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Friday, January 23, 2015

Why are Bibles Different? So what?

The last couple of days I have shared how and why Bibles are different.  How should that impact the way we use them, or should it?
Why are Bibles Different?  So what?
First, I forgot to mention the major version that follows the dynamic equivalent philosophy, the NIV.

Devotionals/Quiet Time/Reading Program
You could use any of the three types for these.  It would be a good idea to change what you use for this from time to time.  Sometimes when you read the same thing over and over you miss content because of your familiarity with it.

Do not study a paraphrase.  A paraphrase is too distant from the original to get a real sense of what the author has written.  Further, the one who has created the paraphrase will have made interpretive decisions that are essentially a commentary on the text.  Doing so makes it easier to read but robs you of the discipline of struggling through the text on your own.  Analysis of a paraphrase would be like studying the character Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies in order to get to know Ian McKellen.

For your study you should use a literal translation, some of those are KJV, NJKV, RSV, NASB, ASV, ESV, and there are probably others that I can’t think of at the moment.  Read the introduction to your Bible and it will tell you if it is literal.  I would not recommend using the dynamic equivalent NIV by itself.  There are too many instances where the committee’s choices badly obscure what the original text says.

It is a good practice to use two or more literal versions in parallel.  If you use a literal version in parallel with the NIV that would alleviate most of the issues.  When you use versions in parallel look for significant differences in the way the passage is translated.  If you see that, it is an indication that there is something in the text that is difficult to translate.  That should be a signal that you need to slow down and look harder at that passage.

I would not use translations by themselves for study either.  It is too easy for theological bias to creep in to a single person’s work.

We are incredibly blessed with the resources we have, particularly in English.  When you read a literal version you can be fairly confident that you are getting the sense of what the original says.  Isaiah 40:8 is a promise that the Lord made that is unconditional.  We can be confident that He will keep it.

Posts in this series:
Why are Bibles Different?
Why are Bibles Different?  Starting Point, Translations, and Paraphrases…

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