Choosing Three Bible Translations

There has already been much bruhaha about the new NIV 2011 around the blogs. Personally, I was very disappointed that the TNIV wasn’t pushed properly (lot of politicking involved me thinks), as it was a perfectly readable and decent translation. Anyway, Robert from Near Emmaus has been discussing it too, and it has sent me off on a bit of a tangent.

For the vast majority of Christians, the nuances and nitty-gritty of the underlying Hebrew and Greek, manuscripts and text families etc., are completely irrelevant. From conversations, what most want is something readable and reasonably in tune with the intention of the authors – some preferring a more word-for-word rendering, others something more idiomatic. When asked “what’s the best translation?”, I tend to recommend that someone gets three different versions, for even in English it’s possible to see where the translators struggled to convey the meaning or where the translation problems lurk. Moreover, it also brings home to a church audience that translation is an art not an exact science. However, what I was wondering about is which three translations would others choose to recommend? Personally, I’ve generally gone with NRSV (or RSV), TNIV (or NIV), and something like the GNB (or The Message; Wright’s For Everyone translations will make a nice New Testament collection eventually). [As as aside, the KJV is often unfairly maligned and perfectly serviceable when used in concert with another couple of modern translations.] Robert suggests the TNIV, HCSB, and NLT. As I’ve not read the last two, I can’t offer an opinion, but I’d be interested to hear what others think.

So, what are your three recommendations and why?

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4 Responses to “Choosing Three Bible Translations”

  1. Robert Jimenez Says:

    Well you know what I think 😉

  2. JohnDave Medina Says:

    I tend to go with NRSV, NLT, and the NKJV. I feel the NRSV strikes a nice balance between dynamic and literal translation methods. The NLT is for when I want to do some relaxed reading–I like the way the text flows. I throw the NKJV into it because it is more literal and also highlights the textual differences of the Majority Text.

  3. Jonathan Says:

    JohnDave, yeah, you’ve captured my basic reasons for suggesting the NRSV (good balance, for the most part) and TNIV (ease of reading) as two of my three. I’ll really have to look into the NLT, though I’d heard some people comment that it was quite Calvinistic especially with respect to a number of its Pauline readings, is that right? That’d put me off somewhat.

  4. JohnDave Medina Says:

    I know this is long delayed. I can’t recall anything Calvinistic in the NLT. If you can view a hardcopy at the local bookstore, you can see all the translators involved for each book/letter. I don’t think any of them were staunch Calvinists (maybe mild Calvinists).

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