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Further Reading on Bible Translations

For further reading:

Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation: The Ancient and English Versions
Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth
Ron Rhodes, The Complete Guide to Bible Translations
F. F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English
Donald Brake, Visual History of the King James Bible: The Tumultuous Tale of the
World’s Bestselling Book
Donald Brake and Shelly Beach, Visual History of the King James Bible: The Dramatic
Story of the World’s Best-Known Translation

And for some decent translations to consider:
NIV 2011
NET
NRSV
ESV
REB
NLT
HCSB
The Essential Evangelical Parallel Bible

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20 comments on “Further Reading on Bible Translations

  1. 《Which Bible Translation Should I Use?: A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions》Editors Andreas J. Köstenberger , David A. Croteau. One more recently discuss the four major translations ESV(Wayne Grudem), NIV(Douglas J. Moo), HCSB(E.Ray Clendenen), NLT(Philip Comfort) and with the translation history that I recommend this one also for further reading.

  2. Good day Dr. Wallace

    I am really interested in translations, the how and the why etc. but I tend to go more for a literal translation, because I feel that is closer to what the original writings said.

    I’m no expert on the area and still learning a lot, but something struck me. I know that the Targumim were a bit paraphrased in their translation, but if I understand correctly, the LXX and most early versions were for the most part literal renditions of the originals? If those ancient translators followed the methods of modern translators with dynamic equivalence or looser methods, wouldn’t that have hampered things like textual criticism? If the original mss have variants on a certain passage, and we turn to early versions for help, and those early versions didn’t stick to a largely literal translation method, then wouldn’t it be very hard for those versions to help in the text critical task?

    The example came to mind of the Message… if we suddenly by some freak accident lost most of our mss. and other versions, and we want to go back to the originals, but we only have the Message bible, and a few surviving greek manuscripts that are severely fragmented. Would we be able to go back to an “original” by using the Message?

    I have the Emphasized Rotherham Bible on e-Sword (and a very old scanned version in .pdf), what is your thoughts on this specific translation? I know it is an oldish translation but is it fairly accurate?
    I noticed for example, in John 7:23 most translations speak of anger, that the Jews were “angry” at the Messiah, I found that the english translations of the Peshitta uses “murmur” and the ERB uses “bitter as gall”.
    In Strong’s it is given as:”G5520 χολάω – cholaō -khol-ah’-o From G5521; to be bilious, that is, (by implication) irritable (enraged, “choleric”): – be angry.”
    If the actual term shows that it has something to do with bile and the gall, doesn’t it follow that the meaning of John 7:23 isn’t just normal anger, but more a bitter resentment, bitterness towards the Messiah, and if that is so, shouldn’t that get shown in our translations?

    One last question.
    Why don’t the modern translations transliterate the Tetragrammaton, but instead stick to a man made tradition? Also, why don’t most translations show the difference of the divine titles in some way in the text? To render `Elohim, `Eloah, and `El all by the same form “God” don’t we lose some meaning? These terms MAY have been interchangeable, but still the divine inspiration had the writers use specific terms in specific places. Isn’t that an indication that there may be more than subtle nuances in the different uses of these terms?

    Thank you kindly, keep up the great work!
    Favour and peace

  3. Personally I don’t stick to one translation of the Bible, and I don’t choose a specific translation to suit my preferences or the way a translation has to be based on my understanding or the way I want to understand it. I challenge each english rendition, thinking if it is consistent with the Apostolic and if not, the early Christian Church’s (Greek manuscripts prior to Emperor Constantine). The doctrine regarding the Person of Jesus Christ is fundamental and most central in all of the Scriptures, and a biased presentation shall affect translations, for example, NIV’s translation of 1 Chronicles 3:16 in which they ‘seem’ to imply that it means successors as kings rather than biological children, as literally expressed in the Hebrew texts and LXX. Correct me if I’m wrong but if the NIV translators insist that those ‘children’ were his successors as kings, then Jesus would have lost succession to the throne of David due to the curse pronounced on King Jeconiah, and the verse would be inconsistent with Matthew 1:11. They refuse to render the literal translation of Monogenhs Theos in John 1:14, and in many other places that speaks of the person of the Word – with many people buying the NIV, adapting the messages to their system until they have almost incorporated it to their beliefs and understanding, and later building churches of their own because of divers ideas.

    The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls would challenge the understanding of the Jews regading Emmanuel, because the presentations were different between the Masoretic Texts and the DSS. I like it when the LXX testify to which is which, especially with their understanding of the Virgin Birth – the Jews do not believe it but the LXX says it’s Parthenos in Greek (and the LXX was many many years prior to Christian era). But some of English renditions have it as ‘Young Woman’ instead of ‘Virgin’ (which is another issue on the person of Jesus).

    Why do I see different renditions of 1 Timothy 3:16? Why some adapted the Codex Alexandrinus as base for that? And why not use the old texts regarding 2 Peter 1:1 which literally says Lord and Savior instead of ‘God and Savior’? (with which they seem to had forgotten to edit the last verse 2 Peter 3:18 which said ‘Kurios’ to make it consistent with verse 1). When the NET presented it as Theos, then between the two they ‘seem to conclude’ that the scribes who wrote Kurios was mistaken. (I wish I am wrong with that understanding, but when textual criticism is applied, I think the translators must weigh which scribes wrote closer to the autographs, and from there we begin to see the picture of who Christ is, and I think this caused the issue that led to the council of Nicea.

    I’m also interested with the way majority of English translations present Mark 2:27-28. The Uncials and other Alexandrian Texts present the Nomina Sacra in those verses but the English translations indicate that the sabbath was made for mankind and not for Man.

    The Jews insist that the NT is unacceptable because of the issue of Matthew’s and Luke’s presentation of the genealogy of Jesus, the mistakes in the narrative of Stephen before he was stoned, so whichever English translation would not make sense to them, and Chrisitans must consider this first among other things when choosing an English version. The Jews might have misunderstood the NT but among Christians, which NT among the NTs? The key for resolution, for the sake of Jews and Gentiles (Christians, Atheists, Moslems, etc) is the precise presentation of the person of Jesus Christ as was written in the closest of the autographs (and God willing, we might have the autographs in this generation).

    But I appreciate the works of the scholars who translate with this goal: that the best translation of the Scriptures is the translation of it from word to flesh, that our lives be transformed into the image of Him who called us by His grace. God bless!

    • You make some good points, Marvis, but some I would challenge. I will limit my illustrations to two. First, you claim that 2 Peter 1.1 should read ‘Lord and Savior’ because that’s what’s found in ‘the old texts.’ In reality, there are only six Greek witnesses and two versional witnesses (Sahidic Coptic and Philoxenian Syriac) for ‘Lord,’ with virtually all other witnesses reading ‘God.’ Textual criticism was applied to this passage and ‘God and Savior’ was by far the best reading since it is found in a diversity of witnesses, many of them quite ancient, and is the harder reading in the passage. Scribes would indeed tend to change the wording to what is found in 3.18, as even the scribe of Sinaiticus has done. No one ‘forgot’ to edit 3.18 to conform it to the wording of 1.1 as you allege; rather, ‘Lord and Savior’ is found in the MSS in 3.18 and translators are simply being honest with the data.

      Second, regarding John 1.18 (not 1.14, as you mentioned), most scholars believe that μονογενής is best translated ‘one and only’ rather than ‘only begotten.’

      • Thank you, I am very glad to hear from you. Thank you for the points raised. I’ve got
        plenty of open questions in my head that I ask God for answers, in my
        consideration for the sake of the Jews and of course for evangelistic
        purposes. First, is Man also a divine name for God the Father? (Son of Man
        = Son of God). Second, according to some sources, Jesus was pierced on the
        side -before- he died on the cross, and why is it that most bible translations do not indicate in their footnotes that such texts exist (so far I’ve seen only NASB to
        indicate that in its footnotes). Third, is Jesus the Nazarene (Iesous o
        Nazoraios) equivalent to Jesus the Branch (instead of the topos Nazareth).
        Fourth, can theos be also translated as ‘vice-regent’? (is there a verse where
        theos is translated as such?). If it is possible please address this on a separate
        blog. Thank you very much.

        With regards to the ‘challenge’ I am happy to ‘accept’ it :) I have no
        problem with the phrase regarding Jesus as ‘God and Savior’ but with texts
        referring to him as Lord and Savior I would choose the latter. First, to avoid
        confusion when God is referred to as the Father and not the Son (1 Cor 8:6).
        Second, since Jesus is the Word of God my understanding with John 1:1
        would refer to him as the vice-regent of the Father, the Logos as God being
        in the mode of representation [Col 1:15, Heb 1:3] instead of being a separate
        source (otherwise we will end up with another God, but the illustration with
        Eve coming from Adam we see two but one flesh. The Arians missed this I
        think, because the idea of having two Gods was unacceptable to them, but if
        they look again at 1 Cor 11:3 they would see how the logos is related to the
        Father.) I do have problem with monogenhs theos translated as ‘one and
        only’ because it leaves a vacuum on the substantive part. Thank you for the
        correction on John 1:18, I did type 1:14 but 14 has it monogenous para
        patros, so I thought the author was referring to the same with 18
        monogenhs theos. For me, I understand ‘the only begotten God’ as ‘the
        Word proceeding from the Father’, this is why it is written ‘then God said Let
        there be light…’. (Gen 1:3, Heb 11:3). Then is only one Word, for God
        cannot have two Words in which case He would violate himself and we will
        have a God who is not trustworthy and unreliable, making statements and
        then changes his mind at the same time.
        I wish to look again on Jesus the Nazarene as Jesus the Branch in
        fulfilment of the prophecies referred to in Matt 2:23 (Isa 4:2, 11:1, Jer 23:5,
        Zech 3:8, 6:12) Matthew has it as “…through the prophets (plural), he shall
        be called a Nazarene”. (But this was covered because they lived in Nazareth,
        and so he was called a nazarene). One of the reasons why the Jews rejected
        Jesus as the Messiah was and is because they see him as coming from
        Nazareth and not from Bethlehem (John 7:50-52), for if Bethlehem, then it
        still doesn’t work, for if they ask him, ‘How old are thou?’ Jesus would
        answer ’30 years old’ then the Jews would say ‘You cannot be the messiah
        because 30 years ago King Herod killed all the boys 2 years old and under’.
        But the prophesies refer to Jesus as NZR of hebrew which is the root of
        Nazareth. When Jesus told Saul (Paul) that he is Jesus the Nazarene, he
        was not saying the topos Nazareth but the Branch.

        Thank you Dr Daniel Wallace, I hope to hear from you. God bless you more.

  4. Dr. Wallace,
    I am curious, what is your personal favorite translation in English of the ones listed in the post? Mine is the ESV… I am a sucker for the color illustrations but I also enjoy the translation. I find that it leaves many of the words open rather than choosing one for you and when I want to know more, I can usually jump over to the NET Bible for more explanation. BTW, thank you for all of your work and sharing! I frequently cite your post on translations regarding elegance, understanding, and fidelity to original text (I think those were the three) in pastoral training. Just so you know, your blog has made its way into Mexico and is influencing pastors here!

  5. What about the New American Standard Bible in your list of recommended translations?
    And then the issue of “gender-neutral” translations continues to intrude into the discussion. The NRSV and the NIV 2011 seem to veer in that direction? Why did you recommend them?

    • The NASB continues a tradition of being gender exclusive. That’s one reason I didn’t recommend it. I pointed this out in myth #13. The NASB also tends to grab the first gloss found in the standard lexicon (Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich’s) and go with it, whether it fits the context or not. For example, the Greek word πόλις (polis) occurs 163 times in the NT. The word itself means ‘city’ OR ‘town.’ There was no other Koine Greek word for ‘town,’ so this word does double duty. The NASB and the NASB 95 continues to translate it as city every time it occurs, even when ‘town’ is clearly meant. For the NET Bible, we looked at every instance and determined that a polis should be translated ‘city’ if it was a municipality with more than 30,000 people or if it was a free city (not taxed by Rome). Otherwise, ‘town’ was used. This came to 67 of the 163 instances of polis.

  6. Just wanted to stop by to say that you and Darrel M. Bock were instrumental in fueling what later became quite the conversion experience for me.

    Your critiques of Bart Ehrman have been excellent, and I hope to share them with the congregation I am now a part of!

    Looks like I’ll have to start following this blog too…

  7. Dr. Wallace,
    In your four part review of the NIV 2011, you included a chart that ranked several translations by elegance, accuracy and readability. I was curious how you would rank the HCSB. I now read mostly from the NIV 2011, but do enjoy some of the renderings in the HCSB.

  8. Hi Dr. Wallace. Which books of the NET did you translate? I just ordered the first edition.

    • Hi Dr. Wallace. I found the answer to my question in the NET. :-) I’m learning Hebrew alongside Greek right now. I’m curious; how well do you read Hebrew in comparison to Greek?

  9. Why aren’t the KJV and NKJV in the list of decent translations?

  10. b”h

    Dr. Wallace, thanks for participating in the world of blogging!

    Would the English translations you list above be made from texts close to the SBL critical Greek text? I downloaded the SBL text (for free!) and am nicely impressed by it. But I wouldn’t know if it is essentially the Nestle-Aland or not. Presumably it’s close.

    Best.

  11. Hi dr Dan, I would like to share my view on NET , rather complaint.
    I read the review of NET on bible-researcher website; and I realzied its so correct. Nuetrality of gender is one problem indeed but mainly the issue of how it has treated Old Testament, prophesies as a biased eye of unbelieving Jews it is not acceptable. Psalm 22:16 , Psalm 110:1 these are couple of false translation despite of the oldest mss evidence for those words. And unitarian liars will love to use your translation of 110:1 for adoni instead of adonai despite of DSS and vast other evidence. Elsewhere too NET uses a biased treatment for OT prophesies; Please read the review given on bible-researcher he explained in good detail which I cant communicate. I cant think of using such verses while debating Jews if they support their false english translation which is biased. NET has tried to impose their presummed context on the text itself and by context they translated it; Thats so false; by doing so you have mistranslated some verses giving wrong representation.
    Secondly it is also not a word to word clear translation. The translators have imposed their theological positions and reflection too much on the translation; . In my view I cannot recommend NET to anyone; but I would recommend other versions like NASB offcourse the best and ESV etc

    • I like it when you pointed out the ‘piercing effect’ from the Hebrew Texts, but even ESV has it ‘pierced’. The hebrew word does not even contain the definition of piercing, and even the LXX made no mention of it. But the message, I think, is a composite whole, starting from the garden arrest to the sanhedrin to golgotha. I think the translators focused on the culmination of the scenario, ending the with the final trapping, without any escape, being crucified, a perfect illustration of being ‘encircled’ because it made mention of the skin, hands and feet. But then, because such translation, affected by the interpretation, does favor Christianity.

      My own concern, is why Matthew 27:49 being ignored, like it does not exist? I do not see any problem with it being compared to John’s gospel account in John 19:34, because both accounts agree. But if they agree, another problem arises, concerning the humanity of Jesus, because being killed seem to nullify his deity, which in my point of view, Jesus’ deity remains even when he was killed. The unitarians will not agree with this, and Jews and Muslims will delight on hearing this. But my point i wish to express, that Jesus is the Son of Man, that he was killed on the cross in contrast to the idea that he died of his own accord, meaning even if standing Jesus can die without fatal applications on his body at any time. But I think that is not true, because at many occasions did he escape the threats of death even starting from their escape to Egypt.

      Jesus is the Son of Man, the Logos of God, in the form of flesh. And as the Truth itself says, “Don’t you understand that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach and then passes out into the sewer?” (Matthew 15:17, NET). Even Jesus himself piss urine, he too eliminated from his body the digested food he ate, just like every earthly humans do. He, too, if shot with a fatal gunshot, will die. It’s not like, if anyone cut his head off, from his shoulders, and the head speaks on the ground, saying, ‘even when you cut off my head I still live, because you cannot kill me for I am God, unless I die on my own, on my countdown, 3, 2, 1… -and he breathed his last’ (quite creative, but I wish I make my point clear on the matter of his earthly existence).

      All these agree to what Mark stated in his account in Mark 2:28-29. The logic is clear, that if Jesus is the Son of Man, then he is Lord even of the Sabbath. But translators insist that sabbath was made for man. The logic is clear, that Man is Lord of the Sabbath, which makes his Son also Lord of the Sabbath. E.g. The son of the lord of the mansion is also lord of the mansion. This make perfect sense since the Word had been previously entrusted to angels and prophets, but in these last days God sent his very Logos in the form of man, as expressed in Hebrews 1:1-2. The first sabbath was not made for Adam, for Adam had not yet worked to take rest on the next day. God hallowed that seventh day for himself, and later commanded mankind to keep it holy, resting on the seventh day, not doing any work which concerns livelihood. The Seventh Day Adventists are sharp on this subject, but I must point out they ignore going to jobs on Sundays thereby violating the command that man must labor for six days. They must ‘do the former, without neglecting the latter.’ (in light of Matthew 23:23). But of course, what the Law was really saying is, for me, is that we must take a break one day of the week to take a rest, so that the body can be refreshed, rejuvinated, reassessed concerning spiritual issues that might have contaminated it during the previous six days.

      Muslims primarily do not believe Jesus died on the cross. But I stress that the manuscripts of old tells us so, that he was killed, that he was pierced (or pricked) with a spear. (I am not saying he was stabbed to death). His hands and feet were nailed with spikes, his side speared, causing the flow of more blood, and losing that much blood, as truth physiologically says, a person will eventually die. That was the testimony of the soldier who saw it, he testified as to how Jesus died, and that Jesus died by the effect of crucifixion (everything that has to do with piercing, pricking while on the cross). He testified to it when Pilate sought for confirmation (Pilate was surprised but the soldier, being an expert in killing and identifying dead bodies, testified that Jesus was already dead, and so the burial was granted). I don’t know about translators, why they translate John 19:34 as Jesus if Jesus was pierced AFTER he was already dead, that the soldiers did so instead of breaking his legs. No, the soldiers did not break his bones because Jesus was already dead, there was no need to do so.

      The confusing part, in my opinion (yes, my opinion), is that the greek word used was seen as Jesus was ‘instead’ pierced on the side rather than having his bones broken. The word ALLA I think is the conjuction that means ‘notwithstanding, instead, nevertheless, etc.’ So logically speaking, instead of doing such they instead did another thing. But as Martin Luther said in his thesis, thesis 59 – “…according to the usage of the word in his own time…” which with reference to the conjuction ALLA, can also mean YEA, that in its archaic definition means NOT ONLY THAT. What does this means… that the soldiers saw that Jesus was dead, and ‘not only that’ or ‘moreover’, blood and water came out of his body, which validates strongly that Jesus was indeed already dead, no second thoughts on the matter and they concluded that there was no need to break his bones. God’s testimony on the blood of Jesus is enough, and even the Pharisees did not insist that his bones be broken because they too were convinced that he was dead (which imaginatively I think they motioned to that ALLOS ‘other’ solder to strike Jesus with a spear while the other soldier was giving Jesus a drink). And so after the strike they said, “Now let us see if Elijah will come to rescue him.”

      The word YEA I wish to demonstrate with this: I am replacing this 10 dollars with a 20 dollar bill ‘instead’. I just added another 10 to it, so that ‘instead of 10′ you now have 20. You see I’m not replacing the whole thing, but I added some to it, which in effect kind of replacing it with something ‘instead’. The former was not lost because of the instead, but that it was included with the latter, and now ‘instead of seeing the former we now see the latter ‘instead.’ The Greek word ALLA I think was stated in John in Aorist tense, which if I’m not mistaken, is quite hard to express in English preterit. If Jesus was unaware of the spear piercing, then he would not had shown his side to Thomas, only his hands and feet. But he showed his hands, feet and side as a testimony that he died on the cross, and that being in that condition, he lives via the resurrection body, because if not, even if he rises from the dead, he would have difficulty living because of the too much absence of blood. The muslims cannot deny this. They cannot go on with their theories that someone else was crucified. Jesus died on the cross, the Jews killed him (Matthew 21:39, Acts 3:15).

      On the aspect of Jesus giving his life: Jesus, being the Lamb of God, gave his life on his own accord. When he was arrested he did not try to escape as he did before, because his time has come, he allowed all that to happen and even stopped Peter from interfering. He gave his life, he poured his blood, he gave up the ghost, which means soul departed from his flesh. The greek word ‘psyche’ (soul) corresponds to the hebrew world ‘nephesh’ (soul, self, spirit perhaps, I’m no good in hebrew nor greek, if someone please confirm or correct, thanks). He gave his soul, is synonymous with he poured his blood (until death, just as in animal sacrifices). “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…” (Leviticus 17:11). So when Jesus poured his blood, culminating from his side being speared, he technically gave his life, and thereby prior to breathing his last, he said “It is finished” (for the Scriptures about him must be fulfilled, including the piercing or wounding or pricking, of his side, Isaiah 53:5). “He was pierced for our transgressions…” does not make any sense if that happened when he was already dead. And I think scholars must make another look on Matthew 27:49. But then again, it has no issues on the deity of Jesus Christ.

      Sorry for the ‘book’ I just wrote, I did not notice I told so much :) But thanks for those who had patience. I wish to be corrected, I would greatly appreciated it.

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