Greek word adelphoi. And why not? The Greek term, as used here, seems to be gender-inclusive. In addition, as Hendricksen notes (p. 68), adelphoi is more than a mere discourse marker. It’s a term of “endearment.” “Dear brothers and sisters” seems to capture this thought well.

2) Secondly, you will see that the NLT fails to render the Greek adverb mallon: “Everything that has happened to me has helped to spread the Good News.” This seems problematic. Hansen notes, “The close connection of the negative word chains and the positive word advance in this sentence indicates that Paul is using the word actually [Greek mallon] as a marker of a surprising alternative to a negative expectation” (p. 66). The idea seems to be: Paul’s imprisonment (something bad — a “negative expectation”) actually served to advance the Good News about Christ. In other words, far from being a proskope (hindrance), his imprisonment is a prokope (advance)! With the little word mallon, writes Hawthorne, Paul “announces the unexpected” (p. 34). I quite agree.

Hear this: I don’t think there’s any perfect English translation. This goes for the ISV New Testament, for which I was the base translator. (Note: Years ago the Committee on Translation was disbanded, and I haven’t been involved in the project since that time.) I’m guessing that most of the commenters at the NLM site feel basically the same way. I don’t want to base my life on what I’m against. I value most every New Testament translation that is out there. Even more, I applaud the efforts of my Greek students to produce their own translation of the Greek text of Philippians. So yes, the NLT is helpful. I’ve discovered, however, that I can’t put my brain in park or neutral when I consult it. Ditto for any Bible translation out there.

Okay, back to writing.