God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

A Note About God’s Word

Polycarp has some comments about the God’s Word translation, where he quotes a text that refers readers to a PDF called “A Guide to GOD’’S WORD Translation: Translating the Bible according to the Principles of Closest Natural Equivalence.” It’s an impressive document. Take a look.

Unfortunately, the translation doesn’t always seem to rise the promise of its principles.

It claims to be a fully new translation, yet it seems to mirror some other versions pretty closely. Just for example, Psalm 98:4 is generally difficult to translate because of its four “singing”-like verbs: hari’u, pitschu, ran’nu, and zameru. The first one starts the verse, and the last three appear one after the other at the end. Rather than simply conjoin all three verbs, the ESV, for example, goes with, “break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” Similarly, God’s Word offers, “Break out into joyful singing, and make music.” The similarities of syntax and word choice (“break forth”/”break out” and “joyous song”/”joyful singing”) seem unlikely in a translation that didn’t rely on other English versions.

And for that matter, the rendition of the line — “Shout happily to the LORD, all the earth.//Break out into joyful singing, and make music” — doesn’t seem to rise to the level of poetry.

Still, most translations do no better, and in light of the obviously well-informed thought that went into designing the translation, I think God’s Word deserves closer attention.


October 8, 2009 - Posted by | Bible versions, translation practice, translation theory | , , , ,


  1. Regarding Psalm 98:4, GW may mirror here the RSV, but not the ESV: GW was published in 1995, and the ESV in 2001.

    I’ve had GW on my shelf since shortly after it was released, but I must admit that I haven’t consulted it much. Maybe I’ll pull it off the shelf and try it out for while!

    Comment by Esteban Vázquez | October 9, 2009

  2. The GW translators didn’t necessarily copy other translations directly, as they could probably have found the renderings (or glosses) of Hebrew words which they used in dictionaries which have simply copied them from English translations. At least Strong’s admits that its “glosses” are in fact the renderings found in KJV; some others do the same while pretending they are defining the word.

    Comment by Peter Kirk | October 9, 2009

  3. Bad link on the ‘comments’, Joel.

    I will be various comparisons this week, and I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Especially some suggestions on passages to compare.

    Comment by Joel | October 12, 2009

    • I would be interested to see a sampling of:

      1. Poetry (Psalms, maybe, or Isaiah).

      2. Straight prose.

      3. A passage that’s hard to understand in the original (from Job maybe).

      4. A theologically central passage.

      What’s the bad link?

      Comment by Joel H. | October 12, 2009

  4. […] First, see Joel’s post here. […]

    Pingback by Examining God’s Word – Psalm 98 | The Church of Jesus Christ | October 14, 2009

  5. […] posted a while ago about the impressive nature of the guide the translators of God’s Word wrote, […]

    Pingback by On Psalm 137: A Romp On The Banks of Babylon’s Rivers « God Didn't Say That | October 20, 2009

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.