Friday, March 2, 2012

Understanding Translations and Versions

Choosing the Right Bible is important for your Christian growth

       Today I want to begin a short blog series for the Christian who is desiring a guide for choosing a Bible.  Years ago I had worked for a short time in a Bible Bookstore and was amazed at the wide variety of Study Bible's and Bible translations that were available.  Choosing a Bible is a major part of growing in the Christian faith, since Christian growth and stability cannot be done without the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15).  With over 100 different English translations and dozens of Study Bible's available, how does one know which one is the best one?  In today's blog, we will begin looking at the major Bible translations, giving you some tips to go by when choosing which one is best for you.

Quick History on how the Bible eventually got to be translated to English
       The Bible in the Old Testament, with its 39 books, was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in Greek.  Obviously as the Gospel spread into different cultures and languages, the Bible needed to be translated into those languages.  As English came into existence as a spoken language by the 10th century, it would not be until the middle 1300's that a scholar named John Wycliffe would be the first to translate the Bible from the then available version - The Latin Vulgate - into English.  From Wycliffe's Bible would come forth historic English translations.  In the mid 1400's a man by the name of William Tyndale produced the first translation from the Greek and Hebrew texts.  Though men like Tyndale would die for their work, translating the Bible into the language of the people has and still is the backbone of Christianity's advancement today.

Difference between "translations" and "versions"
        For the most part English Bibles since the days of Wycliffe and Tyndale have either been classified as "translations" or "versions".  A translation is a Bible that is directly translated from the Original Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew into whatever language that will be read by those receiving it.  Today we have Bibles like the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and New Living Translation (NLT) that are directly translated from the original languages into the recipient language (like English for example).  
       A Version is a Bible that is either based on an existing translation or was translated first but then heavily relied upon existing translations for its final form.  The wording of The New King James for example was based upon the King James Version, along with consultation of the Greek and Hebrew.  Other Bibles such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and English Standard Version (ESV) base how they word their texts upon the older Revised Standard Version (RSV) while consulting the Greek and Hebrew. 

        As much as the King James did rely quite heavily on the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, those who worked on the project in 1611 consulted an existing English Version called the "Bishop's Bible" (which itself was a version based upon other English translations at the time).  Truly the KJV, having been used for over 400 years, is still a very good English Bible, and quite reliable. 

Why does it matter in the difference between "versions" or "translations"
        As a general rule (general, not always), versions of the Bible aim more towards readability, whereas translations try to lean more toward representing the Greek and Hebrew in the given language.  Thus Bibles such as the NASB or Amplified Bible aim to get you closer to the style and flow of the Hebrew or Greek Texts.  Other Bibles, such as the NIV, ESV and NRSV aim to be readable and pay more attention to the reader's language.  Many other different Bibles will attempt to do both readability and accuracy to the original language.  The KJV, which though being a version that flows quite beautifully, also aims to be a close to the original texts as possible.  The New Living Translation, translated directly from the original languages, aims to be highly readable. 

The choice of "which is better" depends upon what your aiming to do with your Bible
         If you are looking to teach the Bible or do Bible study, picking a translation or a Bible that aims to be as close to the original languages as possible is your best choice.  Bible translations and versions such as NASB, KJV, NKJV and ESV are examples that aim to bring the reader as close to the orignal languages as possible.  If you want a Bible that is more readable, say for quiet times, devotions, prayer times or regular Bible reading, then the NIV or NLT might be the choice for you.  Or perhaps your just wanting to get an interpretation of a passage, and need a summarized version of the text, then Bibles like the Today's English Version (TEV) or The Living Bible (TLB) might be preferred. 

Ideally having all three categories is helpful
Sometimes when studying a passage, a literal translation or version, a readable one and a paraphrase together will help you hit the areas of readability, accuracy and summary. 

No comments:

Post a Comment