Bible Translations

I read somewhere (on another blog) that when Billy Graham was asked, “What is the best Bible translation?” he answered, “The one you read.” Good answer!

I’m presently using the English Standard Version. I grew up reading the KJV; later on I used the NKJV; then the NIV. Many of the verses I memorized, however, are from the KJV. I like the smooth, contemporary English of the NIV, but I miss the traditional theological terms I grew up with such as “propitiation”, which the NIV translates as “atoning sacrifice” in 1 John 2:2, for example. The NKJV, on the other hand, “eliminated the best feature of the KJV (its marvelous expression of the English language) and kept the worst (its flawed text),” according to Fee and Stuart in their book How to Read the Bible for All its Worth (p. 40 in the 3rd edition). The NASB, as many have observed, sticks too closely to the form of the Greek, resulting in wooden and stilted English.

The ESV reminds me of the NKJV but with the advantage of a better textual basis. John Piper’s article on the ESV also influenced me in making the change.

Those who would like to explore the possibility of using the ESV as their main Bible translation might also want to read what Leland Ryken has to say in his book, The Word of God in English.

As far as the issue of gender-neutral translations is concerned I don’t think we Filipinos will be bothered much by it. We have the gender-neutral third person pronoun “siya” which is used in referring to both men and women, whereas English only has “he” and “she”. English for us is just our second language although many of us prefer to use an English translation of the Bible because most of us are trained to read, write and speak in English in school. At any rate, it seems to me that politically correct English is not yet the “in” thing here in the Philippines.

The ESV I think is as good as you can get. On the negative side, however, some might find the ESV’s English a bit outdated with its O’s (e.g., “O Lord”) and archaic constructions (e.g., “Rejoice not”). In that case you might want to use the Holman Christian Standard Bible instead.

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