Which Bible Translation?

An LDS co-worker and good friend recently asked me which translation of the Bible I prefer. I explained that I don’t really favor one translation. I trust the NASB and the ESV if I’m studying a topic and want the most accurate information, but when I’m reading straight through I prefer a more readable translation like the NLT.

I have 11 translations of the Bible on my Palm handheld, including the three I just mentioned and The Message, the HCSB, and the hot-off-the-presses TNIV. I also trust and enjoy reading the KJV from time to time. I consider myself blessed that I was raised reading it and am able to comprehend its archaic yet beautiful prose.

My friend explained that he prefers the KJV because, in his experience, it is more “doctrinally accurate.” I casually summarized for him what I have learned about Bible translation from a few good books1, and the discussion turned to manuscript evidence and the history of the Bible. He was surprised to learn that a modest percentage of the KJV New Testament comes from the Latin Vulgate rather than from the original Greek.

According to Wikipedia’s Textus Receptus entry, this is because Erasmus had only a few late manuscripts available to him and was “often forced to make his own interpretations—back-translating from the Vulgate or even fabricating material.” The King James New Testament was subsequently translated from Erasmus’ Greek text.

Later that evening my friend e-mailed me an article (part 7 below) from a series, How the Bible Came to Be, printed in several sequential issues of the Ensign in 1982. I haven’t read them all, so I can’t vouch for their veracity. Part 7 seemed thorough, if slightly biased toward the KJV, and confirmed for my friend what I had said in our conversation earlier that day.

I’ve linked to the articles below for my own future reference, but you may find them an interesting read. 

  1. Specifically, How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot and The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? by James R. White. []
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4 thoughts on “Which Bible Translation?

  1. Great post. I love this stuff. I do wish I knew more about the history of the English Bible translations… I recently found a (fairly obvious, I thought) mistranslation in the Psalms in my NIV Bible. Though to give the translators credit, the correct translation was listed as an alternative in the footnotes.

    Things like this don’t REALLY matter in the long run. We can still have good doctrine and worship the true God even if our translations aren’t 100% perfect. Still, I’m constantly amazed at how digging *deep* into the Scriptures can help us grow and fashion a fuller and more complete understanding of who the Lord is. Every time I get into the Word, I get a clearer picture of His character. That’s awesome — that’s what the Bible’s for.

    It’s just a shame when translations interefere with that process. Needless to say, I like to compare multiple translations when I study, as well as look up the original Greek and Hebrew in my very helpful Strong’s Concordance (highly recommended). For general light reading, on the other hand, NIV meets my needs, though I think my next Bible purchase will be an NASB.

    How do you like TNIV? I’ve heard “yucky” things about its treatment of gender and stuff.

  2. Parker said:

    bq. Needless to say, I like to compare multiple translations when I study, as well as look up the original Greek and Hebrew in my very helpful Strong’s Concordance (highly recommended).

    I also make it a point to study the original languages when it’s convenient. I have a copy of the UBS 3rd edition Greek text and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Hebrew text in my Palm, and I’ve found the interlinear Bible at “StudyLight.org”:http://www.studylight.org to be an excellent resource.

    Parker said:

    bq. How do you like TNIV? I’ve heard “yucky” things about its treatment of gender and stuff.

    I’ve heard similar criticisms, but from what I’ve seen they’re mostly without merit. Yes, the TNIV does neuter more than a few passages, but they’re in places where neutrality doesn’t affect the passage. In passages where gender is important (e.g., passages concerning offices in the church) the TNIV doesn’t compromise in its translation. Aside from gender, the TNIV seems 99% identical to the NIV, and I like the NIV, so I’d have to say I like the TNIV, too.

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