On Bible Translations

Q & Eh?
Which Bible Translation does Reality Vancouver use?

General - ESV imageSince our launch in February 2009, Reality has used the NIV (1984) as its primary teaching translation on Sunday mornings.  The NIV has been a great blessing to me and was my primary translation through Bible school, undergrad, grad school - and was in fact the Bible I learned to memorize from as a child.  Not unlike the King James Version was for my parents & grandparents.  While many have pointed out some of its weaknesses, it stands as a solid translation and it should be celebrated that it has been the most widely-read translation for the past 30 years. 

One of the NIV's strengths is its readability - which is why I chose it over some more literal translations.  There are translations that are more accessible, and others that are less - and the NIV was good mid-point balancing the pro's of each.  

A couple dynamics occurred recently that prompt us to review our Bible translation recommendations & usage.  First - we're nearly out of paperback bibles on Sunday mornings.  This is great news as it means ~80-100 bibles have been given away over the past 2 years (hopefully they're not sitting on your dashboard melting in the sun...).  Second - a major revision of the NIV just came out (2011) which will result in a stop in printing of the old NIV (1984).

After much prayer & considerable theological debate, Reality has chosen to go with the ESV translation as its primary teaching & study bible - while recommending both the NIV (2011) and NLT (2007) as alternate translations for new or younger Christians / skeptics. 

We have long recommended the ESV Study Bible as the study bible of choice.  At least since it came out in 2009.  The ESV also has amazing FREE app's for the iPhone, iPad & other smart devices.  Many choose to use these app's on Sunday mornings as they allow notes to be taken on the fly - and referenced later. 

Please pray for your pastors & teachers as we endeavor to maintain the accessibilty & message of the Scriptures in all our teachings - and call our people to engage in some hefty theological language & concepts. 

Below is an excerpt from our FOUNDATIONS class curriculum on the Scriptures & Bible translations.  
Questions & comments can be directed to info@realityvancouver.com


Why are there so many Bible translations? 

In translating the Bible into English, three general categories of translation are most common.  Word for word translations, thought for thought translations, and paraphrases.  The same three options are also used in the translation of other ancient books into English.

Word for word translations make a special effort to carefully interpret each word from their original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic into English.  Although there is really no such thing as literal word-for-word because of differences between languages, these translations tend to be the best for studying because of their accuracy.  They sometimes lose the poetic nuances of the original languages.  Probably the best word for word translations are the English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New King James Version (NKJV) and the Holman Christian Standard (HCSB).  The King James Version (KJV) is also a word for word translation but because of its' use of old English it is very difficult for some people to read.  The philosophy of word-for-word translation guided virtually every English Bible translation until the middle of the twentieth century. At that time, thought-for-thought translation became popular.

Thought for thought translations attempt to convey the full nuances of a passage by interpreting the scriptures entire meaning and not just the individual words.  Thought for thought translations may include words that were not included in the originals in an effort to give the same meaning that the reader of the original languages would have had.  The best and most widely read thought for thought English translation is the New International Version (NIV).  Another good thought for thought translation is the New Living Translation (NLT - 2nd edition).  Other thought-for-thought translations include Today's New International Version (TNIV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the Good News Bible (GNB). The benefit of thought-for-thought translations in general, and the NIV/NLT, in particular, is that they are easy to understand and make the Bible accessible to a wide number of people.

Going one step further than thought-for-thought translations are paraphrases, which combine both Scripture and interpretive commentary into the translation method.

Paraphrased translations pay even less attention to specific word meanings than thought for thought translations in an attempt to give the poetic or narrative essence of a passage.  For this reason, some paraphrased translations do not even have verses in them.  Examples of paraphrased translations include The Message, The Living Bible, and The Amplified Bible.

Corruptions are "translations" of Scripture that clearly seek to undermine the very teaching of Scripture.  These "translations" are very poor and should not be used as credible translations for study. These include the Jehovah's Witness translation called the New World Translation, which was written in large part to eliminate the deity of Jesus Christ.  
We would also not recommend current politically correct attempts to remove the masculine names for God in Bibles like the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Since each style of translation has different strengths and weaknesses it is best for students of the Bible to use multiple translations that include word for word, thought for thought, and paraphrase versions to gain a fuller insight into the Scriptures.  We recommend using the ESV as your primary study Bible as it has a good balance of readability & accuracy & memorizability (is that a word?).  It is quickly becoming the most common modern day translation and will be the primary bible translation preached from on Sundays at Reality.  In addition, our realityKIDS curriculum will be in the NIV (2011).   We will encourage children & teens to utilize either the NIV or NLT as they grow in the grace & knowledge of Christ. 

While purchasing a study Bible can be quite expensive, it is imperative that every serious student of the Bible invest some money purchasing at least one decent Bible with some helps and room for their notes.  When buying a Bible the general rule is that the more money you spend the better the quality of paper, binding, and leather you will receive.  If you are planning to read your primary Bible a lot, fill it with notes, and keep it for a long time you will want to invest in a good Bible so that it lasts.