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I got a request from an e-mailer to blog on translations. This is the first one of such posts.
are a number of good translations available, and there are advocates
for each one, and they use a variety of reasons for why they are
advocates for one over another. I think there is a quick and generally
useful question to ask, and the answer to that question can determine
which translation to use. But before that, a good book, like Gordon Fee, Mark Strauss is a great investment: How to Choose A Translation for All Its Worth
The question is this: “What is my purpose in reading the Bible?”
I want to do careful study of the Bible in English, even down to the
point of diagramming sentences, then specific translations will be
better; if I want to choose a Bible that will be good for reading the
Bible in large chunks, then I would choose another; if I want a Bible
that is good for public reading, then yet another. So, the question
“What is my purpose?” is very important and can usually settle the
So, let me answer this question with translations that are best for specific questions.
1. If you want to study the Bible technically, you want a more literal translation
KJV, ASV (1901), NASB, RSV and NRSV.
2. If you want to read the Bible in larger chunks, and so want a readable, smooth translation:
NIV and TNIV, Living Bible, New Living Translation
3. If you want a Bible that is really good for public reading:
KJV, NRSV, NIV and TNIV, NLT; in England many use the NEB
4. If you want a Bible that is sensitive to gender inclusivity:
Now, you may ask this question of me: “Which do you prefer?” The answer is the same, “It depends on my purpose.”
said that, for eleven years I have carried the NRSV to class (along
with the JPS Tanakh, which has Hebrew and the JPS English translation). The last three years I chose to carry the TNIV, the Today’s NIV
translation. Why? Because I support the attempt to make the Bible
readable for as many as possible and no more offensive than it needs to
be. I think the notes on the Christ vs. Messiah and the “adoption to
sonship” issue are overcooked notes, but I still think this is the best
and most readable translation we have today for a classroom setting.
And I really like the new TNIV Thinline Bible: Burgandy/Pecan European Leather (Today’s New International Version)
, with two-color (maroon and
brown) leather is a handsome thing to carry. (Now, if all publishers would just
jettison the idea that the words of Jesus need to be in red.)