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Choosing a Translation

We suggest the following guidelines for choosing a translation.

  1. Choose a translation that uses modern English. The whole point of making a translation is to move the message of the original text to a language you can understand. History teaches us that languages change over time, and English is no exception. The English of John Wycliffe’s day or of 1611 or even of the late 1700s is simply not the same as the English of the twenty–first century. There is little to be gained by translating a Greek or Hebrew text into a kind of English that you no longer use and can no longer comprehend. For that reason, we recommend that you choose among the many good translations that have appeared within the last fifty years.
  2. Choose a translation that is based on the standard Hebrew and Greek text. As we mentioned earlier in this unit, the standard text for the Old Testament is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). For the New Testament the standard text is reflected in the latest edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (GNT) or Nestle–Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece. Along with the majority of scholars, we much prefer an eclectic original text rather than the Textus Receptus used by the KJV and the NKJV.
  3. Give preference to a translation by a committee over against a translation by an individual. Translating requires an enormous amount of knowledge and skill. A group of qualified translators will certainly possess more expertise than any one translator possibly could. In addition, a group of scholars will usually guard against the tendency of individual scholars to read their own personal biases into their translation.
  4. Choose a translation that is appropriate for your own particular purpose at the time. When you want to read devotionally or read to children, consider a simplified, functional translation such as the New Living Translation or the New Century Version. If you are reading to nontraditional or unchurched people, consider the Contemporary English Version or The Message. If you are reading to people with English as a second language, consider the Good News Bible. If you are reading to a “King–James–only” church, consider the New King James. But for serious Bible study, we suggest the New American Standard Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NET Bible, and the New International Version (2011), depending on the audience and situation.

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