“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” King David, Psalm 119:72, NKJV
Millions of people echo David’s sentiments here about the law of the Lord. Isn’t it amazing, that with all of David’s wealth, nothing was more valuable to him than the word of God, not even silver and gold? The word of God is absolutely rich! It’s filled with treasures that bring about strength, hope, comfort and salvation. Therefore our desire to hear the riches of “what thus sayeth the Lord” makes our Bible translation choice of utmost importance.
YOUR TRANSLATION MATTERS
The entire purpose of studying the Bible is to understand what God has said. Prior to 1881 there was very little choice in English Bibles as the only one available was the King James Version. Today we have a myriad of English Bibles that vary in style, translation method and approach which leads to the valid question: Which translation should I use to study? To answer that question, we should understand 3 types of Bibles we commonly find today.
Paraphrase Bibles use a restatement of the text or passage in its author’s own words to lend understanding to a modern audience. Have you ever heard someone restate a phrase stating: “well in other words, what you’re saying is…” This exemplifies the method used in Paraphrase Bibles. The passage is rephrased in the author’s own words. With that comes the risk of introducing the author’s own biases, perspectives, ideas and theology into the Scripture. A Paraphrase Bible does not translate the Bible from its original languages –Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It does not complete the painstaking work of studying the ancient fragments, manuscripts and copies of the Bible then translating them from their original languages to English. Therefore, a paraphrase Bible is considered among the least accurate translations. Consider how a paraphrase Bible can significantly alter the meaning of Scripture from E. Peterson’s translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in The Message. He paraphrased the verses like this: “Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.” This translation omits a lot, including: homosexuality, idolatry, greed and intoxication. In addition, it adds a phrase not in the original text at all, “use and abuse the earth.” Always keep in mind when using a Paraphrase Bible that it’s not translated, instead it’s paraphrased. Don’t mistake it for being more than what it is. Examples of Paraphrase Bibles include: New International Reader’s Version, Good News Translation/Good News Bible, The Living Bible, and The Message.
Thought for thought bibles use a method of translation called “dynamic equivalence”, which attempts to convey the thoughts expressed from a passage using equivalent expressions. The goal of a thought for thought translation is to translate the intended meanings of the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, rather than each individual word. Thought for thought translations are very easy to read since they examine the whole sentence and do their best to translate it to an easily understood unit. In other words, they rearrange the order of words, (which may have a different syntax in the original language) to the order that makes the most sense to a modern English-speaking audience. Thought for thought bibles are great for modern understanding, however a word of caution may be warranted in doing word studies in both paraphrase and thought for thought translations. Given the translators often use their own words, not necessarily the English equivalent of the original, word studies in these translations may lead the reader astray. Examples of thought for thought bibles include: Holman Christian Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Bible, New International Version, and the New Living Translation.
The word for word translations of the bible use an approach to translation called formal equivalence, also called a literal translation. Word for word bibles aim to translate each word from the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts as accurately as possible. It leaves the least opportunity for personal inflection or bias in Bible translations. However, it can be more difficult for the modern English speaker. A phrase that made sense in ancient Israel may not make sense to us today. Still word for word translations get as close to the original text as you can get. And they are very beneficial for word studies that can unlock a deeper meaning of a passage. Examples of word for word translations include: New American Standard Bible, Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, King James Version, New King James Version
As you dig for your own treasure in the word of God, don’t forget the importance considering the right tool, a good Bible translation.
by Rachel Robertson