The Best English Bible Translation (4)

Finding the best English translation of the Bible means dealing with a challenging issue: effectively honoring the need for a translation to be accurate as well as understandable.  In case you missed it, the underlying concerns were introduced in the previous post, found HERE.

Translation Philosophy?

So, translation philosophy has to do with where a translation gives its emphasis in the whole readability/accuracy scenario.  Some translations have as a stated purpose to be more readable and some to be more accurate.  You get this idea when you sometimes run across a discussion debating “word-for-word” versus “thought-for-thought” approaches.

How does a person learn each translation’s philosophy?  Virtually every translation gives at least some explanation of their approach to translation.  For instance, to learn the philosophy and approach of the translators of the English Standard Version you can CLICK HERE.

There you will find, in part, these words:

The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

In contrast to the ESV, some Bible versions have followed a “thought-for-thought” rather than “word-for-word” translation philosophy, emphasizing “dynamic equivalence” rather than the “essentially literal” meaning of the original. A “thought-for-thought” translation is of necessity more inclined to reflect the interpretive opinions of the translator and the influences of contemporary culture.

How well the ESV fulfills its stated purpose is, of course, open to judgment.  And mine is that they do reasonably well.  That is why I offer this translation as one of my recommendations as one of the best.  (The other, in case you missed it previously, is the New American Standard Bible.)

Why Not The Most Popular?

This is also why I don’t recommend the most popular translation, the New International Version (NIV).  It has a stated intent of using a more “thought-for-thought” approach.  Though this achieves greater “readability” (as its popularity bears out), I believe it to be a step in the wrong direction.  In my personal judgment it has done more interpreting and explaining than it should.

We must remember that the Bible gives its readers and students the responsibility of “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).   While I may be dependent on Bible translators to provide for me a Bible text in my native language, I still have responsibility for understanding and applying God’s word for myself.

I realize my recommendations do “go against the flow” somewhat when it comes to popular opinion on the best Bible translation.  You may have thoughts or comments you would like to share, so please be sure to do that in the comments below.

We still have one more quick consideration to make; one last qualification on this recommendation in the final post of this series.

God bless,

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