Monday, October 27, 2008

The Trustworthy Bible

I collect different Bible translations. I have 32 different versions (with more on the way), ranging from the New International Version to the Ferrar Fenton Bible, from the Holman Christian Standard Bible to the 1560 Geneva Bible. Some of them are pathetic attempts to sound contemporary and should not have the word Bible applied to them (The Message; The Living Bible) to versions that are faithful renderings of the Scriptures as a whole. One Bible, The New World Translation, has been criticized because of its unorthodox renderings of certain verses (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) but I have found is extremely accurate, despite the supposed background of the anonymous translators. People criticize the entire NWT when it is absolutely not a very bad Bible. It just goes against the majority and what people want to see. The main problem that I can see with the NWT is its overt literalness. Sometimes it can be difficult to read because of how literal it is. When you want to know what the Greek and Hebrew are saying, though, without having to read the Greek and Hebrew, I would recommend the NWT if you can overlook the verses that people constantly point to.

Two other Bible's that I feel are very good are the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version. The criticism that I have with those Bibles is the fact that they do not have the Divine Name, whether it is written, Jehovah or Yahweh. To take out the Name that appeared more then any other name in the Bible (including Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus) is a disgrace to God who told Moses that this was His Name for all time. Now, one Bible that I would recommend that uses the Divine Name (albeit only a few times) is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The name Yahweh is used a handful of times whenever the verses emphasizes the Name of God.

Now, when looking at Bibles, the first verse I turn to is Exodus 3:15 because if a Bible does have the Divine Name, that is where you are most likely to find it. When I find a Bible that does have this, even once, it is doing a good deed. Joel 2:32 says that anyone who calls on the Name of Jehovah (or Yahweh) will be saved. However, how can we call on a God whose Name we do not know?

One Bible that did not have the Divine Name at all in its first printing was the paraphrased Bible, the New Living Translation. Then, in the 2004 revision, the Name Yahweh was added into three to four verses. That is not nearly enough because the Name appears nearly 7,000 times in the original manuscripts of the Bible.

This blog is not an evaluation of Bible's that contain the Divine Name. It is an evaluation of versions in general. Most Bible's fall into one of three categories in their translation theories. The first is Formal Equivalence Translation (or word-for-word), Dynamic Equivalence Translation (or thought-for-thought), and paraphrase (or whatever the translator feels the Bible says). Now, two DET's that are popular today are the above mentioned New Living Translation and the Today's English Version. I like to categorize those two Bible's in the paraphrase area of the translation type spectrum because of how much of a DET they actually are.

When giving an example of a big mistake in the New Living Translation, I like to quote Philippians 2:5-6 which says in the NASB (which translates the verse accurately):

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped."

This is how the NLT paraphrases this verse (with mistranslations underlined):

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to."

Do you see the difference? The NASB has the correct translation of the verse, which can be interpreted in many different ways. The NLT has interpreted the verse for you. While many will not criticize how the NLT has the verse because they feel like it carries over the correct meaning, not all can agree. A Bible should not interpret the Word, but give it to you just as Paul wrote it because what if the NLT translators are wrong? While many will not think that, there is always the possibility, which means that they need to be careful.

One version that I commended which does have its bad points is the HCSB. They have this verse as (with mistranslation underlined):

"Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage."

That is just as bad as what the NLT did, although they don't try to pull off something that big very often. However, you can see the bias that has leaked through in that verse in both of those translations. Bible translators need to realize that, if left alone, readers will read a verse exactly the way they (the translators) hope they will read it if they already hold the same viewpoint.

One other point that I want to discuss is the use of the apocrypha in modern Bibles. The Catholic Bible versions all have these books. The books in question (1 and 2 Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom, additions to Esther, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Song of the three Hebrews--I may not have listed all of them, forgive me if I missed a couple.) Should these be in there? Most protestants would agree that they do not. Catholics would say that they are inspired to a lesser degree. Whatever the case, what is writen in them should argue the point for itself. Would I recommend reading them? I would read them myself. I enjoy reading extra-biblical texts. The apocrypha, gnostic, etc. They sure are fun. I will say personally, that I do not agree that these text are inspired even to a lesser degree. I am not Catholic. I am happy that they are not in my Bible that I personally use but I do have Bibles that include them (New Jerusalem Bible; New American Bible). Before I close, I want to commend the NJB for their usage of the Name, Yahweh, all 6,500+ times that it appears.

There are many Bible's on the shelves, if you want one that is easier to read but less trustworthy, go for a Dynamic Equivalence. If you want a Bible that is a little harder to read but more trustworthy, go for a Formal Equivalence. I must warn, friend, stay away from the paraphrases.*

*Below is a list of Bible translations and what category they fall under. (These are all Bible's I own)

Formal Equivalence
1. Revised Standard Version
2. King James Version
3. New American Standard Bible
4. English Standard Version
5. New King James Version
6. Amplified Bible
7. New English Bible
8. New World Translation

Dynamic Equivalence
1. Modern Language Bible
2. God's Word Translation
3. New International Version
4. Today's New International Version
5. New Life Version
6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
7. New Century Version
8. New English Translation
9. Easy-to-Read Version
10. New Jerusalem Bible
11. New Revised Standard Bible
12. New American Bible
13. International Children's Bible

1. Today's English Version
2. New Living Translation
3. The Living Bible
4. The Message Bible
5. New International Reader's Version
6. Contemporary English Version

Not Sure
1. Complete Jewish Bible
2. George Lamsa Bible
3. The Bible in Living English
4. Ferrar Fenton Bible
5. Geneva Bible