How Not to Argue About Which Bible Translation Is Best
by Andy Naselli
When some people discuss English Bible translations, they mainly argue about which is the best and why others are inferior.
Here’s what to do instead—six suggestions.
1. Regularly benefit from the strengths of multiple translations.
Don’t view English Bible translations as a competition. Good Bible translations are incredibly helpful resources, and English readers should benefit from more than one of them. It’s both-and, not either-or.
There’s so much we can benefit from by reading multiple English Bible translations along the spectrum that spans from more form-based translations to more meaning-based ones.
2. Don’t overestimate your ability to translate the Bible into English.
A story from linguist and New Testament scholar Moisés Silva illustrates this principle. Silva’s mother tongue is Spanish, and when he was a student, one of his professors asked him whether he’d translate a Spanish theological article into English for him. Silva thought that he could do this quickly without a problem, but it ended up being a nightmare. He hadn’t translated much written material from Spanish to English before, and he quickly realized that an English translation simply can’t convey all the connotations of the Spanish original.
This experience got Silva thinking: Why did he struggle so much to translate from Spanish to English when he didn’t struggle to nearly the same degree when he translated from Greek to English or Hebrew to English? He had known Spanish since infancy, but he’d known Greek and Hebrew for only a few years. Yet he felt far more confident translating Greek and Hebrew. Why? Silva identifies two reasons…
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