Sep 27, 2014 10:48 pm

Which Bible Translation?

Recently, we’ve made the decision to switch from using the New King James Version (NKJV) corporately as a church to using the English Standard Version (ESV). Several questions naturally arise in this case:

1). Why?

2). How do you choose a Bible translation in general?

In short to answer the first question—not intended as a ready made cop out—the basic reason is ultimately preference. To some degree, that actually works as an answer to question #2. But perhaps further explanation would be nice.

In many ways the ESV is actually a direct descendant of the King James Version (KJV) and, therefore, a descendant even of William Tyndale’s translation. Many people have been raised with that good ol’ KJV and have a particular affinity towards it. Others are just downright obsessed with it. The first KJV is easily dated back to 1611. Obviously much has changed in terms of the English language and as such it makes sense to update the language (which can be done without “changing” the Word of God). Over the course of several centuries there have been updates in Bible translations that have eventually resulted in the now ESV from the KJV. Though technically, not much has changed.

Given the fact that they’re are a number of modern Bible translations (not even taking into consideration older Bible translations), how does one “pick” a translation that they can read and trust on a consistent basis?

Obviously, one could take up abnormal amounts of time focusing on learning Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and come to a conclusion on which Bible to pick from there. But perhaps this might not be the most viable option.

You could decide to take the time to read such works as Hebrew for the Rest of Us or Greek for the Rest of Us and be knowledgeable enough to take the time to utilize other resources to “know” what the original Greek and Hebrew are saying. Even still, this might not be the most cost effective, time honoring approach either.

I believe there are easy ways of being an informed consumer in the Biblical market. Here are some things that I believe will help:

1). Check out translations online.

There are plenty of Bible translations that are available online that you can take the time to read through. Some websites offer the ability to examine verses of Scripture side by side with other translations. One such website is biblos.com.

2). Pick short books of the Bible, or common passages to parallel.

Take the time to read through a translation that you are considering. You could just as easily take a “Through the Bible in a year” plan making comparisons to other translations that you’re familiar with and see how they match up. However, you can always pick short books of Scripture, like Jude or Philemon. Also, there is the option of looking at popular passages in parallel and seeing how the different versions match up (example. John 3:16). The only thing to keep in mind with this approach is needing to look at passages in their context. Keeping the context in mind, and checking the context in different translations will give a pretty decent understanding of what the passage is communicating and you can then make an informed decision from there. You can still use biblos.com for this approach.

3). Research the history of translations.

If you want to find out information about a translation, research the history behind each translation that you are considering. Obviously if you find out that a translation is being produced from a cult, that could give clear indication that that translation may not be for you. Such would be the case with the New World Translation. Popular text comparison, such as John 1:1 will show discrepancies with the NWT.

In researching the translation you may even come across information about the translations, the translators, the purpose of the translation, and the translational procedures that definitely do not  coincide with your beliefs. In coming across one of the New New Testament translations either the one edited by Hal Taussig that adds Nag Hammadi and gnostic books to the New Testament, or the other New New Testament by Ken Maley which is an entire rewrite of the New Testament, you can find out much about the problems with these works before even opening them up. You probably wouldn’t need to do much research with the Queen James Bible to find out that it’s a bible that is geared towards the homosexual agenda.

4). Keep up to date with current issues

As mentioned above, there have been individuals who have taken issue with the Bible’s stance against homosexuality and changed verses directly related to them. Like Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:10, Jude 1:7, etc. Check out some key passages that individuals who disagree with the Christian world-view would take issue with and see how their translated.

5). Ask individuals who have already researched these issues

When all else fails, you can definitely contact individuals who have knowledge of the original text, textual variants, etc. and ask which versions are recommended. But in all seriousness, the final decision is probably going to be that of preference. In which case, you should decide up front what type of translation you would like.

In general, most translations will fall into one of two categories. Either a translation will be an attempt at translating word for word the words of the original text. Examples are KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV. These translations seek to try to take each original word and represent them as accurately as possible, while still maintaining a one to one comparison of each original word to each English word. The second translation would is a thought for thought translation. Examples are the NLT, NIV, TLB. These translations are more of a paraphrase trying to keep the original intentions, ideas, or thoughts in tact.

Some people have issue with word for word translations simply because they can be hard to read, and would prefer thought for thought. Others would take issue with thought for thought because in a lot of ways your translation is dependent on the interpretation of the translators, not just their linguistic skill and would feel more comfortable with a word for word.

Either translation method can be reliable. If you would like more help in selecting a Bible translation, please feel free to contact us.

– Jeremy Menicucci

This post was written by Jeremy Menicucci

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