With so many translations of the Bible to choose from, how can a Christian know that what he is reading will make him or her thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
I. Acts 12:4. Recognize that the problem with every translation is that it’s a translation. Therefore, the perfect translation does not exist. Unless you can read ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, you are reading a translation of copies of the originals that no longer exist. An example is “Easter” in this verse of the often touted KJV of 1611 (language revised in 1769) but is rendered closer to the Greek Pascha as “Passover” in the NIV. The NIV was translated in an era with more access to research but may have other struggles.
II. Genesis 6:13-17. Three schools of translation put every Bible on a sliding scale. Translations in the word-for-word school like the KJV, in addition to often challenging readability, will give us measurements like cubits while one from the idea-for-idea or dynamic equivalent school in the middle, like the NIV, will give them to us in terms we can better understand, like feet. A thought-for-thought or paraphrase translation like The Message will be very readable but will melt Scripture down and present it in the translator’s own words. That can be very interesting when looking at figurative language in the ESV, a very popular word-for-word translation known for its readability, in verses such as Amos 4:6. Compare how the NIV and The Message translate this.
III. 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The struggle today versus 1611 is too much access to information. How does a Christian cut through the confusion to become thoroughly equipped? Reputable study helps help, but so do some common sense considerations for choosing a translation. The preface of any Bible will tell you how it was translated. Those done by committee are preferred over an individual to help eliminate bias. Those done by various groups are preferred over one group for the same reason. How did the translators deal with various languages, thought patterns, syntax, figures of speech, etc.? What was their use of early and ancient copies that are so available today? And finally, how did they deal with thorny translation issues?
God preserved His Word throughout the centuries. We have it available to us today. Our job is to become thoroughly equipped by the most accurate portrayal as is possible.