Satan has gained an enormous advantage over Christians by the confusion created over the hundreds of different Bible translations. Though we wrote a blog on this subject What is a Pig Translation? that blog was about translation techniques or problems in translations.
Every translation has to balance translation with education. By that we mean both writing in a style and using vocabulary that your audience understands, while keeping both the style and vocabulary true to the original meaning. This goal and this challenge are true for every translator, whatever the original language is and whatever language you are translating into.
The English standard is the King James Version. When the original translators worked on this translation, they expected that the average person would either hear it read from the pulpit or memorize the passage. No one imagined owning a personal copy to read and study. The inexpensive and readily-available written copies we have today were literally undreamed of, perhaps even beyond their comprehension.
So the translators of the King James Version emphasized literary beauty. They created a cadence that was both easy on the ears and easy to memorize. It sacrificed the strict literal reading of some words to attain this goal. The King James translation of the Bible is still one of the literary masterpieces in any language.
However, as English education continues to deteriorate, more and more people are unable to understand the beauty of the King James Version. To help modern English-speaking people understand the Word of God, many people have made hundreds of modern translations. Very few of these translations truly glorify God. Here is a brief list of some which do glorify God.
The New American Standard Bible is readily available, has modernized the syntax and vocabulary, yet sticks to a very close word-for-word translation. It modernizes, but still requires some education on the part of the reader to understand the background and setting.
The New King James is an excellent attempt to keep the beauty and accuracy of the original King James Version while at the same time modernizing the spelling.
The Amplified Bible and Wuest’s expanded translation of the New Testament each attempt to communicate the full meaning of a passage without any attempt to limit the number of English words used. The result in both cases are large, awkward translations which heavily rely on the translators’ theology. They are more valuable as commentaries than translations.
The New International Version relied on a kernel translation. This is an attempt to translate the meaning of a thought or idea of a phrase or sentence. While this seems to be too subjective, it is the standard translation technique in the business world. When instructions for a product are translated into multiple languages, the kernel or dynamic method is usually the preferred method of communication. The New International Version produced a high-quality translation in 1984. Since that time, various other “flavors” or points of view have influenced the translation process and the newer versions of the New International Version made severe departures from the original text. For this reason we highly recommend that you not use any of the various versions of the NIV produced after 1984.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible, funded in part by the Southern Baptist Convention, called their technique “optimal equivalence,” coming somewhere between a literal word-for-word translation and a thought or dynamic or kernel translation. Because the men making the translation were committed to inerrancy, this is a good translation.
While these are not all of the good translations, I mention these because the total number is small and easy to remember. Of the more than 400 translations into English, almost all them were designed to promote a theology, a point of view or something else other than the pure Word of God.
In other words, they were designed to cause some confusion among the children of God. Our God is not the author of confusion.
3 thoughts on “What English Translation of the Bible Do You Use?”
I use the NKJV as my “carry-around” Bible, but on my Android tablet I often use the NET (New English Translation) within the “YouVersion” Bible app, because of the detailed translation-related study notes. This translation often cites the various manuscripts affecting the reading, and explains why one manuscript was used over another. Most other translations say things like “some manuscripts read” or “better texts read” without explaining why! Even if I don’t like the reading of the NET, I appreciate seeing some of the translation issues involved! I have and use other translations at various times, sometimes because of the vocabulary choices (i.e., limited vocabulary) and sometimes because of the reputation of the translation (“accuracy”) and sometimes readability (“contemporary English”). With my childhood exposure to the KJV, the NKJV brings a lot of the literary/poetic quality from its predecessor, but a more contemporary wording. For many people, it has the “look and feel” of what they expect the Bible to be, whereas modern translation sound too casual or even disrespectful of God’s Word! Worth discussing further is the history of the Greek mansuscripts (Textus Receptus, etc.) which you may have touched upon in a previous blog. If so, mayebe it’s time to repost it?
Thanks for the reminder, David. Had forgotten about the parallel feature in Bible Gateway.
I teach from NASB, because of the page layout and the room for hand-written comments. In studying and writing I use: NASB, KJV, NKJV, NLT, RSV, plus several others on an occasional basis. My current reading bible is a Holman. I don’t trust the NIV, NRSV is quite bad.
I normally use BibleGateway for studying with 3-5 versions in parallel.