Bible Versions – Why So Many?

There is a new feature listed in the main menu bar at the top of all pages. This feature is the ‘Bible Versions Chart’ which lists the translations used in our articles and posts. It is not complete by any means, but is a list of most of the English language Bibles used on The Outlaw Bible Student web site. When you see a notation after a scripture, such as NIV, NRSV, EVS, REB, and so forth, you can look-up these notations to see the full name of the Bible version or translation the scripture came from. This information includes the publisher and the year of publication.

I have been asked, many times, which Bible is the most accurate. My answer is that there is only one accurate Holy Bible and that is what is written in the original ancient languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. But unless you are an ancient languages expert with a lot of time on your hands, you probably want a translation.

All the different English versions are dependant upon how they were translated. Many ancient words and their meanings have changed over the thousands of years and some words just don’t translate into any English words, at all. Even English words have changed over the last few hundred years, so it is a difficult and labor-intensive project to produce modern Bible translations.

I have also been asked, many times, which Bible version I would recommend. Generally I reply that they should examine two or three popular versions and choose the one with which they are most comfortable. For a beginning Bible Student, I would suggest looking at both the New International Version and The Living Translation.

Why so many Bible versions?

There are a variety of approaches to Bible translations. The common categories1 are: (1) the formal (or verbal/word-for-word) translation which tends to emphasize what a word literally means in modern English, but not all there is to know about it, (2) the dynamic (or free) translation which tends to emphasize a more natural interpretation with less literal accuracy, and (3) the paraphrase translation which is a restatement of the original text, reproducing the meaning in a different form that gives the same general impression. Many translations are hybrids (or balanced) works combining different approaches.

So when you wish to use another translation, keep in mind what type you want; formal, dynamic, or paraphrase. When writing an article or essay, this author tries to determine which is best needed to relate to the audience. I will pick a formal version to give an exact meaning, a dynamic version to give a general interpretation, or a paraphrase to give an ‘in other words’ meaning to a concept. Ease of reading is important, too. To new students and young adults, I sometimes use the New International Version (NIV) or New Living Translation (NLT), because they use a balanced combination of formal and dynamic equivalence, with an 8th grade reading level. For greater accuracy in meaning, I sometimes choose from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New King James Version (NKJV), or the English Standard Version (ESV); which use a formal or a dynamic equivalence, all with an 11th or 12th grade reading level. To get a point across by explaining ‘in other words’ or ‘another way of explanation’ I will use a paraphrase version like the The Message, or the Living Bible (LB), both with a 6th grade reading level.2

It also matters from which manuscripts or texts the translations were made — the original languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, or translations thereof, or from earlier English or modern translations, or from some recovered texts, etc. One must also know who is the translator. The university, organization, or mind-set that the writer represents plays a part in “which way they lean,” such as their ideological intent. As examples, the Holman Christian Standard Bible is translated by 90 scholars, but primarily all Baptists; the Living Bible was translated by only one person.

So, you see, selecting Bible translations is a complicated subject. Although I sample and use many versions when writing, I tend to use three versions more than others: The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New Living Translation (NLT), and The Message. I guess you can say “that’s the way I lean, right now,” but over the years, my preferences have changed, depending upon the type of audience, their age, and years of Christian maturity.

Any way, you can check-out Bible versions used here at The Outlaw Bible Student at any time by clicking on “Bible Versions Chart” on the top menu bar. Or you can go there right now, but clicking HERE.

Copyright © 2018, Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

(Leave any comment at end, after References/Notes.)

References & Notes

1. “Bible translations,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 23 March 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_translations

2. “A Guide to Popular Bible Translations,” (retrieved 02 March 2018), https://www.cokesbury.com/FreeDownloads/BibleTransGuide.pdf (This link was no longer working as of 8 February 2019.)

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3 thoughts on “Bible Versions – Why So Many?”

    • I guess I just didn’t think about doing that, when I put it up a year-or-so ago. So thanks for the idea and I just added buttons for printing, downloading, and emailing the chart. You will find them at the bottom of the chart.

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