Which Translation?

Newcomers to the Bible often ask which translation they should read.  If we could read Hebrew and Greek it wouldn’t matter, but most of us don’t.  I do not know of a bad English translation of the Bible.  I therefore recommend them all.  More to the point, I say that the translation that you can read and understand is better than a translation you do not read or cannot understand.

There are numerous English translations and each one exists for a slightly different reason.  Nevertheless, they can generally be plotted across a continuum from “literal” at one end and “paraphrase” at the other.  (Sometimes, the ones in the middle are called “dynamic equivalence.”)  When I first started reading the Bible, I used a paraphrase because it seemed easier to understand.  As I became more interested in studying the Bible, I moved to a literal translation because I wanted to have the sense that I was as close as possible to the original words.

The version I rely most on is the New American Standard Bible.  Other literal translations include the older King James version and the newer English Standard Version.  Another advantage of literal translations is that they allow the use of Strong’s concordance.  Such a concordance not only indexes every word in the Bible but indexes the Hebrew and Greek root words that underlie the English words.  It’s not as good as being able to read Hebrew or Greek, but it’s still helpful.

Again, I recommend all English translations.  If you have a version you are reading and understanding (especially if you are believing and obeying it), by all means stick with it.  If, over time, you decide to change versions because you find one you can understand better, that’s a good thing, too. 

(You can sample different versions at links supplied in Online Bibles.)

4 Replies to “Which Translation?”

  1. There is what some people think as a translation but the translator and the publisher sheepishly say it’s a paraphrase. If fact, it is not even a paraphrase, but a wholesale rewriting, worse than a second rate trash sermons. It’s Eugene Peterson’s MESSAGE. It carries Peterson’s own message, not the Biblical message. I don’t have quote examples to show but just compare with any other to see what it really is up to.

      1. I see that Ounbbl did not reply. I do not have any examples of Peterson’s Message Bible right here with me. Occasionally, he seems off base a little. Most of the time, however, he really gets to the point in colloquial language. Sometimes in our church the reading is actually taken from the Message because it makes a point so accurately.

        However, Mike, I must say I am really happy to hear from you that it is good that we read any translation of the Bible rather than not reading any. I have heard, however, that the Mormons, have changed the KJV in ways that are not Christian. I have not read their version of the KJV.

        The first translation I started reading was somewhat colloquial, and if I had not started with that one, I probably would not have gone on to read and study the Bible.

        Thank you.

        1. Sometimes a denomination or sect produces its own version of the Bible. Such versions, to the degree that they corrupt the text in order to promulgate pet doctrines – would indeed be suspect. However, there are many, many English translations of the Bible which do not fall into this category.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.