People ask, “Which is the best Bible translation?” My answer is “all of them.” It is my opinion that a good Bible study method is to use multiple translations.
My favourite is the New Living Translation and that is the one I use at church but for personal study. I recently was reading Philip Ryken’s promotion for the ESV version (he fully discloses that his father, Leyland Ryken, was on the team of scholars producing the ESV) since it is a word for word translation based on the original RSV version. He points out the shortcomings of both the NLT and the TNIIV. However, my point in this article is that all English bibles have shortcomings and all English Bibles reflect a translation philosophy (functional v. formal equivalence). Therefore, in light of the times we live in, why limit yourself to one English version of the Bible. I believe that there are some good reasons to use multiple translations.
Here are three reasons:
1. Computer technology makes it possible to easily study from a variety of Bible translations and this is very helpful in personal Bible study. Although some Bible versions are more paraphrases than translations, they are what I call “immediate commentaries” on a passage of scripture. What I mean by immediate commentary is that the translator is speaking directly about how they think the text itself should be understood as opposed to the further process of then adding interpretation and commentary to the meaning of the text. Immediate commentaries, like paraphrases, although still subjective, stay closer to the Bible meaning in my opinion. For your own free Bible study tool, visit Bible Gateway or YouVersion.
2. Every English translation has inherent limitations. All English Bibles have the limitation of the English language. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek using more than 11,000 different words. Most English Bibles translate the scriptures using only about 6,000 words. Because of this, nuances from the original language can get overlooked. Comparing from various translations helps to bring these nuances to light.
3. The purpose of reading the Bible is personal understanding of God’s truth. We must never forget that the principal purpose of words is communication. Jesus Christ who is the incarnate Word of God looked and acted like a man of his time. In the same way, the written Word of God was inspired in the everyday languages of the people who first received it.
Since the Greek of the New Testament differed from the older Greek of the classical Athenian writers, scholars long thought it a special “Holy Ghost” dialect. With the discoveries of ancient documents, we now realize that New Testament Greek differs from the classical because it was the common, somewhat simplified, dialect spread by the conquering Alexander the Great. Therefore, we encourage followers to use new translations that more clearly communicate the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek. And there is evidence that understanding of God’s Word is significantly enhanced by modern versions.
For example, the principal of a major Christian school in Maryland carefully tested more than 300 students in grades four through eight in schools in three states. He compared the King James (modified by paragraphing, repunctuations, and modernization of the most blatant archaisms), the New American Standard, and the New International. In every school, at every grade level, and on each of the four kinds of tests, the New International proved to communicate the best, the King James least so, and the New American Standard half-way between. And that despite the regular usage of the King James in home and school by most of the students. Those without such a background could be expected to fare worse.
For example, researchers at Georgia State University compared the readability of the Good News Bible, the Revised Standard, and the King James. The Good News came out notably better than either of the more traditional versions. Indeed, researchers found the RSV and KJV in key respects to resemble the instructions for Federal Income Tax forms.
We understand the written Word of God best when we read and hear it in our own language—in the vernacular of the day. The gap between what we read in the Bible and what we face in secular culture is wide enough without confronting the reader with an unfamiliar vocabulary and archaic grammar.
For a brief overview of translation philosophy and a description of each translation click HERE.
BIBLE RESOURCES THAT MAY HELP YOU
About the Bible
How The Bible Came To Us
The History of the Bible
Our English Bible
The Development of the English Bible
The Original Languages of the Bible
How Did We Get Chapters and Verses?
Bible Versions Comparison Chart