Monday, September 15, 2008

Which translation is best?

Duvall and Hays suggest guidelines for choosing a translation. This is a direct quote from their book, Grasping God’s Word, which I find to be readable and practical and at the same time scholarly.

First, choose a translation that uses modern English. The whole point of making a translation is to move the message to the original to a language you can understand. History teaches us that languages change over time, and English is no exception. The English of John Wycliffe’s day or of 1611 is simply not the same as the English of the twenty-first century. There is little to be gained by translating a Greek or Hebrew text into a kind of English that you no longer use and can no longer comprehend. For that reason, we recommend that you choose among the many good translations that have appeared within 50 years.

Second, choose a translation that is based on the standard Hebrew and Greek text. The standard for the Old Testament is the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). For the New Testament the standard text is reflected in the latest edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (GNT) or the Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece. Along with the majority of scholars, we much prefer an ecletic original text rather than the Textus Receptus used by KJV and the NKJV.

Third, give preference to a translation by a committee over against a translation by individual. Translating requires an enormous amount of knowledge and skill. A group of qualified translators will certainly possess more expertise than any one translator possibly could. In addition, a group of scholars will usually guard against the tendency of individual scholars to read their own personal biases into their translation.

Lastly, choose a translation that is appropriate for your own particular purpose at the time. When you want to read devotionally or read to children, consider a simplified, functional translation such as the New Living Translation or the New Century Version. If you are reading to nontraditional or unchurched people, consider the Contemporary English Version or The Message. If you are reading to people with English as a second language, consider the Good News Bible. If you are reading to a “King –James-only” church, consider the New King James. But for your own personal study, we suggest the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, Today’s International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, or the NET Bible.
English-speaking people have rich resources before them to compare different translations and have better opportunity to look at the best possible meaning of a particular passage according to its context. Bible translations in other languages remain limited to one or two translations. Only those who know English could point out the nuances and the discrepancies of the Bible’s translations in their own language. This makes it necessary to teach the students to learn at least English if not Hebrew or Greek. This is one of the many struggles of a Bible teacher trying to teach the local people to interpret the Bible.


Lori Vernon said...

So true! Not to mention all the amazing resources that we have in English... commentaries, concordances, lexicons..etc, etc.

Joey said...

Hi Lori,

Thanks for the visit.

Yes, just thinking about those tools resources in English make us think the necessity of teaching the language.

It seems a waste of time to teach them Bible study methods which are based on English language (worldview as well)when we have our doubts if what we are teaching them will be appropriate to their language.

Another alternative is for us to become expert with their language.