Yesterday morning at church, in my adult Bible study class I decided we needed to read the entire 16th. chapter of John’s gospel, as we tend to read a short passage every Sunday and lose sight of the larger context.
In recent weeks I have been using the NASB MacArthur Study Bible for my text. I feel it is important for me, as the teacher, to be using the most literal and accurate translation, the NASB; and while I don’t generally use the Mac S.B. commentary for my main commentary, I do like having those notes in front of me to refer to them occasionally.
On to my point: I read the 16th chapter of John from the NASB, and wow, what a mouthful it was! I am aware that the NASB has a reputation among many of being wooden, or stilted; that it’s transparent to the original languages and not very good in English. Normally I study from the NASB; I don’t read it out loud very much. I can usually read a short portion fairly easily, without becoming tongue-tied. But reading the whole chapter out loud quickly became a nightmare! Slowing down didn’t seem to help. Oddly, reading faster seemed to make it a little easier, but it was still a rough outing.
Knowing my difficulty was obvious, I asked my “student” if she had a hard time following it. She said she is familiar with the passage from reading it in her NIV, and just sits and listens while I read. We do occasionally talk about translation differences. It made me seriously consider switching back to the NIV for our study text.
I had used the NIV S.B. for the class for at least a couple years. It is a good thing, I think, for everybody to be using the same version; at least it’s easier to follow. But so often when I use the NIV for study, something is always nagging me, making me wonder what the scriptures really say. It’s not at all unusual to discover that the NIV reading is a paraphrase of a literal reading of the text, and while that can make for much easier reading, I’m afraid we’re going to miss something special if we don’t use a more accurate translation.
I’ve got to be honest, the NIV, as a dynamic equivalence translation, is amazingly accurate compared to other D.E. translations. And its ease of reading can make it an excellent choice as an all-around Bible if somebody thinks they should have just one Bible. It’s a good combination of easy-reading and accuracy, and it’s easy to understand why many churches are still using it as their “official” Bible text.
But in my humble opinion, we need a Bible that is more accurate, more true to the original manuscripts, in order that we can learn the True Word of God. And there are a number of translations that are more accurate than the NIV. Those that come to mind are the ESV, the NRSV, the old RSV, the NKJV, the KJV (but we don’t want to go there!) the new NET Bible, and even the TNIV is more accurate in some cases than the NIV. None of those are as easy to read as the NIV, with the exception of the TNIV and NET. But neither is any one of those as accurate as the NASB.
I know, here goes Gary making a bowl of alphabet soup out of his posts again! But it’s important to me.
At this point, I’ve decided to stick with the NASB. There are too many problems with most of those other translations, not that the NASB is perfect either, as I have already related. And I think I’m going to look some more at the NET, but right now the NASB has to be the choice.