Craig Blomberg has an insightful post for anyone who has ever wondered about how a committee Bible translation works. Dr. Blomberg was part of the team that worked on the New Living Translation in the 1990s. Here is what he says about his work on the Gospel of Matthew:
With the New Living Translation, the Bible was divided into sixths, with a scholar appointed general editor over each large chunk. Then individuals books of the Bible (or small collections of books) were parceled out to three experts (I worked on Matthew), who compiled long lists of suggestions for revising Ken Taylor’s original
Living Bible Paraphrased. We ranked these in terms of priority, sent them to the general editor over our part of the Bible, who synthesized a selection of them, interacted with a Tyndale House stylist, and sent a draft back to us for us to repeat the process. Eventually the full translation emerged.
Dr. Blomberg is describing the process for creating the 1996 edition of the NLT text. The 2004 second edition was another stage in the development of the NLT, and I suspect other members of our blog team who were actually involved in those events (I didn’t come on until 2005, and I am not a participant in Bible Translation Committee discussions) might write a thing or two about that on this blog in the future. But I am getting off topic.
It may be surprising for some to read that Dr. Blomberg has been involved in translation work for the NLT, HCSB, ESV, and now serves on the committee responsible for the TNIV. In fact, he is one of several excellent scholars who have participated in multiple translation projects. Just comparing the list of the ESV’s Translation Oversight Committee with the full list of the NLT Translation team reveals 25% overlap (three of the 12 ESV committee members participated in the NLT: Paul House, Robert Mounce, and Gordon Wenham). Expanding to the list of ESV translation reviewers would reveal significantly more overlap between the two teams. Similar overlaps can be observed between the NLT team and the NIV/TNIV Committee for Bible Translation (Blomberg, Douglas Moo, Larry Walker).
These scholars believe it is important to produce translations that are true to the original Greek and Hebrew, and meaningful for those who read it. They work very hard to ensure that God’s Word is faithfully communicated in English. And they do this for each translation they contribute to, whether it be the “essentially literal” ESV, the “optimal equivalence” HCSB, the “balanced” TNIV, or the “dynamically equivalent” NLT.
In this vein, I would also like to point to another comment Blomberg makes later in the post:
More than ever, I have an intense appreciation of how much easier it is to
criticize a translation than it is to produce one that will be both as clear as
possible and as accurate as possible.
That is unequivocally true. There will always be facets of the original text that are captured better by one translation or another, and it is easy to point out where the NLT (or TNIV, or ESV, etc.) has “missed” something. Instead, why don’t we celebrate the wonderful work that these scholars do and appreciate the fact that we have multiple excellent, peer-reviewed Bible translations in English?
Thanks for your work on Bible translation, Dr. Blomberg. Thanks to all of the scholars that have dedicated their life to helping everyone understand God’s Word more clearly.