In the midst of the buildup to Christmas, we quietly added a new Bible translation to our library without the fanfare it merited. It’s one of the most unique English Bibles on Bible Gateway, and today we’ll give it the attention it deserves: it’s the Expanded Bible, and it’s unlike any other Bible translation you’ve read.
Like most Bible translations, the Expanded Bible was born in response to specific problems and challenges in earlier Bible translations. The problem the Expanded Bible addresses is the oldest, most difficult translation challenge of all: the fact that no matter how skillful the translators, every Bible translation inevitably falls short of conveying the exact meaning of the original text. As the introduction to the Expanded Bible describes it,
All translations fall short for a variety of reasons. First, no two languages are equivalent in their vocabulary, sounds, rhythms, idioms, or underlying structure. Nor are any two cultures out of which languages arise equivalent in their way of understanding and expressing reality, their value systems, or their social and political organization, among other factors. Second, the meaning of a text includes much more than its abstract thought. The sounds and rhythms of words, word play and puns, emotional overtones, metaphor, figurative language, and tone are just some of the other devices that carry meaning. No translation can transfer all these things from one language to another. Third, all translation requires interpretation. One cannot convey meaning in a second language without first deciding what it means in the original. This step of interpretation in translation is unavoidable and imperfect; equally skilled and well-meaning scholars will interpret differently. Fourth, a traditional translation requires one to choose a single possibility—whether of a word or an interpretation—when in fact two or more may be plausible.
Those are four brutal realities of Bible translation that scholars readily admit can never be completely solved. The Expanded Bible does not claim to magically fix this issue, but it does help readers get a more complete understanding of difficult-to-translate Bible passages. It does this by presenting alternate translation possibilities whenever a single translation choice would fail to convey the full meaning of the original text. Here’s what it looks like:
1 Corinthians 6:1-6 (EXB)
When you have ·something against [a legal dispute with; a grievance against] another Christian, how can you ·bring yourself [dare] to go before ·judges who are not right with God [or the pagan courts; the unrighteous] instead of before ·God’s people [the saints]? ·Surely [Don’t…?] you know that ·God’s people [the saints] will judge the world. So if you are to judge the world, are you not able to judge ·small [trivial; the smallest of] cases as well? ·You [Don’t you…?] know that we will judge angels, so surely we can judge the ·ordinary things of [or matters pertaining to] this life. If you have ·ordinary cases [cases/legal disputes of this life] that must be judged, ·are you going to appoint people as judges who mean nothing to the church? [will you appoint judges with no standing in/whose lifestyle is rejected by the church?; or go ahead and appoint the least members of the church to judge them! in the latter interpretation, Paul speaks sarcastically.] I say this to shame you. ·Surely there is someone [Is there no one…?] among you wise enough to judge a ·complaint [dispute; conflict] between ·believers [a brother]. But now one ·believer [brother] goes to court against another ·believer [brother]—and you do this in front of unbelievers!
As you can see, alternate translations for tricky phrases (marked by the · symbol) are provided in colored brackets. While the base translation might represent the “best” translation, the possibilities in brackets let you see some of the additional nuance in the original text. In a sense, you’re reading the Bible through a translator’s eyes, seeing the depth and nuance behind Greek and Hebrew phrases that don’t have an exact match in English.
The Expanded Bible is an excellent study Bible. It’s also a good tool for anyone learning, or thinking about learning, the Biblical languages. It will show you firsthand what choices Bible translators make to bring God’s Word into modern languages.
We’re grateful to Thomas Nelson for making this Bible available on Bible Gateway. We hope this unique Bible translation becomes a regular and useful part of your devotional reading this year. It’s available now in the Bible drop-down menu on BibleGateway.com. You can read more about the Expanded Bible (and about how to read the bracketed notes) here. Print versions are available at the Bible Gateway store.
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- Your response to our question: Why read the New Testament in Greek?
- The New American Bible gets an update
Posted by Andy