I spent a fair amount of time over the weekend comparing translations in Romans 7-8. It’s a very deep passage, you know. Even in easy English it would be hard to understand. It’s one of those that you may read for years and years and years, and you know there must be some deep meaning to it because it’s in the Bible, but you just don’t get it…yet.
Well, I did see a light come on while reading the passage this weekend, though it’s still a little dim. But that’s not really the point of this post. What is the point, is that I seem to have a comfort level with different translations. I started out reading in the TNIV, and then went to the NASB. I also read it in the ESV and the NRSV. I intended to read it in the NLT as well, just to see what it had to say, but never got around to it. Maybe I’ll do that this afternoon. I finished up reading it in my NIV Study Bible.
I never got much out of it in most of those translations. I mean, it’s a deep and wonderful passage, but I seemed to be having trouble grasping it, and some translations were tougher than others. You know, it’s especially hard to grasp the deeper meanings of a passage when your understanding is blocked by the translation itself. The NASB, the ESV, and the NRSV were all difficult to understand for that reason, mainly because of archaic words and odd word order. The TNIV and NIV were both easier, but oddly enough I found I understood it best in the NIV. I assume this is because the TNIV tends to be a more literally accurate translation, and so some things are closer to the original and therefore not quite as easy to understand. I also realized that the NIV/TNIV’s translation of “sarx” leaves something to be desired; “flesh” is definitely better than “sinful nature” to my mind, at least I seem to get the concept a little bit better, but it doesn’t seem to make the passage much easier to comprehend.
I’m not sure why it all suddenly clicked when I read it in the NIV. Was it because the passage was more clearly translated into English? Maybe it was because a particular study note said exactly what I needed to “hear”. It’s hard to know. I’m curious to see if I can understand it any better when I read it in the NLT this afternoon.
I know I’m not making a whole lot of sense since I’m not quoting the passage here and going through it verse by verse, but at this point I’m more curious about my comfort level with the different translations in this passage. And I’m just a little bit surprised that I am most comfortable with the NIV, even over the TNIV. I’ll probably delve into this some more later on.