Crazy, Simple Guide To Bible Translations

     Bible translations have become way too complicated.  In the old days (1990s) there were two choices, NIV and KJV.   Of course there were others, but most people dealt with those two.  The mainline denominations had RSV and many studious bible students had the NASB, but most evangelical non-denominational types stuck with NIV or KJV.
    But, then, in the past decade, it all exploded.   But, it exploded for one reason only, the English language isn’t very good at gender neutral language.  The debates are endless, but basically our language isn’t good at translating words that have assumed or neutral gender.  
     So the world of translations has split into two groups.  On the one side we have NRSV and NIV(2011 version) which lead towards gender neutrality.   The ESV and HCSB both lead towards male oriented language.

     But, once the gender language has been settled, there are some more subtle differences which are less obvious.  The ESV takes male oriented language one step further by focusing on Calvinists values such as God’s sovereignty and predestination.  The HCSB was sponsored solely by the Lifeway (the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention).  It takes a less Calvinist view, but subtle differences clearly focus on typical Baptist doctrine.

     For me, I have several of these translations.  I haven’t yet purchased the 2011 NIV, but I have an older NIV that I use as a travel Bible.  I have a NASB that I like for its cross references and its translation theology.  I have a ESV bible I used during my Calvinist years, but now it is mostly used when I want to read the Bible while sitting on my throne. I refuse to purchase the HCSB due to its focus on a particular denomination.  For daily reading and carrying to church, I have a NRSV.  I have found it refreshingly easy to read, yet more than sufficient for serious bible studies.

     When put in simple terms, the choices are actually very clear.  If a male oriented translation is important to you, consider the ESV, but you must be willing to accept its Calvinists leanings.   If Southern Baptist values as well as male orientation is important to you, choose the HCSB.  Otherwise go with the NIV (2011) or the NRSV.  Either is well translated, easy to understand, and sufficient for most any bible study.



About Allen Krell

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