Which Bible Translation do I recommend?
You would think that all Bibles used in the Christian church would say the same thing, but just a little digging and you will find that is not always the case. Why is that and what should I be using? Below is a short breakdown of the differences and why they exist. If you need to cut to the chase, I recommend the NET version and I’ll get into why down below.
We need to understand where English translations come from. For the old testament, this is pretty easy as it was originally written in Hebrew and there is one widely accepted manuscript that everyone uses which is the Masoretic Tex. However, when we come over to the new testament which was written in Greek, there are many ancient manuscripts that exist.
First, we have the Western translations, which include the Latin Vulgate and the translations influenced by it, such as the Rheims-Douay version. The Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome in the late 4th century, became the standard Bible for Western Christians during the Middle Ages. While the Vulgate is no longer commonly used today, its influence on Western Christianity cannot be overstated. The Rheims-Douay version, published in the late 16th century, aimed to provide an English translation faithful to the Vulgate. This translation influenced subsequent English versions, particularly in the Catholic tradition. It is important to note that Western translations may have a different textual basis compared to Byzantine or Alexandrian translations, and they reflect the theological and cultural perspectives of the Western Church. Also, note here that the Western translations were a translation of a translation.
Byzantine manuscripts were the most widely used in the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire based on the Textus Receptus. These Bibles were based mainly on these manuscripts but also looked at the Vulgate/Western manuscripts too. This family of translations includes the King James Version of the Bible.
Finally, we have the Alexandrian text-type based on the Nestle Alum which contains the oldest manuscripts ever found. Some of these manuscripts predate the Western and Byzantium translation by almost 500 years. You will find that some scriptures are omitted like Matthew 18:11 because the earliest texts don’t have it, so it appears to have been added in by later translators.
The Nestle Alum has gained recognition for its accuracy and early textual witnesses. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is one prominent translation that draws from the Alexandrian text-type, aiming to provide a faithful and scholarly rendering of the Scriptures. The NRSV maintains a balance between formal and dynamic equivalence, using inclusive language when referring to humanity to address concerns of gender bias. This translation is well-regarded in academic circles and is favored by those seeking a more progressive approach that considers contemporary social and cultural contexts.
The NIV maintains a balance between formal equivalence (a word-for-word translation approach) and dynamic equivalence (a thought-for-thought translation approach). This allows it to convey the original meaning and context using contemporary language and idiomatic expressions. The NIV’s commitment to accuracy and clarity has made it widely recognized and trusted among many Christians today.
Another influential translation is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), known for its emphasis on literal accuracy. The NASB follows a more formal equivalence translation approach to maintain the closest possible correspondence to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. This dedication to word-for-word translation makes the NASB particularly suited for in-depth study and theological research. However, the literal approach can sometimes sacrifice readability, making it less engaging for casual readers or those unfamiliar with Biblical terminology.
Ultimately, the choice of which English Bible translation is best for application to life today depends on personal preferences, intended usage, and theological perspective. It is important to consider factors such as accuracy, readability, and the translation philosophy behind each version. While the KJV offers a timeless and poetic reading experience, it may be challenging for modern readers. The NIV provides a balance of accuracy and readability, making it suitable for both study and devotional reading. The NASB prioritizes literal accuracy, which is well-suited for theological research. The NRSV and Western translations cater to specific theological and social perspectives. Ultimately, it is helpful to consult multiple translations and engage with the riches of the biblical text, allowing the Word of God to inform and shape our lives today.
So now you have the background, why do I prefer the NET (new English translation)? First, the NET is part of the translations that are based on the most accurate manuscripts that we have available, the same as the NIV for example. However, what sets it apart for me is that it was made for the Internet age. Built into the translation, are hyperlinks to information that is typically found in footnotes. These “extras” help us understand why certain words are used over others. Also, at times it gives you alternative renderings of a verse such as Galatians 5:22 regarding the fruit of the Spirit. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit[d] is love,[e] joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,[f] 23 gentleness, and[g] self-control. Against such things, there is no law.
But in the footnotes, we also find that Another way to punctuate this is “love” followed by a colon (love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). It is thus possible to read the eight characteristics following “love” as defining love.
At least for me, this makes more sense because the verse references the “fruit”, singular of the Spirit, not “fruits” plural, and is more consistent with the statement that God is Love. This may be a small thing but at least for me, it adds a richness and continuity to scripture that I occasionally miss in other translations.