Why So Many Translations?

Many people wonder why there are so many English translations and agonize about it. They often say, “Why don’t we put these resources into making translations for other languages?” Have you thought that the scholars that are working on English translations don’t know those other languages? Do you expect them to go out and learn them? You may say yes, of course. Then why don’t you? (You who think this way.)

Another spurious reason is money. I think this is quite an accusation. Do you really think all those translators and publishers are money grubbers and get rich off of them?

I’m just thankful we have them and pray that God will bring people up who are talented enough and have the ambition to translate the Bible in languages that need it. Otherwise, I don’t wring my hands over it. I’m just thankful for what we have. There are other things to be more upset about–meaning how many English Bible translations we have.

But for those who do wonder about this, consider what Henry Clarence Thiessen had to say in Should New Testament Greek Be “Required” in Our Ministerial Training Courses? (PDF File)

Perhaps we should stop to inquire as to the reason for the many translations. Is it because of pecuniary reward or the ambition for honor? Possibly these considerations may enter in somewhat in some cases; but the writer believes that there is a deeper reason than that. It seems to him that scholar after scholar has felt that all existing translations fall short in many instances of giving the exact shade of meaning in the original. Becoming fascinated with the richness of meaning in the Greek text, he has yielded to the impulse to try to improve on the existing renderings, and so has added his own version. Thus the presence of the many English translations in reality argues for the insufficiency of translations when one is concerned about absolute accuracy in his study.

Since this was written in 1934, maybe we can say that the above is now less of a reason than before, but it still may give some insight as to why new translations are still being published.

I’m glad, albeit for selfish reasons, that the translators and publisher of God’s Word translation decided to do yet another one. It’s the first translation where I feel like I’m not reading a translation, but just the Bible in English, even if it has what I think are a couple of major flaws. But that’s quite a few less than any other translation for me. Say what you want about the convoluted-grammar/archaic-vocabulary translations being more “accurate”. I love my Bible and read it everyday.

7 Responses to “Why So Many Translations?”

  1. 1 Gary Zimmerli

    Jeff, I think it’s just as much a reason as it was back in 1934, we’re just farther down the line now, with many more translations. And I think that’s the best reason I’ve read for having more translations. All these translations we see have come about because someone wanted to provide the reader with the very best translation of the Bible, or at least of a particular type of Bible, and of course that goes back to translation philosophy. The ESV translator isn’t trying to give us the best functional equivalence translation, for example.

  2. 2 Stan McCullars

    I like how you put it back on the complainers. Let THEM learn the other languages. Classic!!!

  3. 3 Scripture Zealot

    Gary, that’s a good point about there seem to be more translation philosophies, or at least more nuances within them.

    Thanks Stan. Glad to see you here again.

  4. 4 tom

    LOVE the God’s Word Translation!!

    Are they updating it? What is the new translation you are referring?

    I really do love the God’s Word translation. It reads well! Not too easy or too hard. Just right.

  5. 5 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Tom,
    I meant that I’m glad that the publishers of God’s Word decided to do their translation in the first place, even though there are so many others out there. There’s nothing new that I know of. Nice to hear of someone else who likes it.

  6. 6 Nikki

    I, too, like the God’s Word translation. My sister in law got it for me many years ago and it is one of the top 3 translations that I read frequently. If you don’t have this already, another excellent translation is Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded New Testament.
    Grace and peace,

  7. 7 Scripture Zealot

    That sounds familiar. Thanks for the reminder.

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