One website says that we have 233 English translations of the bible (i.e. NIV, NLT, NKJV). Why do we have so many translations of the bible?
You are here: Home / Question Of The Week / 233 English Translations of the Bible
Subscribe to our e-newsletter and learn to live a Christ-transformed life.
I think it has more to do with publishers wanting a market share. I also think that we have became lazy when we read, we don’t want to “think” so we dumb it down so it’s easer to read.
Not necessarily so, Steve. I grew up with the RC Catechism, started reading the KJV as an adult when I became a Believer. Studied and memorized from the NIV with my children and adult classes, and today LOVE The New Living Translation. I use the One-Year version and rarely skip a day. I keep my smart phone handy to quickly refer to multitude of versions as necessary. It is pure joy for me to read the NLT. Scenes come to life like never before. I identify with people in the biblical age to the point that I know I would have whined in the wilderness and sink beneath waves in weak faith. I understand more clearly that I live in an age of mercy and grace–not like how the world seems to be viewing that today, but with true humility and understanding that I am completely dependent upon Jesus to save me and keep me. And that I am responsible to live a holy life; to love God with my whole being in ‘thought, word and deed.’ (a phrase from my childhood Catechism.) Having said that, however, I do miss the poetry of the KJV in Psalm 23, for example. And Psalm 1 will always be special to me from the NIV as I tried to ingrain that to my children’s memories. And the whole chapter of Romans 8 from the NIV…as I tried to memorize that in my younger years. It is difficult to keep hold of the memorizing if you keep changing versions!
I love it that we have such variety in our translations. Language translation from the original languages is so tricky and open to so much interpretation. All translations bring some bias or perspective out. The beautiful part is that the overall message of God to the world is the same! I have grown up in one tradition all my life so I really enjoy reading translations that give a different perspective. It makes me think and question some of the things that I was taught. It expands my thinking and the Holy Spirit will use it to deepen my faith. It is sad when people of faith are so closed minded that we are not able to look at things from any perspective but our own.
Bruce Kuzma says
While I was growing up all I had was the Ole English Version of the King James Bible, I hardly understood anything I read… I studied the RC Catechism. I gave my daughter a set of the Kids Study Bible published by Americana Encyclopedia Publishers, I have since read The NIV, NKJV, and the Contemporary English Version (CEV). Since the publishing of the Ole English King James Version, Vatican II and the Latin Mass as ended much mysteries of the faith. With the Catholic, New American Standard Bible, the NIV, the NKJV, and CEV…The faithful get to comprehend the Bible more accurately then the hypothesis of the Ole English Version provided…Bible Scholars can now study the text of the written word more thoroughly…With the advent of the computer even the Greek and Hebrew Languages can be more understood than ever before. Think About It! The Bible is now more than ever before, A Guide Book, A Text Book for Teaching, and A History Book. Evidence of Philosophy, Traditions, Cultures, Customs and The Birth of Laws. What other Book covers so much, is more widely respected and sets the foundation for Rules of Sustainable Living Behavior?
An important book on this topic is “New Age Bible Versions, An Exhaustive Documentation Exposing the Message, Men, and Manuscripts Moving Mankind to the Antichrist’s One World Government”. Many of the new translations are corruptions of the original word. Be careful what you read. The KJV is not perfect, but it is the best we have. “New Age Bible Versions” exposes how very minor changes can completely change the meaning, and how original source documents are of critical importance.
Loran Yunevich says
The orginal text and language used at the time of writing scripture are not used today. The meaning of words have changed over the years. The KJV uses words that were common in it”s day but are not used today. The Holy Spirit which is the teacher of scripture can enlighten the reader of the text read. The words and intent of the orginal text is important if we are to fully understand what God is trying to tell us. Words have meanings that are essential to our understanding and communocation between two parties. If one uses a word that the other has a differnt meaning then they did not communiate but only talked. Study of the earlier text as much as possible will enable us to understand better. God wrote the text as man did his best to preserve and protect that word as given. We need to heed the care of that text. It is stated in the book that we call the Bible that we have to be careful that nothing is changed. I am not a school learned man, but one who is trying his best to honnor God with his life.
Carl Williams says
The KJV is the word of God. Any translation that varies from its teaching is not, (in all points), reliable. An early example is the RSV rendering of “Young Woman” to replace “Virgin” in Isa. 7:14. A virgin is extremely unique when I consider “young woman” to be any woman under the age of 80, (I am .69, by the way), It is a far stretch to the virgin birth prophecy. To the reality of the “VIRGIN BIRTH”. KJV has been “THE WORD OF GOD” for 402 years. Either we have lived 400 years in darkness or it is the answer to the promise that we would always have Gods Word. New translations are useful for word studies, meanings have changed in 402 years. An example is “mischief”. Most people think of kids tipping over outhouses on Halloween or some other nonsense when they hear the word. KJV English would define the word as felonious, or high crime. If you desire the pure word of God read KJV and if you encounter a word that stumps you use a good concordance first then look to the new translations for clarity.
Understand that there are 2 broad categories of bible “translations”. The first category is the “true translations” that begin from the original source texts in the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic) and strive to express the original text as closely as possible in English. These bibles are usually commissioned by reputable organizations and the translation work is undertaken by a committee of scholars in an effort to minimize bias. Typically, these are the Bibles that have the word “Version” or “Translation” in their title (e.g., King James Version, New International Version, New Living Translation, etc…). The other category is the “paraphrased” bibles. These are not true translations in that their intent is not to verbally translate the original source texts into English, but rather to express the thought, intensity, and/or emotion of the text in a way that is more accessible to the modern reader. These bibles are often created and edited by single person (or a small group) and may include a lot of expository verbiage added by the editor(s) that is simply not present in the original text. These bibles typically avoid the use of the words “Version” or “Translation” in the title and, instead, go by catchy names, such as “The Living Bible”, “The Message”, “Good News for Modern Man”, etc… Since true translations try to stay as close as possible to the original source texts, they are suitable and preferred for serious study. While it is true that there is a certain amount of interpretation required to translate from one language to another, in general, it is not that “tricky” for a trained scholar, and what differences there may be are usually a matter nuance. For the most part, these translations are quite reliable, unless they are known to come from a particular organization with questionable motives or perspectives (such as the New World Translation). On the other hand, you must be much more careful with using paraphrases for serious study. As they are works that are primarily of one individual they are much more prone to present a certain viewpoint or bias. In addition, since the wording of the text only vaguely follows the original texts, you have to be careful how you quote them. For example, read Matthew 6:7-8 in The Message and in the New International Version – the wording of the NIV is very close to the original Greek text, whereas The Message has virtually no resemblance at all. The Message uses phrases such as “prayer warriors” and “Don’t fall for that nonsense”. Neither of these expressions are to be found (by any stretch) in the original text. So you can’t quote The Message and then say that Jesus used these expressions, because he didn’t. Paraphrases can be good for understanding the gist or intensity of a passage, but they should not be used in an authoritative way.
As to the question of why so many Bible versions. There are several reasons for this. 1) Over time new discoveries and scholarship emerge that improves our understanding of the original texts. For example, the KJV and the ASV where translated prior the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the translators for newer versions, such as the NIV, NLT, and NKJV can take advantage of this discovery. 2) Another major reason is that over time the English language changes, so that what once was a contemporary translation now has words and expressions that have become obsolete. This can make the translation more difficult to understand. This leads either to the need to update the translation (as with the NKJV and the ASV1995) or to totally new translations (such as the RSV and the NIV). 3) Different translations may be targeted for different audiences. For example, The American Standard Version (ASV) was originally published as the American version of the British Revised Version (RV, not to be confused with the RSV), which itself was an attempt to update the KJV. 4) Different versions often have different goals. For example, the ASV is widely regarded as the English translation that most closely and literally follows the original languages. While this makes it very accurate, it is also considered difficult to read. The NIV and NLT, on the other hand, focuses more on readability. Different translations try to strike different balances between literal accuracy and readability. 5) As I pointed out in my previous post, and going along with point #4, many modern Bibles are paraphrases designed primarily for readability and to amplify the meaning, intensity, and/or emotion of the text. The individuals, or groups, that produce publish these paraphrases each have a different goals on what they want to emphasize in the text. 6) Unfortunately, There are also groups that want to publish bible translations that are biased to promote their doctrine or agenda. The prime example of this is the New World Translation put out by the Watchtower Society (an arm of the Jehovah’s Witness) which was translated with an eye toward justifying the Jehovah’s Witness doctrines and theology. 7) Historically, Christianity has been mostly promoted by western civilization. Over the last several centuries English has been the dominant language in western culture and has become the most spoken language in the world (as either a primary or secondary language). Also, the Christian tradition, and specifically the protestant tradition (which places stronger emphasis on individual study than Roman Catholicism usually does), has been best preserved in English speaking countries, i.e., the US and Great Britain. All of this together would naturally lead to a proliferation of English language bible versions.
Ron Neeley says
It is unfortunate that many folks have a “KJV only” mindset when it comes to Bible translations. As with anything that humans do, we are not perfect, & prone to make mistakes. So it is with the King James Version. Although the KJV is wonderful, we do not live in 17th century Europe, the language is not easy to understand. If there are any questions about a passage in the “newer” translations, all you have to do is look up the Greek or Hebrew word in “Strongs”. Just a few unfortunate examples of poor translation in the KJV…..1. Exodus 20:13, “You shall not kill.” Wrong – the original Hebrew word is ‘ratsakh’ , used 49 times in the OT, & always refers to a ‘private killing’. thereby correctly translated in the NIV & ESV (for example) as you shall not murder. ‘Ratsakh’ is never used Biblically to refer to killing in war. 2. If the KJV is the ‘only’ Word of God, which version, since it was revised four times, the last being in 1769. 3. Why do KJV only advocates reject the apocrypha, since the original 1611 version contained it? 4. When there is a difference between KJV English & TR Greek, why is the original Greek wrong & the KJV English correct? There are many other examples of poor translations in the KJV; so does that mean the KJV is to be also lumped in with modern versions as being “not inspired of God,” as KJV only advocates claim? No, it’s simply a matter of knowing that the Bible is THE Word of God, & He understands that people are going to make mistakes. I reiterate, if there is a question as to a phrase or word, all we have to do is go back to the original languages the Scriptures were written in. On a personal level, I was brought up on the KJV, & when reading it could never could understand the language of the 1600’s, & for many years wanted nothing to do with the Bible. When I was challenged to read the NIV (84) & the ESV, I was amazed at how rich the Scriptures were & how God talks to us through His Word. Now, I can’t get enough!