I am of need of some help with Bible translations. What I would like is a list of good translation Bibles and a list of bad Bible translations. I don't like the NIV and I always felt in the spirit that it indeed was not trustworthy. However, I have another Bible called the New Living Translation. I was wondering what you think of it. I also would like to know your opinion on the Complete Jewish Bible. It was translated by a man named Dr. David H. Stern and his translations seems to me trustworthy, but I would like a second opinion. I apologize, I don't live near by your congregation. I don't have a lot of help with studies concerning Bible translations. Just recently our pastor went home to our Lord. He was the only one with Greek and Hebrew knowledge and he knew which Bible translations were very good. Yet sadly I wasn't a brother until one year and so many months ago; he has passed 2 yrs ago. Anyway, I am 18 and have studied non-stop. I plead the Blood of Jesus over these words, and I have been concerned with the different translations and so pardon me about this awful long letter, but I figure I should have explained myself. I will go for now and I will wait for your reply. May the God our Father and our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, bless you and keep you.

Much can be discovered about the quality of a particular translation by looking at the "Forward" or "Preface" of the translation at the front of the book. The best translations are those which attempt to get a precise rendition of the original text in the new language.

For example, The New American Standard's forward states:

"The Editorial Board had a twofold purpose in making this translation: to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures, and to make the translation in a fluent and readable style according to current English usage. ... These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek."

The New King James Version states:

"The translators, the committees, and the editors of the present edition, while sensitive to the late-twentieth-century English idiom, and while adhering faithfully to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, have sought to maintain those lyrical and devotional qualities that are so highly regarded in the Authorized Version."

The English Standard Version states:

"The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original."

In each of the above versions, accuracy was the primary goal of the translation. To reach that standard, the translations involved numerous people to check and recheck the translation in an effort to avoid errors. I would recommend each of them.

The New International Version also had accuracy as its primary goal:

"The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers. They have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. At the same time they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words."

It is a bit subtle, but notice that the translators opened the door a crack by stating that they were not going to just translate what the original writers wrote; they were also going to tell us what they meant. The problem is that just who is going to decide what was the thought and intention behind the words of the writers of the Bible? Obviously it must be men, but men have bias and make mistakes. Yet, how do you catch a mistake when the goal is basically mind-reading?

Overall, the New International Version is a fairly good translation, but the bias of the translators appears in numerous places. The article "The New International Version" discusses a number of these problems.

Now, let's look at the New Living Translation. This version is a revision of a Ken Taylor's paraphrase Bible, "The Living Bible." A paraphrase is not a translation, but rather a person's interpretation of what he thinks the verses mean. Mr. Taylor had taken the King James Bible and basically rewrote it in his own words.

"In 1989, ninety evangelical scholars from various theological backgrounds and denominations were commissioned to revise the Living Bible. According to Bergen, the project began with the purpose of merely correcting parts of the Living Bible. However, as the 100 scholars began to work, the decision was made to complete an entirely new translation. Taylor, the original author of the Living Bible, approved this decision, and plans were made for Tyndale Publishing House to print the New Living Translation. The purpose of the New Living Translation (NLT) was to make a translation that is accurate with the original languages, yet lively and dynamic. Bergen and the other translators worked independently to correct the Living Bible or produce new translations, then worked together to produce a joint translation. Every book of the New Living Translation was reviewed by three or four people, then rated in the areas of accuracy and clarity. The scholars would debate their opinions, informally vote on the best wording, and the editorial board would decide the final translation. Each work of translation went through the channels of critique by the individual, a book committee, a general reviewer committee, and back to the individual. In 1994, the translators gathered again to make the revisions determined by the reviewers. Because of the extensive efforts of world-class Bible scholars, the New Living Translation is the most expensive translation project in the history of Bible translation."

Though it claims to be a translation. Examination of the text shows that they kept much of Ken Taylor's original work. Notice the use of the word "dynamic." This means the translators did not strive for a precise translation, but a rough equivalent to what they thought the original writings meant. Despite its claim to be a translation, most Bible scholars categorize the New Living Translation as a paraphrase. It not close to the original writing. Notice also how few people were involved in the work and that they decided by debating their opinions -- this is not the work of accuracy! Nor does this version have a reputation for accuracy.

The Complete Jewish Bible is the work of one man who states that he has an agenda -- to have the New Testament seen as a Jewish work. Thus we do not find a foundation for an accurate translation. Disturbing is the claim that it makes no distinction between the Old and New Testaments and that it "corrects misinterpretations in the New Testament resulting from anti-Jewish theological bias." It appears that he has become a one-man committee deciding what should and should not be stated in the New Testament. I would not recommend this translation.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding the Bible