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What's with All These Bible Translations?
I get asked quite a bit about Bible translations. What is the best translation? Which is closest to the original languages? Which is the most readable translation? What is the best translation for studying the Bible? These are all good questions, and I am sure ones that perhaps you have asked before.
First, some nostalgia. For many of you growing up, there were really only two options of Bible translations – the King James Version (which I still love to read) and the Revised Standard Version (still a good translation). The King James Version is truly a work of art. It was written in the time period around Shakespeare and the language is quite beautiful. Many of you memorized verses in the KJV and probably still recite them to this day. In my opinion, the KJV is still the best version to read the Psalms. It does have a couple of flaws – 1. We do not really speak that way anymore. 2. The KJV used the Erasmian Codex (sometimes known as the Textus Receptus). Even at the time, it did not reflect the best scholarship with regards to getting back to the original text of the scriptures. That is why there are sometimes a few more verses in KJV translations than say the New International Version.
Speaking of the NIV, in the 1970’s a team of translators sought to create a new translation of the Bible which reflected the best scholarship of getting back to the original text and was a readable translation. This is what was called a “dynamic translation.” What that means is that it reflected the ideas of the text, but not necessarily the exact words of the text. A word-for-word translation reflects the closest word to the original text. Some examples of a word for word translation would be the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the Christian Standard Version (it used to be called the Holman Christian Standard. Lifeway produces this one). Any of these three, while there may be slight variances in word choice, seek to choose the word closest to the original language. Another type of translation might be called a paraphrase. That is what Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible is. It is a paraphrase of the original text in order to create the idea the original writer was conveying. Next week we will go over ways you can use the different translations.