by Daniel B. Wallace
Before the year 1881, you had three choices for an English Bible translation: the KJV, the KJV, or the KJV. Obviously, this is no longer the case. How did the King James Version get dethroned? Which translation is best today? Are any of the modern translations faithful to the original?
What is a Faithful Translation?
Many people today think that a faithful translation of the Bible means a "word-for-word" translation. If the original has a noun, they expect a noun in the translation. If the original has sixteen words, they don’t want to see seventeen in the translation. This type of translation is called "formal equivalence." The KJV, ASV and NASB come the closest to this ideal.
On the other end of the spectrum is a "phrase-for-phrase" translation, also known as a "dynamic equivalence" or, more recently, as a "functional equivalence" translation. A dynamic equivalence translation is not as concerned with the grammatical form of the original language, as it is with the meaning of the original. It allows more room for interpretation and is easier to understand. The NIV and the NEB follow this philosophy.
The Difficulty of Translating a Language
Anyone who has learned a second language knows that a word-for-word translation is impossible much or most of the time. Idioms and colloquialisms in a language need to be paraphrased to make sense in another language…
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