A Narcissistic Rendering

Consider the following translations of the same verse, Psalm 92:4:

NLT – You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.

ESV – For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

In Hebrew Exegesis Dr. Magary made us cite various other translations as we translated our passage. The one translation that always got a laugh out of me was the New Living Translation. It seemed like nearly every verse was infused with a particular theological position before it was translated. The example above is the kind of thing I saw. Literally, the verse reads: “Because you cause me to rejoice LORD in your work in works of your hand I sing for joy.” Notice that there is no first person pronoun connected to God’s work in this passage. The Psalmist is simply thrilled with the work God has done, whether it be for him or not. The NLT presupposes that the Psalmist would rejoice only because God did something for him and so they insert the personal pronoun.

This isn’t an example of someone who studied Hebrew for a few years critiquing a bunch of scholars who really know better than him. Well, it is but I don’t think I’m guilty of zeal without knowledge on this point. As I consider other translations I don’t see any others making the same translation choices the NLT has. From the more literal (NASB or ESV) to the more paraphrastic (NIV or The Message) no one else makes the choices the NLT does.

Folks, the NLT is “readable” but frankly it is a poor translation. I would recommend staying away from it. You’re not getting the Bible, you’re getting a particular slant on the Bible and not always a good one. Again, the example above slants the verse towards a more “me centered” reason for worshiping God. It is what he has done for us. But the Psalmist had a broader view. It was simply the works that God has performed that elicit praise from him. Yes, later in the Psalm he will praise God for defeating his enemies (11) but even there it is only because they are God’s enemies (9). I fear that using this translation even for devotional purposes may make us Americans more narcissistic than we already are. We need an unblunted sword edge to pierce to the division of spirit and soul and to lay bear our hearts. The NLT’s edge has been dulled.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him – Job 13:15a KJV
God might kill me, but I have no other hope. – Job 13:15a NLT

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