Yesterday, we began a discussion about Bible translations. There are so many out there (and more coming each year, including my doctoral professor Scot McKnight’s translation of the New Testament called The Second Testament). How do we know which one is the best and which one to trust?
There are generally three different categories of Bible translations – word-for-word, dynamic (which seeks to convey the idea of the text and make it readable), and a paraphrase (again seeks to convey the idea but is even more localized to the culture. A great example is the Message or if you want a really fun read the Cotton Patch Bible).
So what is the best translation to read when you are studying the Bible? All of them! Every different translation is an interpretation of the original language and how that particular word communicates in our language. For instance, the Hebrew word hesed can translated as mercy, faithfulness, steadfast love, love, and grace. That’s five different options for one word! In the New Testament the word logos works much the same way. It can mean word, letter, a passage of scripture, or even a philosophical term. How do you know what word to use? Different translations have to make decisions on these words or phrases. That is why it is good to read at least three different translations to really begin to grasp the ideas of a particular passage you might be studying. I like to take the English Standard Version, New International Version, and the Message and compare and contrast the different ways the translators chose to translate that passage. Each translation brings a different nuance out of the original language of the text. You will learn more about the Bible if you read different translations together. Try it this week with a passage like Philippians 2.