Over the past two years I have looked at translations that might be appropriate in our congregation. Essentially we have been using HCSB and GW, alternating on a quarterly basis; right now we have been using GW. Both translations have good qualities for use in our situation. Both have some weaknesses. This last Sunday, both translations left something to be desired.
Last Sunday in the Narrative Lectionary, the Gospel reading was John 11:1-44. The theme was obvious from v. 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live even if that person dies.” But here is what GW has:
John 11:25 GW Jesus said to her, “I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in me will live even if they die.”
The translation is legitimate, but it also runs into a problem. Namely, there are a few texts which are so well known, even by nominal Christians. This is one of them. Psalm 23 is another. So, I thought we might use HCSB.
John 11:25 HCSB Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”
Okay HCSB seemed to be the right choice for this Sunday.
John 11:33, 38 HCSB
But then as I explored using HCSB, I ran into another issue. The translation may be legitimate, but it is so jarring that people might be so distracted by it, that they miss the greater thing in the text.
John 11:33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.
John 11:38 Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
Most translations provide: “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” I won’t go into the details, but notice how “angry” changes the focal point. And the first question that arises is: What is Jesus angry at? Himself, for delaying too long? His friends, Martha and Mary, for not believing what He says? The crowds? Sin?
The problem is that nothing in the text suggests an answer. HCSB has a footnote, but again, it is speculation. In the process, though, the center of the text, what Jesus is revealing in Himself, is sidetracked.
So I chose NAS for this text.
John 11:33 NAS When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,
John 11:38 NAS So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
And it worked well. The reading was not a long, complicated Pauline sentence (i.e. Ephesians 1:3-14). But for this Sunday NAS was the right combination.