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:
- idiomatic, and
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.