Bible Versions

Today I was browsing the website of the King James Bible Trust. Apparently Richard Dawkins has given his support to next year’s quadricentennial celebration of arguably the most influential book in English: “Not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian.”

John Hobbins over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry has an interesting discussion of the differences between the new NIV, the old NIV and some of the other dynamic equivalency translations, over-against literal translations.

When folks find out that I went to seminary and know some Hebrew and Greek, they often ask me which Bible translation I use. Along with my usual disclaimer that I cannot be considered an expert on translations after three years of each language, I will say that I use different translations for different purposes, along with the original languages. My choice of translation when teaching or preaching is largely dependant upon which Bible the majority of the congregants/participants will be using or familiar with.

My choice in personal study depends on which other resources I want at my disposal. Sometimes I want the original text, and sometimes I want study notes. I grew up with the NASB, but I also memorized quite a few verses in the NIV. However, my New Oxford Annotated Bible, which I enjoy for the study notes, and my Greek-English NA27 critical edition, which I like when I’m working through a less familiar NT passage in church, use the NRSV. I also have a pocket Tanakh published by JPS, which has Hebrew (no Masorah) and a New JPS translation, which is just dynamic enough to keep me from being lazy in my Hebrew, but literal enough so that I won’t be embarrassed if I have to read aloud in church.

I also have a pocket ESV, which is convenient, and an even smaller pocket NASB with a zipper. My OliveTree iTouch app has the KJV and the NET Bible for free, so I use those as well. I will often listen to the ESV at work or on my iPod, since the Good News Project offers free ESV audio here.

Which translations do you prefer? Why, and in which situations?

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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6 Responses to Bible Versions

  1. Ben T. says:

    I always find myself somewhat torn. I use the ESV in most teaching situations, as it is the preferred translation in our local church community.

    While at PBU, however, we worked exclusively with the NASB, and so most of my notes and markings are there. I do sometimes appreciate the wooden translation of Paul’s letters, even at the expense of readability. I do find those pesky connecting words like “but” and “therefore” immensely helpful in following some of the NT arguments.

    As for my OT stuff goes, I really like my Jewish Study Bible (JPS) for both its translation and its notes. I do tend to consult with Alter and Fox when their projects overlap with my study. Reading through the Five Books in Fox’s translation is really fun.

    There is unfortunately no ideal translation, though I guess the ESV has garnered a lot of support. I think the NIV (update) will probably be a pretty useful version to recommend to first-time Bible readers, though.


    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      Thanks, Ben. Yes, I have absolutely no faith in the NIV when it comes to Paul–especially Romans. The ESV is good, but it does feel like there is a slant. The NASB seems to be pretty bare–which I like for personal study.

      I’ll have to check out the Jewish Study Bible. I have an old JPS Tanakh, which sounds a bit like NKJV. I like it for the poetic literature, and I did my Psalms and Job readings in it for Brian Toews’ class years ago, so it has all my underlinings and marginal notes.

      Sometimes I wish I could just combine all my underlinings and scribbles into a single megaBible–complete with original text and study notes. I know there’s an app for that–but it’s not the same.

  2. Ben T. says:

    I often find the JPS seemingly less influenced by a particular theology, though obviously no translation committee is without some theological agenda (acknowledged or otherwise). Specifically as it relates to certain “Messianic” passages in Isaiah, it is obviously less dependent on NT understandings. I’m uncertain as to whether this is wholly positive, but I do find it valuable in my own translation endeavors.

    I like your idea for a megabible. Give it a few years and you could probably sell it to Zondervan — the “Benj Giffone Study Bible.” That would put you in the elite ranks of MacArthur and Ryrie and Piper (if we’re honest about the ESV Study Bible).

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      I like the idea of a BSV: Benj Standard Version. It could have parallel study notes: one column for TRs, one column for the HRs, one column for converted Catholics, and one for the Doxies.

      An example of what you’re talking about: the 1985 JPS Tanakh translates the name of the “child” Isa 9:6(5)b as “The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler”–a very legitimate translation of פלא יועץ אל גבור אביעד שר־שלום . Christians who use this verse to support the Incarnation run into two problems: the Trinitarian problem of a divine Messiah as “Father,” and the fact that almost every OT name has ‘el or yah in it.

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