I got a request from an e-mailer to blog on translations. This is the first one of such posts.
There are a number of good translations available, and there are advocates for each one, and they use a variety of reasons for why they are advocates for one over another. I think there is a quick and generally useful question to ask, and the answer to that question can determine which translation to use.
The question is this: “What is my purpose?”
If I want to do careful study of the Bible in English, even down to the point of diagramming sentences, then specific translations will be better; if I want to choose a Bible that will be good for reading the Bible in large chunks, then I would choose another; if I want a Bible that is good for public reading, then yet another. So, the question “What is my purpose?” is very important and can usually settle the question.
So, let me answer this question with translations that are best for specific questions.
1. If you want to study the Bible technically, you want a more literal translation
KJV, ASV (1901), NASB, RSV and NRSV.
2. If you want to read the Bible in larger chunks, and so want a readable, smooth translation:
NIV and TNIV, Living Bible, New Living Translation
3. If you want a Bible that is really good for public reading:
KJV, NRSV, NIV and TNIV, NLT; in England many use the NEB
4. If you want a Bible that is sensitive to gender inclusivity:
Now, you may ask this question of me: “Which do you prefer?” The answer is the same, “It depends on my purpose.”
Having said that, for eleven years I have carried the NRSV to class (along with the JPS Tanakh, which has Hebrew and the JPS English translation). This Fall I am beginning to carry the TNIV, the Today’s NIV translation. Why? Because I support the attempt to make the Bible readable for as many as possible and no more offensive than it needs to be. I think the notes on the Christ vs. Messiah and the “adoption to sonship” issue are overcooked notes, but I still think this is the best and most readable translation we have today for a classroom setting. And I really like the new TNIV Thinline, with two-color (maroon and brown) leather is a handsome thing to carry. (Now, if they’d all jettison the idea that the words of Jesus need to be in red.)
Tomorrow, I’ll blog on translation theory (and do my best to avoid the technical discussions).