Functional equivalence comparison #3: Romans 7:15-16

Finally, the comparison between functional equivalent translations continues with Romans, ch. 7.

I have been on a blogging hiatus for a while but I’ve finally found some time to catch my breath. I like doing these translation comparisons but they take a lot of time to prepare. I have found that comparing eight different translations is just too much, so to simplify things, I will limit the number of translations I am comparing to these six: NLT, NCV, NIrV, GW, CEV and GNT.

Romans 7:15

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. (NLT)

I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate. (NCV)

I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do. (NIrV)

I don’t realize what I’m doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate. (God’s Word)

In fact, I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. (CEV)

I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. (GNT)

v.15: the original Greek says κατεργάζομαι οὐ γινώσκω (katergazomai οὐ ginōskō, “deeds not know,” “deeds not understand”). Therefore, the NLT’s idiomatic expression of “I don’t really understand myself” is not accurate. Paul does understand himself; what Paul says he does not understand is his own deeds or actions.

In the Greek, Paul did not say: “I don’t do what I know is right” (CEV). Paul actually said: “I do not do what I want to do.”

The GNT also uses: “would like to do.” In the Greek, Paul used θέλω , which means one’s will or volition, rather than, one’s liking. We know in v.18b, Paul says he has a will but just can’t act according to his will.

Concerning v.15, I prefer the renderings from NCV, NIrV, and GW.

Romans 7:16

But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. (NLT)

And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good. (NCV)

I do what I don’t want to do. So I agree that the law is good. (NIrV)

I don’t do what I want to do, but I agree that God’s standards are good. (GW)

Although I don’t do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good. (CEV)

Since what I do is what I don’t want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. (GNT)

v.16: The original Greek expresses the first phrase in the positive—“I do”; but the GW and CEV expresses this in the negative—“I don’t”. This is not accurate.

All the translations, other than GW, rendered nomos as “law” rather than “standards”. The Greek used νόμος (nomos, law), so the GW inaccurately rendered this as “standards” instead of “law”.

The NCV’s negative expression is difficult to understand and it also adds “hated things”, which is absent in the Greek.

The NLT uses the word “wrong” but this word is also not in the Greek.

The GNT renders “law is right.” In the Greek, Paul uses the word καλός (kalos) which reflects the agreeable impression made by the good. It is not related with a legal judgment in the sense of being right or wrong, which would otherwise be expressed using δικαιος (dikaios).

I hope that I do not disqualify every translation in this series. They all have their strengths in various passages of texts. But regarding Rom. 7:15-16, the NIrV seems to have come out on top.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

2 thoughts on “Functional equivalence comparison #3: Romans 7:15-16”

  1. I appreciate your comparison lists, with comments. Though I am not as interested in discovering which particular translations have errors where…I am more interested in learning why these errors are errors, since that is more important. In that sense, there is so much more to learn.

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  2. Hi Nik. It is my hope to discover even for myself which of the functional translations have fewer errors and which are more accurate. I don’t even know if this is completely possible but I’ll try my best in this discovery process via this comparison series. This also happens through the mutual sharing by visitors to this blog who make comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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