Pick Your Translation.
Editorial by Kenny Brownlee (TheFinalGate.COM Ministries)
The Bible according to Wikipedia, “More than 100 complete translations into English have been written.” How can the new believer choose the right one?
If we look at the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.
So, is it really that hard to understand why we have so many different interpretations and belief systems of God and Jesus Christ in our country and all around the world?
What is a Bible Translation?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in Greek. Unless you plan to learn Hebrew and Greek so you can read the Bible
in its original language they need to be translated. This definition in the Lexham Survey of Theology hits the nail on the head;
“To translate is to restate the meaning of words in one language with words of another. Translation of Scripture is part of the work of interpreting and communicating it.”
Being the most popular does not mean the most “Accurate” So how do we determine the most accurate translation? There are basically three types of translations that you can have.
- Formal Equivalence – This is a fancy way of saying word-for-word. The goal of the translators here is to translate the words as close to the original language as possible. This type of translation will give you the most accurate translation as it relates to the original text. With formal equivalence, literal translation takes precedence over readability. While this may give you the closest word-for-word translation to the original text you may also discover that it may not always be the easiest to read.
- Dynamic Equivalence – This is a fancy way of saying thought-for-thought or meaning for meaning. The goal of the translators here is to take the thought or meaning of the original text and translate that thought to the reader. Within these types of translations, you will probably see more variation in the use of the words because part of the goal is readability. They want to make it easier for the reader to read and understand. The challenge here is to make sure that the translators are sticking to the meaning of the original text or this could pose a problem.
- Free Translation – This is a fancy way of saying paraphrase. This is not a true translation. Paraphrases are not always done by teams of people as the other approaches are. There are some done by individuals. This form may be the easiest of all the types to read but you will discover that it does not have the look or feel of the other translations. If I am going to be honest with you this is not my most favorite to read as a stand-alone translation. I would also add that if you are new to reading your Bible this is probably not the best type of translation to begin with.
I personally use the NKJV and the NIV which both are listed above and the MEV (Modern English Version) which is not listed above in either category.
So, again this is my personal choice, you have to decide for yourself which seems right for you.
"the Clobber Passages?"
Have you ever heard of "the Clobber Passages?" This refers to the six passages in Scripture that directly address the subject of homosexuality. They are:
- Genesis 19:1-38 - The story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 - The labeling of homosexual sex as an abomination.
- Romans 1:26-27 - Paul’s words about men exchanging natural for unnatural relations.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 - Paul’s condemnation of the Greek term aresnekoiti.
- 1 Timothy 1:9-10 - Paul’s condemnation of the Greek term malakoi.
For this editorial I am going to examine one of these scripture references as example to compare different bible translations.
In Leviticus 18 God is telling Moses to pass along to the children of Israel things that they wetness in Egypt not to do now or practice those things done in Egypt.
Verse 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you.
- NKJV - You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.
- NLT - Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.
- MSG - Don’t have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.
- MEV - You shall not lie with a man as one does with a woman. It is an abomination.
- ESV - You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
- NASB - You shall not sleep with a male as one sleeps with a female; it is an abomination.
- AMP - You shall not lie [intimately] with a male as one lies with a female; it is repulsive.
- KJV - Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
The passages prior to verse 22 indicated in great detail not to have sexual relations with kin folks.
And do not offer your children as sacrifice’s and in verse 23 not to have sex with animals. This verse (22) it seems to say the same thing within most Bible translations,
it simply indicates not to practice what we call today homosexuality.
Let us look at another passage from Mark 9:29
- NKJV - So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
- NLT - Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer"
- MSG - He answered, “There is no way to get rid of this kind of demon except by prayer.”
- MEV - He said to them, “This kind cannot come out except by prayer and fasting.”
- ESV - And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
- NASB - And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything except prayer.”
- AMP - He replied to them, “This kind [of unclean spirit] cannot come out by anything but prayer [to the Father].”
- KJV - And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Did you catch the difference? As you can see here theses are very different, mostly the word of “fasting”. Some will indicate why it is being left out with footnotes.
The point here is: is the word “fasting” important? Some would say YES, it is necessary to do both prayer and fasting to cast out demons. While others may not see it that way and only prayer is required. Most translations especially Study Bibles will give you the reason why it is left out or left in with footnotes. Some gives more details than others.
This is based on the Sinaiticus manuscript. There are many manuscripts in which some included “fasting” while others did not. So, some will use the oldest and the shortest to translate. While others will use the newest etc.. Some will use the one that is included in the most manuscripts. But, again the point is would you ever know that the word “fasting” is included in some manuscripts if your translation did not indicate so?
Bible Translation History
The first translation of the Scriptures in the Christian era was into Syriac around 170 AD, as spoken in Damascus!
Bible translation activity then spread out from Syria over the following centuries into Armenia, Georgia, Samark and beyond. The Septuagint was almost always the source text for the Old Testament at this stage. This was a translation from Hebrew into Greek, completed around 130 BC, for Greek-speaking Jews. It was what Paul used when quoting the Old Testament.
Around 382 AD the Pope commissioned his secretary, Jerome, to produce a new translation in Latin, as the Septuagint-based versions. Jerome set about the task with reported trepidation, but also with great seriousness. He learnt Hebrew and, thanks to the work of Origen, was able to access Scripture texts in both Hebrew and Greek. The remark, attributed to him, that ‘ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ’ reveals something of his passion.
The resulting translation, produced in the Latin of the people, is known to us as the Vulgate. We scarcely realize how many of Jerome’s key terms we have adopted into English. Words like Scripture, salvation, justification and regeneration made their way into English via their Latin form in the Vulgate.
John Wycliffe emerged in 14th century England as an opponent of privilege and power in the Church. Towards the end of his life he gave expression to his convictions by translating the Scriptures from the Vulgate into Middle English for the ordinary people. After his death Wycliffe was excommunicated, his body exhumed and burnt. But unlike those before him, Wycliffe had an effect that rippled across Europe: Jan Hus and others in Prague produced Scriptures in Hungarian and Bohemian. Hus was declared a heretic and promptly burnt at the stake.
Two events in the 15th century changed the course of Bible translation like little else. Gutenberg’s development of the printing press is well known, but the fall of Constantinople in 1453 is often overlooked. Knowledge of and access to the Greek and Hebrew texts had dried up in the Western Church. It was the Eastern Church that had kept this old knowledge, so when Constantinople fell, scholars fled westwards clutching their Greek and Hebrew texts. They ended up in Paris, in London and Rotterdam. It was Erasmus of Rotterdam who produced an edition of the Greek text of the New Testament in 1516.
Printing Bibles created entirely new distribution possibilities and having the Greek text available meant translation was far more accurate. Combine these two factors with the growing desire aroused by such as Wycliffe to read the Scriptures for oneself and you can see how the Bible translation scene had been altered. By 1600, printed versions of the entire Bible had appeared in 15 European languages.
William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible into the English of the 1530s stands out for English speakers. He coined so many expressions that communicated powerfully. His use of the archery term for missing the mark, ‘to sin’, was masterful. Many other phrases, such as ‘land of the living’, ‘the parting of the ways’, ‘apple of my eye’ are so familiar that we forget their biblical origin. The King James Version, published in 1611, retained much of Tyndale’s groundbreaking work.
The pace of Bible translation slackened in the next 200 years, but following the growth of mission around the coasts of Africa and India, it picked up again in the first part of the 19th century. Henry Martyn died exhausted in Armenia at the age of 31, but not before he had translated the New Testament into three languages! William Carey’s mission out of Serampore in India saw work in 40 languages.
By 1880, Yoruba-speaking Anglican Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther had become the first African mother-tongue translator. However, this was all brought to a halt when colonial attitudes took over: ‘European languages sufficed’. It was a new dark age!
The 20th century saw increasingly hopeful signs, once the bloodletting of 1914–18 was out of the way. SIL, founded in 1934 by Cameron Townsend, and the Wycliffe organizations that followed were at the heart of a growing focus on people groups who hadn’t yet heard the gospel.
This was the century when new technologies again made a huge impact on Bible translation efforts: the computer, mobile phone and internet revolutionized the method, pace and quality of translation as well as distribution.
By the end of the century, Bible translation organizations were emerging in one country after another. What had been an occasional flurry of translation activity had become a global movement!
Pick Your Translation
So many to choose from, which ones do I need? Which ones are true? Which ones will teach me what I require? So many options. What ever you use or choose to use, make sure to follow this simple guideline.
- Do not choose one based on your lifestyle.
- Pray about it and ask God to lead you.
- Be of a conserved mind set.
- Pick at least one from the Formal type.
- Pick at least one from the Dynamic type.
Based on modern technology one would think that most all modern-day Bible translations are more accurate than ever before. I would certainly think so, but still with careful caution. It is an amazing thing that early Bible translation pioneers were promptly burnt at the stake. We should thank them all for their work. May God bless you and keep you.