Re: Bible translations

Jonathan Robie (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 11:31:25 -0500

Here are some strong opinions from a very little Greek:

It all depends what you are looking for. Most translations are pretty good,
IMHO, but they serve different purposes. I like to compare several
translations. For the most part, translations seem to agree. Where they
disagree, there is often something interesting hidden in the original which
is difficult to translate into English. When I want to convey something I
have found in the Greek, I often find it helpful to shop around among many
translations to see whether somebody else has figured out how to convey it
well in English.

For very literal translations that are easily compared to the original
language, I really like the Zuercher Bibel in German or the updated NASB in
English. I also like the old RSV as a literal translation. To my ear, the
language in each of these is just a little wooden, but they are great for
study. Another good, literal, slightly wooden translation is the NAB.

King James sounds cool if you can understand it, but few people have enough
background in older forms of English to appreciate it. I enjoy reading the
KJV, but I also read other things in older forms of English and German.
Strangely, it is the least educated people who most strongly cling to the
KJV, and they often have problems understanding it. In my prison work, I'm
continually confronted by strange theological statements that come from
misunderstandings of the King James text. In most cases, the KJV is correct,
but people just don't understand it.

For many prisoners, ease of reading is paramount. New International Version
is significantly easier to read than any of the translations that I've
mentioned so far. The Living Bible or the New Living Translation are even
easier - they tend to spell things out more clearly than the original,
eliminating ambiguity and difficult questions in the process.

Often, less "literal" translations can be just as accurate in conveying the
original intent. I rather like the REB and NJB.

I find the NRSV wordy. Many of the "gender neutral" renderings are actually
more accurate than older translations, which tend to use terms like "man"
and "son" where "person" and "child" would be better.