Tag Archive for 'Translations'

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.

Top Bible Translations

Since I’ve been posting so little I’m going to resort to commenting on other people’s posts. Or at least this one. For those who may be somewhat new to translations/versions of the Bible, Rick Mansfield wrote a very detailed and helpful Top Ten Bible Versions: Revisited (2010) which has links to reviews he did of most of these translations in 2006.

In case you’d like to know what I like (not that it matters), it’s very similar to him.

His list:
1. Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
2. New Living Translation (NLT)
3. NET Bible (New English Translation)
4. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5. New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6. Good News Translation (AKA Today’s English Version; GNT/TEV)
7. The Message
8. New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
9. Revised English Bible (REB)
10. Today’s New International Version (TNIV)


The King James Version, English Standard Version, The Modern Language Bible, God’s Word.


My top 9:

His 1 and 2 are my primary and secondary.

I like the NET but some of it reads a little strange for me and I don’t like replacing fear (of God) with respect and awe, although I always use it for comparison. I love the concept of the fear of God. It would go to about eight for me even though it’s fine I’m sure.

NRSV is my #3 and was my main translation for three years prior to switching to the HCSB and NLT combo last year.

I still like the NASB also. I’ll take that over the ESV.

I also like the GNB (GNT on his list–I like to use the older GNB designation, Good News Bible, so that it doesn’t get confused with the Greek New Testament). Gordon Fee seems to like this translation as his go-to dynamic version in some of his commentaries.

I would put The Message at #9 for comparison purposes only. If you look real hard you’ll find a good verse or two.

Then I would have TNIV at #6 (NIV was my main translation for over two decades–maybe I’m tired of it) and REB at #7 (its predecessor, the NEB, was F.F. Bruce’s go-to dynamic translation from what I saw) which is a great literary translation. That makes nine.

But I mainly wanted to point out Rick Mansfield’s post and the links he has to his prior reviews in case anyone new to this kind of thing wants to go look it up.

Differences Between Translations

If you haven’t been subscribed to the NLT blog since they’ve been quiet, Mark D. Taylor will be doing a series called Differences Between Translations.

I’m beginning here an occasional series of posts in which I’ll explore some of the differences between the NLT and other translations. Specifically, I’ll look at underlying differences between dynamic equivalence (DE) translations and formal equivalence (FE) translations, which are also called ‘word-for-word’ or ‘essentially literal’ translations.

An open letter to John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and John Piper

Please stop commenting on Bible translations!

Many can obviously see this isn’t your area of expertise.

Thank you,
Jeff at Scripture Zealot

Barack Obama and the TNIV by John Piper

ESV onlyism and Sproul at Suzanne’s Bookshelf

Edit March 5, 2011: I now believe open letters are kind of dumb. I was going to remove the post–one reason being there’s a 99.9% chance they won’t even see this. But with all the comments, I think I’ll leave it. It still stands because they keep making blunders.

The Department of Redundancy Department

Somebody on the Bible translation mailing list mentioned this verse but for a different reason than what I’m writing about.

Matthew 19:12 TNIV
For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others have been made eunuchs; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.

I noticed how accept is mentioned twice and sounds redundant in a way but it really is the same two words in the Greek as far as I can tell. The more formal translations retain the use of the same word whether it’s receive or accept.

Matthew 19:12 ESV
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.

The more dynamic translations make it sound less redundant.

Matthew 19:12 GNB
For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.

Matthew 19:12 NLT
Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

I like the idea of keeping the same word just because that’s how it is but is there any meaning lost in the more dynamic translations? I tend not to think so at first glance.

Being sick today I wanted to just write a quick post and you can discuss if you’d like. I’m not being critical of either translation style.

Top Ten Bible Translations

I hope you didn’t think I was going to give you my top ten translations.

My top five reasons for not listing my top ten translations.

  1. I don’t think others care or should care what my top ten translations are.
  2. I’m not qualified to judge which ones are the best.
  3. Related to number 2, it would mainly be my preference, which is what most top ten lists are anyway, which is what Douglas Mangum at Biblia Hebraica asserts.
  4. I’m determined not to be a “fan” of any one translation which would be my #1 translation.
  5. There are only two translations I’ve read all the way through.

I do think that for someone who is interested in choosing or switching, the top ten lists can be educational. Some that I have seen are:

Any others?

Other Blogs: General Thoughts on Translations

These are a little old and many of you have seen them but I thought I would point them out for those who haven’t.

Who Translated the New Living Translation? (And More Thoughts on Advocating English Translations) – Internet Monk (good comments too)

Speaking of the NLT, here is a feature on their web site where you can easily look up popular verses/passages. There are so many familiar passages making it easy to get a good feel for it. There are also three in-depth comparisons.

Update: And a newer post on the NLT.

One “Best” Translation? – living the crucified life (ironically, most of the comments may be contrary to what the post is about)

Colossians Translation Comparisons – 2

If you haven’t seen it, the first post is here.

I don’t really have any comments on this second comparison. I just like it. Except for one thing I notice about the Lattimore is that he’s not afraid to let Paul’s run-on sentences to be run-on sentences. He doesn’t seem to put as many periods in as other translations, although this isn’t the best example of that.

First the standard, which I like a lot also.

Colossians 1:9-12 NRSV
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Colossians 1:9-12 Lattimore
Therefore we also, since the day we heard about you, never cease from praying for you. We pray that you may be fulfilled in your understanding of his will, in full wisdom and spiritual comprehension; so as to act in a manner worthy of the Lord and always pleasing to him, productive in every good work and increasing in your understanding of God; empowered with every power, by the supremacy of his glory, to be always steadfast and joyfully enduring, thankful to the father who made you fit for your share in the fortune of the saints, in the light.