Hello and welcome to my study on “Understanding Bible Translations”
If you have ever been confused on all the different Bible translations and which one you should use, your not alone. When studying the Bible, especially the prophetic side of scripture, it is important to have a good understanding of the different translations and why there are so many.
As prophecy students, we have to keep an open mind in regards to studying context, looking at many different translation styles to help us understand the full meaning of the text. Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages, and finding the right one for you requires an understanding of what each style brings to the table. Here is a brief description of each:
There are three translations styles that are used to interpret the Bible into English: Essentially Literal, Dynamic Functional, and Paraphrase.
Essentially Literal Translations:
This translation uses a word-for-word style of interpretation. Here, the translators keep the interpreted text as close as feasibly possible to the original text, only adding in certain words or phrases to allow for modern readability.
This translation can be harder to understand for the everyday reader due to its literal closeness to the original text, which was written thousands of years ago. But for in-depth study of biblical context and doctrines, this translation is preferred for that very same reason. Word-for-word translations are considered the most accurate to the original text.
Examples of word-for-word translations are:
- New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- King James Version (KJV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
- Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Dynamic Functional Translations:
This style takes a different route than the more literal translations, being that they translate what the original text says using a thought-for-thought style of interpretation. Here the translator will try to ‘convey’ the thought of the original text and translate it into modern English, but still keeping the style that the original author intended.
The advantage of this style is that it caters to the modern reader, making it easier to understand. This is sometimes preferred for the everyday reader, given that the overall message is typically the same for both translations. But the disadvantage is that at times, you are reading the translators interpretation and not what the original text says.
Examples of Dynamic Functional Translations are:
- New International Version (NIV)
- New English Translation (NET)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
This style of interpretation is actually not a translation at all. Where a translation attempts to interpret what the original text ‘says,’ paraphrasing attempts to interpret what the original text ‘means,’ making it more of a personal commentary than an actual translation.
For example look at 1 Kings 20:11 using a translation vs a paraphrase:
Then the king of Israel answered and said, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.’” (1 Kings 20:11 NASB)
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. (1 Kings 20:11 The Living Bible)
As you can see, in no way does this translate the original words of the text. Remember, the original text are Gods very words (2 Timothy 3:16) making them absolute and our authority (Matt 4:4). So with accurate translations of the original text, your allowing God to speak to you through His word, but with paraphrasing, you relying on man to tell you what ‘he’ thinks God is saying.
Examples of Paraphrases:
- The Message
- The Living Bible
So now that you understand the three styles of translations, your next question may be, “Why are there so many different Bible translations?”
The King James Version (published in 1611) is probably one of the most well known translations today due to its popularity and loyal fan base. But since 1611, the English language has changed drastically. Many words we use today had a completely different meaning 400 years ago. This is reflected in our earlier English Bible translations including the King James Version. Therefore newer translations where necessary to account for language barriers.
Another reason for so many different translations is preference. Bible scholars,
The last reason is that in the past few hundred years, especially this last century, new manuscripts have been discovered. Because of this, newer translations have been published to reflect this information. Though many companies elected not to revise their translations based off of these newer manuscripts, due to the fact that much of it did not really bring enough change to make a difference.
So now you may be wondering which specific translation you should use? Again, this all depends on what you are using it for, either deep study or casual reading. I currently study out of the NASB due to its strict adherence to the original text, but I always keep a handy NIV close by for reference. My suggestion would be to not limit yourself. If God intended to preserve His word into the translations we have today, then I would take full advantage of what we have and use it all to expand our understanding of Him.
I hope that after this, you have a better grasp of Bible translations, therefore able to further your understanding of Gods word.
Please email me if you have any questions regarding the information I just shared. You can find my contact information under the “contact” tab on my homepage.
And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..