Re: Bible translations

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 06:01:12 -0600

At 11:08 PM -0600 1/20/97, David McKay wrote:
>21st January, 1997
>As a distinguished bunch of august translators, I guess we don't really
>need 'em, however I'm wondering if interested list members could share
>which translations they favour and why?
>Over the years, I have read books on the current English translations, such
>as Sakae Kubo's "So Many Versions?" (I forget the co-author...sorry!) I
>recently bought Philip Comfort's "Complete Guide to Bible Versions," but
>was disappointed to discover that he works for Tyndale, who publish The New
>Living Translation, and his "review" of that book was taken from the
>preface to the book itself!

I trust you are well aware that you will get neither a consensus nor an
objective opinion on the question from this list; you may, however, get a
healthy variety as well as some reasons for preferences. I do think that
there's a significant difference between versions for reading aloud and
versions for study purposes. I would offer not so much an opinion on my
preferences as a couple caveats: (1) all translations are the works of
human beings and most are the products of careful, prayerful committee
deliberation; even those are prone to error at points. I think that one
ought, for study purposes, not to rely upon any single version as superior
to others in all respects; (2) there are not a few passages in the Hebrew
and Greek texts of the Bible, that are ambivalent, ambiguous, or unclear;
many versions have a tendency to resolve ambiguity in favor of a preferred
interpretation; perhaps this is a reasonable thing to do, but it is
dishonest unless legitimate alternatives are at least indicated in clearly
visible footnotes; (3) while there will be the inevitable argument on
"dynamic equivalency"--what it means and whether it is desirable, the
notion that translation from the original language texts into a literal,
word-for-word equivalent English is possible or even desirable is based
upon a very naive understanding of the nature of language; there are many
strategies for coping with the different geniuses of different languages,
no one of which is necessarily superior in all respects to all others.

The old Latin tag QUOT HOMINES TOT SENTENTIAE (there are as many opinions
as there are people) may not quite absolutely apply to the question you
raise, but there is certainly a healthy diversity.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR