HOW TO PICK THE BEST BIBLE TRANSLATION

bibleFrom time-to-time someone reminds me that I am not a Bible scholar. What’s the latest such incident? Sherry left a comment at this post:  DO YOU THINK MIGHT MAKE RIGHT? — PART 1. Since

Sherry says:

Well, I cannot agree with you concerning Rick Warren’s book considering that he uses the most corrupt, most New Age, version of an interpretation of scriptures, The Message, for a great many of his references. It grieves my heart to see any minister of the Gospel use such a scripture twisting book that cites New Age beliefs throughout it. One can google to find out the many problems with that book and Warren himself with his paradigm shift/3 legged stool idealogy. Many Christians have used their discernment concerning The Purpose Driven Life and found it wanting.

But! I do agree with your post concerning sharing our faith. (from here)

Since posts knowledgeably at several Christian websites (check her gravatar for links), she is informed. So I decided to give the matter some thought. If does not like The Message (MSG), she has a good reason. Unfortunately, I am hardly the best qualified person to either agree or disagree. So I floundered a bit.

Because God does like us fooling with His Bible, corrupting the Bible is a serious issue. Consider the differences between the MSG and the more literal translations. Two of three below are okay, but the MSG translates Proverbs 30:5-6 in a screwy fashion.

Deuteronomy 4:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Deuteronomy 4:2 The Message (MSG)

1-2 Now listen, Israel, listen carefully to the rules and regulations that I am teaching you to follow so that you may live and enter and take possession of the land that God, the God-of-Your-Fathers, is giving to you. Don’t add a word to what I command you, and don’t remove a word from it. Keep the commands of God, your God, that I am commanding you.

—–

Proverbs 30:5-6 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

Every word of God is pure:
he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words,
lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Proverbs 30:5-6 The Message (MSG)

5-6 The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”

—–

Revelation 22:18-19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 The Message (MSG)

18-19 I give fair warning to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If you add to the words of this prophecy, God will add to your life the disasters written in this book; if you subtract from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will subtract your part from the Tree of Life and the Holy City that are written in this book.

So what did I decide? Frankly, the MSG is not one of my favorite translations, but I don’t blame Rick Warren for citing the MSG in The Purpose Driven Life. Sometimes, after considering a number of translations, we will cite a translation that may not be the best overall, but we cite it because think it gets that particular verse or passage right.

Consider a portion of my reply to .

Consider why Warren thinks it helpful to read different translations. Because translation is a difficult process, when you and I read the Bible, we do not actually read what God inspired. Does that sound horrifying? Well, consider your reaction to the MSG. Other folks have similar reactions to different translations. Because we each have our own point of view and unique biases, we each tend to have our own preferred translations. (from here)

Is the MSG corrupt? I think the answer is yes and no. I don’t think the MSG is intentionally corrupt or necessarily evil, but it does sometimes get it wrong. We err. Consider this extract from 5 Tips for Picking the Best Bible Translation by Jack Wellman.

The most popular translations are not always the best translation.  For example the Living Bible, the Message, or the Amplified Bible are very popular today but they tend to paraphrase a bit too much.  This leaves too much room for personal interpretation and the Bible is not for private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20).  When authors try to translate the Bible into the modern day vernacular, they take too much license in the wording and as has been said:  Take text out of context and it makes it a pretext.  This is exactly what modern day translations like the Amplified Bible or the Message do.  They take the verses and put them into a story form.  These translations paraphrase too much and this makes extracting the meaning even more difficult or gives a meaning that can be misleading.  They may be the most popular, but that does not mean they are the most accurate. (from here)

When we purchase a Bible for study, we can choose either a literal translation with commentary or we can purchase a translation that tries to make the Bible more easily understood. In the later case, the translator may even use modern context and idioms. As Wellman observes, that can be dangerous. When a translator tries too hard to make the Bible understandable, instead of just providing an accurate translation he may change the meaning by interjecting his own words. Then the translator risks confusing the reader, and some will not stop to consider the difference between a literal translation and paraphrasing. Therefore, while a translation such as the MSG may be a good study tool, we probably should not use such a loose translation as our primary study Bible, and we should discourage others from depending too much upon such translations.  However, if a particular passage is giving us difficulty, it may help to compare translations, including those written in the modern day vernacular.

Anyway, if you are getting ready to buy a Bible, I suggest reading 5 Tips for Picking the Best Bible Translation by Jack Wellman.

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