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Bible Translations

Authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays begin the first chapter of Grasping God’s Word by focusing on the Bible as a whole document. They provide some insight into the transcription process as well as textual criticism: “Textual criticism (or analysis) is a technical discipline that compares the various copies of a biblical text in an effort to determine what was most likely the original text.”[1] They list the standard critical editions of the Bible that form the basis for all translations: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia for the Old Testament and the Greek New Testament or Novum Testamentum Graece for the New Testament.[2]

They take the reader on a historical tour through biblical translations from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate to the NIV (2011). “Translation entails ‘reproducing the meaning of a text that is in one language (the source language), as fully as possible, in another language (the receptor language).’”[3] This means that a literal translation is not automatically the most accurate; the form and meaning should work together so that the contemporary reader can understand what the text is saying.

The various translations of the Bible run the spectrum of being more formal (i.e. staying as close as possible to the structure and words of the source language) or more functional (i.e. expressing the meaning of the original text in today’s language).[4] On one end, the NASB, HCSB, and ESV represent the more formal translations while the GNB and The Message represent the more functional translations.[5]

They suggest the following guidelines for choosing your own translation:

  1. Choose a translation that uses modern English so you understand God’s Word.
  2. Choose a translation that is based on the standard critical texts (BHS, GNT, Novum Testamentum Graece) since they provide the most eclectic representation.
  3. Give preference to a translation presided by a committee rather than one individual (for obvious reasons, including guarding against individual bias).
  4. Choose a translation that is appropriate for your particular purpose at the time. If for reading to children or the unchurched, consider the NLT or CEV. If for serious study, consider the NASB[6] or ESV.

Check back next week for Chapter 2: The Interpretive Journey

* We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 25.

[2] Ibid, 26.

[3] Ibid, 34.

[4] Ibid, 34-35.

[5] Ibid.

[6] My (N.P.’s) translation of choice.