About Bible Translations
Types of Bible Translations
A Bible translation is just that: a translation. When studying the Bible, it is good to be aware of the issues surrounding translations because it has implications how one uses each respective translation in studying the Bible. Every translation in existence usually adopts a translation philosophy that determines the style of how the translator presents the translation. There are three basic translation philosophies that are employed:
Word for word, often called “literal” or “formal equivalence” translations. These philosophies attempt to represent the original language of the Bible in another language by not removing or inserting additional words, preserving the word order of the original language, and preserving the structure of the original language.
- Strengths: This helps one get the feel for how the original language would have communicated the idea.
- Weaknesses: Not everything is can be translated literally from one language to another. Words in one language do not always carry the same meaning as the translated words. Sometimes the word order from one language is awkward in another language.
- Examples: New American Standard Bible, King James Version, New King James Version, English Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation
Thought for thought, often called a “dynamic equivalent” or “free” translation. These translations attempt to capture the intent of the phrases and sentences and render the phrases and sentences into natural sounding structures in the target language.
- Strengths: These translations are generally more readable and easy to understand.
- Weaknesses: Thought for thought requires more interpretation on the part of the translator than word for word does, so the translation runs a higher risk of misrepresenting the original language of the Bible.
- Examples: New International Version, New Living Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New English Translation, Contemporary English Version
Paraphrases –Paraphrases attempt express the meaning and feeling of the text without trying to represent the original language. These aren’t really translations at all as much as they are interpretations of the texts.
- Strengths: These Bibles are usually very expressive and readable.
- Weaknesses: Paraphrases require high levels of interpretation, and are therefore further removed from the original languages and run and even higher risk of misrepresenting the text.
- Examples: The Message, The Living Bible
Also, when considering a translation, one would do well to consider the theological bias of a particular translation. Translations that reflect theological bias will translate passages such that they appear support a particular theological position. Theological bias can be difficult to detect if one is not familiar with his own theological convictions or with the theological positions of another. Here are some ways to mitigate bias
- One obvious way to overcome this is to learn to read the original languages of the Bible, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, but this is not always possible and can take years to master.
- Another way to avoid this is to research a translation of the Bible to learn who the translators were and what theological background they came from. Translations that come from a cross section of theological convictions are less likely to have theological bias than those that come from one particular theological position.
- Also, when studying the Bible having multiple translations available can help alleviate theological bias too. The links above provide background information on the aforementioned translations of the Bible.