Thursday, 21 May 2009

Which Bible Translation?

Ok, I know I keep going on about this. It seems to be an area that is hard to make one's mind up on decisively. The question is this, which bible translation is 'the one'. Which translation should we use for reading, preaching, memorising and devotions? Should we use just one? My own conviction is yes, we should have one version that is our first line go-to (and perhaps a couple of back ups for reference). D.A Carson shaped my convictions on this matter when he wrote in 1977, in the midst of the KJV-only controversy:

During the past ten or fifteen years I have read quite a few Bible translations right through; and no doubt as a result I have not memorized as much of the KJV as I would otherwise have done. For the past year and a half or so, I have committed myself to memorizing exclusively from the NIV and have tucked a growing number of chapters away in my memory. I think Christians will have to take conscious decisions like that in the years ahead. (p100 The King James Version Debate - A Plea for Realism)

My advice on the matter, for what it's worth is this; it depends on what type of person you are. If you are a stickler for literal translation and get hot and bothered about precision, while not worrying too much about readability, then please, please go for the HCSB. The ESV is big in evangelical/reformed circles, but I really think that while it's great in the epistles, it is just horrible in most other places. Ministers need to live in the real world and realise that your average dude in the pew has no desire to read through words like sojourner, terebinth, haughty, behold while trying to navigate treacle thick sentences. The HCSB, if the church must have a literal bible, should be 'the one'; no doubt in my mind.

If you're not too worried about strict concordance of words and are more into contextual readability, I would plump for the TNIV. My own conviction on the matter is that this translation will probably have greater longevity, despite it presently enduring poor sales. It translates the way your average Joe speaks. When read publicly, it doesn't use words that jar or sound dated; it flows like a nice beer. The TNIV has the added advantage of being not too different from the NIV (only 7% of a change) to make 'the switch' too painful.

One thing is for sure, the NIV is dated sounding and should not be used due to modern advances in biblical scholarship. So again, literal dudes, put your ESVs on the shelf and get an HCSB. NLT users, the TNIV is too far superior to ignore.


Dougie said...

Nick, your love of all things bible is infectious, please don't lose it.

What do you make of the ESV Study Bible? Aside from the translation of course.

It's being hailed here as awesome.

Nick Mackison said...

I've not read too much of the ESVSB. From cursory glances it looks pretty good.

I'm not too much a fan of SBs. I get kind of uneasy about God's words and man's words on the same page.

Paul Merrill said...

Whatever translation you choose, just a reminder for your readers that we English-speakers have such a luxury of so many translations to choose from. More than 2,000 language groups around the world don't have a single verse translated into their own language!

Blessings today.

-Paul Merrill for Wycliffe's The Seed Company

Nick Mackison said...

You're right on that one Paul. Thanks for the needful reminder.