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Lesson One -- Bible Translations
Q: So what's the real difference between Bible Translations? Don't they basically all say the same thing?
A: Yes and No ;)
While the main concept in most translations are similar, the purpose behind translating dictates the differences you will find. While most differences are in word choice and grammatical sequencing, almost all translations can be divided into three main types: literal, dynamic, and free.
|Line 1 is original translation; line 2 is revisions|
The literal type of translation follows the original language as closely as possible, mainly in word choice and grammar. The dynamic type attempts to keep the same words and grammar as the original language, but "updates" to a more modern understanding of idioms and phrases. The free translation focuses more on translating the idea rather than the words or meaning of the original language.
So how do we know what translation to use?
While I prefer more literal translations (NASB/ESV), the best range for study is actually the dynamic range (ESV/NIV).
The argument for this is that the literal can be too literal and make it difficult for readers to understand the text, while the free is a loose form of interpretation rather than translation. Though, both literal and free translations can be helpful secondary sources while studying to assist in determining ether original form (literal) or meaning (free).
For more information on Bible Translations, check out the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart (Zondervan, 2003). The chart used is from the book (p. 42), as well as some of the material summarizing the types of translations.
Not all translations are "safe" to use. There are several translations that have changed or diverted the original text in order to fit with some modern beliefs, such as evolution, homosexuality, feminism, and racism. Check with your pastor or local Christian Bookstore if you are unsure about the translation you have. The popular translations (like those listed in our chart) are my recommended "safe" choices, regardless of denomination or other beliefs.