Dynamic equivalence, functional equivalence, thought-for-thought translations, whatever you want to call them, that’s what these translations are. Some are better, some are worse, but they all share a tendency towards what I consider a deadly defect.
That defect is the result of the whole translation philosophy they use; it is the strong possibility of the translator either getting the meaning (thought) wrong that he is trying to translate, or that he will be translating through the filter of his own theology and therefore will inject something into the scripture that is not there. As I said, some do it better and some do it worse.
The main idea behind these translations is to make the scriptures easier for the reader to understand — a laudable purpose, but one not without its pitfalls. Some are written for children; some for people whose native language is something other than English; some are simply written for people who have a hard time reading beyond a 6th grade level.
I own two of these translations, the NLT (both the original and the later revision) and I also have a copy of the GNT/TEV Good News Translation, sometimes called Today’s English Version. The rest I use online for purposes of comparison during Bible study.
Others in this group include the CEV (Contemporary English Version), GOD’S WORD, the NCV (New Century Version), and the NIrV (New International reader’s Version, a simplified NIV aimed at children and ESL readers).
I also include in this group two versions that don’t really fit the profile, Eugene Peterson’s The Message, and the new CEB (Common English Bible). The Message is included because it is a paraphrase, not an actual translation, and is therefore susceptible to whatever opinions and theology filter the writer (Eugene Peterson) employs. Mr. Peterson makes no bones about this, and says openly that The Message is a paraphrase and not intended to be a person’s one-and-only Bible; that we should take it for what it is, and many people do. It is said that it is an excellent tool for comparison’s purposes, and so I can recommend it for that purpose.
The CEB, on the other hand, is not really a functional equivalence translation either, but rather a moderating or even formal equivalence version. However, it has shown itself to be very much susceptible to the translator’s injecting their own opinions and theology into the translation, which makes it impossible for me to recommend it.
Next up, my second level choices.