Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:3 (Sep 1997)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1996, l + 1289 pp. + maps, $19.99.*

With some reluctance I agreed to review the OT portion of the New Living Translation (NLT). My disdain for its predecessor, the Living Bible (LB), and my personal preference for a more literal translation philosophy over a thoroughly dynamic equivalence approach no doubt makes me, from the start, prejudiced against any overtly thought-for-thought translation (though the NLT, as it turns out, is not always consistently thought for thought). But when I saw the names of the revisers, a virtual Whos Who of evangelical OT scholarship, I became more positively disposed. The following represents my impressions after investigating a sampling of OT passages in comparison with the older edition and with the NIV, with which it will primarily compete for market share.

The original Living Bible was produced in the 1960s and early 1970s by Kenneth Taylor, who took the American Standard Version of 1901 (not the Greek NT or the Hebrew OT) and rephrased it in his own words to bring out what he understood as the meaning. It was claimed that Greek and Hebrew “experts” checked the content, though to most scholarly reviewers these experts improved the work at most superficially. In contrast, the NLT no longer claims to be a mere paraphrase by a single author but a genuine translation by an international team of evangelical scholars based in the OT on the BHS Hebrew text.

The NLT is clearly an improvement over the LB. Taylor’s text did serve as the basis of revision, and much of the wording remains unchanged. Taylor himself was on the translation committee as a “special reviewer.” Nonetheless the revisers have made changes in virtually every verse, and the book of Psalms in particular is so thoroughly revised as to be regarded as a new rendition. The vast majority of these changes have only served to improve the work.

The LB was notorious for its midrashic interpretative glosses. These were often based on Taylor’s imagination and his desire to make the text more vivid and meaningful, but they lacked any basis in the original. These, thankfully, have disappeared. For instance, the baseless “All day long he sat on the hillsides watching the sheep and keeping them from straying” (Amos 1:1), “Don’t be afraid” (Isa 40:9), “Cyrus” (Isa 41:5) and the like are all gone. Gone too are many of the anachronisms (except in weights and measures), so that whereas the LB read in Ps 119:105 “Thy word is a flashlight for my feet” the NLT...

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