Choosing a Bible Translation
- Monday, May 03, 2010
The neb was completed in 1971, after a quarter of a century of labor. It marks a new milestone in translation: it is not a revision of the KJV, nor of any other version, but a brand new translation.
It is a phrase-for-phrase translation. Unfortunately, sometimes the biases of the translators creep into the text. The REB follows the same pattern as the neb: excellent English, though not always faithful to the Greek and Hebrew.
New International Version (NIV) & Today's New International Version (TNIV)
The NIV was published in 1978. It may be considered a counterpart to the NEB. (The NEB is strictly a British product, while the NIV is an international product). It is more of a phrase-for-phrase translation than a word-for-word translation. The translators were generally more conservative than those who worked on the neb. I personally consider it the best phrase-for-phrase translation available today. However, its major flaw is its simplicity of language. The editors wanted to make sure it was easy to read. In achieving this goal, they often sacrificed accuracy. In the New Testament, sentences are shortened, subordination of thought is lost, and conjunctions are often deleted.
The TNIV is to the NIV what the NRSV is to the RSV. Gender-inclusive language is used, and specific terminology is clarified (e.g., instead of "the Jews," the TNIV will read "the Jewish leaders," and when "Christ" is used as a title, is substituted for "Messiah"). This is usually helpful, but such interpretations built into a translation can at times be misleading.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
The HCSB, first published in 1999, uses a translational philosophy called "optimal equivalence." Where a word-for-word translation is not clear in English, they will opt for a phrase-for-phrase translation. The translation incorporates new manuscript discoveries, as well as contains many important translational footnotes. The HCSB is a nice alternative to choosing between a formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence translation.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The ESV, published in 2001, is the newest and most up-to-date formal equivalent translation. The ESV has eliminated the stilted English of translations like the NASB, while maintaining the literary excellence of translations like the KJV. Even though the ESV is a new translation, it maintains some of the theological terms that have systematically developed in English (e.g., justification, sanctification and propitiation). The ESV has also consistently translated specific terms in the original language to make theological developments easier to follow, and English concordance searches more accurate. Like the KJV, it has many unforgettable expressions, suitable for memorizing.
New English Translation (NET)
The net Bible was published in 2005. The net has all the earmarks of a great translation. At times, it is more accurate than the NASB, more readable than the NIV, and more elegant than either. It is clear and eloquent, while maintaining the meaning of the original. In addition, the notes are a genuine gold mine of information, unlike those found in any other translation. The net aims to be gender-neutral. The net Bible is the Bible behind the bibles. It's the one that many modern translators use to help them work through the original language and express their meaning in literate English. I would highly recommend that each English-speaking Christian put this Bible on their shopping list.
New World Translation
Finally, a word should be said about the New World Translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the sectarian bias of the group, as well as to the lack of genuine biblical scholarship, I believe that the New World Translation is by far the worst translation in English dress. It purports to be word-for-word, and in most cases is slavishly literal to the point of being terrible English. But, ironically, whenever a "sacred cow" is demolished by the biblical writers themselves, the Jehovah's Witnesses twist the text and resort to an interpretive type of translation. In short, it combines the cons of both worlds, with none of the pros.
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