One of the things we want to do at the Parbar is throw our voices in on things good and things bad and things we recommend. So, consider this a little primer in that category: which Bible translation do you recommend?
It is usually well known that a translation of the Bible attempts to do one of two things. Either a translation will seek to bring the Hebrew and Greek over in a more literal manner, a word-for-word translation. Or a translation will attempt to bring the Hebrew and Greek over in a thought-for-thought manner.
I prefer the word-for-word philosophy of translation because it leaves interpretation up to the church, or the individual. The thought-for-thought philosophy of translation begins interpretation with the translators attempting to give you Paul’s thoughts, rather than Paul’s words, and this can be dangerous and messy. So, I recommend sticking with the more literal translations and avoiding such things as The Message.
Another consideration in Bible translation is manuscript traditions. There are two traditions, one tradition is older, and the other is larger. This is can be messy to sort through, and I am not qualified to do it at the moment, but I trust good and godly men who have, and so should you. Some people see the one textual tradition as divinely inspired and the other as demonic. Some bifurcate the church because this church uses the larger tradition and that church uses the older tradition. Well, that shouldn’t be. God gave us both textual traditions, so receive them.
A third consideration is the authority behind the translation. Many translation are owned by businesses with copyrights and so on. What happens when the public purchases of your Fandangled translation start slipping? Oh! I know, have the New Revised Fandangled translation (which usually just means it went liberal in certain places). For some translations the driving force of translation is Mammon, rather than the glory of the King. Translation is done by public opinion rather than faithfulness. Because, you know, the general public will be upset when Paul addresses the church as “brothers,” so let us add “brothers and sisters.” Well, that is adding what isn’t there. This is my paragraph lamenting the fact that the church no longer owns the Bible.
Anyway, with these considerations I will give my three recommendations for Bible translations.
I primarily use the New King James translation of the Bible. The NKJV is translated with the word-for-word philosophy behind it, all the while attempting to retain the beauty of the Hebrew literary structures. This translation also incorporates both textual traditions (the older and the larger) which you can find in the footnotes throughout the Bible. I also like this translation because the translators have decided to capitalize divine pronouns. In some places this effort is an interpretation of the text (I admit), because in some passages it is ambiguous who is talking, just peruse some of the Psalms. Another reason for using the NKJV is that the translators want the readers to know when they have inserted words into the Bible that are not there in the Hebrew and Greek and they alert this to your attention by placing those words in italics. This is very helpful and not all translations do it.
My second recommendation would be the 1599 Geneva Bible. This is the Bible of the Reformation and of the Puritans. This is the Bible that influenced the founding of America as it found its way over the sea tucked under the arms of the sailors on the Mayflower. I also prefer this translation over the King James because I do not believe a king has the authority to demand a translation of the Bible to be made. That’s simply weird. King James did not like the Geneva Bible, so perhaps we should! The 1599 Geneva Bible is also a lot fun to read because it is the first study Bible ever printed and who doesn’t want to read notes on the Scriptures from the reformers in Geneva? I also appreciate this translation because the Geneva translators were not afraid to talk about unicorns, dragons, satyrs, or goblins.
And my third recommendation is the English Standard Version. This translation is more readable than the NKJV, which is helpful for reading aloud, but it misses the textual tradition that the NKJV includes, doesn’t capitalize divine pronouns, and the text does not alert you with italicized words when the translators add them here and there.
These are my recommendations, and the authors here at the Parbar actually use different translations than the ones I mentioned and they have different reasons for doing so. I make this known to show that your piety is not determined by which translation you use (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, and so on) and neither are fellowship and unity defined by a translation of the Bible. Good Christians can disagree on things.
We are always seeking to understand what the authors of the Bible said. We love the Word and want to understand it and apply it to the church and the world better.
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