Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why Are There So Many Different Versions Of The Bible?

  • Defining The Issues: 
          -Several translations of the Bible have been produced in the English language and are in circulation today. Christians read from translations ranging from the King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, the New Living Bible, and others. Church groups even recommend specific Bible translations over others and use them in preaching pulpits. In fact, one may mistakenly infer that the existence of multiple editions of the Bible is the primary cause of division throughout the church or that the manuscripts used for finding English equivalents for the words of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages are unreliable. To make a long story short, there are several translations of the Bible which contain deviations in wording, sentence structure, and even differences in chapter verses. However, having more than one translation of the Bible can prove to be beneficial in study. They can be used in further spreading the gospel. The existence of multiple Bible translations is not a bad thing in and of itself, although this is not to deny that some people are motivated by greed.
  • Bible Translation Or Version? 
          -The word "version" is not necessarily the best way to describe a translation of a religious text. It misrepresents the nature of the painstaking research conducted by scholars who worked diligently to give us the most accurate as possible presentation of what the original authors of the biblical narratives wanted to convey to their audiences. The science of translation works to find equivalents in one language so that different languages are able to maintain communication and understanding. The word "version" can give the misleading implication of intentional alteration or perversion with malicious motives (there are works of this nature in existence). The process of translating works to make deciphering a message in a foreign language possible to others. Creating a "version" can carry with it connotations of carving out wanted portions of any given text to fit one's underlying biases. Translating ancient manuscripts from different languages is no different than translating the words of a speaker from another country such as a foreign diplomat giving a news conference. So describing a translation of the Bible as merely being a "version" can be misleading.
  • Why There Are Many Different Bible Translations?:
          -Different translations of the Bible exist because different groups of scholars knowledgeable in languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic have collaborated at different periods of time to develop them. Words have a semantic range or a variety of meanings in a group of words that are appropriate to use depending on context. For example, the word "angry" has other words with similar connotations like mad, upset, irate, vehement, furious, and enraged. Those terms differ in degrees of forcefulness and may thus not fully convey what a person intends to say in various contexts. Hebrew and Greek syntax can even be obscure sometimes. There have been discoveries of manuscripts and archaeology which provide further data to use in improving translations. The meaning of the text when considered in its entirety essentially remains the same. There is therefore still one Bible.
          -The science of translation involves explanation or interpretation, since it is a process of making something known that could not otherwise have been known to those unfamiliar with biblical languages. Shades of Hebrew and Greek are inevitably lost to a degree in translation, which is a good reason to have two to three different translations of the Bible at a minimum (even though one cannot have perfect knowledge about such unless he knows the original languages for himself). In addition, words have changed in their meaning since four hundred years ago when Elizabethan English was spoken. A good example of this would be the word "gay" which is used in the King James Version of the Bible and how that same word is used today. The meaning of a word is determined by its usage in context. The three types of translations available are word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrase. How could Christians be required to agree on only one edition of the Bible when it also needs to be translated into different languages?
  • Which Bible Translation Is The Best One To Read From?:
          - All Bible translations existing contain their own set of weaknesses and imperfections because they were produced by fallible men who did not have an inerrant set of manuscripts given to them. No one can claim that any existing manuscripts today are inspired by God in the same sense as the original text, since we cannot compare them to the first manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments. Those no longer exist. Whether we like it or not, there are certain limitations that we just have to accept. Reliable translations convey accurately to a considerable degree what the authors of the biblical text said. This point can be verified by a careful and honest comparison of various translations in an overwhelming majority of cases, regardless of ideological background. The overall similarity of wording present amongst them is nothing short of impressive. The answer to the question of which Bible translation is the best would be the one that an individual chooses to read. This is not to say, however, that one should use them without caution. Not all translations of the Bible are good or equally good. One also needs a primary translation to use in the study of Scripture.

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I would say that dynamic translations become more interpretive than translative, and the more dynamic they are the more they become more commentary. Paraphrases, such as The Message, are worthless. The best versions would be formal translations such as NAS, KJV, NKJV, ESV, Darby, Jay Green. There is my favorite version, HCSB, which is only slightly dynamic but much more formal than the NIV84. The NET is another fairly good one, but when you get to the NLT and God's Word versions, you're getting more dynamic.