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Why So Many Version - Which Bible Do I Chose

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I can send you one. Which one do you want?

Here are some abbreviations for the various versions available for you:

RSV (Revised Standard Version)

NRSV (New Revised Standard Version)

NEB (New English Bible)

REB (Revised English Bible)

NASB (New American Standard Bible)

NIV (New International Version)

TEV (Good News Bible: Today92s English Version) TM (The Message)

I use several depending upon what I am doing.

For preaching: NIV (New International Version) For Teaching: NASB (New American Standard Version) For Daily Reading: (TM) The Message For Studying: NIV (New International Version); ASV (American Standard


My recommendation for casual reading would be hands down, The Message.

Review it at this web site: It is written in a contemporary style and does not compromise the intention of the Word. I would strongly suggest good “leather bonding “with” onion skin pages.  See more information on The Message below.

My recommendation for any kind of studying would be the "Thompson Chain New International Version." It is a wonderful Bible and has the "Chain references" as well as an "Archeology" section and a "Historical" section.

Here is a lesson on "versions" of the Bible. It would do you well to read all of this before deciding on which you want for yourself.

PREFACE: TO THE READER (Introduction by the author Eugene H. Peterson) The Message If there is anything distinctive about The Message, perhaps it is because the text is shaped by the hand of a working pastor. For most of my adult life I have been given a primary responsibility for getting the message of the Bible into the lives of the men and women with whom I worked. I did it from pulpit and lectern, in home Bible studies and at mountain retreats, through conversations in hospitals and nursing homes, over coffee in kitchens and while strolling on an ocean beach. The Message grew from the soil of forty years of pastoral work.

As I worked at this task, this Word of God, which forms and transforms human lives, did form and transform human lives. Planted in the soil of my congregation and community the seed words of the Bible germinated and grew and matured. When it came time to do the work that is now The Message, I often felt that I was walking through an orchard at harvest time, plucking fully formed apples and peaches and plums from laden branches. There92s hardly a page in the Bible I did not see lived in someway or other by the men and women, saints and sinners, to whom I was pastor97and then verified in my nation and culture.

I didn’t start out as a pastor. I began my vocational life as a teacher and for several years taught the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary. I expected to live the rest of my life as a professor and scholar, teaching and writing and studying. But then my life took a sudden vocational turn to pastoring in a congregation.

I was now plunged into quite a different world. The first noticeable difference was that nobody seemed to care much about the Bible, which so recently people had been paying me to teach them. Many of the people I worked with now knew virtually nothing about it, had never read it, and weren’t interested in learning. Many others had spent years reading it but for them it had gone flat through familiarity, reduced to cliché’s. Bored, they dropped it. And there weren’t many people in between. Very few were interested in what I considered my primary work, getting the words of the Bible into their heads and hearts, getting the message lived. They found newspapers and magazines, videos and pulp fiction more to their taste.

Meanwhile I had taken on as my life work the responsibility of getting these very people to listen, really listen, to the message in this book. I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today. I had always assumed they were the same world. But these people didn’t see it that way. So out of necessity I became a translator (although I wouldn’t have called it that then), daily standing, on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.

And all the time those old biblical languages, those powerful and vivid Hebrew and Greek originals, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imagination of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible.

I did that for thirty years in one congregation. And then one day (it was April 30, 1990) I got a letter from an editor asking me to work on a new version of the Bible along the lines of what I had been doing as a pastor. I agreed. The next ten years was harvest time. The Message is the result.

The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was earlier in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again. I leave out verse numbers to encourage unimpeded reading (no Bibles had verse numbers for the first 1,500 years). But I haven92t tried to make it easy97there is much in the Bible that is hard to understand. So at some point along the way, soon or late, it will be important to get a standard study Bible, to facilitate further study. Meanwhile, read in order to live, praying as you read, God, let it be with me just as you say. INTRODUCTION TO THE MESSAGE Reading is the first thing, just reading the Bible. AS we read we enter a new world of words and find ourselves in on a conversation in which God has the first and last words. We soon realize that we are included in the conversation. We didn’t expect this. But this is precisely what generation after generation of Bible readers do find: The Bible is not only written about us but to us. In these pages we become insiders to a conversation  in which God uses words to form and bless us, to teach and guide us, to  forgive and save us.

We aren’t used to this. We are used to reading books that explain  things, or tell us what to do, or inspire or entertain us. But this is different. This is a world of revelation: God revealing to people just like us men and women created in God’s image how God works and what is going on in this world in which we find ourselves. At the same time that God reveals all this, God draws us in by invitation and command to participate in God’s working life.

We gradually (or suddenly) realize that we are insiders in the most significant action of our time as God establishes his grand rule of love and justice on this earth (as it is in heaven). Revelation means that we are reading something we couldn’t have guessed or figured out on our own.

Revelation is what makes the Bible unique.

And so just reading this Bible, The Message, and listening to what we  read, is the first thing. There will be time enough for study later on. But first, it is important simply to read, leisurely and thoughtfully. We need to get a feel for the way these stories and songs, these prayers and conversations, these sermons and visions, invite us into this large, large world in which the invisible God is behind and involved in everything visible, and illuminates what it means to live here97really live, not just get across the street. As we read, and the longer we read, we begin to get it we are in conversation with God. We find ourselves listening and answering in matters that most concern us: who we are, where we came from, where we are going, what makes us tick, the texture of the world and the communities we live in, and most of all the incredible love of God among us, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Through reading the Bible, we see that there is far more to the world, more to us, more to what we see and more to what we don’t see more to everything than we had ever dreamed, and that this more has to do with God.

This is new for many of us, a different sort of book a book that reads us even as we read it. We are used to picking up and reading books for what  we can get out of them: information we can use, inspiration to energize us, instructions on how to do something or other, entertainment to while away a rainy day, wisdom that will guide us into living better. These things can and do take place when reading the Bible, but the Bible is given to us in the first place simply to invite us to make ourselves at home in the world of God, God’s word and world, and become familiar with the way God speaks and the ways in which we answer him with our lives.

Our reading turns up some surprises. The biggest surprise for many is how accessible this book is to those who simply open it up and read it.

Virtually anyone can read this Bible with understanding. The reason that new translations are made every couple of generations or so is to keep the language of the Bible current with the common speech we use, the very language in which it was first written. We don’t have to be smart or well educated to understand it, for it is written in the words and sentences we hear in the marketplace, on school playgrounds, and around the dinner table.

Because the Bible is so famous and revered, many assume that we need experts to explain and interpret it for us and, of course, there are some things that need to be explained. But the first men and women who listened to these words now written in our Bibles were ordinary, everyday, working-class people. One of the greatest of the early translators of the Bible into English, William Tyndale, said that he was translating so that the boy that driveth the plough would be able to read the Scriptures.

One well-educated African man, who later became one of the most, influential Bible teachers in our history (Augustine), was greatly offended when he first read the Bible. Instead of a book cultivated and polished in the literary style he admired so much, he found it full of homespun, earthy stories of plain, unimportant people. He read it in a Latin translation full of slang and jargon. He took one look at what he considered the unspiritual quality of so many of its characters and the everydayness of

Jesus and contemptuously abandoned it. It was years before he realized that God had not taken the form of a sophisticated intellectual to teach us about highbrow heavenly culture so we could appreciate the finer things of God.

When he saw that God entered our lives as a Jewish servant in order to save us from our sins, he started reading the Book gratefully and believingly.

Some are also surprised that Bible reading does not introduce us to a nicer world. This biblical world is decidedly not an ideal world, the kind we see advertised in travel posters. Suffering and injustice and ugliness are not purged from the world in which God works and loves and saves.

Nothing is glossed over. God works patiently and deeply, but often in hidden ways, in the mess of our humanity and history. Ours is not a neat and tidy world in which we are assured that we can get everything under our control.

This takes considerable getting used to there is mystery everywhere. The Bible does not give us a predictable cause-effect world in which we can plan our careers and secure our futures. It is not a dream world in which everything works out according to our adolescent expectations there is pain and poverty and abuse at which we cry out in indignation, you can’t let this happen! For most of us it takes years and years and years to exchange our dream world for this real world of grace and mercy, sacrifice and love, freedom and joy the God-saved world.

Yet another surprise is that the Bible does not flatter us. It is not  trying to sell us anything that promises to make life easier. It doesn’t offer secrets to what we often think of as prosperity or pleasure or high adventure. The reality that comes into focus as we read the Bible has to do with what God is doing in a saving love that includes us and everything we do. This is quite different from what our sin-stunted and culture-cluttered minds imagined. But our Bible reading does not give us access to a mail order catalog of idols from which we can pick and choose to satisfy our fantasies. The Bible begins with God speaking creation and us into being. It continues with God entering into personalized and complex relationships with us, helping and blessing us, teaching and training us, correcting and disciplining us, loving and saving us. This is not an escape from reality but a plunge into more reality a sacrificial but altogether better life all the way.


God doesn’t force any of this on us: God’s word is personal address, inviting, commanding, challenging, rebuking, judging, comforting, directing but not forcing. Not coercing. We are given space and freedom to answer, to enter the conversation. For more than anything else the Bible invites our participation in the work and language of God.

As we read, we find that there is a connection between the Word Read and the Word Lived. Everything in this book is live-able. Many of us find that the most important question we ask as we read is not 93What does it mean? But how can I live it? So we read personally, not impersonally. We read in order to live our true selves, not just get information that we can use to raise our standard of living. Bible reading is a means of listening to and obeying God, not gathering religious data by which we can be our own gods.

You are going to hear stories in this Book that will take you out of your preoccupation with yourself and into the spacious freedom in which God is working the world’s salvation. You are going to come across words and sentence that stab you awake to a beauty and hope that will connect you with your real life.

Be sure to answer.


In the year that the New Testament of the Revised Standard Version was published (1946), the Church of Scotland proposed to other churches in  Great Britain that it was time for a completely new translation of the Bible to be done. Those who initiated this work asked the translators to produce a fresh translation in modern idiom of the original languages; this was not to be a revision of any foregoing translation, nor was it to be a literal translation. The translators, under the direction of C. H. Dodd, were called upon to translate the meaning of the text into modern English.

The older translators, on the whole, considered that fidelity to the original demanded that they should reproduce, as far as possible, characteristic features of the language in which it was written, such as the syntactical order of words, the structure and division of sentences, and even such irregularities of grammar as were indeed natural enough to authors writing in the easy idiom of popular Hellenistic Greek, but less natural when turned into English. The present translators were enjoined to replace Greek constructions and idioms by those of contemporary English.

This meant a different theory and practice of translation, and one which laid a heavier burden on the translators. Fidelity in translation was not to mean keeping the general framework of the original intact while replacing Greek words by English words more or less equivalent. . . . Thus we have not felt obliged (as did the Revisers of 1881) to make an effort to render the same Greek word everywhere by the same English word. We have in this respect returned to the wholesome practice of King James92s men, who (as they expressly state in their preface) recognized no such obligation. We have conceived our task to be that of understanding the original as precisely as we could (using all available aids), and then saying again in our own native idiom what we believed the author to be saying in his.

The entire New English Bible was published in 1970; it was well-received in Great Britain and in the United States (even though its idiom its extremely British) and was especially praised for its good literary style. The translators were very experimental, producing renderings never before printed in an English version and adopting certain readings from various Hebrew and Greek manuscripts never before adopted. As a result, The New English Bible was both highly praised for its ingenuity and severely criticized for its liberty.

THE GOOD NEWS BIBLE: TODAY92S ENGLISH VERSION The New Testament in Today92s English Version, also known as Good News for Modern Man, was published by the American Bible Society in 1966. The translation was originally done by Robert Bratcher, a research associate of the Translations Department of the American Bible Society, and promoted by several Bible societies and very affordable, sold more than 35 million copies within six years of the time of printing. The New Testament translation, based upon the first edition of the Greek New Testament (the United Bible Societies, 1966), is an idiomatic version in modern and simple English. The translation was greatly influenced by the linguistic theory of dynamic equivalence (see next chapter) and was quite successful in providing English readers with a translation that, for the most part, accurately reflects the meaning of the original texts. This is explained in the preface to the New Testament:

This translation of the New Testament has been prepared by the American Bible Society for people who speak English as their mother tongue or as an acquired language. As a distinctly new translation, it does not conform  to traditional vocabulary or style, but seeks to express the meaning of the Greek text in words and forms accepted as standard by people everywhere  who employ English as a means of communication. Today92s English Version of the New Testament attempts to follow, in this century, the example set by the authors of the New Testament books, who, for the most part, wrote in the standard, or common, form of the Greek language used throughout the Roman Empire.

Because of the success of the New Testament, the American Bible Society was asked by other Bible societies to make an Old Testament translation following the same principles used in the New Testament. The entire Bible was published in 1976, and is known as the Good News Bible: Today English Version.


In 1962 Kenneth Taylor published a paraphrase of the New Testament Epistles in a volume called Living Letters. This new dynamic paraphrase, written in common vernacular, became well received and widely acclaimed97especially for its ability to communicate the message of God92s Word to the common man. In the beginning its circulation was greatly enhanced by the endorsement of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which did much to publicize the book and distributed thousands of free copies. Taylor continued to paraphrase other portions of the Bible and publish successive volumes: Living Prophecies (1965), Living Gospels (1966), Living Psalms (1967), Living Lessons of Life and Love (1968), Living Books of Moses (1969), and Living History of Moses (1970). The entire Living Bible was published in 1971 (the Living New Testament was printed in 1966).

Using the American Standard Version as his working text, Taylor rephrased the Bible into modern speech97such that anyone, even a child, could understand the message of the original writers. In the preface to The Living Bible Taylor explains his view of paraphrasing:

To paraphrase is to say something in different words than the author used. It is a restatement of the author92s thoughts, using different words than he did. This book is a paraphrase of the Old and New Testaments. Its purpose is to say as exactly as possible what the writers of the Scriptures meant, and to say it simply, expanding where necessary for a clear understanding by the modern reader.

Even though many modern readers have greatly appreciated the fact that The Living Bible made God’s Word clear to them, Taylor’s paraphrase has been criticized for being too interpretive. But that is the nature of paraphrases and the danger as well. Taylor was aware of this when he made the paraphrase. Again, the preface clarifies:

There are dangers in paraphrases, as well as values. For whenever the author’s exact words are not translated from the original languages, there is a possibility that the translator, however honest, may be giving the English reader something that the original writer did not mean to say.

The Living Bible has been very popular among English readers worldwide.  More than 35 million copies have been sold by the publishing house Taylor specifically created to publish The Living Bible. The company is called Tyndale House Publishers named after William Tyndale, the father of modern English translations of the Bible.


There are two modern translations that are both revisions of (or based

on)he American Standard Version (1901): the Revised Standard Version (1952)and the New American Standard Bible (1971). The Lockman Foundation, a nonprofit Christian corporation committed to evangelism, promoted this revision of the American Standard Version because "the producers of this translation were imbued with the conviction that interest in the American Standard Version 1901 should be renewed and increased."

1.      Indeed, the American Standard Version was a monumental work of scholarship and a very accurate translation. However, its popularity was waning, and it was fast disappearing from the scene. Therefore, the Lockman Foundation organized a team of thirty-two scholars to prepare a new revision. These scholars,  all committed to the inspiration of Scripture, strove to produce a literal translation of the Bible in the belief that such a translation "brings  the contemporary reader as close as possible to the actual wording and grammatical structure of the original writers.

2.      The translators of the New American Standard Bible were instructed by the Lockman Foundation "to adhere to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures as closely as possible and at the same time to obtain a fluent and readable style according to current English usage.

3.      After the New American Standard Bible was published (1963 for the New Testament and 1971 for the entire Bible), it received a mixed response. Some critics applauded its literal accuracy, while others sharply criticized its language for hardly being contemporary or modern.

On the whole, the New American Standard Bible became respected as a good study Bible that accurately reflects the wording of the original languages yet is not a good translation for Bible reading. Furthermore, it must be said that this translation is now nearly thirty years behind in terms of textual fidelity especially the New Testament, which, though it was originally supposed to follow the 23rd edition of the Nestle text, tends to follow the Textus Receptus.


The New International Version is a completely new rendering of the original languages done by an international group of more than a hundred scholars.

These scholars worked many years and in several committees to produce an excellent thought-for-thought translation in contemporary English for private and public use. The New International Version is called "international" because it was prepared by distinguished scholars from English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Great  Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and because "the translators sought to use vocabulary common to the major English-speaking nations of the world."4 The translators of the New International Version sought to make a version that was midway between a literal rendering (as in the New American Standard Bible) and a free paraphrase (as in The Living Bible). Their goal was to convey in English the thought of the original writers. This is succinctly explained in the original preface to the New Testament:

Certain convictions and aims guided the translators. They are all committed to the full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Therefore, their first concern was the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the New Testament writers. While they weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Greek text, they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the New Testament demanded frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words.

Concern for clarity of style that it should be idiomatic without being idiosyncratic, contemporary without being dated97also motivated the translators and their consultants. They have consistently aimed at simplicity of expression, with sensitive attention to the connotation and sound of the chosen word. At the same time, they endeavored to avoid a sameness of style in order to reflect the varied styles and moods of the New Testament writers.

The New Testament of the New International Version was published in 1973, and the entire Bible, in 1978. This version has been phenomenally successful. Millions and millions of readers have adopted the New International Version as their "Bible." Since 1987 it has outsold the King James Version, the best-seller for centuries a remarkable indication of its popularity and acceptance in the Christian community. The New International Version, sponsored by the New York Bible Society and published by Zondervan Publishers, has become a standard version used for private reading and pulpit reading in many English-speaking countries.

TWO MODERN CATHOLIC TRANSLATIONS: THE JERUSALEM BIBLE AND THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE In 1943 Pope Pius XII issued the famous encyclical encouraging Roman Catholics to read and study the Scriptures. At the same time, the pope recommended that the Scriptures should be translated from the original languages. Previously, all Catholic translations were based on the Latin Vulgate. This includes Knox92s translation, which was begun in 1939 and published in 1944 (the New Testament) and in 1955 (the whole Bible).

The first complete Catholic Bible to be translated from the original languages is The Jerusalem Bible, published in England in 1966. The Jerusalem Bible is the English counterpart to a French translation entitled La Bible de Jerusalem. The French translation was "the culmination of decades of research and biblical scholarship,"5 published by the scholars of the Dominican Biblical School of Jerusalem. This Bible, which includes the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical books, contains many study helps such as introductions to each book of the Bible, extensive notes on various passages, and maps. The study helps are an intricate part of the whole translation because it is the belief of Roman Catholic leadership that laypeople should be given interpretive helps in their reading of the sacred text. The study helps in The Jerusalem Bible were translated from the French, whereas the Bible text itself was translated from the original languages, with the help of the French translation. The translation of the text produced under the editorship of Alexander Jones is considerably freer than other translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, because the translators sought to capture the meaning of the original writings in a "vigorous, contemporary literary style. The first American Catholic Bible to be translated from the original languages is The New American Bible (not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible). Although this translation was published in 1970, work had begun on this version several decades before. Prior to Pope Pius’s encyclical, an American translation of the New Testament based on the Latin Vulgate was published97known as The Confraternity Version. After the encylical, the Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the New Testament redone, based on the twenty-fifth edition of the Greek Nestle-Aland text. The New American Bible has short introductions to each book of the Bible and very few marginal notes. Kubo and Specht provide a just description of the translation itself:

The translation itself is simple, clear, and straightforward and reads very smoothly. It is good American English, not as pungent and colorful as the N.E.B. [New English Bible]. Its translations are not striking but neither are they clumsy. They seem to be more conservative in the sense that they tend not to stray from the original. That is not to say that this is a literal translation, but it is more faithful.7


In the twentieth century some very important Jewish translations of the Bible were published. The Jewish Publication Society created a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text, A New Translation (published in 1917). The preface to this translation explains its purpose:

It aims to combine the spirit of Jewish tradition with the results of biblical scholarship, ancient, medieval and modern. It gives to the  Jewish world a translation of the Scriptures done by men imbued with the Jewish consciousness, while the non-Jewish world, it is hoped, will welcome a translation that presents many passages from the Jewish traditional point of view.

In 1955 the Jewish Publication Society appointed a new committee of seven eminent Jewish scholars to make a new Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The translation called The New Jewish Version was published in 1962. A second, improved edition was published in 1973. This work is not a revision of The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text; it is a completely new translation in modern English. The translators attempted "to produce a version that would carry the same message to modern man as the original did to the world of ancient times."


The last part of the twentieth century (the 1980s and 1990s) seems to be a time for new revisions, not new translations. The general consensus among the consumers is, "We have enough translations, don’t give us any more."

Most of the publishers seem to be getting the message. Therefore, instead of publishing new translations, they are issuing new, revised editions of existing translations.

The New Revised Standard Version published in 1990 is an excellent example of this current trend. In the preface to this revision, Bruce Metzger, chairperson of the revision committee, wrote:

The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the Revised Standard Version, published in 1952, which was a revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which, in turn, embodied earlier revisions of the King James Version, published in 1611.

The need for issuing a revision of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible arises from three circumstances:

(a) the acquisition of still older Biblical manuscripts,

(b) further investigation of linguistic features of the text, and (c) changes in preferred English usage.

The three criteria specified by Metzger for the New Revised Bible translations. In the 1980s several significant revisions appeared: the New King James Version (1982); The New Jerusalem Bible (1986); The New American Bible, Revised New Testament (1986); and the Revised English Bible (1989), which is a radical revision of the New English Bible. Other translations, such as the New International Version and Today’s English Version, were also revised in 1980s but not publicized as such.


A Look at Different Ways of Translating the Bible

I believe it is important for people living in an age where there is a plethora of translations to know something about each one. When I give my lectures, I am often asked, "Which translation is the best?" Invariably I respond, "Best for what? For reading? For studying? For memorizing? And best for whom? For young people? For adults? For Protestants? For Catholics? For Jews?" My responses are not intended to be complicated; rather, they reflect the complexity of the true situation.

Whereas for some language populations, there is only one translation of the Bible, English-speaking people have hundreds of translations. Therefore, one cannot say there is one single best translation that is the most accurate.

Accuracy of translation must be assessed in terms of the kind of translation being judged. The same criteria cannot be used for a literal translation and an idiomatic translation.


There are two basic theories and/or methodologies of Bible translation.  The first has been called "Formal Equivalence." According to this theory, the translator attempts to render the exact words (hence the word formal form for form, or word for word) of the original language into the receptor language. The second has been called "dynamic equivalence" by the eminent translation theorist Eugene Nida. He has defined the ideal of translation as "the reproduction in a receptor language [i.e., English] of the closest natural equivalent of the source language [i.e., Hebrew or Greek] message, first in terms of meaning, and second in terms of style.

"Nida, therefore, believes that a translation should have the same dynamic impact upon modern readers as the original had upon its audience. He elaborates on this as follows:

1.    Dynamic equivalence is therefore to be defined in terms of the degree to which the receptors of the message in the receptor language respond to it in substantially the same manner as the receptors in the source language.  This response can never be identical, for the cultural and historical  settings are too different, but there should be a high degree of equivalence of response, or the translation will have failed to accomplish its purpose.

2.    Nida’s theory of dynamic equivalence has become a standard or ideal that many modern translators have attempted to attain. Goodspeed expressed this desire about his American Translation when he said, "I wanted my translation to make on the reader something of the impression the New Testament must have made on its earliest readers."

3.    Another way of speaking about a dynamic equivalent translation is to call it a thought-for-thought translation (as opposed to a word-for-word). Of course, to translate the thought of the original language requires that the text be interpreted accurately and then rendered in understandable idiom. Thus, the goal of any dynamic equivalent translation is for it to be exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.

A good translation must be reliable and readable that is, it must reliably replicate the meaning of the text without sacrificing its readability.  At various points in the Scriptures, there is evidence that the biblical documents were written to be read aloud, usually in public worship (see Nehemiah 8; Luke 4:16-17; 1 Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3). Undoubtedly those ancient hearers of the Word understood the message as it was delivered to them. Any translation should be just as fluent and intelligible to a modern audience. This, of course, does not mean that translation can replace interpretation of difficult passages, as in the case of the eunuch who needed Philip’s interpretation of Isaiah 53 (see Acts 8:28-35); but a  good rendering minimizes the need for unnecessary exegesis (a technical term  used by Bible scholars for "drawing out the meaning of the text").

Ever since the time of Jerome, who produced the translation known as the Latin Vulgate, there has been a debate over what is the best method to translate the Bible: the word-for-word approach or the sense-for-sense.  In a letter to a person called Pammachius, Jerome exhibited this tension when he wrote:

For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek (except in the case of the holy scriptures where even the order of the words is a mystery) I render sense for sense and not word for word.

4.          When it came to translating the Scriptures, Jerome, contrary to his normal practice, felt the compulsion to render word for word; but, as is well known, he did not always do so in the Vulgate. Yet very few would now demand it of him because most agree that strict literalism can greatly distort the original meaning. Martin Luther, the great reformer and translator of the German Bible, believed that a translator’s paramount task was to reproduce the  spirit of the author; at times this could only be accomplished by an idiomatic rendering, though when the original required it, word for word was to be used.

5.          Other translators have preferred to be very literal because they feared that in translating on a thought-for-thought basis they might alter the text according to their own subjective interpretation. Indeed, it is true that a word-for-word rendering can be executed more easily than a thought-for-thought one; for in doing the latter, the translator must  enter into the same thought as the author97and who can always know with  certainty what the author92s original, intended meaning was? Therefore, a dynamic-equivalent or thought-for-thought translation should be done by a group of scholars (to guard against personal subjectivism), who employ the best exegetical tools. In this regard, Beekman and Callow give excellent advice:

Translating faithfully involves knowing what Scripture means. This is fundamental to all idiomatic translation, and it is at this point that exegesis comes in. Toussaint, in an article in Notes on Translation, defines exegesis as follows: "Exegesis is a critical study of the Bible according to hermeneutical principles with the immediate purpose of interpreting the text." In other words, its immediate purpose is to ascertain, as  accurately as possible, using all the means available, just what the original  writer, "moved by the Holy Spirit," meant as he dictated or penned his words, phrases, and sentences. Exegesis thus lies at the heart of all translation work, for if the translator does not know what the original means, then it is impossible for him to translate faithfully.

6.    The analysis of the modern translations of the prologue to John’s Gospel (in the next chapter) will demonstrate how important exegesis is to translation. Major differences in translation come from major differences in interpretation.


Each of the modern translations that were discussed in the previous chapters was based on a particular philosophy of translation. For example, the Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible, which share a common purpose (i.e., to revise and revive the American Standard Version), are more literal than most versions. The translators often adhered to a word-for-word methodology instead of a thought-for-thought. The New Revised Standard Version is a little more "free"; in fact, the guiding concept for this revision was "as literal as possible, as free as necessary." The New International Version is even freer than The New Revised Standard Version because the translators employed a thought-for-thought approach to translation. And yet the New International Version is not as free as Today’s English Version, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised English Bible because these versions were created to be as contemporary as possible.  Of course, these are generalized observations; such exact distinctions between the translations cannot always be so clearly delineated. At times, the translations will cross over these boundaries. Nonetheless, it is possible to classify several of the modern translations as follows:


New American Standard Bible


New King James Version

Revised Standard Version

New American Bible


New Revised Standard Version


New International Version

New Jerusalem Bible

Revised English Bible

New Jewish Version

The Message


Today92s English Version


The Living Bible

A modern English reader (or student) of the Bible would do well to use five or six translations97one in each category listed above. For example, I use the New American Standard Bible and the New Revised Standard Version for detailed word studies, the New International Version and New Jerusalem Bible for general study, and The Living Bible for reading pleasure. Other readers would make different selections from the various categories, depending on their needs and preferences. Those who use one translation exclusively would be enriched if they used a few others. This is especially true for those who are King James Version enthusiasts. They would discover that their Bible reading would be infused with fresh life and new light if they read a modern version.

In selecting a translation of the Bible, the consumer should always make sure that the translation was based on the latest, most authoritative texts.

Preferably, the Old Testament should have basically followed Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the New Testament, the United Bible Societies third edition of the Greek New Testament. Many of the modern versions reflect these standard texts; whereas translations such as the King James Version and even the New King James are based on an inferior Greek text.

Finally, it must always be remembered that translations are nothing more than translations; they are not the same as the Bible in the original languages. Not one translation has been "inspired" by God in the same way the original text was. For those who want to read the Bible as it is in the original, inspired languages, they should learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Those who do not learn these languages have to depend on translations. I can read the New Testament in Greek, but I cannot read the Old Testament in Hebrew. I have to rely on various translations of the Old Testament.  Notice I used the plural, "translations," not the singular, because I believe it is imperative for modern English readers to use several of the available English versions. By using different translations the reader can acquire a fuller understanding of the meaning of the original text.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.  Once you have decided on a Bible or version let me know what it is and I will get it for you.

Serving Him,


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