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A Heart For God: 31 Flavors Of Bible Translations

Saturday, August 26, 2006

31 Flavors Of Bible Translations

“Jesus wept” (KJV). “Jesus started crying” (CEV). “Jesus burst into tears” (ISV). “And the tears of Jesus came” (Murdock).

Bible translations. It can make the best of Christian’s head spin, there are so many out there. And it’s kind of like going to Baskin Robbins Ice Parlor with their 31 flavors of ice cream to choose from. (I think there are more now?!) So which flavor do you pick? And which one is the best versus the others? And then finally, why so many? Isn’t one enough? Just like for ice cream, I think these are valid questions to ask regarding Bible translations. And before I answer them, I’d like to try and make clear what a Bible translation is and what it isn’t. First of all, the Bible was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. How many of you out there speaks Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek? I thought so. Thus the need for translations! Simply put, a Bible translation is taking the languages the Bible was written in and translating them into a language that modern people understand. (Oh, but you knew that!) Which brings me to what a Bible translation is not. A Bible translation is not changing the meaning of the original Bible. It’s just putting the original in another language. Which answers the next question of why so many Bible translations. How many different languages are there in the world? There’s Chinese and Japanese and German and French and Italian and Russian, etc., that people speak. And so you need to translate the original Bible into these languages. Next, there are different ways of saying the same thing no matter what language you use. (See the above English translations of John 11:35 for example.) And some ways of saying the same thing are more colorful while other ways are plain chocolate, vanilla and straw-berry. And so you have the King James (Neapolitan!) Version. And you have paraphrases like Contemporary English, International Standard, Murdock, etc. (the raspberry, tooty fruity and chunky monkey, etc., ice cream flavors!). No matter what flavor it is, the purpose always is to not change the meaning of the original Bible, but to try and convey the original in language that’s under-stood. Of course, there are better translations versus others. These are usually based on better manuscript evidence. Which is why, even though the King James Version is a very good translation, it isn’t necessarily the best. Due to the fact that it was written in the year, 1611, and since then there have been more reliable manuscripts of the original Bible uncovered, other translations based on the latter records (like the NIV) tend to be more accurate. That’s why it’s good to have a couple of different Bible translations side by side when studying. Ultimately, the original language of the Bible is the best translation of all. But since most of us don’t speak “Greek,” our own English versions will do just fine.

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