April 11, 2007

5 Types of Translations

In my study of the various translations, versions, and paraphrases of the Bible in English, I've noticed similiarities among many of them. So much so that I began to, at least in my own mind, group them together into 4 or 5 categories. These are the ones I'll use for our discussions.

  • Traditional texts - Usually well over 100 years old. The epitome of this group is the King James Version. Others would include Websters, Tyndale, The Bishop's Bible, Wycliff, and the Geneva 1599.
  • Paraphrases - Not actually a translation, these versions come from usually an individual going through one or more English translations, and then rewording the English, usually to try to make it easier to read or bring out points that may be hard to discern in a more literal translation. The epitomes of this group is The Message and The Living Bible Paraphrase.
  • Specialty Translations/Versions - Translations or paraphrases that were made for specific groups or uses. For example, the International Children's Bible was (as should be obvious) written to be easily read by children. The Complete Jewish Bible was written to emphasize the Jewishness of the Bible, even so far as to dividing the New Testament (which, is called the "B'rit Hadashah" in this Bible) into sections to be read in Synagogue, and using the traditional Jewish names for the books (which seems to result in less books in the Old Testament, but they are all there just named differently) and Jewish names are used throughout, even when the original language was Greek. Others include the Bible in Basic English (for Deaf or Hard of Hearing English readers), the New International Readers' Version (for children), and the New Life Version (for those to whom English is a second language).
  • Easy-to-read/Today's Speech - Translations whose goal was to make the Bible easy to read for modern readers. There is a sliding scale here - the ease of reading or natural sounding in the receiving language, in this case English - as compared to the accuracy to the original language (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). Translations in this group lean heavily towards the ease of reading side of the scale. The New Century Version, Contemporary English Version, Today's English Version, and others fall in here.
  • Middle of the road - On the sliding scale described above, these fall in the middle, trying to both sound natural in English, but remaining as true as makes sense to the original languages. Where compromises may take place is in areas such as idioms and expressions that may not make sense to modern readers. Like "He covered his feet" means "he used the bathroom". Of course, they didn't have actual bathrooms during the time of King David, but "covering one's feet" doesn't carry much meaning today. Examples: New International Version, New Living Translation 2nd Edition.
  • Word-for-Word Translations - The other extreme of the scale. As close to the original languages as the translators can get and still be properly formed English. A few examples: English Standard Version, New American Standard Version Updated Edition, New King James Version.
We'll get more in depth as time allows. And I'll tell you which ones I like from each category, and which category I like best, and why.

Please remember my "Disclaimer" from the previous post on this subject. I am a Christian, and therefore I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is in its original manuscripts inspired ("Breathed by God" or God - through His Spirit - moved men to write it), infallible (above reproach, withstanding any line of questioning), and inerrant (not one factual, scientific, historic, or spiritual error in the whole book). All of my conclusions on which translation/translations are best are viewed through this bias.

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