Choosing a Bible (Version)

When choosing a Bible, the foremost concern on most of our minds is accuracy.  The problem is – the perfect Bible simply doesn’t exist.  Pay very close attention to what I say next:

EVERY BIBLE CONTAINS ERRORS OF SOME TYPE.

If you don’t believe that to be true, then you haven’t spent very much time studying the Bible yet.  Don’t worry – you’ll get there.

But moving on, what should we consider a SUITABLE translation?  Check the graphic below, and then I’ll explain a bit.

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Bibles toward the left of this scale are translated more literally: word-for-word.  They generally have fewer words added or removed to promote clarity than those in the middle.  That being the case, they can also be harder to read for some people.  Many of the references and expressions have lost their meanings over time, and without study and historical reference, the true meaning may escape us.

Toward the right of this graphic are Bibles which were translated with much, much more liberty.  Instead of virgens lacking oil for their lamps, they maybe didn’t have batteries for their flashlights!  The philosophy behind these Bibles is to convey (the translator’s idea of) the Prophets’ and Apostles’ INTENT rather than what they actually said.  This can be helpful for less advanced readers, but also very dangerous as meanings are often changes in such a way that thing are lost.

Toward the middle you have translations that try to convey the message in modern language without being too literal, and without introducing unnecessary distortions.

Scholars tend to use Bibles from the left.  Most people generally have middle-of-the-road Bibles.  Sixteen year-old girls who doodle “I love Jesus” on their notebooks might be seen carrying a Bible from the right.

Personally, I use the NASB (mostly).  Is it perfect?  Not a chance.  I often change a word or two when I quote from it, but I usually have to change a LOT less than I would from a KJV or NIV or (heaven forbid) The Message!

 

6 comments

  1. What do you think of “The Scriptures” version and MEV (Modern English Version)? I want to read a version where translators are well learned in the original Hebrew text.

    1. I’ve never really read it / studied with it, so I don’t have an opinion. I have friends that use it. I’m limited to what Bibles I can really use on account of where I live and how I study. If there isn’t a digital version that I can load into my study software, then it’s not much use to me. That eliminates The Scriptures, Modern English and the ISR sadly…

    1. What Bible is best really depends a lot on the reader’s level of reading comprehension. Literal Bibles can be much harder to understand, but I like them better. I would say that my favorite Spanish Bible is the VIN. It restores the names and corrects out a lot of additions by the Correctores as well. Check it out!

  2. And what do you think of ‘The Passion Translation’ (TPT)? It comes with extensive translator’s notes and focuses on communicating the passion of the Creator for our whole hearts. As it is written by one man (but a very learned one), it is not corrected for his personal theology, which must certainly get in the way of every translation at some point! I have found it very helpful for understanding hidden meanings in Hebrew terms which are often not translated (proper nouns, for example), and symbolism throughout the Word. Btw hi neighbour! hehe

    1. That’s a version I’ve never really looked into, but it sounds nice. I’m kind of a cold and technical guy, so I tend to gravitate toward NASB and Interlinears. In my mind, the more literal the translation, the less reverse-engineering I have to do to arrive and the author’s intent behind the words. These Bibles are much less readable to a lot of people, but I read a lot less than I study, so for me it works out.

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