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Important Resources For The Bible Student (No.1)

June 2,2013

Important Resources For The Bible Student (No.1)

There are certain indispensable resources that every serious student of the Bible needs for the correct interpretation of the sacred writings. Why? Because there are words that need to be defined, concepts that need to be understood, and passages that need to be explained and applied for the spiritual well-being of the soul.

The first indispensable resource is an accurate translation of the
scriptures. Translations may be generally categorized as follows:

  • modified-literal,
  • idiomatic, and
  • paraphrase.

The modified-literal translations are those that follow the “word for word” approach when possible. They attempt to reflect closeness to the original text. They sometimes retain the word order of the Hebrew and Greek texts. This makes them difficult to read in many passages because Hebrew and Greek word order is not identical to English structure. Examples of the modified-literal translations are-

  • American Standard Version-1901;
  • Revised Standard Version-1971;
  • New American Standard Version-1995; and
  • English Standard Version-2011.

The idiomatic versions are those that seek to express the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek texts in modem understandable English. They try to be modified-literal when possible, but they do not hesitate to explain or “interpret” the text when necessary. All translations, even the “modified-literal” ones have some degree of translation. The idiomatic versions simply contain more “interpretation.” Why? Because their main point of focus is to enable the reader to read and understand the text in up to date English. Examples of idiomatic translations are-

  • New International Version-2011;
  • New Living Translation;
  • New Revised Standard Version-1989, and
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible-2009.

The paraphrases are generally expansions of the text in that they aim to “restate” passages in another way in order to clarify meaning. This is not necessarily or inherently a bad approach, though when they miss the meaning of a passage they usually miss it badly. It is like a blind hunter shooting where he thinks the rabbit is instead of shooting where the rabbit really is. Every translation contains some degree of paraphrase. Examples of paraphrases are-

  • The Living Bible;
  • The Contemporary English Version;
  • The New Century Version, and
  • The Message.

Occasionally, the paraphrases give a “fresh” or memorable “take” on a passage of scripture.

The serious student of the Bible should have at least one of each type of the aforementioned English translations. But a person’s main Bible should be one that is modified-literal for several reasons: they tend to be close to the Hebrew and Greek in form. Modified-literal versions are a good backbone for the Bible student. The ASV-1901 is probably the best of such versions. It is difficult to buy a new ASV because to my knowledge no major publisher sells it. For this reason the ESV and the NASB are good second choices. The NIV-2011 is probably the best of the idiomatic versions. It is eminently readable and generally accurate. The paraphrases are a tossup. Six for one and a half dozen of the others.

Ron Daly

For more teaching on crucial issues visit the following blogs:

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Bible Translations and Young Preachers

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bible Translations and Young Preachers

I am frequently asked by young preachers, “Which translation do you recommend that I use in my preaching?”  This  is a  great question and  it comes  from  young  men  who  are  conscientious  about  their  work as servants  of  the most  high God. It indicates that they want to use the best texts available in their study, teaching, and life application.

First, we must lay some groundwork.

No translation of the sacred scriptures is without flaws. All of them were translated by human beings, and they reflect the background, training, and deficiencies of the hands that made them. Therefore, do not go on the hunt for the perfect translation. It’s not out there.

I strongly  believe  preachers  should  use more  than one translation for study. The “backbone” translation should be one of the modified-literal texts. Why?  The  modified-literal  translations will  stay  close  to  the  Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. They will give you some idea of what is going on in the original text. Simply put, if you do not have any background in Hebrew and Greek, modified-literal versions will get you as close as possible to those languages short of studying the original languages of scripture.

Another reason for using versions of this kind is the fact that those of us who believe in the verbal inspiration of scripture, put emphasis on the very words of the text (1 Cor. 2:13) Most modified-literal versions try to bring as much from the original languages into English as possible.

The reigning “king” of the modified-literal versions is the ASV-1901. In my judgment, it edges out the NASB most of the time. The NASB is based on a slightly better text, and uses a more modern vocabulary, but many times the best translation in the NASB is found in the footnotes! I have found this to be true quite often. The NASB’s strength is in the fact that it attempts to show  “verbal action,”  but  that  is not all there is to accuracy in translation. Many  times  this  becomes  artificial  and  is  often inconsistently executed. Nevertheless, if a person cannot find a usable copy of the ASV, the NASB is probably a good alternative.

There  are  translations  that  stand between the very literal ASV and the so-called dynamic equivalent versions. This middle ground is occupied by the RSV, ESV, NRSV, and the HCSB. On the whole the ESV is probably the best though the NRSV is not too far behind. The main flaw of the NRSV is its attempt to be “gender inclusive” which   sometimes causes it to butcher English and change the text. The RSV  is not as bad as is often alleged.

There are also versions that are “dynamic equivalent” or more idiomatic in  their  approach  to  translating  God’s  word. There  is a place for such translations. They often  complement  the  more literal  versions. They are usually  easy  to  read  and  can  open  the  door  to good  exegesis  and understanding.  The New International Version (NIV),  New Living Translation (NLT), and Today’s New International Version  (TNIV) fall into this category.

Young  preachers would do well to have copies of the ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, NRSV, and TNIV in their library. They should diligently  study and  compare them. By doing so, they will have the benefits of broad based scholarship. Learn to note the differences among them and ask “Why do they differ?” Do your research in order to determine the  reasons for the disparity  in  their  renderings. If  you  will use several translations in your study, they will serve to “balance and counter balance” each other. The best all-around version is probably the ESV. It is basically the RSV updated and sometimes corrected by conservative scholars.

dalys new testament project blog
Copyright 2011

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