My co-worker and I were discussing translations of the Bible a little bit a few days ago. I was saying how I am intrigued to discover that the publisher AMG has brought out a new printing of the old 1977 NASB. As you may be aware, the old NASB continued the practice of using archaic pronouns like “thee” and “thy” and so on when people are speaking to God, much as some people still do when they pray; and also uses the conjunction “and” very frequently at the beginning of sentences. I was actually considering buying a copy of that old NASB translation, partly because I would like to have one with those old pronouns and other translation practices, but also because I have heard it is actually more accurate than the new 1995 updated NASB for study purposes. It is an intriguing idea, but how many people actually would be interested in purchasing such an “outdated” translation?
My coworker said he thinks the fact that the Christian community does not have one translation actually divides us and keeps us apart. When you stop and think about it, that does make some sense. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had just one Bible that we use; one translation that we would share? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all memorize the same verses, and they’d actually sound alike?
And that begs the question: which one?
The NIV has been the number one seller among Bibles for many years. How about that one? But you know the NIV has in recent years been saddled with that inclusive-language thing. So that may not be the best choice.
The ESV is very popular in some circles it’s a fine, older-type translation that many could be comfortable with. But some think its scholarship is lacking, and besides, it’s really just a warmed-over RSV, isn’t it?
The NRSV is the accepted unofficial “official” translation of the mainline churches and is the translation of academia. It would be a good choice, except…it was commissioned by those liberals in the National Council of Churches, and it’s really a rather muddy translation. And besides, isn’t the Common English Bible going to replace it soon?
The NLT is a nice, easy-to-read Bible, and it’s become popular among evangelicals…but isn’t it really more of a paraphrase than a “real” translation? And so it’s not really as “accurate” as it should be, right?
And what about the HCSB? That’s a good one, isn’t it?…except, it’s a Baptist Bible, isn’t it?
And the New American Bible is a Catholic Bible, so that one’s out; and the NASB is wooden and uses archaic English; and the NKJV and the KJV, well, we don’t even want to think about them, do we???
In all seriousness, you understand that what I have written in these last few paragraphs are false impressions people have about certain Bible translations. The reality is, in these, and in the numerous other English translations we have, there is a richness, a true treasure-trove of wisdom and the Word of God, much of which we might miss if we only had one English translation.
Perhaps God has actually blessed the English-speaking world with so many translations for a reason. Perhaps we should not be allowing the different translations to divide us into opposing camps, but instead we should be getting together, comparing the different translations, and learning from each other. We need to be letting the different translations bring us together, uniting us, not dividing us.
Is that something that could happen?