Posted by: austend | Friday, October 26, 2007

Bible Translations

How many wars are fought over Bible translations? Too many! There are King James-only advocates; New American Standard-only advocates; and advocates of whatever the newest translation is.

How does one choose a Bible translation? As long as the translators were faithful to preserve the original meaning of the Text, it is trustworthy. Does this mean that all translations are equally valid? No. Some translations are not translations at all. They were never taken from the original Greek and Hebrew. Some versions were not as careful in the translation from the Originals as they ought to have been. Still other versions were purposefully mistranslated to reflect the bad theology of the translators.

What’s the right version, then? Unfortunately, there is no “perfect” Bible translation. There are certainly some that are closer to the Originals than others, though. For instance, the New American Standard is certainly closer to the Greek and Hebrew than the Living Bible paraphrase. But you must also consider the reader. A translation that is somewhat stiff in some parts like the NAS or a dated translation like the King James might not be the best translation for a five-year-old. But that same translation that is good for his young reading skills (like the NIV or NKJV) will not necessarily be as good for the academic scholar who needs precise literality in the translation. So one must be careful and discerning in his choice.

Here’s an interesting point. Examine Romans 6.6-7.

6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. (NAS, 1995 update)

6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (New Living)

6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. (KJV)

6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. (ESV)

6We know that the persons we used to be were nailed to the cross with Jesus. This was done, so that our sinful bodies would no longer be the slaves of sin. 7We know that sin doesn’t have power over dead people. (CEV)

6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. (NKJV)

6this knowing, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of the sin may be made useless, for our no longer serving the sin; 7for he who hath died hath been set free from the sin. (YLT)

6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) (NET)

6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (NIV, 1984 update)

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (NIV, 1978 edition)

Interesting the variation, is it not? I will not comment on the translations themselves except to point out what should be said in the noted parts of the verses.

The first bold is Aorist Passive and should be translated in the past tense with a passive rendering (“was crucified”). The first underline is best translated as “having its power broken” or being “made powerless.” It is most definitely not annihilation or destruction! In dynamic meaning, it refers to sin’s dominion over us being stopped. The second bold is an Aorist Active Participle and should be translated in past tense. The second underline is a Perfect Passive and should be translated in the past tense with a passive rendering (“has been freed”).

So hopefully you can get an idea of the translation principles and accuracy of some Bible translations from this short passage. I will allow you to come to your own conclusions on which translated it the best way. This passage is particularly crucial in understanding our current state of being saved but still dealing with the sin nature. Thus, the most accurate translation is required.

A final interesting note is to compare the last two translations—the two NIV versions. Somewhat surprisingly to many of its critics, it is translated very accurately in the 1978 edition. I am curious why the 1984 edition revised the “might be rendered powerless” to “might be done away with.” The earlier edition is more accurate. Perhaps they were motivated for copyright renewal, or perhaps they genuinely thought the later translation was better.

See BibleGateway.com for translation details and the Bible in many different versions.

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Responses

  1. An important note regarding choice of translations for preaching. It is true that wooden translations help the scholar understand translators’ readings of passages, but most biblical scholars should be reading the original languages anyways, so this is of limited usefulness. On the other hand, wooden translations are of limited value for those who do not have a background in the original languages and can sometimes confuse the issues. A pastor considering a Bible translation from which to preach is wise to pick a translation which is readily understandable by the average reader, yet accurately reflects the original meaning. Finer points of translation can be covered during the sermon.

  2. Very interesting comparisons you give here. I think this is so important when reading the Bible, and for anyone who truly wishes to have a deep understanding of what was written to consider. The change of a few words can change the meaning of something. Great link too – that will be useful.

  3. Good stuff, very nicely done!

  4. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce


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