"To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43
You want to start reading the Bible. So you went to the local bookstore, cold iced tea in hand, and asked one of the staff which section you can find the Bible. He pointed you towards the other end of the bookstore. But when you got there, you realized, there are two dozen different translations of the Bible.
The Bible is a compilation of the words of God, written by His believers, different people, and now translated into several dozen versions and many different languages. Choosing the language part is easy. But what about the different versions? Which is which?
Let's take a closer look at the two most important aspects of translating Biblical text: being accurate and being literal.
As Christians, we put high value in the words of God. We want our translation of the Bible as close and as literal as possible from the original Scriptures. If two different versions offer a close translation of the original Scriptures, a true Christian would still inspect both translations very closely, looking for the small nuances in the text, and choose the one with the more accurate translations and meanings.
It's easy to say the best Bible versions are the ones with the most literal translations. It's like saying, "we want a word-for-word translation. Anything less is not worth our time."
But it should be noted that a literal translation doesn't necessarily means an accurate translation. Being literal and accuracy are two different things. In fact, a literal translation can sometimes lead to awkward and even misleading statements. For instance, the Bible verse Jeremiah 12:2 in the English translation reads, "You are near in their mouth, but far from their kidneys." The kidneys in Hebrew represent the organ that houses a person's emotions--the heart in English translation.
The King James Version did a literal translation of this. This version used the word "rein" – an old, almost never used, term for kidneys.
Sometimes we need to put our foot down when it comes to literal translations, so the more accurate meaning can be put across.
Another example is the translation between the New King James Version and the New International Version of Paul's writings. The NKJV translation of Romans 8:8 goes, "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." The NIVs translation, on the other hand, uses different word choices: "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God."
The translation is far from literal, but the accurate meaning has been preserved. The use of the word "flesh" serves as a metaphor for the sinful nature of Man.
As a Christian, you don't have to be stiff when it comes to translations of the Bible. A balanced mix of being literal and accuracy is good, too much of either and not enough of the either can only lead to poor translations. For the benefit of the doubt, recommended modern Bible translations include the New American Standard Bible, the Revised Standard Version, and the New Revised Standard Version.
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