Why We Have Different Bible Translations
by Clayton Kraby
If scholars faithfully use reliable manuscripts when translating Scripture, why do we have different Bible translations?
There are a variety of factors that have influenced the creation of a Bible translation. Two such reasons are changes in the English language (when is the last time you used ‘peradventure’ in a sentence?) and the use of different New Testament manuscripts (almost all of them use the same Old Testament source, the Masoretic text).
While these two factors are important, we will focus on perhaps the most vital thing to understand about different Bible versions: by their very nature translations are NEVER word for word. Even Bible versions which are often referred to as word-for-word translations technically are not. No two languages are exactly parallel, so translators are by necessity also interpreters.
For example, a literal word-for-word translation of the Greek in Matthew 1:18 would be something like:
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Of the but Jesus Christ the birth thus was. Being betrothed the mother of him, Mary, to Joseph, before or to come together them she was found in belly having from Spirit Holy.
Meanwhile, the King James Version, which is considered a word-for-word translation, renders the same verse as:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
The above example illustrates why a strict adherence to each individual word would not produce a readable Bible in English. Translators must interpret to some degree, and how they go about this process falls into two philosophies: formal equivalence and/or dynamic equivalence…