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The Spoken English New Testament (SENT) Examined

Quite a while back I purchased The Spoken English New Testament (SENT) preliminary edition by J. Webb Mealy. I have been reading it for some time and have been looking forward to reviewing this latest translation. Time has slipped away from me, but now I am finally going to post my thoughts about SENT.

The preface points out that the New Testament was written in everyday, common Greek that was heard on the street and read in people’s letters. “It was ordinary Greek, not elegant literary Greek. So SENT translates the New Testament into ordinary contemporary spoken English. It is not a paraphrase or a revision of any previous translation or version. Its aim is to be a fresh, accurate scholarly translation from the Greek, using standard translator’s tools and prepared with constant reference to more than a dozen reputable translations” (pg. 9). These translations include the NRSV, NASB, NIV, NLB, NCV, TEV, CEV, NAB, NJB, and NEB, among others. SENT has an excellent purpose: be accurate and be readable. Many translations today excel at one or the other, but usually not both.

Further, I like the explanation given for this new translation, SENT:

In ancient times reading aloud was actually the standard way of reading a book. In fact, most of the New Testament was written to be read aloud in Christian communities. The Gospels record the spoken teachings and conversations of Jesus, and they were regularly read aloud to groups of Christians. The Apostle Paul typically dictated his letters with his voice, rather than writing them by hand. And many non-Pauline letters (such as 1 John, James, and the letters of Peter and Jude) appear to be composed of material from sermons. Perhaps most obvious of all, passages of the New Testament are read aloud in churches every single week!

Layout

In general, the layout is terrific. The paper is a nice opaque, white paper, making the text easy to read. The thick paper eliminates any bleeding through or ghosting. The layout is in single column paragraph, which is ideal for reading the Scriptures. The translator added headers to the beginning of each paragraph, as most Bibles have. The font selection and line spacing are also excellent, making each page very readable. Further, there are many translation notes at the bottom of each page. This is excellent allowing the reader to understand why a particular rendering was selected by the translator. Also, words added by the translator are in a grayscale so the reader knows when additional words are being added for clarity rather than being translated from the Greek. This is a big bonus which many translations, unfortunately, have gone away from entirely.

When it comes to the layout, there is only one flaw, but it is a big flaw, in my opinion. The top of each page does not identify which chapter nor which verse is on the page. It is very difficult to locate a particular text. The top of the page only reveals the name of the book and the page number. There is not any chapter or verse information. I would glad exchange the page number for the chapter and verse reference.Therefore, it takes more time than it ought to find a particular passage. There are many times where I had to turn a many pages just to figure out what chapter I was in as I tried to find a certain scripture. For me, this leads to frustration. I would love to use SENT more frequently, but the lack of chapter and verse information often causes me not to want to use it for reference. This is unfortunate because the translator has done some excellent work. The layout promotes reading at home the whole book, but not using it for reference or for worship.

In my next post I will review my findings concerning the translation itself.