Quick update on NLT Chronological Bible

I have been on two trips the past ten days (one flight, one auto) in which it was inconvenient to take the Chronological Bible. But with the references, in the back, I was able to take a convenient sized Bible (NLT Compact, leather edition). So, I was able to continue the readings, even though I didn’t have the specific resource. But Sunday night I was able to begin again with the “box.” Thanks again for a handy resource.

Review: One Year Chronological Bible (NLT)

Two notes: 1. Special thanks to Laura Bartlett at Tyndale for sending me preview copies of the NLT SB and the Chronological Bible. 2. My review of this resource will not relate to the NLT as a translation, but rather the NLT edition as published in this format.

Appearances can be deceiving. When I opened the box, I was disappointed and thought this is not a resource I would regularly use. Other reviews suggested using it for travel. I travel a lot, but this clearly was not something I could see myself using on flights. The size, especially the thickness (2”), and overall dimensions (5.5” x 7”) fooled me into assessing this as an awkward resource; I don’t have any other book like it, except a smaller version for Rockwell paintings. Even a quick glance at the font (an important factor in Bible readability) reinforced my initial reluctance to consider this edition.

So what happened to change my mind? My goal was to look at it, maybe use it for a few days and then put it away. I set it on the coffee table beside my recliner and started the readings for the day. In that setting I found the size to be just about right (however, I still will not take it with me on trips). Not only that but I began to appreciate the design aspects of this Bible.

The Scripture readings are based on one view of chronology relative to when each book was written. While I might disagree with a few time relationships, the presentation is defensible and well done. Contrary to other such attempts, this edition incorporated the Psalms into their historical contexts. This works well both ways – it shows the liturgical element of life events in the historical books (perhaps unintentional side affect) and the historical context of the liturgical life. Also, the editors inserted in chronological order Biblical references of later writings that refer to the specific event (i.e. Gen. 11 and 1 Chronicles 1, p. 18). And it was good to see Job between Genesis and Exodus, often conjectured, but seldom seen in practice; nice to see in this edition. The Scripture references (verse numbers) were small and not noticeable to me most of the time. Well done.

Comments on specific features:

General Timeline (pp. A15-18): very helpful because it puts the date and specific event with the page number. The page reference in the Introduction on p. A10 is wrong because it indicates that the Timeline begins on p. A9, instead of p. A15.

One Year Reading Plan: obvious use for a chronological Bible. Each day is marked in the text to aid the reader without turning to another page. Better integrated and less intrusive than I have seen in other such Bibles.

Transition Statements: Thankfully these are short and hence non-intrusive to the reading plan (this isn’t a study Bible, after all), and in a different but readable font. These little notes prove useful in reading the text quickly and just getting enough information to cause the reader to think, “Yes, okay, that helps me understand the background”.

Chronological Dating: Dates are included in the subheadings throughout the text, very well thought out design to aid the reader.

Daily Reading Guide: This feature complements the in-text reading guides. At the back of the Bible, each day is listed with Biblical readings by text reference. For a comparative reading, this would assist the person to use a traditional Bible. Well done.

Scripture Index: helpful tool for traditional comparisons and quick reference. Personally I wouldn’t find much use for it in this type of Bible.

Verse Callouts: For some people these generate a sense of “speaking to me.” In this kind of Bible reading plan, I find that it is not all that helpful. But that is a personal choice.

Historic Christian Symbols: “Each month a new symbol is introduced with an explanation of its significance” (p. A11). The publishers commissioned an artist to provide these, and each page of the month’s reading has that symbol. They are faint, so they don’t overwhelm the text. Coming from a liturgical and visually oriented background, I find these kind of assets of great value in teaching the faith and engaging all the senses. Well done!

Overall Assessment:

While I study the Biblical text primarily in the original language texts, I use English translations routinely for all aspects of my devotional and pastoral tasks. Thus, I try to expose myself to several translations in different settings: personal reading, family devotion, sermon prep, teaching prep, publication prep, etc., rotating the translations used. Thus, one year I might read ESV for one part, GW for another, NAS for another. This does not mean I always think a specific translation is best, but such a process gives me a feel for how well a translation works in a specific context.

In 2009, I have decided to use two new resources. For devotional reading, this One Year Chronological Bible (24/7 NLT) will be my resource (while at home). I find the Bible’s arrangement, aids, and ease of use worthwhile to encourage me in this type of reading.

For family devotions for the past few weeks, we have been using The Books of the Bible (TNIV), also a Chronological reading Bible (which requires its separate review!).

NLT Study Bible – Review 2

This review has taken longer due to the amount of material surveyed. Obviously even now, this review only looks at a sampling.


In my first review I noted many positive features. Here the focus is on the content. The book introductions provide enough information to grasp the general thrust of the book. The setting is perhaps the most important factor because this gives the reader a chance to identify time and place; obviously this blends well with the included timelines. Depending on the level of someone’s knowledge of the Bible, it seems that the introductions to the prophetic books are particularly useful, otherwise the prophetic message can “hang suspended in time.” Of course, no study Bible can prevent misuse of the message, but at least an appropriate context for the original audience sets the writing in place.

The character and theme inserts were well done and add perspective when studying. But see below for the negative side of such a feature.


As I began using the SB I noticed several features that were less than satisfactory. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the scarcity of cross references. I realize that comprises had to be made (font size, other material, spacing, etc.). But given that this is a study Bible, my expectation is that extensive, but good cross references are at the heart of the study.

The footnotes were adequate. But I found two issues that showed 1. inconsistency between footnotes and, 2. inconsistency between the footnotes and the NLT text.

1. Lord’s Supper: The footnote for Matthew 26:26-29 (p. 1633) lists three positions regarding the Lord’s Supper. But the second option really includes two separate options. The Reformed view is “spiritual presence” and refers to “the real presence of Christ.” Often the word “symbolizes” or “represents” is used to refer to the words of institution (as noted in footnote Mark 14:24, p. 1686). However, the Lutheran view (“in, with, and under”) refers to the real presence of Christ’s body and blood, but the word “consubstantiation” is not used by Lutherans. So there are four views.

Further, while the theology of the footnote authors/publisher is expected to show, evenhandedness would have done better in Luke 22:19-20 (p. 1755). The footnote only gives the “symbolic” view (“using the bread and cup as symbols of his body and blood”), but with no reference to the Matthew/Mark passages for alternative views. A simple note could have been included: “For further discussion see parallel passages (p. 1633, 1686).”

2. Justification: In Romans 3:22 NLT (p. 1897) has: “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.” I have always opposed such a translation, because it makes faith as the active agent rather than the passive receptor, contrary to the emphasis in the Greek. This rendering changes the emphasis from the Greek, which is on the righteousness of God. Interestingly the footnote gets it right, “the way God puts people in a right relationship.”

The wealth of information contained in the character and theme inserts provides value for the student. However, because they take so much space I found that they were actually hindering my study. I would have preferred to have a companion booklet with all the character and theme inserts (separate sections for each). This would have allowed the additional space to be used for both cross references and for more footnotes. A study Bible needs to focus on tools that help study the text, not be a systematic theological resource.

One further surprise concerns the Ephesians study helps. There are many good statements that summarize the theme and aspects of the letter. But I found no hint about the importance of the phrase “in Christ” (or equivalents: “in him”); these occur 37 times in the short letter. Yet the footnote for Eph. 1:1 (p. 1998) notes the letter has “frequent emphasis on “the will of God” (which occurs only 6 times total!). In contrast, “in Christ/in him” occurs 13 times in chapter 1 alone. This seems like an oversight that should be rectified for the next edition.


Any Study Bible that provides a service for understanding God’s Word is worth considering. So, how does this stack up against other Study Bibles I have and use? The layout, maps, timelines, etc. are some of the best I have seen. Will I use this Study Bible? Not as my primary one, but I frequently examine it to see how both the NLT renders the original language text and to compare footnotes and study aids with other sources.

Liturgical Translation – Cadence and Psalm 136

Psalm 136 Refrain

As a beginning point for liturgical use of Scripture, I begin with cadence/rhythm of language. Specifically I explore how English can provide an appropriate spoken cadence, while still doing justice to the Hebrew.

Derek Kidner offered these words at the beginning of Psalm 136. “Our versions of this psalm are mostly cumbersome: they lack the swiftness which should rid its repetitions of their tedium. The six Hebrew syllables of the response have their happiest equivalent in the Gelineau version of Psalm 118:1 (117:1 in Gelineau’s numbering): ‘for his love has no end.’”[1] I have included several translations of that refrain with the number of syllables in parentheses.

  • KJV for his mercy endureth for ever. (10)

  • For his lovingkindness endureth for ever. (12)

  • NASU For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (11)

  • NKJV For His mercy endures forever. (9)

  • ESV for his steadfast love endures forever. (10)

  • WEB for his loving kindness endures forever. (11)

  • NIV His love endures forever. (7)

  • TNIV His love endures forever. (7)

  • NIrV His faithful love continues forever. (10)

  • NLT His faithful love endures forever. (9)

  • CEV God’s love never fails. (5)

  • NCV His love continues forever. (8)

  • HCSB His love is eternal. (6)

  • NJB for his faithful love endures for ever. (10)

  • GW because his mercy endures forever. (10)

  • AAT/Beck His mercy endures forever! (8)

  • NJP His steadfast love is eternal. (8)
  • Obviously, one concern is how to translate הסד, ranging from “love” (1) to “lovingkindness” (4). As Kidner notes, if the context of the Psalms are noted, then the concept of “covenant faithfulness” can still come through in the translation “love.” A second problem concerns whether the Hebrew supports the idea of “endures” or is better rendered with the implied “is”; which is Kidner’s choice. finally how do we translate לעולמ as “forever” or “eternal” or “everlasting,” which adds 3 or 4 syllables. Also, do we translate the conjunctions כי and לֹ, and if so, how? For those that translate כי, it is either “for” or “because”; about half of these translations leave it untranslated. Yet it seems necessary within the context of antiphonal reading.

    My concern isn’t as much on the theological choices in each case (there is a definite need for that!), but rather how does this affect the oral cadence of the choices. In order to evaluate each, I had to speak them out loud several times to see whether the cadence was consistent and sustainable. The CEV is shortest in terms of syllables, but the possessive “God’s love” seems almost awkward in such a short sentence, especially after a few repetitions. The more formal equivalent (word-for-word) translations include the conjunction “for,” which is needed and seems appropriate. On the other hand, the desire to expand on הסד also increases the length of the response, which seems contrary to the sense of the Hebrew six-syllable structure.

    For those translations remaining, NIV/TNIV have a good sound, but lack the conjunction, which loses something of the connection of the response to the preceding statements. Also, both use “endures” (as do most of the translations), rather than “is.” Surprisingly, HCSB provides the same six-syllable structure of the Hebrew “ His love is eternal.” The one draw back is that the first three words are monosyllabic, whereas the last word is trisyllabic. This means that the syllable count is correct, but is a little jarring to the oral sense of the response. It appears that Kidner’s approval of Gelineau is the best, “for his love has no end.” In this case, the six-syllable structure is maintained, and each word is monosyllabic.

    Now, obviously not every passage in English will be able to sustain the same syllable count as the Hebrew. But in the case of an oral response, there is something to be said for the terseness of this translation. As a suggestion, perhaps the reader can experiment with a group of people. Use three or four of the translations (each with a different syllable count, i.e. don’t use NIV and TNIV, or KJV and ESV) and antiphonal speak 6-8 verses. Then try using Gelineau’s translation. See what impact it has on the group. Notice whether the interest flags with the longer response line.

    As we explore liturgical use of translations, we can see the importance of oral cadence in that process.

    [1] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150: A Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, edited by D. J. Wiseman, Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975, p. 457.

    NLT Study Bible – Review 1

    I want to thank Laura Bartlett and Mark Taylor for sending me a review copy of the NLT Study Bible (NLTSB). My review will actually take several posts. This first post will look at the physical aspects of the book, typography, arrangement, layout, etc. Later posts will look in detail at the content in the study notes and reference tools. At this early stage I am impressed with what the NLTSB offers students of the Bible.

    1. Physical Characteristics

    Overall, I am impressed with the physical setup of NLTSB. The size of NLTSB clearly indicates it is a study Bible, and so it will not be one to carry around. That is to be expected; I compared it to a regular on my shelf, the Concordia Self-Study Bible (CSSB), which is identical in size and weight. The binding seems to be good for this size book, but it will remain to be seen how well it holds up under regular use.

    The font choices are pleasing. Sometimes in study Bibles the text size is too small for both the Scripture text and the footnotes because the editors want to cram so much in a limited space. Not so with NLTSB, which appears to use a heavier weight of the fonts (than CSSB) which makes both sets of texts readable even at the smaller size. The negative of such a choice is that there is bleed-through from the other side of the page (note intro page to Joshua, p. 372), but no more so than CSSB. For my use I prefer what NLTSB has done with the font choices. I like that the Scripture text is serif, and the study notes are sans serif which makes both readable but distinguishable. Well done!

    Normally I prefer a single-column for Scripture text, but in a study Bible the two column format works well. For the introductory articles (NLT, Old Testament, New testament) NLTSB uses three columns, which I do not like. I think the two-column option is better use of space and for readability.

    The placement of the cross-references, on the center binding, left something to be desired. I tend to like them on the outside of the page but then that relegates the Scripture text to an inner portion near the binding. There probably is not an easy usable system for those.

    2. Front Matter

    The Table of Contents is good, font choice and size. But I found it a little disconcerting that a little is left at the top of the next page. I would have preferred to have the Intro material (10 lines below word Contents) as one line, and then used the extra space to give the entire Old Testament and New Testament items. The introduction to the NLTSB is excellent, but can only be appreciated when actually looking at the portions in the study Bible. How to Study the Bible with the NLT Study Bible provides a quick introduction to study techniques, all very helpful for new students.

    The NLTSB Master Timeline is excellent, giving all significant events from 4,000 BC to AD 330. Including the post New Testament era is perhaps the best study help for students, new and old. Too often we lose sight of the connection between the New Testament and the Early Church. This timeline bridges the gap nicely. Well done! The Overview Maps are a good idea, but with only two, they are too selective in time to be good overview maps – what names are to be used? Given the constraints, this is probably as good as can be expected. See my other very favorable comments about Maps in NLTSB.

    It was nice to see the Contributors listed right after the Study Bible segments. Then when the NLT is introduced, the translators are listed immediately following. Good approach for both. One surprise, but very welcome feature, was the table noting Ancient Texts and Archaeology (pp. 8-10). It is especially helpful because it includes dates, sources, and Old Testament parallels. This will prove beneficial for longer term study and reference. Certainly the Old Testament has the most to gain by such tools, but it was surprising that a similar table was not included for the New Testament.

    3. Study Features

    The NLT Study Bible Features Guide (pp. A8-A9) provide a helpful introduction to each of the features mentioned. However, the actual pages in the study Bible are better than this overview shows. I had seen the features online, and in the seminar, but they do not do justice until you actually open the study Bible to a Book Introduction. The physical layout is superb. The map is well placed and is the right size with corresponding caption that gives map references to place names in the current book under study. The Timeline on the far-right column provides the appropriate information to place everything in historical context. The barebones Outline offers another aid in gathering information quick. Setting and Summary round out the typical first glance (two-page spread) of the book, with some books requiring more information in each, which pushes these to the next (i.e. Jeremiah, pp. 1204-5). This two-page introduction for the first encounter with a book is excellent, far better than the samples and demos indicated. For someone new to the book, this provides significant detail in a compact way.

    The other book introductory material fills gaps in the first two-page view. Author, Date, and Other Historical Issues and Meaning and Message are typical of all study Bibles, so I would have expected such. They seem well placed and sufficiently abbreviated so as not to overwhelm the student. But the other three features that set this study Bible apart are the Chronology Articles, Epigraphs, and Further Reading. The Chronology Articles (i.e.2 Kings p. 649) are extremely helpful in the lesser known historical books (among many lay students). Even for experienced students of the Word, a simple refresher on the chronology is a welcome treat. When I first learned that there would be epigraphs I almost cringed because unless great care is taken, these often become nothing more than worked over devotional mush. So far in my use of the NLTSB I have found the Epigraphs to be high quality, insightful, and theologically significant. Well done to the editors for choosing appropriate quotes! 

    Further Reading is another fine addition for a study Bible. Because of its abbreviated nature, however, Further Reading is very selective. This can lead in several directions, the most recent commentaries/studies, only ancient commentaries, or obscure authors. NLTSB settled for the most recent commentaries, and of those, the editors chose solid works. Nevertheless it would have been nice to see solid works that have stood the test of time (i.e. Luther’s 8-vol. Work on Genesis, Chrysostom, etc.). Alas, NLTSB cannot contain everything. But at least those referenced works can point the student to even further reading beyond Further Reading.

    Theme Notes, Person Profiles, and Cross-reference Systems are standard fair for study Bibles. NLTSB does a workable job, except I was disappointed in the number of cross-references. I expected to see many more. The CSSB offers significantly more references. For a student, cross-references can be the most valuable tool for long term, in depth study; granted, a complete/exhaustive concordance will fill that need. But the NLTSB seems to be inadequate at this point. Note: I am not referring to whether the actual cross-references are good choices, only on the lack of extensive cross-references.

    4. After Matters

    The NLTSB Reading Plan follows many study Bibles, but with one welcome twist. The introductory matter for each book is included as a separate reading item. This helps in reading in an informed way, and as a refresher for the next time through the reading plan. The only caution is for everyone to realize that the introductory material is not Bible Reading Plan, but a Study Bible Reading Plan, subtle, but important distinction.

    Dictionary and Index of Hebrew and Greek Word Studies (pp. 2215-2226) offers a good starting point for investigating the original language texts. There are approximately 200 words that are annotated in this section. Again, I am not commenting on the content, but the presence of this tool. Especially helpful for new students are the guidelines and cautions about fallacies when studying the Bible (pp. 2215-2216). These words are then linked to Strong’s Numbers for reference to more advanced study. Also, in the cross-references in the Biblical text, each of these is noted and then linked to the next (major) occurrence of the word in the chain. A fine tool that could lead to further in depth study.

    The Subject Index is helpful because it includes the reference tools in the lists with a two level division (sub divisions of each major word). The reference provides both the Biblical text and the page number. It is very helpful to have the PROFILE identified in the lists, for easy refreshing of memory on a person. Likewise, map references are included that avoids another index, the Map Index, found in many study Bibles.

    The NLT Dictionary/Concordance blends two tools into a serviceable reference for someone wanting a summary view of the word. Again, the references are not extensive, but sufficient to get a sense of how it used in various contexts. After each word (non-people, non-place names) the words are identified according to English usage, noun, verb, adjective, adverb. For more advanced students this should not be necessary, although I found seminary students 25 years ago who couldn’t identify parts of speech, but for new students, this is another minor, but helpful aid in studying the Bible.

    5. Maps and Timelines

    For my use and preparation for classes, maps and timelines are critical. Maps can make or break a study Bible. I was pleasantly surprised by the maps in NLTSB, both the color maps at the end and the black and white maps throughout the text. I realize that the maps were made for the NLT1 and revised for NLTse, but it still impacts how they are used in this study Bible.
    Color maps present some unique challenges that few Bible publishers get right. NLTSB offers the best color maps I have seen. The color combinations are not so overwhelming to the eye, and they do not overpower the text. The font choices for the maps is ideal because they are clear and readable even at a quick glance. The only minor exception is the blue font against a green or dark brown background (i.e. Jabbok River on map 1). The “direction of View” inset at the top of most maps is very helpful especially when the map itself shows only a portion of a larger area of interest. These are some of the most readable and usable maps I have encountered. Well-done.

    The black and white maps maintain a readable format, thus being useful for glances in reference. I think it is very positive to have a map at the beginning of every book with a historical background. Another positive feature of these book maps is the references to places in the text. Again, well-done!

    The timelines throughout the NLTSB make this another strong feature in a study Bible. I particularly like that the timeline ultimately extends to the Council of Nicea (p. 2203). This gives an excellent framework to put the New Testament authors and events as well as the Apostolic Fathers and Early Church Fathers. Most study Bibles ignore the importance of this feature; I am happy to see what NLTSB provides in this.

    6. Conclusion – so far

    Overall, this is the best study Bible I have used in terms of layout, design, and usefulness. From the standpoint of these features alone, this study Bible ranks as one of the best study Bibles I have ever used. Even the paucity of cross-references, while regrettable, does not detract from this conclusion. Granted, I have not yet begun an evaluation of the content of these tools, but first impressions have me recommending the study Bible as a valuable tool for learning and growing in the understanding of the Word of God. Thus, while I highly recommend the NLTSB from a design/layout perspective, this does not reflect any final evaluation and recommendation of the Study Bible.

    If I have misunderstood some feature or characteristic or overlooked something, I would appreciate any feedback so I can update this.

    The approach and features of the NLTSB reflect careful thought and planning on the part of the Study Bible team. They demonstrate concern for the average Bible reader who wants to know more, but does not know how to do that. They definitely have improved many features from previous study Bibles. Well done!

    Rich Shields
    President, American Lutheran Theological Seminary (AALC)

    The “Day” and time

    How easily time slips by! In the two months since my last post time and energy demands have increased greatly. There seems to be a break in the demands, so I hope to get back to the series on technical terms in original language texts and correspondingly in translations. However, given the time demands, I may shorten the studies considerably.

    I remember as a young child that a day was a long time, and a year? That was beyond imagination for how long that was. Now, a day disappears before I can turn around, or so it seems. In reality, as a six year old, a year was 1/6 of my life. But now, a year is… well, about 1/60 of my life.

    In light of the eschatological focus of the “Day of the Lord” (previous post) I have begun to observe the truth of how “soon” Jesus’ return will be. This has personal application as well. According to the Psalmist our time on earth is “fleeting”. Thus, I come face-to-face with my legacy as a person of God. How will I spend my “time”? Will it be meeting deadlines that others impose? Will it be ordered by my God? Will I have time to do all I want… or better, need to do?

    So, I am taking time to sort out time and my use of, or waste, of time. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but that shouldn’t be surprising since I am still a sinner. At the same time, I am beginning to see God’s use of my time, and what happens when I dedicate my time, all of my time, to him. It is okay to say “no” to demands on my time, if the time really belongs to the Lord.

    So, I am having the “time of my life”, as I wait for the “day of my life” in Jesus.

    Technical Terms – 2 (Day of the LORD – DOL)

    Several studies have examined the DOL, each with their own particular contribution. In his seminal work, Ladislav Cerny observed that the DOL study must eventually encompass both the origin and content of the DOL [Ladislav Cerny, The Day of Yahweh and Some Relevant Problems (Prague: Nakladem Filosoficke Fakulty University Karlovy, 1948), vii.]. Since 1948 the major focus of scholarly endeavors has been on the origin of the DOL. While Mowinckel dominated the scene with his contention that the DOL grew out of the cultic festival celebration, Gerhard von Rad broke new ground with his claim that the DOL emerged from the holy war tradition [Gerhard von Rad, “The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh,” Journal of Semitic Studies 4 (April 1959), 97–108]. A. Joseph Everson summarized the main proposals for the origin of the concept in his article in 1974. In addition to these, he noted F. Charles Fensham’s theory that the covenant tradition (treaty-curses) formed the basis of the DOL. Meir Weiss advocated the theophany motif. Despite the value of these studies, they fell short, as evidenced by Everson’s critique. “All of these origin studies of the tradition are confronted, however, by the problematic fact that specific locution of the Day of Yahweh are found only in the writings of the classical prophets and in the book of Lamentations [A. Joseph Everson, “The Days of Yahweh,” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (September 1974), 330].

    Conscious of Everson’s critique, most scholars since then have concentrated their studies on the prophetic writings, most often limiting themselves to those passages that specifically contain the exact phrase, DOL (16 total). Those passages are: Isaiah 13:6; 13:9; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 3:4; 4:14; Amos 5:18 (2 x); 5:20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7; 1:14 (2x); and Malachi 3:23 [Chapter and verse citations are according to the Hebrew text, BHS]. Yet as Cerny, Everson, and Yair Hoffmann concede that there are many other phrases which are very close in form and must be included [Yair Hoffmann, “The Day of the Lord as a Concept and Term in the Prophetic Literature,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93 (1981), 37–9].

    Appropriately, then, expressions such as “the day of Yahweh’s wrath,” “the day of Midian,” and “the day of battle” fit within this study. The most frequent phrase, “in that day” (בַיּוֹמ ההוּא), which occurs ~200 times in the prophets alone, expands the field of study dramatically. I disagree with those who follow P. A. Munch, [The Expression Bajjom Hahu: Is It a Terminus Technicus? (Oslo, 1936)] who claimed that it was essentially a connective. The plural of the phrase, “in those/these days.” also falls within the scope of such an investigation. Even terms such as “time” (עֵת) and “year” (שָׁנָה) apply toward the development of the DOL concept. Everson, followed by Hoffmann and others, claims that “it is methodologically more difficult and dangerous to include such references in the basic field of evidence” [Everson, 331. Hoffmann, 39]. While I agree that it is more difficult to expand the field, I contend that it is methodologically dangerous to not include these other references.

    Thus, if the DOL is both a technical term and a broad concept, a prophet may develop his understanding of the concept by using related expressions, especially “in that day.” Another prophet may express the concept, describing events associated with the DOL without specifically mentioning the DOL (i.e. Micah). In both cases the prophets would be concerned with the DOL. This approach seems more consonant with the DOL origin and would more accurately reflect the prophetic understanding of the DOL. Critical for further study (another major paper) is the study of DOL must take into account the given time period. For instance, Hosea and Micah, normally forgotten in DOL studies, offer additional textual territory for study and development. The combined study of these eighth century prophets should then be the basis on which to study later prophets, particularly Zephaniah and Joel.

    Translations of Yom Yahweh in the Later Prophets

    Isaiah 13:6
    Isaiah 13:9
    Ezekiel 13:5
    Joel 1:15
    Joel 2:1
    Joel 2:11
    Joel 3:4 (2:31 Eng)
    Joel 4:14 (3:14 Eng)
    Amos 5:18
    Amos 5:18
    Amos 5:20
    Obadiah 15
    Zephaniah 1:7
    Zephaniah 1:14
    Zephaniah 1:14
    Malachi 3:23 (4:5 Eng)

    The following translations consistently used “day of the LORD” as the translation for Yom Yahweh in all 16 passages:

    NKJV, NAS95, ESV, NRSV, HCSB, TNK, NIV, TNIV, GW, so also REB and NLT2 except these omit any translation at Zeph. 1:14 [2nd])

    Interestingly, HCSB used “day of the LORD” in Isa. 13:6, 9, and Ezek. 13:5, and in all other occurrences used the capital letter D to highlight it: “Day of the LORD”. This suggests that the translators wanted to insure that the readers understood the phrase as a technical term (of some type).

    NET varied its translation of Yom Yahweh, by using the possessive form “the LORD’s day” occasionally (Isa. 13:6, 9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], Amos 5:20; Zeph. 1:14 [both].

    CEV showed the greatest variation, and no seeming consistency. Thus, “day of the LORD” is used only at Joel 2:1, Joel 4:14, and Zeph. 1:14 [2nd]. Otherwise, it translated the phrase as:

    “day” – Isa. 13:6, Joel 2:11, Joel 3:4, Amos 5:18 [1st], 5:20, Obad 15, Zeph. 1:14 [2nd], and Mal. 3:23
    “time” – Isa. 13:9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], and Zeph. 1:7
    “soon” – Joel 1:15
    untranslated – Isa. 13:9


    Such a survey suggests that Yom Yahweh had indeed become a technical term in the prophetic literature in the original languages. The evidence above also shows that English translations consider it a technical term by not varying its formula “day of the LORD”, except for CEV.

    Technical Terms in the Bible – 1

    I have been re-reading Biblical Words and Their Meaning (2nd ed) by Moises Silva. In the chapter on “Semantic Change in the New Testament” he notes how some words in Greek narrow the range of meanings and hence become technical terms. He writes,

    Second, and much more frequently, we notice reduction in the meaning of words… Of the numerous examples to be found in the New Testament, we may note ευαγγελιον, ‘good news,’ specialized to ‘the good news,’ that is, the gospel. We must understand that once the semantic range of a term has been narrowed, we are less dependent on the context when we wish to grasp the meaning of the word. that is, the word becomes more precise: a more or less definite referent (what the word stands for) is automatically associated with the word itself. These are the terms that become technically charged at times, so that they serve as “shorthand” for considerable theological reflection. (p. 77)

    Then he continues to examine Changes due to Semantic Conservatism, producing a list of technical terms (pp. 79ff.).

    Because the nature of the study is so vast, I will focus on three very narrow aspects of technical terms:

  • identify some original language terms that became technical terms,
  • examine how these terms are translated (specifically into English)
  • determine, if possible, whether the translated terms also serve as technical terms in English.
  • The latter aspect is pertinent today because we have many translations that seem to avoid English technical terms in the Bible. Some translators question whether English should resort to technical terms at all. This raises another issue: if translators do not use English technical terms when the original language text does, then how well do the choices of other English words reflect the original language technical term?

    Obviously this is a major undertaking and will not be a “10 minute research.” For the sake of limiting the scope of this examination, I will concentrate on 6-7 words in the Hebrew and 6-7 words in the Greek.

    Here is my Hebrew list to examine

  • יומ יהוה Yom YHWH (Day of the LORD)
  • ברית Berith (covenant/testament)
  • חסד Hesed (lovingkindness, covenant love)
  • צדכך Zedek (righteousness)
  • םשפת Mishpat (justice)
  • תרה Torah (“law”, “principle”, etc.)
  • In the NT, I think the following merit examination

  • δικαιοσυνη dikaiosune (righteousness, justify)
  • χαρις charis (grace)
  • νομος nomos (law)
  • Silva further cautions,

    We should note that these theological examples usually involve, not a factual change in the referent, but a subjective change in the speaker’s understanding: for example, once a Greek speaker identified true wisdom with the Old Testament conception, his use of σωφια must have changed.

    So, this begins an interesting and, hopefully, a thought-provoking exercise. If anyone has suggestions for either Hebrew or Greek words that could be part of this, let me know.

    Further Thoughts on ESV

    No translation is perfect. However, ESV does an admirable job of presenting the intent of the underlying (original) languages (Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek). For the most part I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage people to use it. From a liturgical perspective, ESV has much to commend itself.

    Having said that, though, there are some problem areas, some in English as the following illustrate, and some in changing the meaning (John 20:23).

    Overall, NAS tends to be choppy, although not unreadable. But in these specific passages (and others I have found), the ESV is not only choppy, it presents awkward English.

    Isaiah 22:17
    ESV “… He will seize firm hold on you”
    NAS95 “And He is about to grasp you firmly”

    The NAS correctly uses the adverb. I realize that the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse. But the adverb is expected according to current English usage.

    Isaiah 63:10
    ESV “therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them”
    NAS95 “Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.”

    It seems that the ESV is missing the word “he” before “himself” (read it aloud to catch the incongruence).

    Jeremiah 10:25
    ESV “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name.”
    NAS95 “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You and on the families that do not call Your name.”

    The ESV is inconsistent in placing the negative. In this case, it is awkward, yet in other places the negative is placed with the helping verb (“do”) as in the NAS.

    Jeremiah 12:6
    ESV “… they are in full cry after you”
    NAS95 “…even they have cried aloud after you.”

    One has to ask what does “full cry” mean to the average speaker/reader of English in this sentence? I think of a hunting dog spotting the prey. Again, the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse, but the phrase does not reflect current English usage.

    Jeremiah 12:11
    ESV “… but no man lays it to heart.”
    NAS95 “… because no man lays it to heart”
    NKJV “… because no one takes it to heart”

    I would say that both ESV and NAS95 present unnatural English; NKJV does better.

    Jeremiah 31:8
    ESV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and her who is in labor, together…”

    NAS95 “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together…”

    NKJV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together…”

    The ESV misses on two counts: The use of “her” is awkward and yields very unnatural English. Also, the other elements in parallel all have the definite article in English, which would suggest that the NKJV has rendered the parallelism best.

    Isaiah 10:7 ESV
    But he does not so intend,
    and his heart does not so think;
    but it is in his heart to destroy,
    and to cut off nations not a few;

    Try to read it orally and see whether it is clear, natural English?


    The following is a passage in which the ESV translators abandon their guidelines and present an inaccurate translation.

    John 20:23
    ESV: If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.
    NKJV: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

    In the Greek the word κρατῆτε has the sense of “hold fast, or retain” (BAGD, 448). The ESV misuses the word “withhold” in this context. Notice that it appears as if the ESV is claiming that disciples are controlling the forgiveness – “they are lording it over someone by withholding forgiveness.”

    However, in the Greek, it is clear that what the disciples retain or hold against the person are the sins (plural), not forgiveness.

    ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς

    if ever of whom you forgive the sins, they are forgiven to/for them

    ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται

    if ever of whom …. you retain, they have been (and are still) retained …

    Note, the parallel construction of the sentence. The direct object in the first part is “the sins” (τὰς ἁμαρτίας); the indirect object is “to them” (αὐτοῖς) . In the Greek of the second part of the sentence, the direct object and the indirect object are not supplied. But normal Greek structure means that the direct object and indirect object previously mentioned would carry over. Thus, the second line would translate:

    if ever of whom [the sins] you retain, they are retained [to them]

    Note that ESV changes this, so that it takes the verb of the first part of the sentence and makes it into a noun to be used as the direct object in the second phrase. I don’t know of any other case in which such a practice is followed, especially by a translation that favors an “essentially literal” approach.

    Some have noted that the Greek word κρατῆτε also means “to restrain” or “to hold back”. So the question arises: Can this mean that they to retain the sin or the forgiveness of sin?

    The answer is: neither. That is, the direct object in the sentence is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. Note, that “forgiveness” is not in the noun form in the sentence, rather it is the verb parallel to “retain”. Thus, the parallel of the verbs is: “forgive” / “retain”. Now the question is what is forgiven and what is retained? In the first phrase, the direct object of “forgive” is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. So they are to “forgive sins”. In the second part of the sentence there is no direct object associated with “retain”, and so the normal Greek sequence is to repeat the direct object of the earlier verb: “retain the sins”? The question then arises whether “retains” is appropriate translation in this context.

    If a person claims that the direct object of “retain” is “forgiveness”, then the only way to get that is to ignore the first direct object, change the the first verb into a noun and make it the direct object of the second verb (none of which the Greek does).

    So, no matter how you slice it, in this text, the ESV is inaccurate, and reflects a poor choice.

    Luke 1:53 ESV

    This Sunday morning (liturgically Advent 4), the Gospel reading caught my attention. I had mentally read the passage many times in the Greek and in several translations preparing for the Bible study on Luke (in the past two months). But I had not read it aloud. When I heard it read this Sunday, I grabbed the bulletin to see whether the person read it correctly – he did. But the text itself was “wrong”.

    The reading, Luke 1:39-56, was from ESV. Note 1:53:

    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent empty away.

    I think many people read it in their minds (like I had before this Sunday) and make the necessary mental adjustment so that it reads correctly. But when this is read orally, it is clear how awkward the English phrasing is.

    The way it is written, “empty” functions as noun/pronoun as the direct object (substitute “them” and see how you would speak it). As it is, I would wonder whether “empty” was lonely when sent away? Was “empty’s” feelings hurt?

    In reality, the word “empty” should be an adverb telling “how” the rich were sent away. Thus it should read:

    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.

    Thus, a typically good liturgical translation (ESV) fails in this specific liturgical text.

    Just to clarify my use of the ESV: I use several translations for preparing Bible studies, in addition to the original language texts. ESV is one of them, but I personally prefer the combination of NAS, NKJV, HCSB, and GW. However, the congregation where I teach has now started using the ESV for Sunday readings – because Concordia Publishing House began using ESV on the back of the bulletins beginning with Advent 1 Sunday (four weeks ago). And CPH used the ESV as the base for the liturgical sections of the new hymnal published in August (Lutheran Service Book – LSB)

    In the past couple of years I was encouraged by the ESV translation because of its “standardized” liturgical texts (i.e. Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19, Ps. 136:1, Is. 6:3, John 6:68 etc.). However, the more I have read the ESV (about 1/2, so far), the less I like it. I find it not as easy to read as NAS and NKJV, which are usually considered “choppy”. Could I teach using the ESV? Yep, just like I can with other translations. But I would use it with caution.

    Given my exposure to the ESV over the past year (through private reading/devotion and some teaching), I would definitely state that the NKJV is a much better liturgical translation.