Word for Word?

by Nate Powell

You may have noticed something different if you’ve been in church over the past few weeks, though very few of you have said anything about it. I’ve asked you to turn to a passage while I’ve been preaching, and you find that what I’m reading doesn’t match up with what you are reading. So what is up with that?

So, the last few weeks, I’ve been preaching from the Christian Standard Bible. It’s the newest translation from a publisher called Holman Bible Publishers. It used to be called the Holman Christian Standard Bible. But in 2017, they did a new edition of the translation and published it under the new CSB label. I’ve been enjoying reading and studying it since I got a copy a couple years ago.

So you might be asking: Are we switching versions again?  Some of you may remember that for years and years, we had used the NIV 1984 translation for our preaching and readings. Indeed, we found that to be a reliable translation for a long time. The problem came with NIV made their changes in 2011. They made a new translation, but kept it published as NIV. It was a new translation, not just a revision. And they eliminated the ability to purchase 1984 NIV bibles anymore. Between this choice and some of the translation choices they made, we determined to change things up.

Faced with the choice of the English Standard Version (ESV, published by Crossway) & New Living Translation (NLT, published by Tyndale). When Corey and I made a choice, we went with the more readable NLT, rather than the more word-for-word translation of the ESV.

The problem we’ve faced in preaching from the NLT is that its translation doesn’t actually carry the weight of the original text in English. I struggled as on occasions I’ve had to spend a bunch of time backwards explaining the translation out of a very loose English translation only to forward translate it in a way that is much closer to original meaning. (I know it sounds confusing, but I won’t bore you with a longer explanation.) In short, the NLT gives me a lot more work to do in cutting to the chase.

Therefore, we are in something of an experimental period this summer. I’ve been preaching for a few weeks from CSB, which is a bit closer to word-for-word (in the vein of the NIV). I also hope to use two versions over the next few weeks that are much closer to word-for word translations: the aforementioned ESV, and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

I know that some of you use the pew Bibles, and I know some of you bring and study from your own translation. Honestly, I think studying from a variety of translations is a great thing! It gives us a better idea of the nuances that are sometime present in the scripture and brings more scholarly perspectives to the table. Regardless, we’ll be preaching the Word of God, and that is a good thing!