I have recently written several posts highlighting glaring translator error or bias. Predictably, I have received multiple requests about Bible translation recommendations, or thoughts on a particular version… I should have seen that coming! So, here is a short post with a few thoughts..
While I am no expert on translations, I think there a few assertions I can safely make:
- NO translation is perfect!
- There are a number of decent or even good translations out there.
- There are several really BAD translations out there.
- Learning to use several simple tools is the next best thing to actually learning the original languages!
- Learn, if you can, even some of the original languages!
- Your primary translation choice should be based on your individual needs.
What are you looking for in a translation?
- Proper names of characters? (YHWH/Yahweh, Y’shua/Yeshua, Avraham, etc..)
- Books in Judaic v. Christian order?
- Torah Parashat divisions?
- Study notes?
Other factors may include:
- How well grounded are you in the general overview of Scripture?
- Are you pursuing a Hebraic mindset?
- Do you have access to a computer?
- Are you willing to obtain and learn to use certain tools (electronic or hardcopy)?
So many options.
Let me start by affirming this: In spite of the fact that there are NO perfect translations, there are several very good ones with their own strengths and weaknesses.
I tend to be partial to the NASB as a solid translation that is pretty literal, though at times choppy. The translators preferred a more literal translation to the smoothing effect of dynamic equivalence. I have learned to read the names into the text as I read… Takes a little practice, but now I can read without breaking and add most Hebrew names in their original pronunciation. I have also, for personal preference, gone through the Books of Moses and added divisions for the Parashas.
Further, call me crazy, I got on a kick one day and used an NASB Concordance to mark every occurrence of the word ‘Torah’ in the original Hebrew, as well as occurrences of ‘yeshua,’ (usually rendered ‘salvation’) simply because both lead to some goldmine type of insights into previously ‘normal looking’ passages.
The KJV and NKJV are not bad. The original KJV was the best and ‘gold standard’ for a couple hundred years, but it was based on only six Greek manuscripts, with some parts back translated into the Greek from Latin as well as some shoddy ‘dynamic equivalence’ that makes me cringe every time I read it… (One example: Rav Sha’ul’s supposed use of ‘God forbid!’ Yikes! No Torah observant Pharisee would dare use Abba’s name like that. NASB’s ‘May it NEVER be!’ is a better translation. ) The antiquated language for the KJV is problematic for many, where the NKJV updates that a good bit.
The NIV is pretty good for readability if a person is brand new to the Scriptures and has limited reading skills… My pre-teen boys used that for years. They are out growing it now. The translation and dynamic equivalence leaves much to be desired for study on any meaningful depth.
The Message and similar ‘translations’ are perfectly horrid and best used for kindling.
I am not intimately familiar with the New English Translation, but what I have seen is impressive.
Recently, a number of translations have sprung up from a Judaic or Hebrew mindset with a decided effort to correct many errors, from doctrine, to names and book order.
The Complete Jewish Bible is one good example, though not for the faint of heart in pronunciations as it is loaded, in a good way, with Hebraisms. The downside, if I remember correctly, is that it doesn’t have the names of our Father in it. (I understand the Rabbinic tradition, though I do not agree with it. Just being honest here from my perspective.) Some may find the book order a challenge as they are different than the traditional order for the ‘christian’ Bible. Easy enough to learn your way around that.
My wife likes her Hebraic Roots Bible, available here for $35. It has nice large easy to read print with lots of notes. I like the Names of God rightly translated in the text as well as a number of corrections from earlier translations. There is also a helpful, though short, topical concordance in the back with handy references for a number of things including especially Hebraic topics… Sabbath, food, covenants, obedience to Torah, etc…
Last week I handled an Aramaic English New Testament that was impressive. Particularly the nearly 400 pages of study notes and commentary. I’ll eventually get one of these just for the notes!! Seriously! That good. It is a little pricey, but I understand a good investment.
There are many other options… One place to go is to Biblegateway and compare favorite passages in up to five translations for a taste of differences and to see what you like, don’t like… They have a couple dozen translations available for use. It is a good online tool, too!! Likely there are other similar online programs, I am just not familiar with others.
The key is finding a translation you are comfortable reading and hopefully, one where you know some of the pitfalls so you can be aware. Beyond that, if you are serious, then you will want several tools that will help when you are digging deeper on some verse the Father is impressing you with.
Hardcopy tools would begin with having several translations laid out as well as a Concordance for your particular translation. Notice the one linked is for the NASB. It would help for other translations, but if you have a concordance for your particular translation, that is much better. Certainly, a concordance is necessary for word studies. A lexicon takes that one step further.
Some like an interlinear translation. This may/may not prove helpful.
Personally, I HIGHLY recommend that you NOT spend a fortune on a dozen translations, a bunch of commentaries, concordances and a couple lexicons… Seriously, a thousand dollars or more worth of books . Get a FREE copy of e-sword 10.2 that also includes a number of commentaries, ancient historical texts, etc… HUGE file with a ton of helpful info all in one program. The basic e-sword, without some of the extra historical documents, etc, is available here and here. In all cases, free, though any of those ministries would appreciate a donation. FYI: e-sword has other add-on modules that you can purchase to further tailor your set-up.
One last recommendation that has been helpful in some areas, is a Stone’s Edition Chumash. It has some basic Rabbinic commentary on the Torah portions. Some parts I agree with, other parts I do not. Bottom line, sometimes the Rabbis provide insight that the christian world has little understanding of or equal. I did not get one until I had my new Hebraic legs firmly under me, so take this under advisement, but later you may want to add this valuable and beautiful tool to your library.
I hope this not-so-short post will clear things up for a few of you and help encourage you to take the leap and dig deeper on your own. Do not trust doctrinal statements, pastors or a single translation. Dig deeper!! There is MUCH treasure to be had!