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Know Your Bible! – Translations of the Bible in English (Part 2)


In the previous part of this article, I have given you a brief history and overview of the various source documents for the Old and New Testaments that are used in most modern Bible translations. In the second part of this two-part article, I will now attempt to give you an overview of the different kinds of Bible translations, together with brief descriptions of 10 of the most popular versions of the Bible in English today.

As you all know, the original languages of the Bible are Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, so unless you are able to understand any of these languages in the form it was used at least 2,000 years ago, you’ll definitely be reading a translated version of the Bible regardless of what language it is in. Bibles (and for that matter, any translated document) can generally be divided into three categories according to the method of translation applied: formal equivalence, dynamic equivalence and paraphrase.

Formal equivalence, which is also known as literal equivalence or word-for-word translation, involves the translation of the meanings of individual words in their more or less exact syntactic sequence. In other words, it involves a more literal rendering of the original text into its target (translated) language. Formal equivalence places emphasis not only on translating each individual word according to its lexical meaning, but also on reconstructing sentences in the target language to resemble the syntax (arrangement of words in a sentence) in the source language as closely as possible. Of course, the larger the difference between the source language and the target language, the more difficult it would be for a purely literal translation to be made while still allowing the translations to sound natural to a native speaker of the target language.

Dynamic equivalence, which is also known as functional equivalence, involves a sense-for-sense translation, or a translation of the meanings of phrases or whole sentences into a target language. In other words, it involves transferring only the meanings of phrases or sentences from the source language into the target language, often by reconstructing the sentences in the target language in a way that would sound more natural for a native speaker of that language. It is also sometimes defined as a method of translation whereby the effect of the translated text on native speakers of the target language would roughly be the same as the effect of the original text on native speakers of the source language.

To illustrate the difference between the two, let me give you a simple example. Consider the following sentence in Chinese…

你好。我的名字叫李鸿。(Nĭ hǎo. Wǒ de míngzì jiào Lĭ Hóng.)

…with each of the above words having the following lexical meanings:

() = you
(hǎo) = good / well
()= my
(de) = (particle indicating possession)
名字 (míngzì) = name
(jiào) = call
李鸿 (Lĭ Hóng) = Li Hong

If one were to strictly apply a formal equivalence approach in translating the above sentence into English, it would probably sound something like this…

Are you well? My name is called Li Hong.

…which clearly doesn’t sound natural for a native English speaker, due to the vast syntactic and lexical differences between Mandarin Chinese and English. In this case (as is the case for many Chinese-English translations as well), dynamic equivalence would be a better approach to translating the above sample sentence. With a dynamic equivalence approach, it would sound like this:

How are you? My name is Li Hong. OR How are you? I’m Li Hong.

Having said that, let’s shift our focus to examples from the Bible itself. Both formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence have their respective strengths and weaknesses. While formal equivalence emphasizes fidelity to the original text in its translations, it often does so at the expense of how natural, smooth or easily understood the translated sentences are to readers in the target language. Dynamic equivalence helps overcome this problem, but at the expense of potential alterations and biasness in meaning when translating from the source language, as it involves the translator first reading and interpreting the source text before conveying its meaning based on his/her interpretations by rewriting the sentences in the target language.

Consider the text of 1 Peter 1:13 from the New King James Version (NKJV), a formal equivalence Bible, and from the New International Version (NIV), a dynamic equivalence Bible:

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:13 NKJV

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” – 1 Peter 1:13 NIV

The metaphoric expression gird up the loins of your mind in the NKJV may not sound natural for a native English speaker at first glance, but the NIV gives a simpler and clearer translation by rendering it as with minds that are alert. Consider this second example from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), another formal equivalence Bible, and from the New Living Translation (NLT), a dynamic equivalence Bible:

“If an alien sojourns among you and observes the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance, so he shall do; you shall have one statute, both for the alien and for the native of the land.” – Numbers 9:14 NASB

“And if foreigners living among you want to celebrate the Passover to the LORD, they must follow these same decrees and regulations. The same laws apply both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you.” – Numbers 9:14 NLT

Clearly one can see that the NASB’s rendering of the verse sounds more erudite and perhaps somewhat difficult to understand because of its choice and arrangement of words. While the terms alien, sojourn, statute and ordinance may be legitimate English words, they are admittedly not in common use in everyday language. The NLT’s rendering of the verse makes it simpler for one to comprehend the meaning and intent behind the verse. These are perhaps examples of how a dynamic equivalence Bible may be superior to a formal equivalence one for smoother reading and easier comprehension.

Now, if a dynamic equivalence Bible ensures smoother reading and understanding, some may then ask if there’s any use of reading a formal equivalence Bible at all. Consider the following passages from the NIV and the NKJV:

“That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. – Numbers 22:20-22 NIV

“And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you – that you shall do.” So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. – Numbers 22:20-22 NKJV

If one were to read the NIV’s dynamic translation of the above passage, one might be left wondering as to why God got angry with Balaam when all he did was to go with the Moabite officials as per God’s own command. However, the NKJV’s formal/literal translation, which is closer in meaning to the original Hebrew text, shows that there is no such confusion in the original Hebrew text after all. The conjunction if shows that God’s command to Balaam to allow him to go with the Moabite princes was conditional upon them coming to call on Balaam first, but God’s anger was due to the fact that Balaam went with the princes on his own accord without even waiting for them to come and call on him. This conditional permission from God was lost in translation in a dynamic equivalence Bible such as the NIV.

Consider the following excerpts from the NASB, the NIV and the NLT as well:

“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” – 1 Corinthians 4:9 NASB

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.” – 1 Corinthians 4:9 NIV

“Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world – to people and angels alike.” – 1 Corinthians 4:9 NLT

While this may not be much of a doctrinal issue, it does illustrate an example of how personal interpretation on the part of the translator may influence the outcome of a dynamic translation, even if just slightly. The original Greek text, as reflected by the NASB’s formal/literal translation, makes no specific indication of what is meant by the phrases exhibited last of all and men condemned to death, probably because their meaning was implicitly understood by the readers of Apostle Paul’s time. The translator of the NIV assumed that this was meant to illustrate the context of how prisoners during the Roman era who were condemned to public execution in the arena were placed at the end of a procession prior to their execution. The translator of the NLT, on the other hand, made the assumption that this was a specific reference to how victorious Roman armies would display their prisoners of war to the public at the end of a procession before executing them. Due to cultural and historical differences, the translators of the NIV and the NLT thought it best to include a few extra words in their respective dynamic translations in order to clarify to modern English readers what they thought was implied by the aforementioned phrases.

One may ask, “Which is the best Bible to read?” The answer to that, in all honesty, isn’t clear-cut, as it really depends a lot on personal preference and familiarity. For one who prefers simplicity and ease of reading, a dynamic equivalence Bible would be the best choice, but for one who prefers reading something that is as close as possible to the original texts, a formal equivalence Bible would be the way to go. It is my opinion that regardless of whether one chooses a formal or dynamic equivalence Bible, both are equally valid for studying, teaching and preaching, as multiple revisions over the years have ensured that most of these Bibles in the market are as accurate as possible in representing the original texts. However, I would personally recommend anyone to read at least one version of each so as to compare for themselves any differences in the wordings and expressions.

The third category of translations, which I haven’t mentioned until now, is paraphrase. Paraphrase involves restating the meaning of the original text using other words, sometimes even including clarifications of the original text.It can be seen as the most liberal method of translating texts, and as such has a higher risk of distorting the original meaning and intent of the text. Take for example the following verse from the NKJV (formal equivalence), NIV (dynamic equivalence), NLT (dynamic equivalence) and The Message (MSG) (paraphrase):

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

“Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!” – Ephesians 2:8-9 MSG

While some may argue that paraphrased Bibles may be a good read for young readers, non-Christians and new Christians who aren’t too familiar with biblical jargon or who may find the typical Bible too dry for their taste, I would personally not recommend such Bibles for Bible studies and preaching, especially for more seasoned Christians. They simply provide too much room for misinterpretations and distortions of the meaning and intent behind the original texts. That is, however, my personal opinion, and it is still worth making a point that most of the commonly used paraphrased Bibles out there at the very least do not deviate from mainstream Christian teaching.

Having said all these, let us now look at 10 of the most popular versions of the English Bible today. Note that these Bibles are not arranged in any particular order.

King James Version Bible printed in 1612

1)    King James Version (KJV)
Type of translation: Formal equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Ben Hayyim’s Mikraot Gedolot) with Septuagint and Latin Vulgate influence
New Testament source texts: Textus Receptus (Majority Text) with Latin Vulgate influence
Other primary source texts: None

Brief history:
The KJV was a Bible commissioned by King James I of England (1567 – 1625) in 1604 in response to petitions made by the Puritans. The Puritans were a faction of Protestants in 16th and 17th century England whose objective was to purify the Church of England of what they perceived as Roman Catholic influence. When King James I convened the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604, the Puritans raised the issue of perceived mistranslations that they identified in earlier English Bible versions, subsequently requesting that a new translation be produced in the English vernacular for the benefit of the masses.

47 scholars from the Church of England were commissioned with the task of translation, and the first official copies were printed in 1611 by Robert Barker (d. 1645), the King’s Printer. It soon became known as the Authorized Version due to the fact that it was made the sole version that was authorized for use in the Church of England. Several revisions were made after that, and by the 18thcentury the KJV became virtually unchallenged as the only accepted standard of the English Bible. Its popularity remains till today, with even some fundamentalists perceiving it as the only ‘uncorrupted’ version of the Bible.

Personal comments:
The KJV is undoubtedly the oldest English Bible that is still of widespread relevance to this day. Due to the evolution of the English language, a significant portion of the KJV’s vocabulary and sentence structures are archaic by today’s standards and may be difficult to comprehend, particularly for someone unfamiliar with medieval-style English. It does, however, have a reputation for being one of the most linguistically beautiful works of English literature, at the same time not compromising on its fidelity to its source texts. The KJV, along with its offspring Bible, the NKJV, are virtually the only two modern English Bible versions to utilize the Textus Receptus (Majority Text) as the source text for the New Testament (see previous part of this article for a description of the Majority Text and its shortcomings).


2)    New King James Version (NKJV)
Type of translation: Formal equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Ben Hayyim’s Mikraot Gedolot) with Septuagint influence
New Testament source texts: Textus Receptus (Majority Text) with Latin Vulgate influence
Other primary source texts: King James Version

Brief history:
The translation of the NKJV was a brainchild of Arthur Farstad (1935 – 1998), a prominent Bible scholar from the United States. One of the main aims of the translation was to update the archaic grammar and vocabulary of the King James Version while preserving its literary beauty and classic style. Plans for the translation of the NKJV were conceived and laid out in 1975 with two meetings in Nashville and Chicago respectively, which were attended by about 130 biblical scholars, theologians and pastors who believed in the supremacy of the Textus Receptus. The complete New Testament was published in 1979, while the full version of the Bible was published in 1982. Both the NKJV and its parent Bible, the KJV, are virtually the only two modern versions of the English Bible that utilize the Textus Receptus as a source text for the New Testament.

Personal comments:
Compared to the KJV, the NKJV is undoubtedly a much more readable version of the Bible for most readers, as it utilizes modern English. The translators of the NKJV made every effort to remove archaic words (e.g. ye, thy, thine etc.) and spellings (e.g. speaketh). Despite its updated language, the NKJV is fairly successful in preserving some of the classic literary beauty of the KJV, particularly in the poetic books of the Bible such as the Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. It is a fairly accurate rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek texts, although some may still find certain parts of the NKJV difficult to read because of its choice of words that are more literary in nature. Since its initial publication, the NKJV has become one of the best-selling and most widely read versions of the English Bible worldwide.


3)    New International Version (NIV)
Type of translation: Dynamic equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, Aramaic Targums, Septuagint and others
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: None

Brief history:
The NIV traces its roots back to 1956 with the formation of a small committee in the United States to study the possibility of producing a new translation that utilizes the common language of the American people. However, the translation project was only officially started in 1965 after a meeting at Trinity Christian College in Illinois that involved the Christian Reformed Church, National Association of Evangelicals and several international Bible scholars. The New York Bible Society, now known as Biblica, was given the task of doing the translation. The New Testament was completed and published in 1973, while the entire Bible was published in 1978. Two major updated versions were published in 1984 and 2011, which took into account archaeological and scholarly studies conducted on more recently discovered manuscripts as well.

The core translation group comprised fifteen Bible scholars, and the entire translation took about ten years and a team of over 100 scholars to complete. Scholars and translators involved consisted of those from different English-speaking nations around the world and from a variety of Protestant denominations. Translators sought to take into account even the most recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries in their translations, and familiar phrases or spellings from other traditional translations were retained as much as was possible.

Personal comments:
The NIV is undeniably one of the most popular and best-selling translations of the Bible in English until today. A notable point about this translation is that it involved scholars and translators from a variety of Protestant denominations hailing from different English-speaking nations around the globe, thus enabling the production of a truly international and universal English translation that is not biased towards any regional dialect or denomination. Another thing worth noting about the NIV is the fact that unlike most other English Bible versions, the translators of the NIV used a larger variety of source texts particularly for the Old Testament, making comparisons and cross-references between them throughout the translation process. One of these, the Samaritan Pentateuch, is in fact believed to be the oldest available copy of any part of the Bible (more about it has been covered in Part 1 of this article). I personally feel that this is important because it helps the translators to render a translation that is as close as possible to the original manuscripts that have been lost to posterity.

Although being a dynamic equivalence Bible, the translators of the NIV have done an excellent job for the most part in accurately rendering the meanings of the original texts. As a result, the NIV provides a highly readable text written in fairly elementary modern English without compromising on the accuracy of its translations.


     4)     New Living Translation (NLT)
Type of translation: Dynamic equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch, Syriac Peshitta and Latin Vulgate
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: The Living Bible

Brief history:
In his routine family devotions, prominent American Christian author Kenneth N. Taylor (1917 – 2005) often found that his children had difficulties understanding the language used in the KJV and the Revised Standard Version (RSV), and that inspired him to produce simple paraphrases of the Bible verses for each day’s devotions. His efforts led to the publication of several picture books with Bible paraphrases, such as The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes and Stories for the Children’s Hour, which were aimed at helping children understand the Bible better.

With the success of these books, Taylor embarked on a more ambitious project – to produce a Bible translation in a paraphrased and easy-to-read modern language. Using the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 as his primary base text along with comparisons with other Bible versions, Taylor published The Living Bible in 1971, which was well-received in many Evangelical circles especially youth-oriented groups.

Despite its success particularly in youth ministries, there were criticisms from more conservative groups regarding its accuracy and fidelity to the original texts. The first major revision was undertaken from 1989 to 1996 with about 90 translators involved, after which the first edition of the NLT was published. Although intended to be nothing more than a revision of The Living Bible, the project soon evolved into a new English translation using the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Subsequent revisions in 2004, 2007 and 2013 further readjusted the language employed in order to conform more accurately to the meanings in the original texts.

Personal comments:
The NLT is arguably one of the most popular Bible translations particularly for youth-oriented groups and ministries due to its ease of reading and the simplicity of the language used. Although it is a dynamic equivalence Bible, it may sometimes employ paraphrases or insert additional explanatory phrases in some of its passages in order to further explain obscure words and phrases. It is because of this that some may tend to label the NLT a semi-paraphrase Bible. Nevertheless, compared to its predecessor, The Living Bible, the newer editions of the NLT conform much more closely to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, at the same time maintains a considerable degree of simplicity in the language it employs.


5)    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Type of translation: Formal equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) with Septuagint influence, Dead Sea Scrolls
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: American Standard Version

Brief history:
Efforts to revise the Authorized Version (KJV) were begun in 1870 by about 50 scholars from various denominations in Britain, with the involvement of American scholars from several denominations via correspondence. Work in earnest began in 1872, and by 1885, both the Old and New Testaments of a new version called the Revised Version (RV) were published. An agreement was in place between the British and American teams that the American team would not publish their version of the RV for 14 years. When the agreement lapsed in 1901, the RV was published in America as the Revised Version, Standard American Edition, but was more commonly known to many as the American Standard Version (ASV).

In 1959, Dewey Lockman, who co-founded the Lockman Foundation with his wife, saw the need for a Bible translation that would be readable in the English language of that time, but more importantly, would not compromise any accuracy in the translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. A new project thus began with a committee of American pastors and scholars from a variety of Protestant denominational backgrounds. The committee decided upon using the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts (as stated above) as their primary source text, at the same time incorporating new information from the Dead Sea Scrolls that were not discovered until the turn of the century. The translation project also utilized the ASV as one of its primary references, thus making it a revision of the ASV in a sense. Additionally, one of the main distinctive features about this translation project was the committee’s undivided commitment to a strictly literal translation from the original texts, so long as grammatical correctness and understandability could be maintained. The complete NASB was thus published in 1971, with minor revisions in the following years and in 1995.

Personal comments:
One of the greatest perceived strengths of the NASB is the literalness of its translations from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Among all modern English Bible versions, the NASB is often recognized as one of the most literal translations that maintains a high degree of fidelity to the original texts. This, of course, comes at the price of its readability and simplicity of literary style, whereby some of its verses are rendered in ways that may sound peculiar to the average reader. Nonetheless, I believe this would be one of the best versions for those who would prefer a literal translation that is as close as possible to the original texts, provided s/he also has a good command of the English language.


6)    New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Type of translation: Formal equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) with Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls influence
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: Revised Standard Version

Brief history:
As mentioned above in the section on the NASB (Bible No. 5), the ASV that was published in 1901 in America was the result of a major revision of the KJV by both British and American scholars. Although it was intended to be a revision of the Authorized Version (KJV), the ASV did not prove to be popular enough to displace the KJV in most Protestant Christian circles. The International Council of Religious Education, now known as the National Council of Churches in the USA, acquired the copyright to the ASV in 1928. A study of the ASV was suggested and briefly undertaken by the council from 1930 to 1932, but due to the Great Depression, it was not until 1937 that the council decided upon revising the ASV.

A panel of 32 scholars was set up in America for this purpose, and although there were plans to set up a British committee as was the case for the RV and the ASV, they never took off due to World War II. The Old and New Testaments of the new version, known as the Revised Standard Version (RSV), were published by 1952, and a celebratory rally was held in Washington D.C. on St. Jerome’s Day (September 30, 1952) whereby it was released to the general public. The RSV soon became so widely accepted in Protestant circles that it became dubbed the first Bible version to have successfully posed a serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized Version (KJV). Subsequent translations of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books were done and added to later editions for the use of Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

The RSV underwent another major revision several decades later under the National Council of Churches. A translation committee was formed for this purpose, comprising scholars and representatives from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian groups as well as Jewish representation responsible for the Old Testament. This revised version was meant to incorporate findings from more recent archaeological discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and to update the language used in the RSV. The NRSV was thus published in 1989, with three editions: a Protestant edition that includes only the Old and New Testaments of the Protestant canon; a Roman Catholic edition that includes the Catholic Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) as well; and The Common Bible that includes all books of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox canons.

Personal comments:
The NRSV is one of the few versions of the English Bible that is a product of a joint ecumenical effort (i.e. representing different denominations within Christianity), since its translation involved representatives from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christian groups. Being a formal equivalence Bible, it provides a fairly accurate translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts in readable modern English. While the RSV was historically criticized by fundamental and even some evangelical Christian groups for its controversial translations and perceived doctrinal tampering, the NRSV translators did a pretty good job in repairing them and updating the RSV’s archaic language. For readers who may be seeking a Bible version that is potentially unbiased towards any major Christian denomination, or who may also be looking to read the Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) in modern, readable English, the NRSV is perhaps the best version for that.


7)    English Standard Version (ESV)
Type of translation: Formal equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) with Septuagint influence
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: Revised Standard Version

Brief history:
Translation of the ESV began in the early 1990s following a perceived need by many evangelical Christians for a new and more literal translation of the Bible. Under the leadership of Dr. Lane T. Dennis, a translation committee was formed, and permission was sought from the National Council of Churches to use the 1971 version of the RSV as the primary textual basis for the ESV. Evangelical Bible scholars from around the world contributed to its translation, and a 12-member Translation Oversight Committee was responsible for the revision and final review of the work. The ESV was finally published in 2001, and has since then been widely used in countless churches and ministries worldwide.

Personal comments:
The ESV is a fairly literal translation of the Bible’s original texts, and its textual structure is largely derived from the 1971 version of the RSV, hence rendering it a somewhat updated version of the RSV. Despite being a literal translation, the language it employs is fairly contemporary and clear to any reader. Nonetheless, having been translated by a group of translators deemed socially conservative, the ESV employs a more conservative approach when it comes to certain aspects of translation such as Greek gender-specific terms. Having said these, the ESV is undoubtedly one of the most widely utilized versions of the English Bible in many international ministries until today.


8)    Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Type of translation: Dynamic equivalence / “Optimal equivalence” (see Personal comments)
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) with Septuagint influence
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: None

Brief history:
The origins of the HCSB can be traced back as early as 1984, when Arthur Farstad, who was the general editor for the NKJV, embarked on a new and independent translation project with Edwin Blum, both of whom were employed as faculty members at the Dallas Theological Seminary at that time. It was Farstad’s intention to produce a direct modern English translation of the New Testament based on the Majority Text which he had edited and published in 1982.

In 1998, Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, was seeking to purchase the copyright of several existing Bible versions in order to be used in their publications. After several unsuccessful attempts, Broadman & Holman expressed their interest in financing and acquiring the copyright to Farstad’s unfinished project. Although the company required that the New Testament translation be made from the Novum Testamentum Graece (Minority Text), Farstad insisted on using the Majority Text instead, and an agreement was reached in which a parallel translation would be made. Nevertheless, Farstad’s unexpected passing several months into the agreement meant that the editorial leadership was transferred into Blum’s hands, and plans to include a parallel translation involving the Majority Text were dropped altogether. A large team of translators and editors working with Broadman & Holman was recruited into the project, and a new translation based solely on the Novum Testamentum Graece (Minority Text) for the New Testament was produced. The completed translation of the New Testament was published in 1999, and the complete Bible was published in 2004.

Personal comments:
To be honest, I have not read the HCSB before, but from what I have gathered from other sources, the translators employed a balance between word-for-word (formal equivalence) and sense-for-sense (dynamic equivalence) translation in producing the HCSB. This balance is what they called “optimal equivalence,” in which they extensively scrutinized the original texts in order to determine their original meanings and intentions before rendering them into a readable text in contemporary English. The translators involved in producing the HCSB were predominantly Baptists, and Broadman & Holman itself is the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which makes it possible that the HCSB may have been influenced by denominational biases, although some commentaries indicate that such biases have been largely avoided.


     9)    Common English Bible (CEB)
Type of translation: Dynamic equivalence
Old Testament source texts: Masoretic Text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta), Hebrew University Bible Project, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint and others
New Testament source texts: Novum Testamentum Graece(Minority Text)
Other primary source texts: None

Brief history:
The translation of the CEB was a joint effort sponsored by several denominational publishing companies in the United States. Under an umbrella group known as the Christian Resources Development Corporation (CRDC) that was incorporated in 2009, they brought together about 120 scholars from 24 denominations to work on the translation. According to the CRDC, the main objectives of producing the CEB were to provide a new translation that would ensure smooth reading for everyone including young people and to ensure that Scripture would be translated at a level comfortable for most English readers. Translation begun in late 2008 and the complete Bible was published in 2011.

Personal comments:
This is another version of the English Bible that I have not had the chance to read until now, so my comments here will be based solely on the commentaries of others and what I know about the version’s origins. Among the major Bible versions listed here, the CEB is undoubtedly one of the newest, and it is also one of the few English Bibles that is a joint ecumenical effort by representatives from various Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations. As such, just like the NRSV, readers may find much less denominational bias in its translation, and even be given the choice to read the Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha) should they wish to. Another point worth noting about the CEB is the simplicity of its language, in which it strikes a balance between providing a literal translation and rendering it in a way that most modern English readers can read with ease. Nonetheless, one of the main drawbacks of the CEB is the fact that it substitutes some well-established biblical terms with what may seem to be eccentric renderings, such as “the Human One” instead of “the Son of Man.”


10) The Message (MSG)
Type of translation: Paraphrase

Brief history:
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language is the brainchild of Eugene H. Peterson (b. 1932), an American pastor and author. His inspiration for producing The Message came from a time when he felt that the adults in his Bible classes were not able to connect with the true message of the Bible. In his own words, Peterson’s goal was “to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat’. Work on producing The Message began after Peterson received a letter from an editor in NavPress in 1990 requesting him to work on a new version of the Bible. The New Testament was subsequently published in 1993, portions of the Old Testament were published piecemeal over the following years, and the entire Bible was published in 2002.

Personal comments:
The Message is arguably one of the most popular paraphrases of the Bible available in the English language, being used in many Christian circles for its simple language and ease of understanding. Its contents are generally in line with mainstream biblical teachings, and it conveys the message of the Bible in a contemporarily casual manner of language. Nevertheless, being a paraphrase and not an actual translation backed by proper scholarship, a considerable number of verses and texts have been rendered in a way that would undoubtedly raise many eyebrows among seasoned Christians. As I mentioned earlier, paraphrases such as The Message simply provide too much room for misinterpretations and distortions of the meaning and intent behind the original texts, even though they may generally remain true to biblical doctrine. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this would be to compare The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) in both the NIV (dynamic equivalence) and The Message:

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.)” – Matthew 6: 9-13 NIV

“With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.” – Matthew 6: 9-13 MSG


So once again, which version of the English Bible is the best to read and study? There is really no clear-cut answer, but the only advice I can give would be to pick one that suits your linguistic taste and would draw you closer to the Word of God in the best way possible. 


This post first appeared on James' Info Matrix, please read the originial post: here

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Know Your Bible! – Translations of the Bible in English (Part 2)

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