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Becoming a Berean Pt. 3...Bible Translations

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First, I’m going to recommend two books regarding this topic and future episodes first is Grasping God’s Word by Duvall & Hays… I have third edition.
Second, is Textual Criticism of the Bible by Amy Anderson & Wendy Widder
I’ve referenced both of these books plus the preface(s) to a handful of English translations to create the content for this episode. Both these books have been prior textbooks of mine and they discuss translations in the first chapter.
So Bible Translations...
Intro: Have you ever considered the journey that God’s Word has went on to get to you today? It’s pretty amazing to consider that God has preserved His Word for us, but there’s so much more than meets the eye!
Grasping God’s Word by Duvall & Hays p. 24 has a great chart that overviews this process:
Divine Author
Human Author
Original Text
Copies of the Original Text
Critical Text
Translator/Translating Committee
English Translation
Modern Readers (you)
So in this episode we’re going to focus primarily on piece #7: translation.
So there was a book on studying the Bible I read years ago and they said the best Bible translation is the one you will actually read and put into practice. I agree for the most part with this, as long as you are using an actual translation and not a paraphrase. Also, I think it is good to know why you use the translation you use and have a good reason for doing so.
I won’t be covering every English translation out there, but I’ll give you an idea of some principles to aim for, cover a lot of popular ones, and then you’ll be able to look up additional translations to see where they are on the spectrum...Generally this can be found in the Preface at the beginning of a paper Bible or the introduction
So if you happened to listen to the first episode of the podcast you’ll know that I use the English Standard Version (ESV) for my primary Bible. However, I primarily use the NLT for my ministry to youth…
Now the NLT and ESV are pretty different, and that is due to the translation philosophy behind them…
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Translations basically come in two categories of translation approach:
Word for Word/Literal (Formal equivalence)
Thought for thought (dynamic equivalence)
Significant changes that are not like the original language...essentially putting it into your own words.
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It’s helpful to think of these on a spectrum ranging from the left with highly literal, word for word, to thought for thought, to paraphrase on the far right…
It is also important to acknowledge that some translations are done by groups of people, while others are done by individuals. It is better to err on the side of those done by committees as they are less likely to reflect one individual’s personal biases...NLT and ESV were both done by large groups...The ESV publishing team included over 100 people working together from the oversight committee, translation review scholars, and the advisory council.
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Word for Word (NASB, ESV, KJV)
Word for word are more committed to following the structure of the original language; however, this sometimes can be harder to understand.
“Not a few” “no small”
The Bible is the Word of God, not just the thoughts of best we can we should preserve exactly what God has said...although no translation will be perfect, aim for excellency!
Thought for Thought (NIV, NLT)
Aims for an equivalent message...or as the NIV Preface puts it to “recreate as far as possible the experience of the original audience”
This is subjective.
Paraphrase (MSG, AMP)
I also think it is important to avoid paraphrases such as the Message or the Amplified...they do not translate from the original languages.
Especially avoid the Message, or use it as a last resort as it is not only a paraphrase but the work of one man...committees are generally more ecumenical in their approach to translation and are less likely to have personal bias enter into their translating…
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I encourage you when doing more in depth study to aim towards a word-for-word translation, although either can be used for personal reading...Some people even advocate using a different translation for devotional reading than you would for serious study or preaching (if you ever do)
I think it is helpful to look through multiple translations anytime you are struggling with a passage...I generally try to read through a passage I am about to preach on in multiple translations. For me, recently I have been aiming on a combination of the LEB, ESV, NLT, & NIV...two word for word translations and two thought for thought translations.
A great tool for doing this is actually the YouVersion Bible App...if you click on a verse, it will bring up a menu where you can highlight, share, create a verse, image, or compare...this final feature allows you to compare your selected verse(s) in your preferred translations side by side immediately, and it will remember your preferences! Pretty cool!
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KJV overview from Grasping God’s Word is on p. 28
Why don’t I use KJV - primary reason is that I find no need as it is harder to read and it is translated off of newer manuscripts. If it was truly more accurate and closer to the originals then I would have no problem working through the different vernacular...but there’s no need.
The ESV follows the KJV’s translation philosophy with older more accurate manuscripts, in our vernacular...the goal of the KJV was to have a Bible the people could read and understand that would be if we have better today I would assume they would want us using it. I won’t condemn the use of the KJV at all, but I really don’t see it as necessary.
The fact that some verses are “missing” in newer translations has concerned a lot of people who are advocates for the KJV...but it is a lot more likely that these verses were later added by older manuscript copies that the KJV is based off of and they were never intended to be there…
I’ll get into this more in a later episode highlighting textual criticism.
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My big takeaway, I want you to at least have a reason for using the translation you use. Rather than just guestimating and finding something that works...look into the translation philosophies, find something that you like that you can easily read and understand and that you will put into practice in your own life.
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