Three Approaches to Bible Translation
Formal Equivalence: Seeks first and foremost to preserve the original words and grammar.
Functional Equivalence: Seeks first and foremost to preserve the meaning of the original words by using their closest English equivalent.
Free Translation (also called “paraphrase”): Seeks to preserve the original idea with little concern for original words. These often function more like commentaries than Biblical texts.
Choosing & Using a Translation
It is best to mainly use one translation – this aids memory and adds consistency. Translations using functional equivalence are most recomended.
When doing a study, compare 2-4 translations. You gather a feel for the original text and its translation difficulties by comparing how each translation engaged it.
Use Bible Gateway to compare various translations side by side.
NIV – most commonly used evangelical translation; it has solidly balanced the tension of translating the words and ideas.
TNIV – gender inclusive version of the NIV
NAB – committee of the best scholarship in American Catholic tradition
NASB – many believe it to be most accurate. Primary translation for most seminaries
NRSV – good formal equivalence without going overboard; this is Fee’s top recommendation for a formal equivalent translation; translation is gender inclusive
ESV – Like the NRSV, this translation worked of the RSV to make a version closer to functional equivalence.
NASU – very literal, almost to the point of being wooden. Could not find it online.
KJV – most focused on formal equivalence; use of poor manuscripts diminishes its value
GNB – Solo translator work. Some criticize it for the translator’s weak inerrancy views.
NJB – French origins; does not favor masculine translation yet is not as gender inclusive at NRSV and TNIV; leaves loaded Jewish terms un-translated (for example “Yahweh” instead of “Lord,” “Sabaoth” instead of “hosts”), most comonly used among English speaking non-American Catholics. Could not find online.
NLT – quality free translation of the LT which exercised too many freedoms
REB – British scholarship committee’s work – some idioms use will be unfamiliar to North American readers. Could not find online.
The Message – primarily a single translator’s work. Took extreme freedoms in translating the idea.