Book Reviews

Book Review: The Interpreted New Testament (Daniel Boerger)

Daniel Boerger served as a Bible translation advisor in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific for 20 years. The Interpreted New Testament (referred to as INT) is intended to be an “easy-to-understand interpreted paraphrase of the New Testament text,” which includes some commentary and explanatory notes.

It is neither an ordinary paraphrase nor a translation because other information (such as explanatory comments) has been added to the text which isn’t in the original Greek text. The INT is an accessory to study, like a commentary, and isn’t meant to replace a literal translation for serious study nor be used as a stand-alone Bible.

The main goal is “to enable almost any American adult reader who knows nothing at all about the Bible to be able to quickly and easily gain an in-depth understanding of the entire New Testament—without encountering obscure references, words, customs, and intents of a speaker in the text, or of the original writer, that are not clearly explained” (2). His hope is that, after reading the INT you can pick up any literal translation of the Bible and understand it better than you would have before.

The Advantages

  1. Background information the biblical authors knew that readers today don’t know is written into the interpreted text as if the original author had included it himself.
  2. Commentary, which can be found in commentaries by conservative theologians and in study Bibles, is often included in the body of text to be more accessible.
  3. Scriptural references are added to point you to further study.
  4. Footnotes include reasons for a specific interpretation over another, textual variants, notes on Greek words, geographical notes, and more.

The Disadvantages

  1. This interpreted paraphrase isn’t translated from the Greek, so it won’t tell you what the Bible actually says. The “interpreted” aspect comes from what theologically conservative scholars believe it to mean. In the Greek, the authors used specific words to tie together concepts and passages, ties lost in an interpretation like this.
  2. Sometimes the original text is ambiguous. The INT takes a particular interpretation, and in doing so obscured other possibilities (this happens with normal translations too).
  3. Though not exactly a “disadvantage,” sometimes the original text uses figurative language that isn’t clear for readers today. The INT sometimes uses different words or an illustration, or sometimes drops the illustration, tells the readers what the author meant, and gives more details in a comment.

Throughout his paraphrase, “Messiah” is used instead of “Christ” (which for many sounds like a last name). “Yahweh” is used when quoting OT passages that use the Tetragrammaton. “Assembly” is used instead of “church.” These changes help keep the Jewish background in the readers’ mind.

After his Preface, Beorger provides a brief overview of the Old Testament before talking about his Gospel harmony. He provides a six-page harmony chart. After this comes a 110-page Gospel harmony, full of notes on each section and how each passage fits with its surrounding context. Each Gospel and letter begins with an introduction including topics like the purpose and date of the writing, points covered, possibly an outline, and other matters.

2 Corinthians

I’ve taught through 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, so I thought I’d see how comfortable it felt to read this letter in this paraphrase. This is also where I realized how much longer this book is than the Bible. Since passages are explained in-text, the passages are longer than what you find in the Bible. This isn’t a problem at all, and I often found myself thinking, “That’s not what Paul wrote, ah, yes, but it is what he meant!” To give an example, here is 1:19–20 in the ESV,

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Boerger clarifies how God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ when he writes,

And Jesus’ life and death demonstrate that God always says what is true and always keeps his promises. For Jesus has already fulfilled—or will fulfill—all of God’s promises. He is God’s unequivocal message to us that says, “Yes, I keep my promises.” Therefore, our response to God—through the agency of our Lord Jesus the Messiah—is “Amen!”

In reference to being anointed with the Holy Spirit in 1:21, Boerger’s note explains what it means to be anointed,

In the Hebrew Scripture, people were anointed as a sign that they were chosen by God to be a prophet, priest, or king. The Anointed One (Jesus) is all three, and all believers share in all three offices too. [John 20:21] We are a holy priesthood, [1 Peter 2:5] a royal priesthood that will reign with Jesus, [2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10;20:6] and as witnesses of the Gospel message we are also—in some sense—prophets who proclaim God’s message. [Acts 1:8].

After the Bible text, Beorger provides a bibliography of each book of the New Testament, a glossary, an appendix about salvation, God’s name in the Old Testament, and a look at the names Yahweh and Yeshua.

Recommended?

Paraphrases such as the more recent The Message and the older (but still excellent) paraphrase by J. B. Phillips have been helpful for millions of people. And Boerger’s NT paraphrase should be added to that list. I would recommend reading it alongside your own Bible for devotional reading. You could also use it in your sermon or Bible study prep as you read different versions. This is also perfect for younger readers or teenagers who don’t know much about the background and social/cultural customs of NT times, as well as new believers who don’t know much about the Bible at all!

Lagniappe

    • Author: Daniel M. Boerger
    • Hardcover/Paperback: 780 pages
    • Publisher: Fontes Press (March 11, 2020)
    • Read Galatians

Buy it on Amazon or from Fontes Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Fontes Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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