Review of The One Year Chronological Bible
This is a two-part review, and already I feel the need for an article that should precede this one. But this one is fresh on my mind, so we’ll start here. Watch for the next article! I’ll try not overdo it in my first blog post.
At the beginning of 2018 I was gifted The One Year Chronological Bible, New Living Translation. I read through the Bible multiple times per year, and while I prefer to read from my common personal Bible (KJV-NIV parallel), I also like to read other editions. This has greatly helped me to grow in understanding God’s Word. Some translations bring certain things out better than others. Each has its own strength, based on the approach of the translators and editors. All are God’s Word (generally speaking – let the reader understand…), doing for us what the teachers did as Ezra read the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:7-8). The teachers explained and gave the meaning. During the Babylonian captivity, many of the people may have lost their understanding of Hebrew, necessitating the explanation and commentary, not unlike preaching today. But I digress into issues to be discussed later, Lord willing.
First, I am very glad to have read a Chronological Bible. This was the first (not the last!) for me and while I won’t completely replace reading a “normal” Bible, I highly commend adding this to your Bible reading practice. If you are used to reading a normal format, the Chronological arrangement can seem awkward; there were times when I felt lost. Where am I in the Bible? What comes next? On the other hand, the rearrangement at times showed me where I was, historically. In the usual format, you can read a Minor Prophet, knowing where you are in the physical text, but unaware of where you are in the historical flow. This is where the Chronological Bible was helpful. I didn’t care for the interruptions at first, but came to appreciate them. For example, We interrupt the Acts of the Apostles to bring you the Book of 1st Corinthians. The order brought me much closer to the historical setting; I felt much more connected to what was going on in the history of the early church. People, circumstances and situations were closer and more connected. Previously, I would study the background of 1st Corinthians and I had head-knowledge of the setting. The Chronological Bible brought me more into that experiential knowledge, seeing things more from the perspective of Paul and the Christians of Corinth. I noticed the same effect with the Old Testament Prophets, as well as Old Testament History. I definitely need to consult a Chronological Bible when preparing to preach or teach from a Book of the Bible, to better grasp the historical situation.
I recommend the reading of a Chronological Bible. I am only familiar with two so far, so I don’t have a particular edition to recommend.
Second, I have some thoughts regarding the New Living Translation. This is the second part of the review. The Bible was given to me by someone who went on to read a chronological Bible in their preferred translation. I had not read the NLT previously. The NLT became something of a running joke in Theology courses I teach at Brookes Bible College, because of some questionable translation choices. When comparing verses in various translations, I have often been disappointed in the NLT, as in, “That’s not what it said!” But the NLT no doubt met the goal of the translators, if smooth-reading in modern-English was their aim. I still prefer a much more literal translation, but I’ll leave that for another post. The NLT had some readings that made the thought very clear. In 2 Corinthians 12:18, Paul said that he and Titus “walk in each other’s steps…” The KJV says, “…walked we not in the same steps?” The idea is the same, but the NLT expressed it in a way that created an arresting mental picture for me. Hebrews 6:16 NLT, “Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it.” This was another time when I paused thoughtfully, realizing the import of the text. Some will wisely and correctly note that the NLT here has gone beyond what the original contained in word. Did it go beyond in meaning? Or did it accurately express what was intended, which we may inadvertently gloss over in a different translation? (By the way, when you want to note something, you have to jot down the page number, since looking up a specific reference in a Chronological Bible is beyond cumbersome.)
Nonetheless, I still prefer to read a translation that is more literal, and I will take personal responsibility for understanding and interpreting it. These “thought-for-thought” translators take that duty upon themselves, expressing what they think the text means. That can be helpful, when they are right. Sometimes I am not sure their interpretive translations are right. I was disappointed by the rendition of some verses I know well. In Psalm 116:15 the sense was changed. The KJV (and others) catch your attention with “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” The NLT forfeits so much: “The LORD cares deeply when His loved ones die.” See also and compare translations of Psalm 66:18. I was really bothered by the NLT’s wording of 2 Chronicles 15:4, 15, which says (KJV, etc ), “They sought God, and He was found by them.” “He was found” is passive, and that is significant. It intentionally does not say “They found Him,” because the truth is that He revealed Himself, rather than them discovering Him. He revealed Himself, He made Himself known. Yes, they did seek Him, but the finding of Him was dependent upon Him. The NLT turns the passive into active, and changes the subject, rendering it “they found him.” While trying to make for easier reading, truth was obscured. I was also surprised at the use of the word “scum” in place of sinners, when the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ choice of dinner companions (“Why does he eat with scum?” Matthew 9:11 and parallels). Such a word automatically makes this translation impermanent, tying it to shifting, soon-to-be-outdated language.
So for readability, the NLT can receive high marks. But for accuracy and faithfulness in translation, not so much. I am glad that I read it; I don’t plan to read that translation again, though I certainly will read other translations of the kind. I may consult the NLT when studying, hoping to find a gem like those above, but fearing rather to find a reading that hides even while it attempts to express.
My next project is reading the Reese Chronological Study Bible (KJV). This Bible was also given to me, and I am enjoying it so far. Stay tuned for a review!
Until Christ Returns! Pastor Jim Brown