How to Choose a Bible Translation for You and Your Child, Final Part
How to Choose a Bible Translation for You and Your Child, Part Three
By Chris Jennings, Assistant Pastor of Children’s Ministries
Choosing a Translation …. Or Better Yet, Translations
No translation is perfect. But sadly, it takes A LOT of time and effort that you probably don’t have to get to the point where you can pick up your Hebrew or Greek Bible and read for your morning devotions. The best policy is not simply to have one Bible translation on your shelf but a few, or even many! My recommendation would be to pick at least one Bible translation that comes from each of the translation styles that I talked about in Part Two of this series (formal, functional and mediating). Before you purchase a Bible, if you are unsure of what style of translation it uses, read its preface beforehand. Here are some examples of each to give you an idea:
Formal (Often called “literal” or “word-for-word”): KJV< NKJV, NASB, NRSV, ESV
Functional (“though-for-thought”): New Living Translation, Good News Bible
Mediating: New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible
My Suggestions for Adult Readers
Please understand one thing before I make these suggestions. These are simply my personal favorites. There are other Bibles that are very high quality Bibles that I will not mention in this section. Do not think for a second that somehow these are the only Bibles you should choose or purchase. That said, here are my favorites among each translation style.
For a formal equivalent translation, I would choose the English Standard Version, recently published in 2001 by Crossway Bibles. The ESV stands in the King James tradition and is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1952). The ESV was translated by over 100 translators and is a translation of the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts (in fact, all of the Bibles listed in this article are).
For a functionally equivalent translation, I recommend the New Living Translation (2004 revision, Tyndale House Publishers). As Fee and Strauss note in their book, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, “the NLT, especially in its 2004 revision, is accurate, clear, and readable … it is a committee work with a high level of scholarship behind its translation.” (157)
For a mediating translation I would choose the New International Version (1978, Zondervan). The NIV is now the best selling English translation for good reason. It matches readability with scholarly accuracy for a translation that makes a good read for daily devotions.
Two Translations for Your Children
There are two translations of the Bible that I want to recommend for your children to use: The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) and the International Children’s Bible (ICB). The NIrV was published by Zondervan in 1996 (and revised in 1998). The NIrV advertises a 3rd grade reading level (to give some perspective, the NIV has a 7th grade reading level and the NKJV has a 9th grade reading level). Zondervan publishes “The Adventure Bible” which adds helpful Bible tools such as introductions to each book and helpful charts and maps that go along with the NIrV translation.
The International Children’s Bible was first published in 1986 by Thomas Nelson Publishers and is intended for early elementary readers. The unique feature of the ICB is how the translators chose their vocabulary for the translation. Vocabulary for the translation was based on a work entitled The Living Word Vocabulary by Dr. Edgar Dale and Dr. Joseph O’Rourke, which is the standard used by the editors of the World Book Encyclopedia, a popular encyclopedia for elementary age students. These two translations are quality translations that I would encourage your elementary age children to read.
Sources for this Article:
Burge, Gary et al. Bible Translations Comparison. Torrence, CA: Rose Publishing, Inc.
Fee, Gordon D. and Strauss, Mark L. How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth. Zondervan, 2007.
Sheeley, Steven M. and Nash, Jr., Robert N. The Bible In English Translation: An Essential Guide. Abingdon, 1997.