Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Translatioin Do You Use?


I have had a couple people ask me why I use the ESV (English Standard Version) translation of the Bible. So I decided to write a post defending why I believe this is the best translation for everyday use.

I believe that the Scriptures are the authoritative, inspired and inerrant Word of God to mankind as revealed in 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter 1:21. They are altogether lovely, true, precious and unfailing. The Word points to Christ, Who is truth itself, the living Word, and is therefore to be diligently embraced, read, and studied.

There are numerous English translations out there today. These translations are based upon the underlying philosophies and guiding principles of the translators of that particular work. On one end of the translation spectrum are the versions which adopt a “word-for-word” approach while the other end contains those which follow a “thought-for-thought.” For an example of where some common versions fit on this spectrum, please see chart below…



The word-for-word process attempts to render a literal reading of the original languages (Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic), relying on interpretation only when the text demands clarification. The philosophy which drives this approach is that interpretation is the cooperative work of the preacher/teacher and the believer and not necessarily that of the translator. On the other hand, the thought-for-thought process follows a highly interpretive translation procedure, driven by a philosophy of textual simplicity. With this tendency comes a decreased accuracy and faithfulness to the original text and a subsequent loss of many of the rich nuances therein. While the thought-for-thought method retains a high degree of readability, it also carries with it an inherent reliance upon the translator to interpret scripture for the reader.

When I was at Toccoa Falls College, they made us use the NASB in class, which was completely fine. I still typically use the NASB for thorough Biblical study. However, while the NASB served well for serious study, contextual flow was slightly altered, thus rendering it less ideal for the purpose of reading and preaching. Given that the ESV retains the precision and accuracy of the “word-for-word” approach while allowing for a greater degree of clarity of expression, it became the primary teaching/ preaching, and reading text for me.

Therefore, I use the ESV on a daily basis with some reference to the NASB when dealing with the original language or pursing a more in-depth study of the Scriptures.

Though I use the ESV, I do see the value in the thought-for-thought translations and like reading the Message on occasion. However, I would discourage using it to do detailed studies.

2 comments:

T. Michael Cart said...

Thanks for the great post. I conducted a poll on a similar topic and was very surprised at the distribution of what people preferred.

I feel, ultimately, that God can speak through any translation, to the heart of the believer. Yes, exegesis is of grave importance as are hermeneutics and etymology.

Having a very keen didactic battery of scripture and context is, in itself, a gift; along with the desire to achieve the same. Yet, at the end of the day, I strongly feel that there have been movements, in history, that have parsed out the minutiae of scripture to a point where it was then added to the already staggering number of things that separate us as believers.

I, myself, use different translations just depending on what I want to do, or how I am feeling. Some do not. The important thing, is that I thirst for the word. And during those times of lean, well then I pray to be thirsty again. God will do the rest.

Your assessment was intriguing.

Very Respectfully In Christ,
T. Michael Cart

Bobby said...

T. Michael Cart

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you... The most important thing is that we thirst for the word. I also tend to use different translations for differing situations. May God bless your reading of his sacred Word.