What Does That Mean?

Are Your Translating a Translation?

The Psalmist cried out, “Lord, give me understanding according to your word!” (Psalm 119:169)

Have you ever read a verse to kids and then realized the words were way over their heads? I still remember, several years ago at church, a 3rd grader recited Hebrews 10:7 to me verbatim. Job well done. But when I asked, “Do you know what ‘atonement’ means?” he shrugged his shoulders with a very matter-of-fact, “No.” In fact, most of the words in the NKJV translation he had committed to memory were foreign to him. He might as well have been studying another language. And the saddest part was, he had grown so accustom to this practice, he didn’t even seem to realize that the words might actually have meaning behind them.

So I began to explain each word and its definition. Now, there is nothing more fun than describing the incredible work of Jesus–especially to a child! But what I realized was, I was basically translating the translation he had memorized. I became a “middleman” of sorts. I was, on the fly, pulling words together to replace the words that were encrypted in his mind. Wouldn’t it be better for him to memorize words he already understood? I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Our team set out to find a translation that kids could more easily understand. We discovered the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), which is written on a forth grade level. Based on the NIV, but referring back to the best and oldest copies of the Hebrew and Greek, the NIrV is simple and easy to understand. Shorter words are used in place of long or complex ones, and lengthy sentences are shortened. The highly skilled translators of this Bible poured over the original texts for untold hours and used the most appropriate words they could find. When a child reads this version, he understands for himself. When he memorizes it, he gets the meaning, and it can begin to transform his heart, and therefore his actions–no “middleman” required!