Lost in Translation: Finding the Right Bible for You

by Brenton Dickieson

bibles11I first wrote this article a few years ago for New Horizons, a feature for young people looking at Christian undergraduate education. It has disappeared from the digital world, so I thought I’d post it again, slightly updated.

Finding a Bible of your own can be a daunting task. Walk into a Christian bookstore and you are confronted by hundreds of choices. So many different sizes, features and translations—enough to dizzy the mind and discourage any soul searcher.

So how do you find the right Bible for you when you are ready to ditch your grade three children’s Bible or move on from the dusty King James Bible your grandparents use to use?

Two Paths Diverged in the Library

One of the reasons there are so many choices is because there are different ways of approaching the translation of the ancient texts. Mostly, there are two kinds of translations that sit on either end of a spectrum: literal and dynamic equivalent.

The literal translation seeks to translate word for word from the manuscripts. A more literal approach is helpful for studying Scripture when you don’t know the original languages—which is most of us!

A dynamic equivalence approach isn’t translating word for word, but phrase for phrase or thought for thought. The importance of this approach is to capture the essence of what is being said and describe it authentically in English.

Every language is different. You know what I mean when I say, “What’s up?” But translate that into French or Japanese, and it doesn’t make any sense. Instead, in those languages you might say “Comment allez vous?” or “Genki desu ka?” And if you translated that Japanese phrase literally into English, it would mean, “Are you feeling energetic and vigorous?” An odd thing to ask a person when you are getting on a bus.

Since there are different approaches and different versions, let’s explore some of them to help you make your choice…


Lost in Translation: Finding the Right Bible for You | A Pilgrim in Narnia



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