Which Bible Translation Should I Use? A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions

Andreas J. Köstenberger, David A. Croteau, editors B&H Academic, Nashville October 1, 2012
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English Bible readers often wonder which Bible translation to use. A wealth of choices faces everyone who plans to purchase a new Bible. And English-speaking churches have a history of strong opinions—and even division—on this issue. Thus the question is real, not simply academic. Which Bible Translation Should I Use? presents a forum for discussion of this issue.

As the book’s subtitle implies, advocates of four English Bible translations highlight their translation’s distinctives and benefits. Wayne Grudem writes on behalf of the English Standard Version (ESV), Douglas Moo for the New International Version (NIV), Ray Clendenen for the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and Philip Comfort for the New Living Translation (NLT). The editors include a short but helpful history of Bible translation to set the stage for the four advocates. Each author explains his translation philosophy in general; then using the same Bible passages each author demonstrates how his translation works. Graphics illustrate various principles under discussion and QR (“Quick Read”) codes link to video segments of the authors presenting their material at the fall 2011 Liberty University Biblical Studies Symposium on Bible Translation. (Comfort’s chapter on the NLT does not have these codes, as he was not present at the summit.)

A common question in Bible translation is how formal or functional the translation should be. Formal equivalence is roughly a word-for-word translation, and a functional (or dynamic) equivalence is a thought-for-thought translation. Each of the authors addresses this issue concerning his own translation but with helpful references to the discussions of the other authors. In order from formal to functional were the ESV, HCSB, NIV, then NLT.

The proper translation of gender is an important contemporary issue in Bible translation. Grudem’s discussion on this issue is fairly involved, as he has done extensive work in this area. Comfort has worked extensively in New Testament textual criticism; so his chapter contains numerous discussions on textual variants and how they are reflected in the different translations. None of the other authors addressed this issue with as much consistency.

On the whole this is a helpful work because it highlights in a digestible fashion key differences in philosophy between the versions discussed. Readers unfamiliar with the problems facing Bible translators will appreciate this important task. This reviewer did not sense that any one author made the best case for his version.

In the end, even though there are important distinctions between these versions, they are all quality translations and can be spiritually edifying. The benefit of this book is twofold: Readers can see how distinctions in translations have arisen, and they can see the basics of Bible translation theory and practice, which can help readers understand the Scriptures better.

—Michael H. Burer

April 1, 2013
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2013 vol. 170 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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